So I’m finally diving again! This would be my first dive/s in Puerto Galera and given the tiring week I had I’m definitely looking forward to it.
We took a bus from Jam Liner Terminal in Kamias (175 Php) at 530 AM to get to Batangas Pier via CALABARZON. I was told that this was the fastest way if taking the commute via public buses. We arrived at the port by 730 AM and were ushered into buying a ticket on the Susana Shipping Lines ferry to Sabang Beach which, we were told, was leaving at 830 AM. Turns out it was really supposed to leave at 900AM but we were only told to board at around 920AM. So delays aside, we reached Sabang Port at 1045 AM and went directly to Capt’n Gregg’s a few meters away.
The last few times I visited Puerto Galera was at White Beach and I can tell you that its a much better beach front compared to Sabang. However, the upside to having a less attractive beachfront is also a smaller proportion of visitors. I love that Sabang doesn’t feel as crowded as White Beach! Another advantage of staying in Sabang is that most of the dive spots are found here anyway. Divers in White Beach still have to travel a bit just to get here.
I got our accomodations at a cheaper price (although not by too much) from Living Social (formerly Ensogo) and we were given the choice of a beach view or no-view. No brainer, we got the beach view, even if the TV wasn’t as large and the room wasn’t as big as the no-view room. The place itself is really nice, with a wooden-cabin motif, very clean. The owner, Chuck, also met us as we arrived for check in. There is also a cheaper place nearby, Big Apple Dive Resort, which charges 1100 Php for a double A/C room. I wasn’t able to check out the rooms but Trip Advisor ranks it a bit lower than Capt’n Gregg’s but still with pretty good reviews.
But lets get on with the real meat of our trip, DIVING! My girlfriend wanted to try out diving so we went searching for a reasonably priced Discover Scuba Dive. Big Apple Dive Resort was recommended to me by my friend, Glenn Tadiar, who’s a PADI Instructor so we checked it out first. Turns out they had the cheapest price of the different dive shops we went to. They offered DSD at 2200 Php while others (like Capt’n Gregg’s) went up to 3750 Php. Unfortunately, there were no available Divemasters to accommodate us so we had to look for a different dive shop that could. We came across Marjay (cellphone no. 09063406054), who offered to take us to the nearby sanctuary for snorkeling and when we explained to him that we wanted to go diving he referred us to one of his Instructor friends from Blue Ribbon Dive Resort. The Instructor, Paul, agreed to take us on for 2500 Php for the DSD and an addition 1000 Php for me to tag along during the dive, giving us a 500 Php discount from the listed price. And so, we decided to go diving after lunch in Monkey Beach, which was located in front of Capt’n Gregg’s.
I have to say, Puerto Galera is still an amazing place to dive. I was told that the place hadn’t been managed as well as before but we still saw some wonderful organisms. We were greeted by large schools of fusiliers and snappers alongside the usual reef residents, the damselfish. There were even a few larger wrasses, snappers and pelagics (3-4 feet length) passing by at times along with the spotting of a graceful Hawksbill Turtle and a banded seasnake gliding along. A huge sea cucumber was the unfortunate target of some manhandling as it was hiding some tiny shrimp. While the dive lasted just 30 minutes, it was still a fulfilling experience. Based on past dives, Apo Island or even Nalusuan Island and definitely Moalboal are still better dive spots but then again, I’ve only scratched the surface of this place. There are a lot of dives to do here and I’m coming back again. After all, the Verde Island Passage was declared as the center of the center of inshore fish biodiversity!
The next day we were supposed to contact Marjay for some snorkeling but after breakfast I decided to see which dive site the Big Apple divers, Pedro and Guy, were going to go to. It took very little convincing for me to join them on their wreck dive at Alma Jane. My girlfriend graciously allowed me to dive since she was still tired from her first diving experience and wanted to rest a bit.
I always find wreck dives to be interesting, I first tried it in Coron and found it absolutely enthralling and kind of creepy at the same time. Unlike the Coron Wrecks however, the Alma Jane was actually sunk by the local divers association here in 2003. Located 30m down, its a cargo ship with the cargo bay open for exploration. Large schools of batfish float above the deck while snappers and emperors swam around near the sand. I was also happy to find a lot of sea pens which I’ve only seen in Camiguin prior to this dive. There were also garden eels, beautiful nudibranchs and a juvenile frogfish (which I failed to photograph).
With that, I happily end my first foray into Puerto Galera diving 🙂 We went back to Batangas at 1130 AM on the FSL ferry (260 Php). Unfortunately for us, we had to take the ferry from Calapan Port due to some problems with the docking at Sabang (low tide and structural problems) and FSL didn’t even pay for our tricycle ride to the port. I found this unfair since they provided a shuttle for other passengers which we couldn’t take because it was already crowded. It wasn’t too big to spoil a great weekend though.
Blue Ribbon Dive Resort is ranked 3rd in Trip Advisor and their rates aren’t too expensive. They offer A/C cottages for 2 at 1500 Php, the food at their restaurant is delicious and with large servings and the Dive Masters (Ariel, Jun) and Paul are nice people. I’d definitely recommend staying their if you’re not on a tight budget. Diving is still cheaper at Big Apple but if you’re planning to go to Verde Island they offer the same rates (4500 per person for 3 dives plus lunch and equipment) although Big Apple also offers a 2 dive package.
For those on iOS, a Puerto Galera app produced by Blue Ribbon Dive Resort is also available if you want previews of the different dive sites.
Sabang reminds me a lot of Malapascua Island in Cebu. Most of the resorts seem to be catered to foreigners and this is also reflected in their food prices. We found a local restaurant a few meters from the port area that had lower priced dishes so if you can’t affort paying 300 – 500 Php for a dish then maybe you can check out Teo’s Sizzling Restaurant.
*All underwater photos taken with a Canon Ixus 70 in a Canon Underwater Casing (I forget the model)*