Apo Island, Philippines

Continuing on with our “best of the Philippines” diving tour we boarded a boat to Dumaguete, Negros. It’s a small city whose populations is buoyed by a large university. Pizza places abound in college towns the world over and we were happy to spend a day indulging in baked cheese and air conditioning. We saw few tourist, which is usually great, but it was a problem when we began shopping around for diving. No one had enough divers to go which was no surprise given their over-the-top prices. We persevered and found Scuba Ventures who was happy to take just the two of us.

Our destination was Apo Island, a marine sanctuary and UNESCO world heritage site. Getting there was interesting. First we boarded a multicab bursting with dive gear and drove half an hour to the boat. This is when having only two divers became and issue. Scuba Ventures rents, rather than owns, their boats. This is a big advantage when the amount of divers fluctuates – just rent a big boat if it’s busy or a little boat if it’s not.  For us however, it was a bit of a shock. Our boat was the size of your average canoe. It looked as if someone had unleashed the cracken on it, the hull looked like a quilt of improvised patches. There was more wood than paint. “So I guess the dive starts when the boat sinks,” I chuckled at Val but she was graciously smiling, as if this they had mistaken us for foreign royalty and summoned their best ship.

Amazingly we made it the 40 minutes to the dive site. Our guide John gave us the go ahead and we rolled into the blue. The site was beautiful, filled with spectacular coral of every color. John had told us before the dive, “great conditions, not much current,” and indeed push of the water was mild, but secretly I had been wishing for a raging torrent. We drifted along occasionally catching sight of  the standard Korean, Japanese, or Chinese Horde (15+ divers) but a minute of finning against the current and the strobing mass would swirl past. As the current picked up the numbers thinned.  It felt like it was as just me and Val, and it actually was a few times but then we’d find John calmly waiting around the corner.

By the end of the third dive we were thrilled. We hadn’t seen anything new but it had been pleasant and beautiful diving. As we surfaced we were met with a shock. The boat had broken! Another boat was already organized to tow us, and this one looked like we could go at least half way before a third would be required. We crawled back to port laughing. What a day!

*To be fair the boat was actually fine. We’ve had engine trouble on very fancy boats as well. The crew were obviously used to taking divers and up to speed with diving procedures. I wouldn’t hesitate to dive with Scuba Ventures again.

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Scott Dusek is a writer and photography originally from Seattle, Washingon.

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