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Thread: Philippines - Coron Bay & Apo Reef on Rags II

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    RBW Member Glabrousdiver is an unknown quantity at this point Glabrousdiver's Avatar
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    Philippines - Coron Bay & Apo Reef on Rags II

    DSDC “Private” Trip to the Philippines
    May 2012


    Early on Friday morning five DSDC members met up in Dubai Terminal 3 to catch the red-eye to Manila... which was delayed by three hours due to fog. We eventually arrived to be met by Craig an old DSDC member who recently returned to Scotland for money and the sunny climate (not) and had flown in via Schiphol in the Netherlands where “security” had kindly nicked a dive cylinder from his luggage in transit.


    A couple of mini-buses picked up the team and their dive gear and - after stopping to buy essential provisions (beer) - we headed off to Batangas to get a boat to Puerto Galera (PG). The driving in the Philippines is just as hectic as Dubai but a damn sight more polite – quite refreshing really. We arrived at Batangas and boarded the Banca (boat with outriggers) for the 45 minute trip to Oriental Mindoro Island and PG.


    Our kit was unloaded and carried up to our rooms by the lovely staff at the El Galleon Resort... we’d chosen Deluxe Seaview rooms and ended up about 2.3m away from St. Peter’s Gate... halfway up the mountain. The view in the morning was fantastic but the steps (85 of them) certainly helped with keeping the beer gut in check.


    A relaxing morning saw us having a late breakfast and investigating the local diving facilities. Dave at Tech Asia proved an invaluable asset in helping us sort out gasses and Sofnolime for the rebreathers and pretty soon three of us were jumping in from the Asia Divers boat for a gentle drift dive to check out the kit and break into the holiday. Ruth, Dmitry and Oxana took the opportunity to go shopping in PG and we all met up later at the Point Bar for some liquid refreshment before heading to Hemmingways for dinner – very good.


    On the recommendation of Stuart (another DSDC member) we asked for an opportunity to dive Verde Island the next day and following an early start we jumped in to be greeted by fantastic visibility (>30m) and a beautiful reef with such a prolific array of life we were amazed. Two dives later we were back in PG and headed for lunch at El Galleon and a rendevouz with Bob & Jan (DSDC Country Members) who had flown in from Sydney (Oz) that morning – the gang was complete.


    Another evening of beers and merriment followed by an early start again the next day for a return visit to Verde... the diving was so good that we wanted Bob & Jan to experience it too. Once again great visibility greeted us along with Titan Trigger Fish, Cornet Fish, vicious Clown Fish, Lion Fish and a huge number of very ornate Nudibranchs – at points it was difficult to see for all the sealife.



    On returning to PG we met up with Ralph, a genial German who was to be our guide, host and a bemused onlooker to our antics on Rags II for the next eleven days. Shortly afterwards the cheery crew arrived to transport all our kit around the headland to the mooring where our floating home was waiting.


    The first evening we were introduced to the crew and the fantastic cooking of Chef Sonny... this genius produces a cordon bleu meal for nine people in a small galley and the food is excellent. Every meal you can make your selection from an extensive menu (109 dishes including deserts!) and Sonny will prepare it to your exact requirement.



    Overnight we motored to Apo Marine Reserve each pair in our own air-conditioned cabins lulled to sleep by the gentle sway of Rags and the thrum of the engines driving us on. Rags doesn’t provide luxuries like the Ritz but is comfortable, spacious and an ergonomic dream as a dive platform. The crew are delightful and Pursor, Divina keeps everyone cheerful and well cared for.


    We arrived at Apo first thing in the morning and our daily routine started to take form. Up at 6:30, if you wanted to do the first dive of the day, and into the water with Ralph and Joseph the Dive Guide.
    Apo is a small island between Oriental Mindoro and Coron and is surrounded by beautiful reefs, deep walls and a huge array of submerged cliffs over an area of many square miles. With three dives a day (and more available) we experienced drift dives, gentle plateau dives and “hold on to your regulator” pinnacle dives with a regular cast of Reef Sharks, Trevally, Tuna, Turtles and the odd Eagle Ray all in more than 30m of visibility. On one wall dive we descended to find a Turtle taking his afternoon constitutional, leaving him we descended into a flurry of Sharks and then, carried by the current, we drifted along spotting three Napoleaon Wrasse, several large Giant Trevally, Rainbow Runners, Blue Fin Trevally, more Sharks and finally (after a 74 minute dive) another Turtle. Most dives followed a similar format.


    The first morning dive was followed by breakfast, where Sonny tried to give us all coronaries with a slap up feast, followed by a surface interval until the late morning dive. This was followed by lunch - Sonny’s magic again – and an afternoon dive. By this time it was beer o’clock and we retired to the front deck, sun deck or the communal living area to prepare for the next gastronomic assault by the Master Chef.


    Several days at Apo had us yearning for a bit of rust so we headed off to Coron where a fair proportion of the Japanese Second World War fleet had been sunk in a surprise air attack by the US Navy. Ralph really came into his element here showing the more fanatical wreck-heads into the engine rooms, propeller shafts, holds and decks of the huge selections of wrecks available. For those of a more recreational mind Joseph conducted more sedate dives outside the hulls showing the beautiful array of marine life that has grown on these vessels since their sinking over sixty years ago. Visibility varied up to 25m and depths to 40m but in every location there was something for everybody. We dived Nanshin Maru in great visibility, Okikawa Maru - where we swam the complete length of the ship inside the hull through holes in bulkheads - and Akitsushima with its shell lift (complete with live shells) and aircraft crane. On Irako we swam through the propeller shaft at 40m followed by a good look around the engine room, found a Blue Spotted Ray in the boiler of Ekkai Maru and a pair of Crocodile Fish in the engine room of Olympia Maru. Our last two wreck dives were on Kyokuzan Maru with great visibility and a massive amount of marine life to keep us company as we explored the holds looking at the two Japanese jeeps still recognisable in the silt.


    After each dive we surfaced up the buoy line to be met by two very comfortable ladders, crew to take your kit and a spacious dive deck to undress and stow everything away. Cylinders were filled with your gas of choice without even needing to be removed from your BCD and a convenient set of restrooms (male & female) allowed us to rinse off our cameras, computers and torches. On the subject of electrical equipment there is a whole rack dedicated to charging on the living area deck. A UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) protects the kit from power drops or surges and sockets of all sorts and nationality are available. We had about five laptops, eight torches and several cameras on the go at any time without any fighting for space. Power is available 24/7 unlike some dive boats – very convenient in our battery powered World.


    An added bonus was the presence on board of Karen who dispensed massages to ease our weary bodies after a hard day’s diving... a strong lass considering how small her stature. We all took advantage of her services although it was only the ladies who went for the manicure.


    After nearly a week in Coron we headed back to Apo for more scenic diving with the sharks. One evening we had a BBQ on the beach – once again a full-service event from the tireless crew. For most this gave us a chance to stroll round the island and, for those with a head for heights, the opportunity to climb the lighthouse and see the lagoon and volcanic rock outcrops sticking out of the mangrove forest.


    A slightly bumpy journey back to PG with an amazing lightning display all round us was shrugged off by Rags who demonstrated her true seaworthiness.


    All in all a fantastic trip which we’d heartily recommend to any diver. We dived with rebreathers as well as open circuit and everyone’s needs were catered for with aplomb. The range of diving is varied but will keep divers of all skill levels happy – even the techies.


    Footnote: I'm not affiliated with Rags II or any of the operations in the Philippines – we just had such a great time I wanted to let others know. Post a message for more information or PM me if you want. Cheers, GD.

  2. #2
    RBW Member Clive O' Driscoll is a jewel in the rough Clive O' Driscoll is a jewel in the rough Clive O' Driscoll is a jewel in the rough Clive O' Driscoll is a jewel in the rough Clive O' Driscoll is a jewel in the rough Clive O' Driscoll is a jewel in the rough Clive O' Driscoll is a jewel in the rough Clive O' Driscoll is a jewel in the rough Clive O' Driscoll's Avatar
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    Re: Philippines - Coron Bay & Apo Reef on Rags II

    Thanks for the great write up, ye had a great time id say.. Cheers

  3. #3
    RBW Member Glabrousdiver is an unknown quantity at this point Glabrousdiver's Avatar
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    Re: Philippines - Coron Bay & Apo Reef on Rags II

    Thanks Clive, had a great time thanks.

    Also with a mix of divers: 5 APD Rebreathers, 1 twinset and 2 single cylinders OC divers we all got to dive as we wanted - very good.

    Cheers, GD.

  4. #4
    RBW Member Glabrousdiver is an unknown quantity at this point Glabrousdiver's Avatar
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    Re: Philippines - Coron Bay & Apo Reef on Rags II

    Hiya All, 'cos I'm stupid I didn't include a link to the web site.

    Here it is: Reef, cave and wreck diving from Rags Two liveaboard

    Cheers, GD.

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