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Well look who finally came home!

storm 28 °C

The drive from the airport felt like I’d been away for years. Having a beer at the bar last night felt like I’d never left at all. I’m more or less part of the furniture now at Vasco’s.

It’s been more or less 6 weeks; I’ve visited another 5 countries, climbed the highest mountain in South East Asia, eaten WAY to much good food, spent a ridiculous amount of money, had my passport checked 21 times and dived the Celebes Sea; allegedly one of the top 10 diving destinations in the world. Unfortunately not Sipadan, because in my usual style, I showed up without having booked ahead. I got a couple of dives on Mabul and Kapulai islands which are pretty much next door. I found out too late that apparently all it takes is an offer to do it naked and you are automatically on the next boat to Sipadan.

The visibility left a lot to be desired.
The hoards of backpackers, diving hippies and blokes too old to still be sleeping in a hostel, were overwhelming.

Our dive master started frothing when he suggested we “just MIGHT see a ghost pipe fish!” and I thought “Pfft! See ‘em everyday hanging off the L.C.U.” Sure enough, he surfaces elated to see a specimen that’s ‘Top 5 in the world!’

Between to Borneo-based diving websites, Lonely Planet and every other tourist travel brochure printed in the country, the corals of the Celebes Sea are described with the same uniformly irritating slogan, ‘technicolour!’ To be honest, yes the technicolour corals were just that, and I still associate this with the ancient, dull-coloured Disney cartoons from the Saturday mornings of my childhood. Back in the days when we still had a concave screen and we still had to get up to change channels. Disappointingly, there were no digital, plasma, or LED corals in sight…. And not a wreck in sight.

So what’s Subic Bay got to show for itself up against the best in the world?

Ornate ghost pipefish? Check!
Schools of glittering jacks? Check!
Resident green sea turtles? Check!
Shy but elegant blue-painted lobsters? Check!
Super awesome dive master? Check!
Warm ocean temps? Check!
‘Hi-def’ hard and soft corals? Check!
Blue-ribbon eels, pharaoh cuttlefish, barracudas, banded pipefish, giant groupers? Check!
Ocean full of plastic garbage courtesy of island-based local community? Hmmm, surprisingly lacking!
Green Sea Turtle on Nat's Reef

Green Sea Turtle on Nat's Reef

When I was asked “Why aren’t you doing your dive master here, it’s cheaper than anywhere else!?” I thought to myself, well, actually it’s about the same price! But while money will always be a deciding factor to a long-term backpacker, the fact that you are undertaking a job that makes you responsible for other people’s lives makes me think the quality of the training I receive seem a little more relevant.

So does Borneo deserve to be in the Top 10 diving in the world? Well sure, I’d rate it, purely for the reason that I saw a turtle to size of a VW Beetle. But if part of that includes a sweaty 2” foam mattress in a 12-bed dorm room, and a single toilet shared between fifty, I’d rather be holed up in my own little pirate ship, the SS Dog House, where the beer is cheap, the sun is shining (except for today because there’s a typhoon) the people are beautiful and I can spend my days fluffing around naming reefs after myself. Arrrrrrrrrgh!

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 12:27 Archived in Philippines Tagged waterfalls sunsets_and_sunrises diving beach surf storm surfing sunglasses dive scuba_diving typhoon whale turtle thunder subic sunburn torrential lionfish cyclone vascos dive_master subic_dive_centre dive_centre p= Comments (4)

We finally see 'n@'s Reef'


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At last! 54P1010194.jpgWe have images available for the elusive and unbelievable Nat's Reef. There is so much colour, coral and just plain stuff going on here, it has fast become my favourite place to go and at a maximum of only 15m it is suitable even for very-beginners. This morning Gregg and Brian powered on ahead, allegedly running into Mr Turtle from the day before and giving him a tickle on the belly. Lagging at the back of the pack with Ryan the handsome US Navy diver with a day-off, I stumbled upon an enormous octopus
6P1010201.jpg hiding in his Octopus' Garden beneath a rock and yet again, some vibrant nudibranch that always make me smile.
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Here are two new divers who literally began their open water course this morning. 2P1010258.jpg They finished up their lectures and confined water dives super quick and headed straight for the ocean this afternoon whilst I was by the Waterfront bartering with the beach sellers for schmick sunnies using phone cards.
Gregg may think it's pretentious to name the greatest dive site in Subic after the greatest Dive Master to have ever graced these waters ;-) but after informing me that our customers hijacked my underwater camera for their first open water dive which just happened to be on 'Nat's Reef'...... I think the name might be catching!

P6060261.jpgSo after having to farewell said handsome American this afternoon, I am planning on drowning my sorrows this evening over a schooner and then making a spontaneous trip to Hong Kong at 7am tomorrow for a full day of Disneyland!!!!! No, I'm not joking. Blogs will continue in approximately two days depending on my mental state after fulfilling every childhood dream. But for this evening at least, the second NSW vs QLD State of Origin game is being played live in Barretto in the Aussie Bar ironically named 'Arizona.' Go BLUES!!!!

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 16:38 Archived in Philippines Tagged diving us island philippines sunglasses paradise tropical scuba_diving navy waterfront american subic oakley dive_centre diver sunic_bay Comments (3)

I saw a Turtle I saw a TURTLE!!!!

sunny 35 °C
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Today was probably one of the BEST dives I've done so far in Subic! And I've been so distracted these last couple of days I forgot to mention we have discovered a completely untouched, never before dived, absolutely unbelievable coral reef that just about blew my mind! .... So we've called it 'Nat's Reef.'

Not only was it a mass of coral in every shade of the rainbow, but there were also large nudibranch on this site that I havn't seen in any other dive site in Subic or in fact anywhere at all! As we descended we ran into a freakin turtle!!! A little smaller than the first I ever saw but he didn't seem to mind us at all and just plodded along in front, playing dive master and giving us the official induction to Nat's Reef. Of course, knowing that it would be so spectacular, Einstein forgot to charge to camera and so I have done my best to (unsuccessfully) recreate the moment through Google Images;

pink-slug-160.jpg According to the fascinating read that is 'Nudibranch Behaviour' this guy is a reticulated wart slug, which sounds really appealing!pyjamas_nudibranch.jpgThis guy, and I'm not kidding either, is a Pyjamas Nudibranch! But last, and not least....
sea-turtle-2.jpg It goes without saying that the turtle is the most beautiful thing in the sea.

On a less sober note, you know you're getting old when evenings in the 'Captain's Corner' at Vasco's have been dominated by Brian's new party trick with his personal blood pressure machine. Lowest score buys the round, and I have been blessed with the blood pressure of a half-dead Buddhist Monk.

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 15:31 Archived in Philippines Tagged diving beach island philippines summer sun paradise tropical scuba manila asia turtle luzon subic south_east_asia dive_master subic_bay dive_centre blood_pressure Comments (3)

San Quentin

On the morning of April 27, 1898 the gunboat San Quintin and two merchant ships were scuttled to block the eastern entrance to Subic Bay....

sunny 34 °C
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In a futile attempt to stop the invading Americans, Admiral Montojo of the Spanish Navy, thought that by blocking the eastern channel between Grande and Chiquita Islands, he could concentrate his land-based cannons on the western entrance. Coming ashore at Grande Island to inspect the defense works, Montojo was disappointed to find that four KRUPP 6 inch guns had not been installed due to lack of cement. A defense disaster for Montojo but a blessing for divers a century later.....
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Since Brian and his team discovered the wreck, it has deteriorated significantly; with it's guts strewn about the sea floor, but with the two large boilers still visible from the surface, as too the bow, stern and many of the ribs. 100_1132.jpg

There's very little current and plenty of young coral and tropical species of marine life. As a wreck dive, it is historic and doesn't have the hazards of modern shipwrecks. There are no areas to penetrate, but also no silt to stir up as the area is almost entirely covered in young coral growth. The San Quentin was the location chosen for me to test out a super groovy new wetsuit; significantly thinner than my previous one which requires me to carry only 4 pounds of weight now and has a large, reflective V down the middle which makes me feel like a Power Ranger. Unfortunately Jayson made a point of telling me I actually had it on backwards...... Dive Master FAIL!

Once I got my act together, I discovered The San Quentin is in my opinion, exactly what diving was meant to be... fun!

The visibility is so great here because it actually lies just outside the bay, with a good variety of marine life. It was also where we gave Mara her first un-official diving experience.
P1010076.jpg For a first try she was amazing! Connar came along and is starting to scare us a bit with his confidence and tends to stray off on his own....P1010082.jpg
Fortunately Gianne and I were there to keep things under control! P1010089.jpgP1010072.jpg

It was a dive of 'big things.'
Big visibility (10-12m)
Big pipe fish

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Big (I mean GIANT) clams and other shell fish
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Big hermit crabs
Big blue-spotted stingray

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And one iddy-bitty baby lion fish... so cute!
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It is allegedly one of the best night dives in Subic, so I am dying to try that out!

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 15:52 Archived in Philippines Tagged turtles fish diving ocean philippines big tropical marine sharks asia scuba_diving whale subic lionfish clams dive_master subic_bay dive_centre Comments (6)

Diving and Marketeering

The L.C.U. of Triboa Bay

sunny 36 °C
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Learning to clean a reg has it's advantages; not just to the owners of a dive shop who can then employ you as a slave, but breathing through a freshly scrubbed reg is more like breathing silk. It makes diving feel like a completely new experience!

I may have already done this dive close to six or seven times but the L.C.U. still leaves me feeling inside out and back to front.

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The 'Landing Craft Utility' lies on the sea bed of Triboa Bay on a queer angle of about 50 degrees. If you forget yourself whilst swimming across the deck, you may find yourself grazing a rust covered wall that came out of nowhere and disappearing into thick orange cloud which leaves you sideways with bubbles dragging up your mask.

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It is absolutely alive with marine life, and upon entering the boiler room you become surrounded by tiny, curious tropical fish who don't seem to mind if you reach out and give them a stroke. A tiny pipe fish made his way along the ships hull and the obligatory lion fish got a big agro and flared up at me...
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We ascended up the line to a family of fifteen or so baby squid in a streamline and glittering formation.
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The visibility is always unreal.
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This afternoon I went shopping with Rose to the Olongapo local market. From what I assumed would be a giant food market I found so much more. A treasure trove of souvenirs, mountains of colourful clothes and tourist t-shirts, bags upon bags of rice, amazing fresh banana fritters, thousands of pirate blu-ray DVDs (don't ask me about their quality!), garlands of jasmine flowers, piles of fresh and exotic fruit and an intoxicatingly pink store dedicated to Hello Kitty.

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You can even have a handbag made out of a cane toad if it tickles your fancy.
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I was most surprised by the local's attitude to my camera. I expected the familiar refusal or the Thai choral "One dollar!" and instead found the shiny, happy people leaping in front of my lens for a single opportunity to be caught on film.
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Posted by VascoDiveMaster 12:56 Archived in Philippines Tagged diving market shopping resort souvenirs wreck service equipment treasure subic fresh repair produce subic_bay salvage subic_dive_centre regulator dive_centre vasco's Comments (4)

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