AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Diving in Puerto Galera.

We came to the island of Mindoro because we had heard the diving was good. Stories about crystal clear water and turtles swimming near the shore persuaded us to come to the less touristy island of Mindoro. Palwan is another beauty spot in the Philippines and is one of ‘the’ destinations to go to, but it would require a flight and another day travelling to go North on the island to get to El Nido. El Nido is the main resort and starting point for diving.

Mindoro, just like the rest of the Philippines,  has great potential but it is once again not fulfilled. The government does not advertise the island to the same extent as Palawan because of the ‘girly bars’, which are brothels. Imagine a family visiting Sabang – the main resort, to then be surrounded by prostitutes selling their wares. This means the place does not benefit from the hoards of tourists. You may think that less tourists would improve the area, you’d be wrong. It just means that there is nothing to do here if you do not dive. The streets are a bit grimy and you get pestered continuously by tricycle riders.

Upon arrival we were pretty downbeat as we went to our room. It was very expensive compared to the rest of Asia and yet the room is average at best. No WiFi in the room to force you to sit in the bar buying drinks, a shoddy air con unit that doesn’t have a complete seal around it, meaning insects get in ( I’ve been bitten more in three days here than the whole of the trip!) and finally the cost of food is extortionate. Andrew doesn’t dive at all so had hoped to be in a nice resort with good WiFi so that he could plan the next part of the expedition. This was not the case! Nor could he just wander around because there is nowhere to go and stepping away from the hotel results in you being hounded by tricycle riders. All in all we made a mistake coming here as once you have gone diving then you are stuck! However, the diving does offset the mistake somewhat.

The actual diving.
For my 18th birthday, my parents bought me the Padi Open Water Diving Course. After completion you can dive anywhere in the world up to a depth of 18m. The qualification does not expire. This means I could just join a dive tour and go straight back in, but I didn’t. Instead I signed up for a refresher course to go over the basics ( this still missed out the 5 pre-entry steps and emergency ascents etc but the Padi Course takes 3days and costs 18,000pesos versus 2 hours and 3,000pesos). I did some theory reading online to brush up beforehand as I wanted to have some idea of what to do. In the refresher course I went over how to clear your mask underwater and how to find the regulator if it gets kicked out of your mouth. I did two dives with Gavin, who was really helpful. He gave me tips on how to clear my ears, which had been a big problem when I had previously learned. As you get deeper the pressure on your inner ear increases meaning it needs equalising; it must be the same pressure as the water. In theory you pinch your nose and blow. This opens your tubes in your ears and lets in some air. My ears did not want to open and so my head felt like it was going to explode. After many attempts my ears finally squeaked and a loud pop occurred releasing the pressure from my head and ears. I was able to descend. At the bottom, about 9m down I practiced the core skills and swam around. To stay under the water you want to achieve neutral buoyancy, you don’t want to sink like a stone or else your ears won’t equalise and you can perforate your ear drums nor do you want to stay at the top of the water – that’s snorkelling. You use your buoyancy control unit (BCU) this is the jacket you wear to carry the air-tank. You can inflate it so you float or deflate so that you sink. When you reach your chosen depth you want to hover and adjust the BCU accordingly. Luckily, Gavin was on hand otherwise I’d be floating off! The first dive was ok and I was able to breathe fine and completed the skills reasonably well. We then surfaced and went around the bay.

The second dive had a slower descent as we followed the contours of the sea floor. As we descended I equalised much quicker and also saw a turtle swimming with two cleaner fish. We saw a frog fish, a stone fish ( which I would never have noticed as it really does look like a stone), some micro crabs and lots of sea cabbages, coral and an abundance of fish. It really was impressive.

Three hours after starting I could now go out on the dive boat. I had some idea of what I was doing…

Posted from Puerto Galera, MIMAROPA, Philippines.

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