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The Visayan Islands, Philippines
- Story and photos by Shawn Wallace.
The Visayas or “Bisayas” as referred to by the local Filipinos are a great dive adventure destination. This group of islands is situated smack in the center of the Republic of the Philippines.
With more than 7,000 different islands and 36,289 km of coastline to explore one can only image the endless diving opportunities in this island country in South East Asia.
The area has some of the finest divesites you will find anywhere in the world, with breathtaking walls, stunning corals and endless varieties of marine life - from the tiniest coral reef fishes to the "Oh my God!" variety of pelagics!
I settled on Mactan Island as my operating base during this trip. Mactan Island is the small section of land off the East coast of the greater Island of Cebu, some 560 km south of Manila
I chose to spearhead my diving with Scuba world, a dive center that operates from a well known resort on the South East end of the island, known as Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Cebu. This can be kind of deceiving, because it is actually on Mactan Island but all the Filipinos that one comes in contact with don’t really know where Mactan Island is but everyone has heard of Cebu. To alleviate any confusion everything has a Cebu, Philippines address. The islands are actually about 15 miles apart, separated by two huge bridges that span the channel.
Once inside Plantation Bay’s gate or any of the great resorts that line the Eastern shores of Mactan Island one really does not need to leave for anything. Most of the resorts have their own dive shop attached to them. We moved around several times just to get a feel for how the other resorts and dive shops operated. Carry your own gear to avoid having to use equipment that comes with the fear that the BC or a hose may explode at any moment. Anyone with a good eye for a deal that is just too good will see right through it. This refers to the many side street operators that will try and get you to dive with them promising everything very cheap, however there is no guarantee of quality service.
The majority of my dives were with Scuba World, located on the far ends of the resort's grounds. This operator has several very well maintained dive centers throughout the Philippines. Ask anyone where the dive shop is and they will either carry you and your gear right over there or point with their “lips” as to its general direction. No to point with your finger is a very local custom in the Philippines, and takes a few goes to get the hang of. Once you catch on it is great to show your friends back home how its done. The staff at the center is very knowledgeable and friendly. The management was Australian and the staff (Filipino) spoke perfect English. Gear was new or very close to it and I can highly recommended them!
The local shore dives were just as great as other around I dived around the island chain. If one dons a tank and heads out about only 25 meters the reef quickly (and I stress QUICKLY) drops from 3 to 300 meters and the marine life is amazing.
To experience the phenomenal drift dives on offer just coordinate with the staff at Scuba World and you will be dropped off at the abyss 25 meters off shore and picked up wherever you ascend down the reef in the direction of the current. This is what makes the diving in this particular area so great. You never feel rushed to cover all the terrain as in some popular dive spots throughout the world. Scuba World allows you to dive at your own pace and when the current is right very little work is needed on the part of the diver.
Shore dives included everything from Marigondon Cave at 34.7 meters right off the reef at Plantation Bay, Marine Station Reserve just a few minutes by Banca Boat (see photo next page) north towards the Bluewater Bay Resort area, and also Tambuli Resort has it’s own popular dive sites right off the shore. These are all within five to ten minutes and you can be diving among a very diverse collection of the most beautiful fish one has ever seen. I recommend diving these sights in the afternoon because the wall faces away from the sun and the fish seem to come alive when the sun is not shining on them directly. This is a great opportunity for photographers to get great macro shots with a strobe of course.
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