Easter Philippines diving trip! First “Drift Diving” experience at the Puerto Galera

As a Rescue Diver with few years of diving experience, all of which were accumulated in Hong Kong during the pandemic, I had no experience diving outside Hong Kong yet. However, with the recent easing of travel restrictions, I took the opportunity to visit one of the most cost-effective diving destinations in the Philippines, Puerto Galera.

This trip fulfilled my long-held desire to dive outside of Hong Kong, and I even got to meet several female diving enthusiasts. This was an incredibly rare opportunity for me, as finding female friends who share the same love for diving and aren’t afraid of water is difficult. Diving is a sport that emphasizes the importance of taking care of your dive buddy, and it would be better if you can have fun diving with buddies, and I was fortunate to have joined a diving group planned by my diving instructor friend.

Crossing through the chaotic community 
Shopping time in Batangas!

After arriving at Manila airport, we chartered a vehicle to travel to the local SM Mall in Batangas. 

Along the way, we saw underdeveloped community construction, but upon arriving at SM Mall, we noticed a completely different feeling compared to the architecture or housing seen from the car.

SM Mall has many international and local high-end brands, as well as a large supermarket. We then shopped for sunglasses at Sunglasses Studio, which had a stylish and fresh decoration and a coffee corner. Out of curiosity, I tried a Match Dirty drink, which was surprisingly delicious. For girls who love shopping for clothes and swimsuits, SM Store is a great place to visit. They have a variety of bohemian vacation-style dresses, swimsuits, and even postcards to send to friends. After lunch and shopping, we got back into the van and headed to Puerto Galera.

The resort we stayed at this time is called Aura Dive Resort, which is managed by a Korean owner Mr. Park. Upon arriving at the pier, a prearranged boat will be waiting to transport you to the resort. If you wish not to give any extra tips, make sure not to let strangers carry your luggage, the boat crew wearing resort uniforms will take care of it for you.

After arriving on the island, we rested early and prepared for breakfast the next day. I never imagined that I would be having Korean-style breakfast every day in the Philippines, especially a delicious beef and kelp soup filled with traditional Korean flavor. It was particularly warming to the stomach and gave us plenty of energy for the diving trip. 

In addition to Korean breakfast, the resort also offers Western-style breakfast such as bacon and eggs, with a total of 7-9 sets of breakfast options available. 

Puerto Galera have mickle dive spots  
The Diving Guides of the resort are so professional!

Our group consisted of people who were either taking the Advanced Open Water Diver (AOW) course or just there to have fun like me. It was natural to feel nervous during our first dive outside of Hong Kong. During the 6-day, 5-night diving trip, we planned to do 8 dives, but if anyone needed to add some more, they could discuss it with the local dive guide according to their own conditions.

Typically, on the first day, we would do a Check Dive, which was mainly evaluated by the dive guide for our diving skills, weighting, and other factors. They would then provide appropriate suggestions for arranging the rest of our itinerary. After completing the Check Dive, we would plan the next day’s diving trip based on the conditions of our diving partners and the environment.

During the five-day diving journey, we visited a total of seven diving spots, including Sabang Wreck, Monkey Beach, Sinandigan Wall, Alma Jane Wreck, Canyons, Dungeon Wall, and Verde Island. The most significant feeling we had was the difference in water quality between Hong Kong and the Philippines, the visibility of water in Puerto Galera was so good.

 Drift diving experience that challenges women’s strength!

If wreck diving is eye-opening, then drift diving is an exhilarating sensory experience. Drift diving utilizes the current to guide your diving route, which can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. You never really get familiar with the route, and there’s a fear that you might be too slow to react and get swept away by the current.

During drift diving, there are times when you need to change direction, or even swim against the current, which can be challenging for women who are not used to exercising regularly. Even for those who regularly exercise, it can still be a bit nerve-wracking. You can kick as hard as you can, but you realize that you haven’t moved much when you look at the coral below. You then have to use more force to kick, making it a challenging and difficult experience for women.

If the dive guide believes that everyone has stable diving skills, they will let you try more challenging drift diving spots. For example, one of our spots was Canyons, which the local dive guide referred to as “Killer Current” due to its large and strong currents. In addition to requiring top-notch buoyancy control, you also need to have excellent situational awareness and strong adaptability skills. If your skills are not at that level, the dive guide will prioritize safety and not recommend going there.

It’s difficult to stop and look for things in the coral along the way because you keep getting swept away by the current, which can be a bit embarrassing and comical. Occasionally, diving partners can also get carried away by the current and bump into each other, requiring adjustments. Besides Canyons, Sinandigan Wall, Verde Island, and Dungon Wall all have varying levels of drift, but we experienced the most thrilling one at Canyons. The subsequent ones were relatively less scary.

An impressive wreck diving experience

We did both day and night dives at Sabang wreck, where we mainly saw a small wreck and some small schools of fish around it. There was also a chance for us to see Frogfish, which we spotted after searching for a while, even though at first, I thought the dive guide was pointing at something on the bow of the wreck. If you have confidence in your diving skills, you can follow my diving partner’s route and swim through the middle of the wreck.

It was my first time seeing such a large Frogfish, and to be honest, when the dive guide pointed it out, all I saw was a bunch of black objects. It took me a while to spot its eyes and facial features.

During the night dive, the dive guide mentioned the possibility of seeing a sleeping sea turtle, and we were lucky enough to encounter one! Unfortunately, there were too many of us, and the turtle swam away with a few confused fish after seeing our colorful flashlights.

During the night dive, we encountered the third sea turtle of our diving trip, and it was the largest one! It was sleeping when we found it.

In addition to small wreck sites, there was also a massive cargo ship wreck called the Alma Jane wreck, which is located at a depth of 30 meters. According to the official PADI website, the wreckage of the Almajane sank in 2003. It was originally a Philippine cargo ship and has now become an artificial reef where Sweetlips fish, batfish, and rabbitfish can be found.

The dive guide guided us to take a group photo on the massive cargo ship wreck, the Alma Jane wreck, which was located at a depth of 30 meters.

Searching Aplysia just like “Pokemon Go” with different colors and looking

When diving in Hong Kong, I often hear fellow divers mention seeing several Aplysia sea hares. As a novice diver, I have only been lucky enough to see them once. However, on the Puerto Galera side, if you love these cute sea hares, you will definitely have your wish fulfilled. At Sinandigan Wall, the sea hares are not only large and easy to find, but they also come in various colors such as yellow, green, blue, and orange! In addition to Sinandigan Wall, it is also easy to spot Aplysia sea hares at other dive sites around Puerto Galera.

On Puerto Galera, there is a creature even tinier and harder to find than sea hares, called the “pygmy seahorse.” With the guidance of the dive guide and diving partners, we searched through plants with our eyes wide open for a long time until we finally found its silhouette! The “protective coloration” of this pygmy seahorse is so strong that even as a novice diver, I wouldn’t have been able to spot it without my diving partners pointing it out to me.

We also had the opportunity to see sea turtles up close at Dungon Wall and Verde Island! Did anyone else notice any signs of marine life during the dives?

The rhythm of the waves Allows Us to rediscover the purity of life

When we weren’t diving on the island, we enjoyed sitting quietly on the chairs outside our room, enjoying the beautiful nature while listening to the sound of the waves. It was a peaceful moment without the need for social media, and it made me realize how long it had been since I had experienced such tranquility.

As the poet Hai Zi wrote: “I only wish to face the sea, to welcome the warm spring and blooming flowers.” This line resonated with me and has always been one of my favorite phrases.

Living in a society driven by materialism can bring about various worries and pressures, including societal expectations, feelings of loneliness and confusion, and the pressure to achieve tasks on one’s bucket list. However, I am someone who loves this world, just like I love the vast and unknown ocean. When I feel overwhelmed, I sit by the sea, feeling the vitality of nature and believing that life doesn’t have to be a chase; simplicity is good enough. The world is still beautiful.

Returning to the densely populated city with tall buildings, I already miss this diving trip.

Mandu is the enthusiastic little shop assistant of the guesthouse owner. Every time you approach him, he excitedly wags his tail and warmly welcomes you.

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