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Best Invasion, yet!

Discussion in 'ScubaBoard Invasion 2016 Philippines' started by Scuba_Dad, Jul 3, 2016.

  1. Scuba_Dad

    Scuba_Dad Master Instructor

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Melbourne FL
    1,583
    206
    63
    Dennis and Roxanne put together the best Invasion to date. All the Invasions were great, but this one topped it.

    Atlantis Dive Resort did an outstanding job taking care of us. They met us at the airport and transported us to either the Midas Hotel or the resort... eliminated the anxiety of trying to figure it out on our own. They packed us into vans, and drove us to the south side of the island where they had boats waiting for us to go to the resort. What an adventure.

    The food was fabulous... I looked forward to every meal, and it cost me 5 lbs. Let's see how fast I can lose that. Now, there's a friendly competition between the two resorts on who cooks the best food. Well... my favorite breakfast at PG was not as good at Dumaguete. But, every other meal item was great!

    Our dive guide, Ramil, at PG was fantastic. He's the best I've seen, yet. The dive operation was very safety conscious, and followed a lot of rules that I tend to take for granted. They were one of the more organized dive operations I've been with. A dive briefing before every dive... our boat was always ready... and the crew was great!

    Our room was OK... the lights weren't bright, so the room was dark. It made it tough prepping the camera in the room. I'm glad they had a camera room with plenty of lights... I wasn't fond of the mattress on the single sheet as a blanket... I thought our mattress was hard at PG, and it was like a brick in Dumaguete. It made me appreciate my pillow top mattress at home... Oh! It felt so good yesterday morning when I got home.

    I was amazed at how fast everyone at the resort knew our names. They must have had our pictures on flash cards and studied them before we arrived. They had my name and room number memorized...

    Overall... I can't say enough about Atlantis... They're a very well run operation... very organised... excellent customer service..
     
  2. BCSGratefulDiver

    BCSGratefulDiver Mental toss flycoon ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Loreto, MX
    71,964
    55,252
    113
    I've done a fair bit of traveling, and stayed at some fine diving resorts, but Atlantis pretty well tops the list ... particularly in Puerta Galera. Those people were simply amazing when it came to not just taking care of you, but anticipating how to make your stay just that much nicer. From the restaurant staff, who remembered our names after the first introduction, to the dive guides (our Felix was one of the best I've ever dived with), to the ease with which they handled our rather large group, to the comfortable accommodations ... this place was just outstanding. Atlantis Dumagette was also very nice ... each resort had some things I liked better than the other. PG had a nicer variety of diving to offer ... but Dumagette had the house reef, which was excellent. And those boats at Dumagette ... oh, they felt roomy and luxurious. Each resort offered an island getaway ... Verde Island at PG was nice, but costly. Apo Island at Dumagette was included in our package, and the corals at that place were just mind-blowing (not to mention the turtles). The side-trip to Cebu for the whale sharks was a high point for me ... and an outstanding way to end the trip.

    It was clear, from start to finish, that a lot of work went into organizing the details of the trip ... both on the part of Dennis and Roxanne and by the Atlantis staff. I had anticipated more delays and confusion, considering the size of the group ... but transfers and check-in at the airport went amazingly smoothly, thanks to the efforts of Atlantis staff. Moving bags for that many people and keeping it all organized was impressive.

    Yes, there were a few snags ... but whenever a problem was identified it was quickly resolved. That's the mark of a well-run business. And I'd not only go back to either resort (and intend to), but heartily recommend them to friends.

    Overall this was one of the most fun dive trips I've ever been on ... and that's saying quite a lot. Props to the staff at Atlantis, and to our Invasion organizers on ScubaBoard, for all of their hard work to make it such a special event.

    ... Bob (Grateful Diver)
     
  3. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    7,668
    4,727
    113
    I recall Cardzard once posting something to the effect that a ScubaBoard Invasion is an event, not just a bunch of divers showing up. That said, I've got a few general questions for the benefit of non-Invasion type travelers, on the off chance I'm blessed to make it out there some year down the road.

    1.) How prevalent is English? If you get out & roam around town a bit, go in stores, etc..., is English pretty universal, common enough it's no problem, at times awkward, etc...? Just wonder what a solo traveler trip there would be like.

    2.) Did the Atlantis resorts have much for non-divers to do, or was such readily available locally? I'm thinking 'family friendly,' like for a wife & little girl.

    3.) Since Dumagette's house reef was praised, was there shore diving at both places, would it be a big differentiator if so, and how was it conducted? Could you do your own thing (e.g.: any time day or night, solo if you wished) shore diving like Bonaire, or what? Was it pretty much just there (e.g.: like what I read of CocoView, Roatan's shore diving), or did people roam around to varied shore diving sites (e.g.: Bonaire)?

    4.) I'm a U.S. & Caribbean diver; never been to Indonesia, Fiji, etc... Many of you have. For some people, there may come a day to consider one special occasion trip (e.g.: celebrate retirement, graduation, etc...) leading to one big exotic trip, maybe 2 weeks total of which 4 days would be shot on travel time back & forth (I'm south-central U.S.-based). For those who've been these other places, such as Komodo, Palau, PNG, etc..., in that general wide region of the world, for a one-time trip hitting just one place (e.g.: Puerto Galera or Dumagette, not both), how would be rate the Philippines as a destination against those others? Apples-to-oranges, I know, and let's say for general reef, pretty tropical fish & some 'big stuff' diving (not nudibranch aficionados).

    5.) What was the single longest time you spent on a plane? Was there some mechanism to get up & move around (aside from back & forth to the bathroom), or do you have to suck it up & endure it?

    Richard.

    P.S.: I figure Invasion & Surge review threads serve as research resources for destinations people use later.
     
    ROXANNE likes this.
  4. The Chairman

    The Chairman Chairman of the Board

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Cave Country!
    55,213
    22,321
    113
    First, we dive all over and our next invasion will be to Anthony's Key in the Roatan. I'll answer as if you're asking about the Philippines.
    The only creatures that didn't speak English around us were the Water Buffalo. I went through town and was readily understood.
    Indeed. There are trips all over the place and the massages are incredible, not to mention cheap. Lots of places to snorkel as well as to dive.
    There is, but there's too much boat traffic for it to be safe. They really want to have someone in the water with you at all times, and they are very accommodating about it.
    If I were to choose, I would select to do two weeks at Dumaguette. The water was simply cleaner and the diving was stunning. Apo island was particularly so. I can't answer for Fiji, Australia or other places.
    13 hours from Manilla (the birthplace of envelopes) and LAX. You can stretch a bit, but I wore compression socks and slept as much as possible. It was not my favorite part of the journey.
     
    ROXANNE, DebbyDiver and drrich2 like this.
  5. BCSGratefulDiver

    BCSGratefulDiver Mental toss flycoon ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Loreto, MX
    71,964
    55,252
    113
    1. English is almost as common in the Philippines as it is in the USA ... and I found it to be generally used more properly over there ... :)

    2. There were several non-divers on this trip, and none of them seemed bored. PG is situated in a small town, so there's places to wander around. Dumagette is a bit more isolated, but from what I could tell the staff was arranging non-diving events pretty much every day at both places.

    3. Many dive sites at both places are quite close ... our dive to see the mandarin fish was so close that I commented to our guide that we do longer surface swims than that at home. But this isn't the Caribbean ... you need to be familiar with the sites and the current (and as Pete mentioned, boat traffic) at PG. Dumagette is a bit easier ... there were several groups doing non-guided dives on the house reef over the course of the week. What you have to understand is that all the local diving at Dumagette is basically muck diving ... swimming around in the sand, with occasional patches of coral interspersed. By the end of the week I heard several folks say they were skipping dives because they just didn't enjoy that kind of diving (I do, the critters are amazing). PG has more vibrant coral reefs ... but it also has more current. And as Pete pointed out, the water at PG is near a river, which means it's less clean and clear than at Dumagette. At both places they really prefer you use the boat. On one night dive in Dumagette, they let out the rope, pulled the boat backward about 60 feet, and said "we're here" ... they didn't even start the motor. But using the boat as a diving platform was just easier. Oh, and that boat we were using was awesomely roomy and comfortable.

    4. While I put this trip very high on my list, if you've never been to the South Pacific and want only one destination I can think of other places I would recommend first. Bali comes immediately to mind, since it was my first experience in this part of the world. The diving's good, you can move around by land to different parts of the island to experience different types of diving (boat, shore, muck, reef, pelagics, etc), and there's plenty for the non-diver to do. For sheer color, biomass and diversity, Fiji's hard to beat ... but it's more remote and there's less to keep a non-diver happy.

    5. We flew direct from Vancouver BC to Manila ... roughly 13 hours there and about 12 hours back. Both ways was on a 777, so there was plenty of leg room and the flight was generally comfortable. We used Philippine Airlines, who I think are a cut above most US carriers.

    ... Bob (Grateful Diver)
     
  6. The Chairman

    The Chairman Chairman of the Board

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Cave Country!
    55,213
    22,321
    113
    BTW, @NWGratefulDiver, we can't allow 11 years to go between diving together again! :D :D :D
     
    Scubajeg1, ROXANNE and chillyinCanada like this.
  7. BCSGratefulDiver

    BCSGratefulDiver Mental toss flycoon ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Loreto, MX
    71,964
    55,252
    113
    I agree ... I'm planning to be at the Invasion in Roatan next year ...

    ... Bob (Grateful Diver)
     
  8. LowVizWiz

    LowVizWiz Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: None - Not Certified
    Location: South FL but way too far from shore...
    1,842
    515
    113
    If you are lucky enough to get a 777 you are golden.

    We weren't as fortunate on our PAL flight from LAX to Manila. Our plane was changed and we flew on an plane straight out of the 1970s with CRT screens!
    I had plenty of room on my exit row seat; however the seat cushions had seen much better days... My backside will never be the same :wink:.

    On the way back we did enjoy the luxurious 777 accommodations and service from PAL.
     
    ROXANNE likes this.
  9. ROXANNE

    ROXANNE Artist

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Tampa Bay area, Florida, USA
    3,901
    2,315
    113
    ScubaBoard Invasion 2016 Trip Report

    It was so much more complicated in planning than our usual ScubaBoard Invasions when we decided to take the annual event to the Philippines for 2016. Atlantis Dive Resorts & Liveaboards was our chosen resort hosting us at both their Puerto Galera and Dumaguete locations. The owners and staff of Atlantis were with us along the way during the 2 years in planning to make the experience the very best it could be. We couldn’t have planned everything without their very attentive assistance and attention to detail. So we felt as prepared as we could be for the adventure.

    I must say the travel time was almost 20 hrs. in the air for us and numerous hours waiting for the next connections. Once arriving in the Philippines, we overnighted at the Midas Hotel in Manila to rest up. The next morning we were promptly greeted by Atlantis’ staff to start our travels to our 1st location Puerto Galera. We were efficiently loaded into several air conditioned vans for the group along with our luggage and started the 2-3 hr. depending on “traffic” drive to the water with bathroom stops along the way. Once at the docks, we were assisted onto 2 boats for an hour ride. Upon arriving in Puerto Galera, we walked about 3 mins along rundown buildings and shore to our resort. It was an interesting trip to say the least, but we were finally here!

    We were greeted by the wonderful staff with smiles, drinks and lunch! One of the incredible things was how quickly the staff worked to know our names and rooms. Most of the Invasion Crew even got in a check out dive before dinner. That night was the Invasion welcome party with a few Sponsor prizes and the event T Shirts handed out. Atlantis printed the Invasion design on the T shirts for us and even went the extra mile and printed many for the staff at both resorts! It was wonderful how they embraced the fun of the event!

    The next morning started our self-inflicted regimen of glorious 3-5 dives per day for most of us. I must say the diving was incredible. The region hosts 3000 species of fish and 448 species of coral with muck-diving to stunning pristine coral reefs and shoals of schooling fish. We had a wonderful DM named Fred who worked hard to share his love of the area and it’s critters with us. Our dive team even got in a fluro night dive. We didn’t see many creatures that lit up on that dive, but the way the coral glowed was spectacular. Fred and the dive shop staff did a great job giving briefings before each dive, keeping tanks flowing and putting our gear away each evening. There were always refreshments and snacks available in between. And the camera room was a great convenience to all of us photographers in between dives. The highlight of the diving for the week was our trip to Verde Island. It was incredibly beautiful were you had to move the fish out of the way to take pictures.

    The resort at Puerto Galero itself is built up on the hill side with beautiful landscaping scattered throughout. The rooms were varied and seemed to be well equipped for our stay. The resort grounds as well as the rooms were well maintained throughout our visit. There are quite a few stairs though with very few rooms at ground level so be prepared to climb.

    All the dining and kitchen staff did an exceptional job in my opinion feeding us 3 meals daily. You had a variety to choose from each time. The food was presented exquisitely and was so delicious! And the staff always had smiles on their faces!

    On our last day at this location we took an excursion to Tukuran (hidden paradise) with quite a few of the Crew. It was a 45 minute jeepney ride from the town of Puerto Galera to take you to the four rivers, where you continue by ox-cart to get to the falls. Once there, we were treated to a refreshing swim, exploration and lunch. We also stopped by another waterfall and a suspension bridge for photo opts along the way. It was a fun day!

    It was a wonderful experience in Puerto Galera for the week with just 2 draw backs in my opinion. One of the towns walk ways does go through the resort between the main part of the grounds and the dive shop with a few rooms above. There, several vendors would linger trying to continually sell you their wares. It was like running the gauntlet each time you went to dive. And 2nd, it was good to see very little trash on the dives, but it was sad to see quite a bit along the shoreline as we got in and out of our boats.

    Continued....
     
  10. ROXANNE

    ROXANNE Artist

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Tampa Bay area, Florida, USA
    3,901
    2,315
    113
    Next it was off for our final week’s destination Atlantis Dive Resort Dumaguete. We reversed to trip, walk through town to boat, boat ride and then van rides to the airport. I must say Atlantis is such a well-oiled machine. They are so very wonderful and efficient at transporting their guests along with their luggage with as little worries and stress as possible. We were well taken care of as we were escorted from one location to the other and through the airport to catch the inter-island 1 hr or so flight. They were right there with us taking care of everything that they possibly could for all of us. Once we landed in Dumaguete, Atlantis staff gathered our luggage for us to claim and boarded us into vans and jeepneys to travel the 45 mins or so to the resort. They turned off the road and you’re not sure where their taking you as you wind through properties along a dirt road. You finally park and walk into the resort.

    Upon arrival we were treated to smiling faces and a wonderful view of the water with refreshments. We all got settled into our new location and then had dinner and drinks listening to the water lap the shore.

    The next morning again started our self-inflicted regimen of those glorious 3-5 dives per day for most of us. A good portion of the dives here were muck dives along with areas of corals. Again the diving was incredible. For this week our DM named Wing was our guide. He had incredible eagle eyes to spot critters for us. There were always refreshments and snacks available in between dives. Wing and the rest of the dive shop staff did a great job of taking good care of us, briefings before each dive, keeping tanks flowing and putting our gear away each evening. They even recorded and gave us print outs of all our dive sites. And the camera room again was a great convenience to all of us photographers in between dives. For some reason they didn’t want us in the camera room wet which wasn’t a problem at the other location, but we managed. The highlight of the diving for the week was our trip to Apo Island. It was incredibly beautiful with turtles everywhere and some of the biggest and most stunning coral I had ever seen! The boat did break down on the way back, but it didn’t take long for them to get a tow out to us so we could return to the resort.

    The Dumaguete resort is more spread out and meandering. Lush vegetation complimented the grounds and you felt more secluded here. There were locals who would pass by along the beach and you could watch the children and families enjoy swimming and playing in the water. Again the grounds and rooms were well maintained during our stay. The food and staff were just as amazing as they were in Puerto Galera, but I think they could have used one or 2 more hands to serve such a big crowd.

    I did not want to forget to highlight the spa services at both resorts. The Invasion crew took full advantage of the incredible prices for massages and kept their schedules very busy. Thank you for taking such great care of us!

    On the last full day of the 2016 Invasion some of the Crew traveled to Oslob on the island of Cebu for a Whale Shark encounter. While my husband and I have swum with Whale Sharks multiple times is the past this was truly an incredible day with these magical creatures! We were given lunch and returned to the resort to get ready for the farewell party.

    Atlantis laid out an amazingly scrumptious Pilipino buffet for our farewell party. They also made an incredible 3 tiered sea themed inspired cake to celebrate Scubaboard’s 16th birthday! All the DM’s, staff and the incredibly entertaining Nitrox band joined in the celebration. You have not lived until you heard Pink Floyd Pilipino style. After we raffled off the rest of wonderful Sponsor’s prizes Atlantis still had some surprises in store. They had embroidered hats for those celebrating special milestone dives. Just one more exceptional touch from Atlantis during our stay!

    I just can’t say enough about the wonderful service we received from Atlantis during the Scubaboard Invasion 2016. Thank you so much to the Owners (Andy and Gordon), both resort managers (Steve and Dek) and all their wonderful staff at Atlantis Dive Resorts & Liveaboards Puerto Galera and Dumaguete for making our stay so incredible! They went all out and we really appreciated the enormous amount of hard work and wonderful hospitality during our 2 week stay! Atlantis Dive Resorts is a 1st class operation! It was truly an amazing adventure! Thank you!!!!!!!

    Special congratulations to Jack and Andora who got engaged in Dumaguete!!!!!
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2016
    crd_kats, islanddream, MNJoe and 4 others like this.

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