A Travellerspoint blog

Mystery Fish Success!

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We have had remarkable success in deducing the species of our resident mystery fish!

Originally spotted in this video:

....It wasn't until we pulled apart the fish identification journal that we discovered it is a juvenile sweetlips! How a baby fish that is so delicate and beautiful can grow into something so bland and unimaginative I will never understand but that is what the fish bible says so that is what it must be!

Of course, I have had an ear infection for the past few days. Lucky me! So diving is absolutely out... Pfft! I thought I could get a sneaky one in yesterday in just 5m of water which has only succeeded in aggravating the problem further. As it is with my luck, the weather today has been some of the most magnificent I have seen since arriving in the Philippines, not only is the sky blue but the ocean is the most irridescent hue of emerald green I have ever seen in my life. To make matters worse, I can stand out the front of the dive shop, and look straight down at the bottom of the ocean, and follow the sunken barges to the hideout of our little local; the baby Sweetlips. Today he teased me and my debilitating short-comings from 6m below the surface as he danced around with his friend the excessively-large trigger fish who also calls Vasco's his home.

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 18:00 Archived in Philippines Tagged trees diving beach sweet philippines paradise scuba manila dive coconut wreck luzon zambales anilao puerto_galera lips Comments (1)

The Value of Getting Certified

"A mind that has been stretched will never return to it's original dimension." (Albert Einstein)

sunny 35 °C

I've had the pleasure of being introduced to a brand new batch of school teachers here in Subic, who've all told me how keen they are to start their Open Water while they're here. Woohoo! More friends for me :) It makes my job a whole lot easier since it's not hard to convince someone to come on in when they're already dead set on getting certified. The problem lies with that small minority of what I like to call 'dive snobs.' The type that thinks snorkelers are a waste of boat space, or that tec divers are nothing but waterproof nerds.

It's a strange, passive-aggressive attitude, which begs to question their insecurity but after chatting to a guy not long back, I found out the cause:
He wasn’t certified.

I know, that’s heresy to some and applauded by others, but to me, that’s like driving without a license for 25 years. He was certainly a 'diver,' but the bluff and bravado that came with that was simple overcompensation. And it certainly didn’t change the fact that he wasn’t certified.

So, with that said, here’s the lowdown on tips you can use to convert the odd dive snob you may encounter, to the ranks of officially certified divers:

  • You won’t have to justify why you should be treated any different than all the other newbie Discover Scuba Divers.
  • Divemasters no longer try to hold your hand (literally) underwater.
  • You can explore the underwater world with your dive buddy at your convenience; all responsible, like a big kid!
  • Achieving an open water diver certification is something you can be proud of and a priceless holiday memory.
  • You’ll meet other divers and find out about dive destinations – where only certified divers can go.
  • It’s great conversation starter.
  • You become part of an international adventure club.
  • My personal favourite; divers go down longer and come up wetter!

I am unsure whether my particular dive snob ever continued on the do his dive certification. If not, I just can’t help but think that he’s limiting himself and what he can do. Anyone who dives will say you never look at the world the same way after your first breath underwater. But, imagine how different you look at the world when you take your first breath underwater as a certified diver. It’s like taking the training wheels off and an accomplishment you can never forget.

Contacting a Scuba Diving International affiliated dive centre... like Vascos ;-) could be the first step in a lifelong journey, as it has been for me. Even if you are only interested in the occasional dive, or have a gap of years between dives, most centres, regardless of institution will offer a form of diving refresher course to get you back in the game. Here is our Vascos Refresher Course:

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Feeling refreshed?

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 17:39 Archived in Philippines Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches birds boats diving beach philippines bay america tour scuba dive wreck subic vascos dive_master subic_dive_centre Comments (1)

Roadtrippin' Part 2

Ditumabo Falls

sunny 35 °C

The journey to Ditumabo Waterfalls, the highlight of our road trip, was an amazing experience in itself and the reward was more than worth the journey. I tell our tale through pictures......

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To reach waterfall base camp takes less than twenty minute drive from downtown Baler. Well that is, if you're not held up by a standard Baler road block....
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From this point, our party of intrepid travellers made a magnificent thirty minute trek into lush rainforest, scaling the pipework of a mini hydro-electric plant, clambering over slippery rocks and structurally-questionable bamboo bridges.

Or you can cheat and just walk through the river!

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The mini 'pre-waterfall' waterfall

What we saw when we arrived is what I'd like the call the REAL Philippines; the kind of scenery that belongs on the cover of a travel brochure.
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These photos just don't do it justice due to the amount of spray in the air but it was so beautiful and SO COLD!!!

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We clearly weren't bothered.

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Of course, it wouldn't be Asia without the occasional oddity to keep things exciting.

So after reaching our peak at the waterfalls and having way too much excitement, one too many injuries sustained through stupidity and a little too much sun and good food, we threw in the towel and decided to head home :(
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These were my new little friends that I met on the way to the ATM, before sadly departing back to the real world.

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Of course we couldn't say goodbye without picking up the obligatory souvenirs that we didn't need but can't live without

So exhausted we nearly didn't make it home after colliding with a giant penis carving 1395.jpg100_2448.jpg
a goat with testicles bigger than it's head and two or three road cones. Don't worry, only one cone was mortally wounded. But now we're all going to need a holiday to get over our holiday!

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Aahhh home at last!

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 15:44 Archived in Philippines Tagged waterfalls mountains lakes bridges churches people children animals sky planes beer boat sunset diving ocean beach surf cambodia jungle driving white museum island breakfast philippines sand summer surfing cuisine sunglasses camera national bay america resort big tour scuba manila dive underwater asia coconut scuba_diving wreck computer break sihanoukville pottery discovery luzon zambales subic sunburn now south_east_asia clams swell mindoro dive_master dive_centre uss_new_york surfboard barretto olongapo sunbathe zambapalooza puerto_galera wreck_diving baler Comments (4)

This is meant to be a roadtrip.. All we're doing is driving!

Part One

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Party of Six: Matt, Gregg, Karen, Tanya, Me and Ryan

Well we fell at the first hurdle of our road trip, surviving the epic 6 hour bus drive over potholes, invisible speed humps and dodging the occasional road chicken, we emerged in Baler about 2 inches shorter, and decided we weren't going any further. Totally worth it! We'd arrived in paradise and it was freakin' beautiful. large_IMG_0632.jpglarge_185.jpg

Baler, Aurora; our base for the week was also the location for parts of the film Apocalypse Now (it makes Vietnam look good).100_2296.jpg100_2298.jpg100_2297.jpg103.jpg

Remember that Charlie don't surf? Well, apparently now he does.
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Ryan's Birthday!
The beach out the front of our beautiful hotel was like glass; perfect for swimming, tanning, long romantics walks and whatever else you put in your online dating profile... but not so great for surfing. So we ventured half an hour down the road and dragged out the mals, which are kind of like paddling a boat. It was Matt, Tanya and Ryan's first time learning to surf and they smashed it!
Here he is in fine form, catching his first wave ever... 309.jpg
and here he is in even finer form... 100_2303.jpg
I mean, you're on holidays, so why not celebrate turning 29 by getting naked and chasing Matt down the hallway?
Happy birthday Ryan :)
The next day, a few Coronas convinced him he was able to defy the laws of physics and this beer bottle remained in the corner of our balcony for the entire week.

This particular day, we conveniently forgot to apply sunscreen before heading into the water. Big mistake! We were all feeling slightly crispy and medium to well-done and so recovered with the biggest, fattest lunch in a little road side restaurant featuring some mystery ingredients we would prefer never to disclose. remarkably_sunburnt.jpg
I have to admit if I had started this whole Asian Invasion being picky and sifting through my meals, I would have starved. Always better to the just close your eyes and enjoy.

Here is just a sample of how well we ate on the beach in Baler. 100_2363.jpg
100_2369.jpg Here is me enjoying a Rocky Road Frost; like drinking easter eggs. Something that good shouldn't be legal! We even ate chocolate fondue. 099.jpg Rosa cooked me breakfast in bed every morning; Filipino Beef Tapa + columbian coffee = spoiled rotten!!

Bahia de Baler:
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The 'unique' restaurant beach shack with the live band, surrounded by hundreds of coconut palms but runs out of coconut shakes, and plays highly questionable music throughout dinner...
Weird Al Yankovic: You Don't Love Me Anymore

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We only wanted to enjoy a beer and a cocktail on the balcony until Mr 'Unleash the Animal' decided to pick a fight with the poor waiter on his break. We didn't manage to translate much but I think his actions speak louder than words....

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Like a bunch of 5-year olds we required plenty of time out for naps to prevent tantrums.
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Baler Beach:
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And I'm ready to go swimming!

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Gregg having a rinse off after a heavy surf session
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This is Chris; a mate of Karen's AND a pro surfer, who, when he wasn't playing tour guide or surfing instructor for Charlie Does, had but one intention; to make the rest of us look bad. It only became a problem on the last day when Gregg tried to upstage him, stacked and heard an almighty CRACK! coming from his foot. 100_2432.jpg This was the end of Gregg's surfing holiday.

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Local fishing village in the center of town

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This is actually NOT the scariest toilet I've seen in Asia...

Driving Around Aurora:
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The view from atop a weather station; the million dollar view which nearly cost us our sanity trying to get up the ridiculously steep one-way road.
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Quality main roads around Baler.

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We love Baler locals.... 100_2314.jpg...Yes we do!!!

Drifting away into a paradise sunset.
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This says "Having fun... thrilled you're not here."

Check out tomorrow's blog for our trip to a waterfall and the conclusion to our Baler road trip!

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Posted by VascoDiveMaster 20:10 Archived in Philippines Tagged waterfalls sunsets_and_sunrises beaches people parties trees rainforest beer sunset restaurant beach surf jungle breakfast pink philippines summer sun surfing cuisine sunglasses paradise national bay tropical tour scuba underwater real coconut photography scuba_diving turtle treasure subic sunburn apocalypse now swell surfboard sunbathe theme_park baler Comments (1)

Cheese Burger in Paradise

sunny 32 °C

I like seeing people working hard... Mark and Jayson got stuck sorting a least half a container load of masks, snorkels and fins, some of which Gregg is donating to deserving kids, the others will now be included in any discover scuba and open water divers courses!100_2266.jpg
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This box, like three others is filled entirely with snorkels. Slight overkill.
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Here is the boss, supervising operations...

Plenty of construction and interior decoration taking place at Vascos recently. Lolo is slaving over the timber varnish for Brian's latest venture; The Treasure Trove. 100_2270.jpg100_2269.jpg
Soon to be a very unique gift shop next to the restaurant where Brian's going to start selling a couple of his particularly special blue-glazed chinese antiques.
I like seeing people working hard.

Felt a bit down today actually. I can compare my life almost singularly to one Simple Plan song. Tragic.

....On second thoughts, Jimmy Buffet's 'Cheesburger in Paradise' might also do it.
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[Heading out today on our epic surfing road trip. So excited! Details when I return in 7-10 days :)]

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 23:19 Archived in Philippines Tagged boats surf market shopping storm philippines summer sun surfing paradise resort scuba marine manila underwater scuba_diving souvenirs luzon south_east_asia swell subic_dive_centre uss_new_york surfboard wreck_diving baler Comments (0)

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