Another delayed posting and it has now been almost a year since the trip. A post review after a year is tough but I have only my laziness to blame. But on the brighter side of things, writing this post brings back many happy memories and tons of crazy stuff that happened on the trip. Never fails to bring a smile to my face.
A one month trip that started off with diving Tubbataha reef. It was a long trip from home and the transfers were a bit daunting but I reached my destination safe and sound.
I met up with the guys from Discovery Fleet and we took a ride through town to the jetty. This was my first LOB and I was pretty excited to see the vessel that I would be on for the next 7 days. Been hearing lots of ‘scary’ stories of how bad certain LOBs could be so to be honest, I was also a tad worried. The Discovery Palawan ship, much bigger than I had imagined it to be.
Once on board, I knew all my fears were unfounded. The ship had just undergone a recent renovation and everything was brand new. I was impressed with the common TV cum camera charging area and I guessed it would make a great getaway corner too. The dining deck was huge with an upper deck for drinks with a mini bar. My room was great too. A little tight but was well equipped and clean. I was sharing a room and I was looking forward to meeting my roommate.
As I had plenty of time before we set sail to Tubbataha, I decided to drop by town to see if I can grab some tidbits and of course, a quick lunch. I’ll leave details of the hustle and bustle of town to another post. Returning to the ship, I met my roomie, Sam and some of the other divers. It was tough remembering all the names at this point of time but there was one person who left a deep impression, and yes, right from the very beginning. Jamie, aka room number 4. 😉
We were sailing throughout the night for eight hours before we reached our destination. We were also getting divided into our dive groups. Coincidental or not, Jamie was my dive buddy, testing out his side mount for the first time. Well, I only knew about this much later but I was pretty glad he seem quite comfortable and skilled in whatever he was doing. In any case, it was a beautiful morning.
We had a hearty breakfast, followed by a dive brief and getting introduced to our dive teams. I got busy with my gears and it was the first time I was using my BC. I had borrowed a Edwin’s regulator so it was really the first time I had my own full gear. Had not been in a full wetsuit for a while so I was asking around if that was actually necessary. A check with the divemaster and it seems water temperature were not that bad, around 28-29 deg celsius. My usual getup should suffice.
The first morning dive was more of a check out dive and for me it was more getting used to my gears and testing out my camera. My buddy was adjusting his side mount to a comfortable position so I ended up fooling around with the guys and getting their pictures instead.
The second and third dives were more rewarding. I was impressed with the vast scale of unbroken reefs and coral systems. Everything here was bigger in size and larger in groups. It was amazing.
We ended the day with a beautiful sunset. Dinner was wonderful and I would never forget having a drink under the star filled skies when all was silent and I was alone on the deck for that little brief moment. I sneaked off to avoid getting drunk. I had a wonderful roommate and we had a little chat before we both fell asleep. I was looking forward to diving again the next day.
I woke up early the next day and the camera room was already busy with people charging cameras and getting ready to go diving. We had Tony in the group and he had this huge Gates video with the ‘octopus’ light system. It was one huge machine. Then there were the divers from Aniliao and all of them had a full camera system set up with double strobes and additional go pro. Suddenly, my camera felt so small, a little insignificant in the room of professionals. Luckily I had Troy and Jim. Jim was into video and Troy had pretty much the same setup as me, just a camera. 🙂 Not just the setups, these 2 guys were to become my best pals on board.
After breakfast and checking our gears, it was once again morning briefing before we set out to dive. I couldn’t wait to get wet again. 😉
Need I say more about the abundance of life in the waters here. We were among schools of fishes almost everyday. Sharks became a common site and they were never alone. And as usual, a sleeping shark meant I had to creep up on it to get that close up. 😉 Bad habit. :p
And so the 2 morning dives with the couples, the loners and the schools. Everything just came in plus sizes, yes, including the trigger fishes. Those were scary and they were almost everywhere. I definitely had to stay out of their way.
It was back on the ship for a good lunch and break before our afternoon dive. I was given the task to wake my buddy up before the afternoon dive, and yes, at room number 4. 😉
It was a bright sunny afternoon and we were all bowing down to avoid the sun. Only our boat captain was beaming away and enjoying the sun. The rest of us simply could not wait to jump into the waters. I wasn’t really sure if I was getting too pampered but it was pretty much an uneventful dive. After 2 days of diving, I was getting pretty drained too. I would definitely need a good rest tonight.
After a good shower and a good dinner, I was feeling satisfied again. Had a couple of drinks with the guys before I hit the bed.
We had continued sailing the night before and we arrived at a different area. The sea was exceptionally calm that morning and it was great to enjoy the brief moment of peace with myself. I needed that more than anything else.
By now, the dives had kind of merge themselves into one another and they had sort of become a blur. I had fun with the guys on the ship and my group on the boat. Not forgetting lots of bickering with my buddy. By now, we were talking about saving water on the ship by showering together. Yes, getting scandalous, but all in good fun. 😉
Oh, by the way, the turtles here were all huge and in families, so it was kind of strange to see a loner around. Hope he’s not lost.
Getting a shot with the compressor guy before my next dive. Very important person since he was taking care of the tanks.
This was by far the most beautiful reef I had ever seen. Stretches and stretches of it and yes so tempting to stroke it like going through a head of super thick hair. The water was so clear that you could see the sun coming through, lighting up the sea bed. No, we were not as shallow as it looked, it was simply the clarity of water that created this shimmering reef effect. This was one view that I would never forget and I really hoped the rest of the reef in the world would be as intact as this. Great job here. Really well protected area.
An amazing reef marked the end of the dive day. We were treated to a night of dolphins after dinner. It was too dark for me to capture any photos but I could still remember going round the ship to look at them. It was almost as if the pod of dolphins were circling the ship in the dark. The night sky was beautiful and Troy was teaching me how to look out for the southern cross and the big dipper. I admit I was pretty lousy but I finally managed to get it right eventually. We got the gang a bit worried when we told them we had a date that night. 😉 We did have one, a date with the captain to show us the bridge of the ship.
Oh, returning to the camera room, we found our dear friend, Jim asleep. It was time for some fun while he snooze. :p Well, I like to believe they still love me. 🙂
We had another day of diving with sharks, barracudas, turtles and rays. The other group bumped into a school of baby mola mola and the dive operators were so excited. That was the first spotting they ever had. Though I missed that, it was still a great diving day.
I do admit I was getting really spoilt and I had almost forgotten it wasn’t everyday you see sharks and turtles and barracudas every day in almost every dive. The reef life was amazing and if there was a way to describe this, everything was simply larger and bigger in quantities. Really really loved the endless stretches of corals.
I guessed it was our last sunset on board, so everyone was eager to capture this amazing moment. It wasn’t our last night but the next day we were going to hit land for a short moment to visit the ranger station.
Our last day of diving and I was actually feeling a little sad that this trip was coming to an end. We would be packing up soon after the day’s dives.
There were plenty of nudibranches, just to clarify but I guessed I was too overwhelmed with the big stuff. Giving them due justice on my last day.
After our dives, we were all excited to visit the ranger station. The party would be on too and I saw the service crew getting the ice bin of drinks ready. After 6 days of bright sunny days, everyone was caught by surprise when it started to pour. My poor roomie, Sam had showered and changed into dry clothes. It was really quite amusing to see her worry about getting drenched. The guys were just simply bent on getting her wet. 🙂
I was only glad that no one had captured any photos of our crazy stint on the little island. It was an evening of pranks and laughters. Sand in beer, seawater in beer, sand in clothes, being thrown into the sea, anything that could possibly be done. It had been a year and I am still finding it pretty unbelievable that I am actually smiling as I type now.
I spent the evening taking photos with the crew and my dive buddies. I knew I go overboard sometimes but this round, I knew I lost all control. 😉 I’ll miss you all.