Monday, May 17, 2010

From Puerto Princessa, Palawan 90 nautical miles to Tubbataha Marine Reserve, 5 full days of diving there; onwards 200 nautical miles to Apo Island, Dauin off Dumaguete, Balicasag and Caibalao and then "home" to Mactan Island, it was a fantastic 14 days aboard the beautiful Philippine Siren. The ship is gorgeous and well laid out, the crew was a combination of Thai, Indonesian, Filipino, a Dutchman and an American! The ship has only been here in the Philippines for about five months now. It sailed from Bira, Indonesia where it was built with a Thai captain and combination Indonesian and Thai crew. They have been training the Filipino crew and are in the process of turning over all responsibilities for the operations to the local crew. Everyone works well together and gets along great, even given a little bit of language difficulties amongst themselves!

We dove sheer walls, sand slopes, black sand "muck", over fields of gorgeous hard and soft corals and even identified some new fish and critters on this trip. Almost all diving is done from the inflatable "dinkies" with the exception of two dives where we were moored directly over gorgeous hard corals. Diving is generally drift diving with some swift currents and most moderate to mild.

The food on the ship was exquisite....Thai, Indonesian, Filipino; a Japanese dinner as well as the last night barbeque! The head chef, Ivan, is an Indonesian who sailed over with the ship and is leaving with us to head back home after seven months away. He's leaving the kitchen to two very talented Filipino chefs, Jimmie & TaTa, both of whom also contributed daily to create the amazing entrees. I'm sure going to miss my nase gorem at breakfast and my fresh mangoes daily!

Well, the internet connection here is slow, slow, slow & won't let me upload any images again....bye, bye, Philippines!

Friday, May 14, 2010

We're now at Cabilao Island for the last two days of diving. This afternoon the Siren will be hoisting the sails for a bit and we'll also do some sailing inbetween dives! I'm using the iPhone connection so this will be brief! It will not grab images from my phone library but I posted some images to the Facebook page!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It’s been a week since we got onboard the Philippine Siren and we’re now at Apo Island and connected!

We spent five days diving at Tubbataha Marine Park out in the middle of the Sulu Sea. It’s 90 nautical miles southwest of the island of Palawan and in the middle of “nowhere”! There’s a Ranger Station on a sandbar that’s manned 12 months a year, 24 hours a day and they patrol the Marine Park looking for illegal fishing activities. Their tour of duty is two months, no matter the season. The Ranger Station looks like a squat stucco longhouse with very, very thick walls mounted on squat legs, painted a bright white. They have covered porches outside, a small commons area with a television; bunks stacked neatly and a small kitchen with a little garden and laundry drying area outside. They rely on a regular supply boat for food and water, but they do have collection barrels to catch the rain as well.

Tubbataha is divided into the North and South Atolls. There are continuous dive sites along the atolls, sloping reefs into sheer, sheer walls. The walls are covered in fan corals, some soft corals and lots of hard corals. The reefs are teeming with fish of all varieties. Signature dives feature schools of barracuda, schools of horse-eyed jacks, giant trevally cruising the reefs, some saw a manta or two, turtles on every dive and sharks….reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks, several “leopard” sharks were also spotted. The water temp ranged from 82-84 degrees so it was pleasantly warm. Large grouper were prolific….

We dove Washing Machine, Sea Fan Alley, Shark Airport, the Malawan Wreck, the Delsan wreck, Hans Reef, Wall Street, Southwest Wall, Sweetlips X-press and many others. Nightly moorings were on the leeward side of the atolls so it was calm and quiet to sleep.

This is a beautiful vessel. It’s an Indonesia Pinisi-style with spacious cabins, plentiful closets and cupboards, beautiful polished wooden floors and cabinets. Every cabin has a computer desk with a computer that’s wired into the main computer in the salon. The salon features a flat panel big screen ideal for viewing slideshows & videos.

Food has been amazing; we have an Indonesian chef and two Philippine chefs so we’re getting a taste of many cultures! Fruits and veggies are plentiful at every meal. Chicken, fish, shrimp, pork, beef, squid are featured on a rotating basis, two main meat/fish courses per dinner plus a vegetarian entrĂ©e. The crew is friendly and wonderfully competent. Almost all diving is done in inflatable tenders but a couple of the dives have been off the dive platform into a site directly beneath us.

We had a 30+ hour sail from Tubbataha to Negroes Island and then offshore to Apo Island to dive here and start our way back towards Cebu…we started our diving again this morning with a great macro dive along the east side of Apo Island at a site called Rock Point East. Here’s a few images from our Tubbataha diving….internet connection is slow, slow, slow so uploading might be problematic!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sunrise at 5:00 a.m. - sunset at 6:30 p.m. with a trip to the Underground River in between! It's a two-hour drive across Palawan to Sabang Beach and the beginning of the World Heritage Site Underground River. The highest point in the caves is 65 meters and it's a totally awesome experience! There are over 64,000 bats that live in the caves, 8 species in all. The colors of the marble are incredibly beautiful and it's quiet except for the paddling of the driver and the chattering of the bats! They limit the timing in between the boats so you truly get to experience feeling like you're all alone deep inside the beautiful was quite the experience!

We also spent some time on Sabang Beach until our permit time, got to enjoy watching the local kids fish and play in the water. Today was the Philippines Labor Day so families were out enjoying the beautiful day.

Tomorrow we board the Siren after lunch and internet contact will be limited so this will be our last post for several days at least.....

Sunday, May 2, 2010

While you are eating dinner, I'm walking the beach at 5:00 a.m. watching the pre-sunrise! What a gorgeous morning....low tide again so after taking a few shots from our balcony while Bob was snoozing away, downstairs I went and picked up a cup of coffee and headed outside to sit and watch Mother Nature at Her finest! And since the tide was so low again, I could walk about 1/4 mile out to where the fishing boats were just barely in water....enjoy!

Look at the 1st photo in the previous post with the two mangrove trees in the water...these were taken about 45 minutes after sunset tonight...facing East with a very, very low tide! Sometimes the most beautiful sunset shots are AFTER sunset...enjoy!

We're doing the Underground River tour to follow later in the day!

Cebu & Palawan, Philippines are two beautiful islands! We enjoyed a short stay on Mactan/Cebu Islands on Saturday and did a Cebu City tour in the early afternoon. First a visit to Lapu lapu where the locals massacred Magellan and a magnificent Mactan warrior shrine there; then onwards to where Magellan's Cross is preserved, a beautiful monument depicting the history and heritage of Cebu itself, a tour of the Casa Gorodo home which has been turned into a beautiful museum and then a visit to the Basilica Del Stores Nino which is the oldest Cathedral in the Philippines. Last stop was the San Pedro Fort and then back to the hotel where we enjoyed a little beach time yesterday and watched a beautiful sunset as well.

This morning we packed our bags and headed off on Cebu Pacific to the Island of Palawan in the southwestern region of the Philippines. We have a day today of relaxation and then we're touring the island including a cruise along an underground river. Tuesday after lunch we're scheduled to board the MY Philippine Siren. Sunset here along the beach today should be magnificent...