We are now back in Armenia after two weeks in the Philippines we were very sad to leave so many wonderful new friends we had made! It was definitely the best vacation we have ever had!
We flew from Yerevan-Dubai-Manila then to Busuanga, DimakyaIsland, Palawan. From that damaged airport (due to the Dec. hurricane) we traveled about an hour over dirt roads through villages and to a river then boarded a boat for about 50 min. out across the sea to an island with one resort on it, called Club Paradise. They had suffered some damage to the grounds like huge trees that had recently been trimmed and staff was working on replanting flowers and shrubs. There were cute little walkways, and our cottage was right at the ocean’s edge. I took a scuba refresher course that included an exam and in pool training and getting use to my equipment after nearly a year of non-use. It was the best thing !! Chris was the Dive Instructor and also in-charge of the dive shop and he was a 53 year old Filipino who is also a yoga instructor. He was calm and patient, but especially used few words so you could really be attentive to his instruction. Then there was a check-out dive on the House Reef from shore with him and I was good to go. The rest of the week went rapidly, tooo tooo fast!
We got to see some old limestone lagoons with little needle fish, and a guide had to chase away a couple monkeys from our lunches that day. We dove two or three dives a day and often a boat trip of 30-40 minutes out for which I took Dramamine. Sometimes there were lots of waves and breakfast was large, due to the excellent chef! Each dive was about 50 minutes long and we always had a guide. We saw some reefs in ruin due to the way the Filipinos used dynamite and cyanide to kill fish –some gorgeous corals were lost. I usually dove with a diver named Marvin, who was fantastic and he got to know what I was comfortable with. We saw huge massive turtles, big cuttlefish mating and a shark.
I got to dive 78 feet on a WWII wreck while George did 105 feet. It was so huge, like 2 football fields. On another day we visited a city named Coron, the capital for the PalawanIsland and then loaded onto another little boat which took us to the side of a mountain where we had to climb (and we were in our wetsuits because you could only carry so much gear). Only the healthy could do this climb and the way down wasn’t easy either. Later that day we sat in hot springs near a statue of the Virgin Mary. All in all we had a great time at the Club Paradise Resort and on our many dives. The resort seemed to have a lot guests from Asia and for a while we were the only Americans. Lots of families from Korea and Taiwan were there.
Next we took a Cebu Airflight from Busuanga back to Manila to transfer to another island where the place was called Dumaguete and the resort was Atlantis. Now do not think it is like the one in the Bahamas because it was far from it. Instead it was along the ocean, but with only about 20 rooms. They had an incredible dive shop-the best we have ever seen, and they must have 18 guys working there as divers. They even had a huge room devoted to people working with their cameras and computers. There were up to 5 dives a day there and you started off with muck diving. Absolutely unusual. We saw nudibranchs that were kelly green with purple skins, orange with black skirts, seahorses, scorpion fish that look just like a rock, on and on.. eels that turn a different color depending on their stage in life because they are hermaphrodites and can change from female to male or is it vice-versa? The Green Turtles and Hawksbill were larger than a man, and on one dive we found one sleeping, and of course let it continue. There was soft coral like hundreds of colored antlers to float over. We could not wear gloves in the Philippines and I had to do a backward flip to get off the boats, plus the current was strong in most places and so I had to dig my “stick” into the sand and hold on sometimes with both hands. I did drift diving, which is ok and goes awfully rapidly, so at the end you want to almost go again.
And after arriving back at the resort each time they served you cookies a muffin or brownie and whatever, coffee, or tea. The restaurant was so incredible, by the middle of the stay we knew them, and they knew our preferences. The menu changed each day with always a vegetarian option on it too. But we loved the fish-any kind-because Armenia is a land locked country and the farmed fish are expensive and NOT tasty.
The Dive shop had hangers, and cubbies all organized with your name already on it before your stay. The rinse tanks were for separate items and this was the only time you took care of your personal gear. The divers took care of your BCD, air tanks, (after you did your Nitrox testing), and masks…putting it on board and getting it off. What can I say? I was in heaven. Finally after 80 dives and numerous places I have found the best Dive Resort of all!! Atlantis.
I wish I was back in the Philippines, where the people are pleasant, and happy despite their hardships. We saw plane loads of Filipinos going to Dubai or returning home after years and years there working. In the Philippines you will see lots of men from all types of economic levels working or going to work-busy, busy. The people are very industrious, lighthearted, gentle and kind. I honestly can say that I look forward to returning again to dive there-and if you know me, you know I’m not passionate diver, but the waters and the people of the Philippines affected my heart and soul!
Last tips: Cebu Air is not reliable especially afternoon flights, but if a client has missed the flight due to the airline, the accommodations are not bad, meals are a set standard fare (heavy on rice).
Of course mosquitos are out, so that is to be kept in mind. Our Peace Corps docs put us on a low dose antibiotic for malaria, but everyone I spoke with at both resorts took no such thing.
The Marriott Hotel in Manila is absolutely spectacular!!!! The service there is unlike any! It is adjoining a huge mall and a casino so a traveler can purchase last minute items.
The people that Atlantis sends to help you at the airport are worth their weight in gold! They even helped us going to the other resort!! Now that is over and beyond!
We were able to get a tour of the liveaboard run by Atlantis (The Atlantis Azores) and oh my goodness! It is the most luxurious and well planned out one I have ever seen. The new captain was very personable and just starting his first trip running it in February. His second in command has been doing the route for a long time and was very knowledgeable.
Please note that at Atlantis a special thank you should go to The wait staff-that I dearly miss each day now that I am home and particularly the divers of Junar, Dek and Marco that accompanied me. To my husband's delight I again feel comfortable diving again. Again it was great taking the refresher from the Dive Instructor, Chris at Club Paradise and the diver, Marvin who was the perfect role model to aspire toward! My only regret was not having a long wet suit at Atlantis because I got quite cold many times after an hour.
We expressed our appreciation to your company in many a conversation with fellow divers! Our good wishes for a great new year! I cannot thank you enough for all the time you put in trying to locate the best places for us.