Monday, March 14, 2011

19 Feb 2011 - Dive 4 to 7 at Pescardo island, Talisay and house reef

Dive 4 – Pescardo Island

Dive: 86
Duration: 51 mins
Avg Depth: 11.76m
Max Depth: 29m

Finally we’re heading to Pescardo Island to seek out the sardines! Blue Abyss is among the nearest resort to the island and the ride out typically takes about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the sea state doesn’t looks all that great with 1-2 metre waves and numerous white caps on our way to the island.

Soon we reached the island after braving the choppy sea. Another group Caucasians divers in our boat drop in first into the choppy sea and start their dive. Our DM opts instead to have us starts our dives in the northwest side of the island where he brought us to a big hole on the wall called the “Cathedral”. Essentially you can go into the opening at around 15 metres and slowly descend through the column until around 25-30 metres where you can swim out through 2 large “windows”. The feeling of floating weightless inside the chamber looking out the windows was just so serene and peaceful that it quickly puts all the adrenaline rush from the earlier choppy sea away.

After emerging from the cathedral, we head clockwise around the island with the wall on our right. It was another marathon finning like what we did at Sipadan Island. All the time I was looking out to the blues, to the top and bottom, anticipating my first encounter with the sardine bait balls. I’ve yet to see one before and don’t exactly know how it’s going to look like. At times, I saw schools of small fishes swimming by and I thought this is it? These are the sardines? But the group continues moving on without stopping. And after a long anticipation, I saw a whole patch of darkness ahead of me. YES! It is the sardines! I simply could not believe my eyes, seeing the huge swamp of them practically everywhere in all direction both laterally and vertically. Woohooo! I finally saw for myself what others meant by being surrounded by gazillion of sardines! This is definitely a place for wide angles and fisheyes. I was literally just watching in awe at the sardines, not know what or how to shoot.

Unfortunately we’re a long way off from the boat and could only stay a mere couple of minutes before the DM start urging us to head back. Each time I want to start finning back, another ball of sardines rush by, tempting me to stay a little longer which I gladly obliged. Very soon the rest of the group are a long way off with just me and my buddy at the sardines. Very reluctantly, I bid my final farewell and we chase up to the group. Along the way, I finally saw my first comb jelly with the colour of lights being reflected off its combs of cilia. Although most comb jelly looks like jellyfish, they are not one and don’t have any stinging nematocyst. The species I saw is of a ribbon-shaped instead of the more usual bell shaped. Really regretted not being able to get any shots of it (Almost transparent object in dim mid water ain’t actually easy to focus and expose). I guess being a long way off behind the group (and boat) with air running a little low doesn’t help and I quickly left after a brief moment with it.

Saw a giant frogfish near where we’re going to ascent but again I wasn’t really in a “shooting” mood. At one point, I saw VT holding on to NE near the frogfish and I thought initially he’s holding her to give her some stability to shoot the frogfish! It was until subsequently when they starts to slowly drift towards the surface did I realise he’s trying to hold her down. Back at the boat did I realise that NE has dropped her weight belt. Phew.

The dive was somewhat a sneak preview to the sardines and whetting my appetite for more. I certainly hope to be back again to have more time with them. :)

Dive 5 – Talisay

Dive: 87
Duration: 58 mins
Avg Depth: 10.46m
Max Depth: 20.4m

Our 2nd boat dive was to a closer site just further down south along the wall from Blue Abyss. When they say it’s a nearby site, they really do mean it’s nearby because they’re dropping us in and we’re finning back to the resort! I guess it can’t get any closer than that except for the house reef.

Like the previous dives in the area, I’m still looking for cooperative pipefish to pose for me. I only I can talk to them! Speaking of which, some of dive kakis told me I talk underwater? Haha. Did I do that unconsciously as I don’t remember doing that except when “shouting” to attract my buddies’ attention to some interesting creatures. Oh mine, I must be getting old, mumbling to myself perhaps? :s

Network Pipefish (Corythoichthys flavofasciatus) at Talisay (12m)

It was another nice dive, spotting three different species of pipefishes in one dive. Apart from the two species that was so commonly seen all around the reef here, there was also winged pipefish which I saw only once in this trip. They’re less conspicuous and not quite as photogenic as the other pipefish but I’m still very happy to see them around. 

Winged Pipefish (Halicampus macrorhynchus) at Talisay (16m)

Besides the pipefish, there was also a pair nudibranch cuddling up warming together. I guess perhaps they’re mating but I’m not sure. Regardless of what they’re up to, I thought they look very nice together and can’t help taking a couple of snaps before giving them their privacy back. 

Pair of Tryon's Risbecia (Risbecia tryoni) at Talisay (16m)


As usual, me and RL was way behind and the rest of our group were already gone. We fin for quite a while to try catching up but still couldn’t see them except for another two Caucasian divers (one of which appears equally lost to me). Regardless, I thought we’ve been finning for quite some time and probably shouldn’t be too far off from Blue Abyss. Thus I slowly head up over the wall onto the shallower reef and take a peep on the surface. True enough the dive centre was in sight and there’s some other divers walking on the very shallow water back to shore. The tide was extremely low today, making it a very long walk back. Still, I try to fin as close as I possibly can in 0.5m water towards the dive centre, at the same time trying to avoid various clusters of sea urchins. The fact that the urchins are smaller with thicker spikes (not the usual black urchins with long and thin spikes) makes it less intimidating but I’m sure it’s no less painful if I actually lands on one. On the way back, I spot a cluster of nudibranch’s eggs which I’m seeing for the first time. Couldn’t find any nudibranch close by and thus is not able to identify from which species did the eggs came from.

Dive 6 – Blue Abyss House Reef

Dive: 88
Duration: 52 mins
Avg Depth: 6.61m
Max Depth: 10.4m

We start our house reef dive slightly later than scheduled at around 16:30. Checking the dive planning on my very conservative Suunto dive comp, I should have at least about 50mins of no deco time at 12m. But since I’m doing another night dive after this, I decide to stay shallow to avoid too much nitrogen loading.

Apparently I still haven’t had enough of the pipefish and continue seeking them out. Having spent a fair bit of time with the network pipefish in the previous dive, I had a go with the ringed pipefish in this dive. Besides the pipefish, the spotfin lionfish were again in abundance but I didn’t grab any shots of them as they’re mostly not quite so cooperative (in crevices and/or facing the wall)

Time passes quickly by and it’s time to head back up again.

Ringed pipefish (Doryrhamphus dactyliophorus) at Blue Abyss House Reef (6m)

Dive 7 – Blue Abyss House Reef (Night dive)

Dive: 89
Duration: 70 mins
Avg Depth: 7.19m
Max Depth: 12.5m

The sun sets around 18:00 and the sky was completely dark by the time we got into the water and starts our descent at around 18:40. Only I, RL, VT and the DM is doing this night dive and we thus had the whole reef to ourselves. This is by far the most productive dive I’ve had in my diving, with so many critters spotted on the reef. Usually I don’t shoot a lot in a dive but this was quite the exception. There are so many different shrimps, crabs and other stuffs spotted by the DM and ourselves. What I have captured is just a portion of it, many more of which are not shot.

The DM walked out much faster on the reef until the edge of the wall and waits. Even on the surface before our descent, he signals to me from a distance that there’s something below. I quickly fin over and went down first while he waits at the surface for the others. It was a flatworm that he was pointing to. Awesome!

Not far after we descend, he shows us a painted frogfish which I wonder if it was the same individual we saw on the first day. What was nice about the frogfish was that it starts “walking” around a little while I was shooting it on video. First time I saw one on the move. Woah!

Painted frogfish (Antennarious pictus) at Blue Abyss House Reef (11m) during night dive

Next he pointed out a tun, moving along the reef. Then it’s a lizardfish at rest, which allows us to approach it very closely. There were also several different species of hermit crab around the reef. Then I was shown my first spider crab, my first soft coral crab, and my first hydroid decorator crab! Also saw two orangutan crab, another decorator crab, a pair of nudibranch and one small creature which I thought could be a juvenile cuttlefish but I can’t be certain from the poorly taken photo. And then I saw my first prawn (not shrimp). I would have missed it if it was not swimming along in mid water along the reef below me. Quickly I descend down 1-2 metre for some photos. There was also a sleeping sole at rest which gives us the opportunity to get up close to this skittish creature.

Spider Crab (Achaeus spinosus) at Blue Abyss House Reef (9m) during night dive

Orangutan Crab (Oncinopus sp.) at Blue Abyss House Reef (9m) during night dive

Long Arm Prawn (Heteropenaeus longimanus) at Blue Abyss House Reef (9m) during night dive

With so many first sightings in a single dive, this without doubt is one of my best dives ever. Indeed, awesome is an understatement to describe this dive. I just love it! This was my third night dive in the Philippines and I must say I’ve never been disappointed in the night dives here. I was beaming with delight as I exit the water and heads back to shore. Life is great and I’m a happy man! :)

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