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I can only describe this weekender trip as a surreal visit to the underwater world.
A short trip to the South-western edge of Luzon will bring you to the one of the best diving spots in the Philippines - Anilao, Batangas. It is around 2-3 hours drive going to our destination - Casa Bahia Dive Resort. Tip: when going to provinces in the Philippines I highly suggest you do not trust modern apps a hundred percent. It is best to ask the people living in the area for the right directions, (yes we got lost because Waze instructed us to make a U-turn and drive on water).
The resort Casa Bahia has that cozy homey feel like you are staying at a friend's beach house. The name is House by the Bay in direct Spanish to English translation. The owners greeted us personally and even gave us the luxury to personally dive with them and their friends. The food was good; they would serve familiar Filipino dishes and local (provincial) versions of it. The price is reasonable though it feels like we are dining in a city price rate. The entire place has a minimalist modern look with an artsy touch, you can’t complain because there are couches and great views everywhere. It is definitely an Instagram worthy spot!
Contrary to popular belief, scuba diving is not an extreme or dangerous sport; we can classify it on a recreational or professional level. Also, encountering sharks should be the least of your worries because they are more afraid of you than you are of them (at least that’s what ‘Kuya’ told us). If you are a bit anxious and a beginner like myself you don’t have to worry because diving is all about safety. You'll have to train first in the pool area at around 9ft to 10ft depth to know the basics such as hand signals and equipment functionalities. The master diver will assess your skill and decide on the diving spot fit for you. There are around 48 diving spots in Bauan, Mabini, and Tingloy Island with difficulties ranging from beginner to professional. We were assigned to two spots ranging from 20 - 30 ft. deep, there's a little coral bleaching in the area but 'Nemo' did not disappoint – we found him!
The experience underwater was surreal; it’s different when you see it in pictures, videos or big aquariums. Below sea level you can feel the sea, you can taste the water, and you can see the creatures and observe how they respond to your presence. You cannot and you must not touch them though – corals takes years to recover and global warming is not helping.
The activity took us around 30 to 45 minutes underwater and although we have professionals’ assisting us in a buddy system, diving is not as easy as it looks. You'll have to maintain deep and slow breathing, equalize ear pressure, adjust equipment accordingly – weights, tubes, remove water from goggles, etc. Yes, it seems like a lot of work but the secret is to remain CALM and focused at all times. It helps when you focus on something like a fish or a coral – it worked for me, and the fish seems very supportive.
Tips! If you must bring a gopro or any similar camera, make sure the casing is designed for diving and with correct lens filter if possible. Wear proper swimming attire under your wetsuits – board shorts are not recommended. Also, drink water (or Gatorade) before and after diving.
Like any other beach in Batangas they peak during the summer season so if you want the 'sulit', less people, less stress experience, I suggest you go before or after that season. During our weekender trip in, we experienced minor currents underwater after a little rain in the morning so I’d imagine it is a little rough during the rainy seasons. My personal expense is around Php5000, inclusive of accommodation, diving packages, food, gas & toll fees. You can visit travel blogs or resort websites that can offer reasonable packages, invite as many as you can to save on food, gas, & boat fees.
Tip: Take lots of pictures before or during the dive, you’ll want to remember this moment (or you can always go back!) If you want to be a professional on this sport, there are resorts offering certifications with 3-5 days of training.
So why dive? Aside from the really cool looking wetsuits, the beach, and the sun. It’s more on the personal experience – getting that inner peace, there’s also a feeling of freedom, and a sense of accomplishment.
To quote Robert Wyland "The Ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul."
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Anilao is one of the best scuba diving spot here in the Philippines. As they preserve every living species in the ocean. I can attest to that, as I have seen it with my very own eyes. I even saw Nemo and Dory from the movie, Finding Nemo.
With the help of the locals who are certified PADI divers you know you are safe. First, they are required to finish the tutorial course before you can start scuba diving. Second, you will try what learned from the tutorial course. Lastly, after you successfully performed the necessary signs and protocols, you are good to go.
Truly ticked off from my bucket list and will definitely come back for more. I'm also thinking of getting a license for introductory dive. That's how I am happy with my experience.
By the way, you don't have to be a good swimmer to enjoy scuba diving. You just have to know how to breath through your mouth.
Here are some signs I learned:
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Did you ever try to explore something while thinking that you only have one chance to see it?
One chance to explore it?
Freediving is a sport that will take to you deeper down the sea in one single breath.
The sports require training, to keep your body and mind as calm as possible for an individual to reserve energy and oxygen.
As your body and mind calm down you can explore the underwater world silently. It will will let see the beauty of the sea and nourish every glide that you will make.
The practice of holding your breath or not breathing is called Apnea. As a beginner, I can hold my breath for 2 minutes in a Static Exercise; Static is when you hold breath underwater without any body movement, you just need to lay down on your belly and hold your breath underwater. And for Dynamic Exercise I can do 1.20 minutes; Dynamic is when you try to swim underwater while holding your breath.
In freediving, I learned to calm down, be more patient and be thankful with the life that I have.
Because every time I dive, I only have one chance and one breath to explore the beauty of the sea. And with, this I always try to make the best out of my 1 minute underwater ride.
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Free Diving at Anilao is really fun
Here's a photo of my free diving coach who's very patient with me.
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I loved it.
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