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First trip in October - planning a route

Discussion in 'Philippine Paradise Divers' started by Barmaglot, Mar 4, 2019.

  1. Barmaglot

    Barmaglot Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Israel
    708
    274
    63
    Late September to mid-October is holiday season here in Israel, and this year all the holidays (Rosh ha-Shana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah) fall on mid-week, so it's a perfect opportunity for a longer vacation - and this time, I'm considering Philippines as opposed to my usual haunt in Thailand. I'm an aspiring photographer, traveling alone, looking for a balanced mix of macro/wideangle/pelagics.

    Tentative plan:
    • Fly from Israel to Manila around September 25-27
    • Bus to Batangas, then taxi to Anilao, do 4-5 days of muck diving - not sure what resort to pick; thinking about Anilao Photo Academy as it is geared for photographers
    • Ferry to Puerto Galera, do a couple days 'normal' diving, maybe take a solo diving course (I see Frontier Scuba offering it), then outgas for a day
    • Fly from Puerto Galera to Coron - it's a bit expensive, but a ride in that little Air Juan seaplane sounds like fun
    • DiveUNDA liveaboard, either five or six days option - wrecks, dugongs, Apo Reef
    • Outgas in Coron for a day, then fly to Cebu
    • Bus + ferry to Malapascua, then four or five days diving with sharks, hopefully some mantas
    • If time permits, do a day with whale sharks at Oslob
    • Transfer back to Cebu City and fly back to Israel from Mactan-Cebu International on October 19th.
    Tentative cost estimation, with generous padding for contingencies puts me around US$4000~5000, plus $500 each for tickets there and back (TLV -> MNL and CEB -> TLV). Does this route sound sensible?
    I'm pretty set on Anilao and Malapascua, but not completely sure on the midpoints - for instance, I could dive the Apo Reef from Occidental Mindoro, or via a liveaboard from Puerto Galera rather than Coron; the Flying Dolphin III catamaran is considerably more expensive than DiveUNDA's Liberation bangka, but removing the transfer to Coron reduces the cost gap, and it looks like a much more comfortable boat. Likewise, I need to narrow down my choices for resorts at Anilao and Malapascua, although unlike airfare, where I need to buy early or risk paying extortion-level prices, I've got lots of time to do my research.
    What's the best way to handle money? Some places can be prepaid online, but I'll still need a substantial amount of cash, and from what I'm reading, ATMs are pretty scarce and have low withdrawal limits. Fly in with a bunch of USD and exchange a litle bit to pesos at the airport for traveling cash, and the rest in Batangas, or change everything at the airport?
    What lenses to bring? I dive with a Sony A6300 - for Anilao I'd obviously be using my 90mm macro, and I guess I will need to augment it with a +10~12 wet diopter, while for Apo Reef I'm guessing 10-18mm behind a dome would be the right tool, but what about Malapascua? I understand that lights and strobes are forbidden for diving with thresher sharks, and they don't always come very close, so I'm guessing 16-50mm in a dome? How many spare batteries to bring, i.e. how likely is it that I'd go more than a day or two without access to mains power for recharging?
    Thanks everyone.
     
  2. xrcjdx

    xrcjdx Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: coral triangle
    282
    96
    28
    Ok I'll bite. Your plan sounds great. Even your reluctance to go to Coron, unless you are serious about your wrecks.
    If you are certain in your accommodation choices, and willing to forego the flexibility, paying ahead is a no worry option. You haven't mentioned credit cards. The places you've mentioned aren't off the map, and unless you are staying low low budget I'm willing to bet they will all accept a credit card - albeit + a 3-5% fee for the trouble. Get a foreign transaction fee exempt card. If you have a no transaction fee atm card bring it and use it. BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands) allows you to withdraw $20,000 php at a time (for a 250 php bank fee). There are plenty of ATM machines available, and it's certainly not difficult to make strategic withdrawals from your bank of choice. Don't even think about hauling around the kind of cash you mentioned.
    As for batteries, you won't have an issue recharging unless you set up shop at Apo Island. And even there the generator will run enough hours in a day to satisfy your needs.
    Rick at Frontier is an instructor extraordinaire. That's a wise choice.
     
  3. FT

    FT Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Ottawa, Canada
    299
    135
    43
    Recommend you look for fairybasset’s recent reports including Apo Reef and Coron. And see if Luko has let slip where he stays and who are his preferred guides in Anilao.

    HSBC will let you withdraw PHP40,000 at a time with no fee, assuming your bank allows that much. It has only a few branches, including three in Manila/Makati and one in Cebu near the Ayala Mall. There are ATMs with the lower limit, and inconsistent performance, in Sabang/Puerto Galera. Also in Coron. Difficult in Anilao. Big nope in Malapascua. People take PayPal, or credit with a surcharge.
    My personal preference would be more time in Puerto Galera, especially if you are taking a course. Try to get on a day trip to Verde Island.

    Subtract the time from Malapascua? The thresher shark dives are you and a hundred of your new buddies hovering near the bottom on rubble while you watch the sharks circle, not usually right near you. Oh, and fifty of those buddies have crap buoyancy control so they are kicking rubble dust in your face. But, to be fair, there are a few other attractions and topside is a pleasant place to chill. Try Evolution Divers.
     
  4. keesmon

    keesmon Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States
    282
    57
    28
    One recommendation in Malapascua would be for Thresher Shark Divers. They have their own mooring line at Monad Shoal, so a maximum of two boats worth of divers in the area at one time.
    I did three days of that and had good encounters on two of those days.
    Also a tip to use Nitrox there, which will get you into the water with a group before the air divers and keep you down there longer. The island itself is pretty fun too.
     
  5. Barmaglot

    Barmaglot Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Israel
    708
    274
    63
    Thank you.

    The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning towards skipping Coron/Apo Reef altogether - 4-5 destinations in three weeks is just too much; extending the time in Puerto Galera/Anilao is likely a better option. Thanks for the vote of confidence in Frontier Divers.

    Regarding Malapascua - while thresher sharks are its most famous attraction, I understand that it's also one of the better places in the Philippines to encounter other types of large pelagics such as devil rays, manta rays, various reef sharks, etc, so I'm not going there for thresher sharks alone. I've also seen mentions of pretty good macro there, including the rare mandarinfish coming out at dusk.

    Good call on the nitrox - I'm already certified on it, so it's just a few extra pesos for a boost in NDL.

    I'm also working on convincing my sister to get certified and come with, so maybe I won't be traveling alone after all :)
     
    Trailboss123 likes this.
  6. SeaWarden

    SeaWarden Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Singapore
    110
    16
    18
    Do you know if Oct is the season for diving in the Philippines?
     
  7. Barmaglot

    Barmaglot Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Israel
    708
    274
    63
    It's supposed to be the tail end of the typhoon season, so I might get unlucky, but chances are good it will be okay.
     
  8. FT

    FT Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Ottawa, Canada
    299
    135
    43
    It is alleged that mandarin fish mating can most reliably be seen around the full moon, which falls on Oct 13 this year. I’d say your Malapascua timing was Meant To Be. Also approve of more time in PG and Anilao, and simplifying your overall plan.

    Have fun, have fun planning, and please report back.
     
    Barmaglot likes this.
  9. Barmaglot

    Barmaglot Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Israel
    708
    274
    63
    :yeahbaby:
     

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