Malapascua – Lord, protect me from amateurs and fools
We set off on the Saturday quite early. Many of the travelers had booked excess luggage for their excess dive equipment. There was a notable exception, who did not and discussed his predicament with the stewardess at check-in, whilst partially clothed from the waste upwards. Suitably lightened of luggage we proceeded, most carrying several times the hand carry weight allowance. We departed and landed for an emotional reunion with our luggage to board 3 minibuses for the 3 hour road trip. It took a bit longer, a lot longer. Leaving stiff limbs, bad backs and pins and needles of the posterior we hobbled to the jetty and gang plank. In fading light we boarded the boat and set off into the night with a pyramid of bags. The keen among us had long since given up on the idea of a night dive and some 14 hours after leaving home settled into Chez Evolution. Some food and beer were consumed and plans and plots made for the morning.
Sunday – early; people went out at sparrow f@rt to look at sharks, and sharks there were. While some people opted for a day one lie in. In the day we set off for Calangman Island. This has a lot of corally stuff and fish of many hues, nudibranches, sea snakes and crustaceans. The visibility was a good 20-30 metres and good. This is a wall dive. Topside the island is a sandbar and some greenery and coconut trees. We were fed and some had a bit of a swim. The second dive was more of the same. We headed back for the night dive and most people joined the searchlight tour of the house reef, burning any critter that was foolish enough to show itself. The night dives were all good, lots of small stuff skulking about minding its own business.
Diving Monday to Saturday – It was more of the same, in a break from my usual exuberant prose I will summarise the early morning dives and others to the salient points. This will save trying to remember what dives we did, the order and the names of fish seen. The morning was usually accompanied with groans, knowing looks and baggy eyed silence. A slow shuffle to the boat and conversational grunts as the sun began to rise above the horizon in orange and gold. On the site there was a series of waves and splashes as people plopped off the bow and descended to the top of the reef around 12-14 metres, then over the edge of the wall to the roped off area. The roped off area is to protect the coral and give “ol’ chompy” an opportunity to chose various sized snacks on a string. Some people, were known to have moved several metres over the boundary line in a fit of rebellion. The thresher shark’s milled about with banner fish and others biting off bits and bobs from their skin. There were sharks from 2 to an odd whopper at 4-5 metres. It was hard to tell, it kept moving and my tape measure kept slipping. The best day was probably Wednesdays morning dive when the light and viz were about their best and the sharks came in close. We saw an odd white tip, but sharks every day. On one morning dive we saw a large pod of porpoise heading off on a mission.
Day dives – We did Gato Island, not to be confused with Chocolate Island or any other cake and confectionary site. This had a bit of current, several nudibranc, fishes of many colours, sea moth, more coral, mantis shrimp, Indian Walkman, scorpion fish and ghost pipefish. There was also a swim through at Cathedral cave, which had a flying fox over the entrance and some smaller bats inside. Underneath was a 20 metre swim with boulder bottom and shoals of hatchet fish and others. The diver traffic jam was slow moving, on the other side was another swim through and more coral and fishes.
We did a few house reef dives in the day. This was generally sand, sea grass and isolated coral heads on a slightly inclined slope around 10-13 metres. Again the life was hiding in cover among the rocks, debris, coral and weed. There are several species of sea horse, sea moth, crabs and mantis prawn. There are some artificial reefs and broken wreckage hiding small shoals of fish also.
Night dives – Again up and down the coast, so mainly sandy bottom, sea grass and coral outcrops and rocks. There were snails and crabs on the move, sea horses, pipefish, cuttlefish, squid, octopus. This included an odd flamboyant cuttlefish and blue ring octopus. Sea cows (sorry cow fish), lots of puffer, eels, sea snake, rays, flat fish. Shrimp, prawns, porcelain crab, decorator and box. Quite a lot of variety and unusual fish and crustacean.
The shark and night dives were the better dives, with a variety of unusual critteratti coming out after dark and the sharks turning up every day even if the divers were distinctly un- appetizing.
Then there was the technical diving. Getting past the stressful planning of the manifold aquatic fathoms, we set off on a series of deeper plunges into the depths. “The Trench”, this consisted of a plop in and scramble along a long anchor line to a deep reef top, then a drop over the wall to 48 – 55 metres of narcosis induced swimming and gurning. This was a misty blue, an odd flitting grouper and big rocks, ooh and we saw two nudibranch which were on a rock. On the way back up we hung around for a good 20+ minutes looking at each other. There was a big remora, but no sign of the big thing it might have come off, disappointed in divers hanging off SMB’s it swam away.
We did the Japanese fishing boat, the Sushi Maru… Again to 45+ metres. This is a small wreck 40 metres x 8. There are a few bits left onboard this reasonably intact ship. The stern took the brunt of a war-time bomb and is collapsed in. Sitting upright the iron screw is still visible. There are the remains of the bridge, although much of the plating has collapsed and fallen to the seabed leaving the skeletal framework. There are some pieces of crockery, bottles, gas-mask, a thigh bone, glass hold lights and a damaged toilet. The bow allows a swim about among the glass fish. The wreck has a lot of fish-life, larger jacks and barracuda patrolling above the smaller fish hiding among the wreck and a large resident barramundi. The best deep dive for me.
There was also a drop off deeper on the wall at Monad shoal. This was in the hope of seeing shark a bit further down the wall. Not a lot was about on the first dive, fan coral, and a few fish , most of which were on top of the reef. Later dives caught a reasonable sized white tip and a thresher or two. The technical end is well catered for. We were diving air, with Nitrox 50 and 100 for accelerated deco, but they have helium for those wishing to have clear heads, high voices and empty wallets. Re-breathers are welcome with zorb “a” plenty, together with a good 6+ 12 litre twins. Our group was a mix of re-breather and twins with stage and bail tanks. Matt and David helped shepherd the technical end of the Club and made it a safe and enjoyable dive. The dive guides and boat crew were excellent, making it a relaxed and lazy way to dive, without the usual carrying, set up and faffing about.
Divers of the week, missing not a single opportunity were David and Eppie, who realized late on that they were the front runners in a game of stamina to dive everything without fail.
However, you don’t really want to know about the diving, but the horrors of 20 people interacting for a week. Lets start with the story of cock-eye. The candid tale of a gentleman who was rendered unconscious by a cock. Tears of joy flowed down my face, I thought I would die of pleasure, a joy unbridled. It turned out the accident involved a game of badminton. The same gentleman was involved in the late luggage booking expense, largely for a re-breather, which failed to perform and work all holiday. So payment was made for an expensive piece of aluminum, pipes and electrics which sat on display in the kit room. Still you could have brought a re-breather from New York and sat that in the kit room all week.
There were a few technical difficulties during dives. Failing to switch gas on the computer and seeing electronic pixelated skulls, exploding intestines and flashing, which required a simple press of a button. Failing to switch gas valve fully over and nearly falling foul of carbon dioxide. Then there was the camera that took macro shots of sharks from 5 metres away and produced but a dozen pictures all week thanks to operator error and sticky knobs and buttons. Sin Wah was queen of the on/ off-piste dining experience. With an evening of alfresco dining and a mountain of whelks. Followed by a demonstration of pool and Karaoke. The later initiated a display of cowardice, never seen before or since as one of the trio (Earth, wind and Chicken) retreated or as he said “made a strategic withdrawal” during a rendition of “In the Navy”. This being a gay ditty about a life at sea. It transpired that in his haste to vacate he became lost and even after leaving with an encore of John Lennon, we still beat him back.
One other fault, often reoccurring was the diver who got on the boat, only to discover off-shore that they had forgotten something. Their entire dive kit being common and finable with a round of drinks in the bar later. Seldom did we set off on time without the plaintive call of “ hang on a minute, I think I forgot to bring….”. There was the phantom fin snapper, who not satisfied in breaking his own fins, proceeded to snap others. I will not mention the loose stools experienced by many an iron clad stomach, but the brown rain was in evidence for several. I am at a loss for any further tales of incretination. But I am sure they will come back to me in the middle of the night and leave me in a cold sweat.
Which only leaves the tale of the return home. There has been a build up of wind in the north which made our morning departure a bit choppy. When we eventually got to the mainland the tide was out. Not usually a problem, but it meant we couldn’t get to a jetty or wall, leaving several of the throng to wade ashore like Douglas MacAuthur. The trip back was a bit quicker than the arrival journey, noting the additional traffic accidents we arrived at Cebu airport. Due to the typhoon passing close to Manila, the return flight was cancelled with Cebu Pacific. This set in motion some scrambling about and poor customer service from Cathay as a handful tried to get on their direct flight. After a bit of a word, two last minute travelers joined the Cathay flight, while the majority remained for a night in the nearby hotel and an additional evening eating some fine examples of limited hygiene cuisine, thus catching another few travelers with the Bombay quickstep for the return journey. We all made it back, tanned, tired and lighter.
Summary - We all lived, with one injury during a dismount from a motor bike. Hopefully there is an improvement and the knee can be both together or apart in the near future depending on the mood. All good and a fantastic dive trip. A big thanks to Micky B for organizing this, and a big thanks to everyone for a great trip and making it enjoyable. A final thanks to Evolution. The set up and crew were all fantastic.
“You raise me up, so I can stand on Mountains; You raise me up to walk on stormy seas”