When I visited the nation of more than 7000 islands, the Philippines, last month, I was blown away by the stunning beauty of the place, the crystal clear blue sea and the most gorgeous tropical beaches. I’ve been fascinated by oceans, seas and the underwater world for a long time, but until last month had only snorkeled to enjoy the underwater life in their natural setting. I love snorkeling too, but scuba diving was something I told myself that I’d definitely do one day, I just didn’t know it’d be in the Philippines. And in retrospect, what a perfect place it was to scuba dive for the first time!
Stasiek must have been drawn by the “Discover Scuba Dive” banners hanging in many tour offices in El Nido town, so he started proposing me the idea. He has been interested in scuba diving for much longer than me. W̶e̶ I thought about it for a couple of days, while he found out the prices and the number of dives offered on the internet. One day when we were returning after an island hopping tour, I said to him that we should just go and ask one of the tour operators about scuba diving right then and there. He was really happy as he knew I was apprehensive at first – we hadn’t planned for it mentally and financially – but I finally decided we should go. After all, a little bit of spontaneity can make for some lovely experience and memories 😉
So, we finally chose a dive center called ‘Ranmarc Dive Center’ that is almost at El Nido main beach. We put our down payment for ‘Discover Scuba Diving’ and added one more dive in the total two provided, and it cost us a total of 4600 PHP (~85 Euros). It included boat transfers to all three dive spots, complete dive gear, lunch, fruits & drinks and a dive instructor just for the two of us. Not a bad deal at all! 😀
Dive Site #1
I had been quite nervous from the day before about diving but I really wanted to try it. Few years ago, I used to be uncomfortable looking (snorkeling) into deep waters, and now I have overcome that to a great extent. The instructor was a friendly Filipino man who showed us the basics on the boat and then it was time to gear up! Wetsuit wasn’t comfortable but I was happy that it covered everything except my hands and face because I was being bitten regularly by invisible plankton on the sea there. The first point where we jumped to the water was really shallow (about 2-2.5 meters) with a sandy bottom.
In under 15 minutes of instructions and basics, the instructor just signaled us to go down. What, that’s all? So we already go down? was what I was thinking. It was a strange sensation going under the water and breathing through the regulator that’s connected to the tank and attached to your mouth. I was nervous and I signaled the instructor to go up. I told him that I wasn’t comfortable breathing and we tried again. I was again nervous and we went up. Stasiek on the other hand utilized all the time I was wasting by practicing and playing with his dive gear under water. He is such a natural! On the third time, I told myself that there’s no kidding and nothing can go wrong so I just focused on breathing regularly. And soon enough, we ventured deeper into the corals. Kudos to my very patient and encouraging instructor!
Words cannot possibly describe that serene feeling you get when surrounded by colorful marine life under the water, while the only sound you hear is from your own regular breathing. I was completely mesmerized, even though I was thinking too much about things like whether I was breathing correctly, if I’d panic and what not. Despite that, there was no denying how much I loved watching the vibrant reefs and schools of fish swimming around. We saw a stone fish (dangerous) and other variety of fish on the first site. It was time to ascend and rest for an hour on the boat to rid the body of inhaled nitrogen.
Dive Site #2
The second dive site was pretty close by. It was wonderful enjoying the breathtaking scenery of El Nido from an uncrowded boat, unlike on island hopping tours. We enjoyed fresh lunch enjoying the gorgeous scenery around, on the boat. Soon it was time to jump in to the blue, inviting water. Our instructor told us that the specialty in the second dive site were Yellowtail Fusilier. He also informed us that we were going to dive below an active boat route, so ascending had to be done only with his directions. I was less nervous and more excited this time, and I had to go up just once immediately after we went down, because I thought I had problems equalizing my ear pressure. I was equalizing by just swallowing until then, but the instructor showed me that I can hold my nose and breath out as well. I thought pinching nose worked better.
2, 3, 5, 7, 9.. we were soon at 10 meters depth. We saw a huge school of Yellowtail Fusilier, and they were very friendly too! Among others, we saw parrot fish, clown fish, star fish, cabbage coral. There were many other creatures that we saw but I am not good with identifying plants and animals, so I won’t be able to name them. The instructor would wave his hand at some reefs and they would close, or change colors as a reaction. It was incredible to watch. I enjoyed this second dive much more and was more relaxed. Stasiek didn’t need constant help from the instructor as he immediately mastered the buoyancy control, navigation, clearing his mask and other skills that are necessary to get certified.
Dive Site #3
The third dive site was the farthest and the boat ride felt unreal, due to the magnificent scenery everywhere you looked on that hot, sunny weather. We didn’t see many boats on the third site and there was no beach nearby either. Seems like they had saved the best for the last. 🙂 We docked near a big limestone island, and the instructor said that if there is not much underwater current, we’ll try to swim through an underwater tunnel and come out at another point. Sounded like an adventure! I was so in. 😀 He also said that he’d try to spot octopus, and Stasiek’s eyes lit up immediately.
We descended with no problems on my part this time, and soon were at the fascinating underwater world. You could tell that this site was spectacular, as it looked grandiose to my amateur eyes. Soon enough, we swam through the tunnel and as we were going out of the tunnel into another area, the instructor showed us an elusive little sting ray! That was definitely the highlight of this dive site for us, as we didn’t see any octopus 😦 I enjoyed this dive site the most, as I was more confident than in the previous two, and put my mind into just really enjoying the moment! We saw many reef fish, camouflaged fish that were most likely dangerous, plants that swayed in the waves, shapes and colors and creatures that you don’t see everyday, it was truly an incredible experience.
At the end of the day, we were so, so happy that we did the discover dive in the Philippines and wondered why we had never thought about just doing it, when we were in other famous locations for diving like Malta, Sri Lanka, Cyprus, Croatia and so on. Never again as we are going to join scuba diving course here in Lodz in summer and get certified soon! 😀
// Do you scuba dive? If not, would you like to try?