Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mactan (the most underrated Philippine Destination)


The Wide Deck of a Fun and Sun Boat
When most normal people think of Philippine Diving Destinations Getting there usually entails a plane trip maybe 2; a land transfer of significant proportions and in some cases IE PG, Ticao and Malapascua a boat ride to an island and on to your dive center.

Not many really take Major transportation hubs into consideration when thinking diving destination.  Such is the case with the country's second largest City and should I say International Airport Hub Mactan on the island of Cebu.    Many dive plans include this airport only as a transfer hub to other more exotic destinations such as Balicasag, Moalboal, Malapascua and even Puerto Princessa enroute to Tubbataha.

Since it is just another airport code on the plane ticket Mactan is often overlooked as a serious diving destination.   An oversight that when addressed can lead to some extremely good diving experiences and underwater encounters.

When you land on Mactan Island all the resort and Dive Operators servicing the area are within 30-45mins of the airport.  This is one Island which you can literally be diving the same hour that you land.  Numerous Operators serving every preference and usually divided by nationality are present on Mactan.  The ones that I use often are Fun and Sun Dive Travel (they are known to have the best Banca's in the cebu area) and Feel Deep Diving CYC (these guys are more for a fun as well as chilled out day on the water).

Dive sites in Mactan range from the main shoreline slopes, Sandy Reef Plateaus, Sheer Walls that seem to go on forever and Shallow muck dives for the photographers in all of us.

Let me tell you about two of my favorite Mactan Dive Sites.

Swimming into the Deep at Talima
1). Talima Island Sanctuary - The Talima Dive Site is a Sandy Reef top plateau from 10-17Meters where it ends at a wall that drops down to well over 100Ms.  As you get dropped off by the boat you will descend to a reef top consisting of a sandy bottom dotted with Coral heads heading into the deep.
Be sure to explore these coral formations carefully as Talima is a good place to spot and Photograph Macro Critters in Clear Water.   Ornate Ghost PipeFish hidden in the crinoids, to Diff kinda of Chromodoris Nudis, to the occasional frogfish; are some of the things you can expect to see at Talima.

Group Photo at the statue at Nalusuan
As you go deeper and closer to the edge of the wall you will reach the wreckage of an old wooden boat.  Here if the current is right usually there is a bog school of Jacks Swimming in their Silvery Tornado.  Take time to admire the movements of the school as it is truly a mesmerising sight.
From here you can actually choose to go deep of the wall into the abyss, or just let the current drift you back up the reef top to the exit point.

Talima is a good place for photos but on certain day the current picks up making macro photography a chore if at all possible.  But as diving goes sometimes a mental photograph is all we need.

My second favorite dive spot at Mactan is the Nalusuan Island Sanctuary.  This Dive Site is only doable in the summer time due to its location it entails a long crossing and a position that is prone to the elements.  But a trip down to Nalusuan can be extremely rewarding.  On good days Divers will be rewarded with 30-40M visibility as well as a colorful reeftop abound with fishlife.  I personally spend a whole day just diving this Island if we do make the trip out here.

Hitching a Ride...

All in all if you have a couple of days... Mactan gets my vote on one of the places divers must visit to get a feel of Philippine Diving.  30mins from the airport into the water?!... What more can you ask for?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Have Present Day Macro Photography Practices taken the Self-Discovery out of Diving?

Well Its been awhile since I've written something on this Blog and today the topic I choose is one that I have been thinking about since I moved to Anilao.  As present day Macro Photography practices go... Alot of what a Diver now sees or doesnt see, depends highly on the guide whom they are assigned.  Are the days of Self Discovery and Self-Study gone?... Are Dive Guides now the new Dive Maps and Detailed Dive Briefings of Old?...  Looking at things in the Macro Photography Setting that I find myself in at Anilao.  This does seem like the case...

Before anyone takes offence in what I am writing, let me say that Good Marco Guides are The Super Stars of Macro Photography... To a So-So Photographer, a really good guide can mean the difference between a snapshot, and a print one can really be proud of.   And to a professional photographer it could mean the difference between UWPOTY and just another contest entry.  A good guide is definitely worth their weight in gold.  

That being said though, the practice of just going down into the water and waiting for the said guide to point something out seems to take half the fun of discovery out of diving.  The discovery that comes from poking around under rocks and corals and other such things.  Stuff which I almost automatically learned how to do all those years ago in order to find and observe something new.  Now it seems that the divers follow the guide and just wait.  Talk about not working for their dinner.  LOL.   Seems almost like spoon feeding a baby.  

Even worse still is Divers that started off like this tend to stay like this throughout their diving careers.  It takes some of the competence youd learn from diving experience away; as present day divers sad to say are too dependent on their guides.  

This being said, I guess Im using this as a challenge to all of us... All of us divers, UW photographers, Instructors Dive Pros and the whole of the worldwide diving community.

Next time you go underwater... try to spot things for yourselves... try to find your subjects on your own.  Im not saying dont follow the guide... I'm just saying there is only one of him and most of the time 5 of you.  Most likely youll get more images if you dont spend half the dive waiting for the guide to finish spotting for everyone else so he can spot you something new to shoot.  

 Sometime you may just surprise yourself and find something so amazing that the guide missed.
That is my challenge... Lets all learn to spot these critters we so love...
Lets return to the Real Essence of the sport we love so much...


Monday, October 13, 2014

Getting Wrecked at Subic Bay

Geared Up and waiting for our departure time...


One of the Philippine's destinations Ive overlooked over and over again as I was growing up diving the Philippines was subic naval base.  It took me over 2 decades to finally suit up and go diving at one of the Philippine's premier wreck destinations.

I didnt expect much as i had spent alot of time in subic in my younger days racing cars and riding jetskis.  The water is murky and grey; not exactly the kind of place you'd want to go dive in.  But saying all that; it is this murky-ness that gives the perfect back drops for these meuseums of ww2.

Boardwalk Dive Center on a Regular Busy Day
It all started when a group of friends from hongkong asked me to arrange a Chinese New Year Trip for them in 2012.  This would not have been a problem on a regular day but these guys believing that i could achieve the impossible asked me to plan a trip for them 3 weeks before CNY; which only happens to be the one week out of the year that almost all of hongkong and China go travel to make the most of their Week Long holiday.  Flights to MNL or even CEB were already priced sky high and so for this trip Id have to dig deeper than I ever did before.

Subic Dive Sites....
Looking at the booking sheet of cebu pacific there was one destination with a direct flight from HKG that was dirt cheap... CRK... So the 5 of us set out for subic bay on chinese new year and by chance we were joined by 2 more people from Malaysia who also found themselves with only subic as a possible destination.

Being only an hour from Subic Naval Base the realization would lead to a great week with good friends.  So I got on the horn to one of my friends in diving that I havent seen, since I left Palau...  He just happened to own Subic's #1 Tech and Wreck Dive Center... Board Walk Divers... If you wanted to learn how to do it Right... Mr George AngDyPay could Teach it right.

The No Legged Bird Crew...
The shop is not much, its not Big and Swanky like most shops around the world... That Being said it is well equipped with everything a Technical; let alone a recreational diver would need.  Nitrox Mixes are always spot on! Mind you they are mixing manually the old fashioned way!  No Continuos blend systems or Membranes here! And the staff... specially the dive staff is trained extremely well for the conditions that they are diving; believe me they be some hairy conditions.  I personally feel that the type of diving these guys do on a daily basis has a higher danger level than most other types of diving in the Philippines.  And I must say, they do it really well...

The Boat at anchor
Subic as a whole has 11 Wrecks in all... There are some coral gardens around but we were here for the wrecks and thats what we would do.  There also was a little issue we still had to fix, and that was that in my group we had two members with less than perfect buoyancy  and if we were to achieve our  goal of doing all the wrecks in Subic (incl USS New York) that needed to be addressed.   With poor vis to begin with; poor buoyancy could easily have gotten us into a lot of trouble specially in an overhead environment.

Allen... Perfect Trim...
So off we went and we started with the easy dives first.  The first Day saw us diving the Barges, The Coral Garden and another reef by Grande Island.  No overheads on this day, but bouyancy coaching was already ongoing.  The first day though the whole group was treated to a real surprise, one that i dont think we'll ever see again through our diving lives.  As we came up from our last dive, we actually witnessed an American Submarine Surface not far from our dive site.  And boy what a treat that was; the behemoth was truly a site to see.  

The CNY Dive Crew... 2012
Straddling the guns...

The biggest advantage of subic is that evenings are anything but boring.  With all the Malls restaurants and bars there was so much for us to do.   Each evening we explored subic from the restaurants to the bars and definitely more.  So the days went by and we did each wreck with the difficulty of the next wreck higher than the last.  With each Dive on each you cant help but feel like you are walking through a piece of history.  

Subic's wrecks for some reason felt different to me; they seemed to be alot more eerie than the wrecks in Sipalay, Coron and Micronesia.

Jo Tang in the USS NY

It may have been because of the murky water, or maybe the fact that these wrecks actually reminded me of how wrecks are portrayed in the movies;  Dark and Eerie! remnants of a time of war that all who lived through it would want to forget.  The "Fish are Friends" Scene In Finding NEMO with Bruce the shark comes to mind.

That being said, the wrecks in Subic are in better physical shape than those in Coron and Sipalay.  Coron's wrecks thanks to the bays rich waters are more over grown with coral, sponges and marine life, but being a Naval Base Subic's wrecks were protected from would be salvage operations.   So where alot of the Coron wrecks have been salvaged missing alot of their main parts; the one's here offer alot more in terms of a complete super structure.  That plus a wide array of macro critters and big schools of fish make subic a truly amazing experience. 

I grew up in these waters, Jet Skiing at the very spots we were descending into and part of me never once before thought of diving here.  Getting the chance to finally dive here this trip reminded me that there's still so much more to see of what lies beneath.  Yes all over the world but specially in our own country.  That being said the only limit is our imaginations.
The Dive Group... plus James and Chien

Like all trips... this one came to an end... and to finish with a bang we did the USS new york.  We did not enter her deep holds; and inner bowels but we did penetrate deep enough to leave the sunlight behind us and out of sight.  Though it was not my first wreck penetration something about the USS NY was special... Now I just need to find time to go back.
If you are into wrecks or WW2 history for that matter... I highly suggest a trip to Subic Bay get yourself wrecked... And Maybe just a little tipsy in the process...

Boardwalk Dive Center
Coz as far as wrecks go... Subic makes for a pretty good experience....  Which reminds me...  

Its time to get a hold of George for that  TDI certification for sure. . .

These are the moments I dive for...  They dont happen often... thank you cat
for getting it on film...
Thanks to Allen Chiu and Cathy Au for the pictures.
Looking forward to seeing you again soon.

Until then... Keep on diving....

For more information you can check out boardwalk dive centers website at:

or email me:

Monday, October 6, 2014

INON UK Photography Workshop May 2015 only at Aiyanar Beach and Dive Resort.

Aiyanar Beach and Dive Resort in Cooperation with ScubaTravelUK present:

INONUK’s Anilao Photography Expedition and Workshop 2015.

Join us as INONUK Photo pros lead by Lisa Collins host this 10 Day Philippine Diving Expedition to Aiyanar Beach and Dive Resort in the heart of Anilao Batangas Philippines. Dubbed by many as the center of the center of the Coral Triangle Anilao’s Marine Biodiversity is the Subject for many research teams from all parts of the world.  For 10 Days in June of 2015 this Very Diverse Diving Destination is the Venue for INON UK's 2015 Underwater Photography Work Shop.  

Shoot Lush Reefs with current blown gardens, over grown with soft and hard coral formations.  Capture Beautiful walls bustling with fish-life of every shape and color imaginable; and stick your head in the sand to get the perfect photo of that Macro Critter you’ve been aiming to shoot.  All this is present; with the addition of Anilao's Nudibranches that come in an array of Shapes Sizes and Colors to marvek at and to render in Photographs.

The perfect Photo is not far away in Anilao; and with INONUK’s lead instructor Lisa Collins, that perfect image to hang on your wall may only be a dive away.  Lisa will be sharing her knowledge of underwater photography nightly; Starting with Camera Basics, and moving on to Technical Tips and Techniques later on.  She will also guide and critique your photos taken during the days dives making sure you are on the right path to Great Underwater Imaging.
INONUKs 2015 Anilao Underwater Photo Workshop and Expedition is a great chance to Experience this Fast Growing South East Asian Diving Destination and polish your Underwater Photography skills in the process.

2015 Trip Schedule
May 31, 2015  6.30pm Welcome Presentation at the bar
1 June   3 Boat Dives
  Presentation of Camera Basics
2 June   3 Boat Dives
  Presentation on Macro photo clinic
3 June   3 Boat Dives
  Presentation on Composition
  Before/after dinner photo clinic
4 June   3 Dives
  Presentation on Lighting photo clinic
5 June   3 Dives
  Presentation on Shooting Mandarin Fish and at night
  Before/after dinner photo clinic
6 June   2 Dives
  For those who do not wish to do the Mandarin Dive, unlimited shore
  diving is available at any time (with a buddy).  
  After dinner photo clinic
7 June   3 Dives
8 June   Presentation on Shooting Action and photo submission

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Aiyanar's Coastal Clean Up 2014

Aiyanar Coastal Clean Up 2014... "A Symbol and A Reminder" 

I always wondered why Coastal Clean Up Activities were only held once a year.  Everyone came together on this one momentous occasion to do something we as a race should be doing constantly.                                                                    

The world celebrates International Coastal Clean Up Month Septemner of Every Year.  This month ussually has Dive Centers and Resorts Planning Events and having their guests clean up the dive sites they visit.  This month ussually culminates in one Big Coastal Clean up day which is ussually the last saturday of September.
This year following the string of storms and bad weather the Philippines has been experiencing; Aiyanar has set its coastal clean up weekend for Oct 4, 2014.  A few groups took part in the festivities.

From Aiyanar Regulars Commissioner Ruffy Biazon and Family, and Tomas Alvarez and Family to the Band Mid-Life Crisis who came to make the event truly festive.

This is the 2nd year that Aiyanar has held this event and with each passing year the crowd grows.  It is nice to come out and see people coming together and doing their part in conserving probably the worlds largest natural resource.
Something we must ensure to leave future generations.

Thinking of all these facts and feelings I have come to a conclusion... And that is these events though they make such a small dent in the Oceans true trash contents serve a very important purpose!...

First they are a symbol, that we should and must make an effort to do our part in Leaving the world a cleaner ocean.  And Second, It is a Reminder... That there is so much more to be done... and Each and every one of us can help out in our small way!...
All that being said... I call on myself and anyone else that does happen upon this blog!...  Lets all do our part... to leave future generations with a clean and Healthy Ocean!....  Make EVERY DIVE A CLEAN UP DIVE!...

Thank you to Ruffy Biazon and Trixie Tacardon For the Photos.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Aiyanar Beach and Dive Resort - Anilao Batangas

Anilao's Finest Dive Resort...

Aiyanar Beach and Dive Resort is the newest and most modern Dive Resort in Anilao Batangas today, it is geared more towards the Underwater Imaging Segment of the industry.   Anilao has long been a local Dive Destination in the Philippines, its good mix of reefs, sandy slopes, caves and piers make for a really interesting Dive vacation.  Just a boat ride away from Puerto Galera and Verde Island; Anilao makes for the perfect staging area to access all these well known Philippine Dive Destinations.  

In recent years with the boom of UW Macro Photography and the influx of foreign divers Anilao has gained a following among those looking for a place to photograph great underwater subjects and seascapes.  With the influx of foreign influence the knowledge and skill set has grown and now; critters like the Rhinopias, and Sea Dragons thought to have only been in Lembeh are being Spotted regularly in these waters.

For the longest time the waterloo of Anilao has been the lack of accommodations and facilities of Western Standards.  Being avid divers who've seen and experienced dive operations elsewhere in the world, the partners of Aiyanar envisioned an Anilao facility whose standards would not only pass, but exceed the expectations of the ever increasing Diver Base from the west.  What they have come up with is a modern Dive Resort well laid out over 4 hectares of land right in the heart of this up and coming Macro Mecca.  

One of our Diving Outrigger Boats the infinity 
Aiyanar has every tool to make Diver's and Specially Under Water Photographer's stay a pleasant and highly efficient experience.  We have built our own boats making them longer and wider in effect better suited to carrying UW photographers than the usual Anilao Outrigger boats.  And to compliment those Aiyanar has 4 fast boats of different sizes for dive trips out to those farther away destinations like Verde Island and even Puerto Galera putting them all within 30-45 mins boat ride of the resort.

The Dive Center well stocked with gear and tools to suit all needs, sits on more than 120sqm of well designed space that assists in the efficient flow of Divers departing and arriving at the resort during peak operations.  
Aiyanar's Dive Center...
The Camera Room
To augment all these, there is the camera room with space for 18 Photographers actively working on their cameras; and provisions for double that number if needed, it is hands down one of the best equipped Camera Rooms in Anilao.  Details such as air hoses are in place, ready for blasting and drying wet cameras.  Camera Tables are covered in a non-slip rubber material helps keep all your parts and what nots in place while you prepare for the days diving.  The Aiyanar Camera Room is truly a space designed by Underwater Photographers.

The Aiyanar Open Air restaurant...

Softening all this functionality and efficiency is a living area chic and modern, with an open air dining room that over looks the whole property and the sea.

The dining room is highlighted by Aiyanar's open kitchen where all the sumptuous buffet meals are prepared and guests are free to watch their meals being prepared.  Its like watching the magic happen. 

One of our Bella Suites...

The rooms which are well equipped with all the amenities you would expect from a modern hotel are lighted perfectly for any mood you may want.  The beds are firm yet comfortable; match that with the pillows and high thread count sheets and you complete the equation of a good nights sleep.  Each room is also adorned with its own balcony area offering sea views over the sprawling well manicured lawn below. 

The Aiyanar Main Building at Dusk...

The Unity of form and function in Aiyanars infinity Dive Pool...
Infinity Pool at the end of the lawn is the best place to enjoy a relaxing afternoon.  Whether it be to catch some sun or just to wind down after an activity filled day.  Enjoying a fruit smoothie or even an ice cold cocktail from our bar deck; and watching the sun set on the Anilao coastline is the perfect way to end an Aiyanar day.  
Aiyanar Pool at Sunset...

As a whole Aiyanar, is a well planned out mix of everything Divers and their Families would want from a vacation resort.  

And each day the management is constantly striving to think of ways to make it better. 

For more images of Aiyanar please check out our website at or our 

Facebook page at

Or go to:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Danjugan Island - Tanigue Reef

Just coming off of 4 days of diving Danjugan and Sipalay, I thought Id write a short write up of one of my favorite dive sites so far.  Tanigue reef; Tanigue is a sunken reef on the north west side of the island.  It is a reef whos top starts at a depth of about 18M with its walls sloping down to 40++M.  It is a dive which I do suggest you take a 30-32% nitrox mix on for longer bottom time.

With the reef top being approximatelly 300M long on the ridge of its peak then sloping down forming a sort of underwater hill covered in coral (and i do mean COVERED in dense colourful live coral).   Tanigue is best done by starting down in the deep end and then slowly circumnavigating the reef moving towards the top.  

Depending on the tide, Tanigue is caressed by a moderate current from either north to south or vice versa.  Fishlife is pletiful on Tanigue it is just a lively reef fiesta with fish all around dancing like confetti at fiestas.  Schools of red toother triggers, different colored anthiases, big groups of fusiliers as well as a large school of Banner fish are all present and in large numbers.  Small schools of sardines just traversing the reef over and over make this a really lively dive.  And that mixed with the colorful coral and close to 40M visibility make this one of my favorite Danjugan Dive sites.

During feeding time, alot of hunting action is going on, sorties of blue fin Trevally can be observed hunting and feeding on the large fish population.Resident turtles are constantly spotted but they still seem to be a little wary of dive groups going by.  

The Dive professional can choose to just drift down one side of the reef and then swim against the gentle current back on the other side; getting back to the starting point and drifting down the reef again at another depth.  

I personally can imagine this being a hook on dive where you just pick a spot on the crest of the reef hook in and just watch all the different marine life around you and when the air is gone just letting the gentle current take me up into the blue for a bluewater safety stop.

On more recent exploratory dives I've discovered that the reef extends to far deeper than 50M and even at this depth the coral life is still abundant.  Also as I research and interview old time Danjugan divers; they all seem to say that on early morning or late afternoon dives Tanigue is; or used to be the hunting grounds of bigger sharks.  Plans for more exploration are in the works to find out if they're still around. 

Tanigue is only one of the many Sunken Island type reefs in the Danjugan Island Area.  Ill write about some other ones on another day.  

Till then Best Dives!  - Marco

Thank you to Tanya G Burnett for the Beautiful Photos.