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Entries about sunsets and sunrises

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)

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

Part One

sunny 34 °C

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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:
large_IMG_0740.jpg100_2421.jpgAnd I'm ready to go swimming!

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)

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)

Final Day

:(

sunny 31 °C
View Dive Master Lifetime Adventure on VascoDiveMaster's travel map.

Have thrown a tantrum and am hiding in my room with a headache because I havn't had my obligatory cup of coffee yet and trying to finish a really good book, ignoring the fact that I really need to pack my stuff. My room looks like a chinese laundry of dirty washing, an accumulation of unnecessary but inseparable books, sand, shells I scrounged out of the ocean, and a rats nest of tangled camera cords, ipod cables and assorted battery chargers. My flight to Bangkok doesn't leave until 9.45pm so I don't have to leave Vasco's until about 7, which is simply a torturous delay of the inevitable and not even chocolate can make me happy right now.

Of course, I picked the perfect day to leave, having just discovered an amazing new reef yesterday that still remains almost completely unexplored. Our two new divers just beginning their open water course joined us for the big unveiling which they were very excited about. Since we have somewhat settled the contentious issue of n@'s Reef, Gregg happily conceded to naming our newest find "Gi's Reef," which made the gorgeous girlfriend in question more than satisfied. So I guess any new divers with Vasco's have to opportunity (with a bit of prompting, whining and/or bribery) to have a new reef named after them.

Gi's Reef lies right on the mouth of the bay with a gentle swell rolling in that gives it a gentle surge beneath the surface, which nullifies the need for any use of your fins, and long flat canyons of glittering coral highlighted by an unprecedented FIFTEEN meters of visibility. There was at least 12 nudibranch that I counted up yesterday (still my favourites) and a similar number today. I dived in yesterday and landed on top of a cave harboring a giant blue-painted lobster with tentacles hanging out of the cave by at least a meter.
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Of course, my ever prepared-ness which over the past two months has extended to forgetting weights, boots, computer and fins, unfortunately also includes forgetting to charge to battery for the camera, so you will have to wait for photos of Gi's reef for when until I return, provided I am not kidnapped and held ransom during the next 6 weeks... Unless of course Vasco's dive crew has moved on to some bigger and better discovery :)

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 14:10 Archived in Philippines Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches birds boats diving philippines world bay tour scuba dive war wreck two wwii subic apocalypse end_of_the_world vascos dive_master subic_dive_centre uss_new_york 2012 Comments (1)

Typhoon Two

storm 29 °C
View Dive Master Lifetime Adventure on VascoDiveMaster's travel map.

Well, three days indoors isn't doing me the world of good right now. After a few days of evening storms, the typhoon has today swelled into an all-day torrential affair effectively barring any of us from diving. There is a severe imbalance of salt water in my system which is increasingly showing symptoms of cabin fever. A swim in the ocean this morning did little to curb this notion, however it was still a weird experience being rained on in the ocean with the droplets so heavy they looked more like salt water stalagmites.

We had a small 'incident' today involving a section of structurally unsound roof above The Dog House and a whole lot of rain water, resulting in a flooded lounge room and a wardrobe full of wet clothes. 100_1064.jpg :(

Needless to say within 40 seconds of reporting the leaking roof, the boys were straight up there with the necessary power tools and excess sheets of corrugated iron to recover the structural integrity of my home.

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The was only one minor casualty from this incident, which was my bathroom.

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Now less of a bathroom and more of a Chinese laundry.

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 17:22 Archived in Philippines Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches birds boats rain diving storm philippines bay dive flood wreck typhoon thunder subic cyclone vascos Comments (0)

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