Dive Reference

Dive photos of the MINDORO Island Philippines.

Dive Reference

The island of Mindoro lies south of Luzon and is divided into two provinces, Mindoro Occidental in the west and Mindoro Oriental in the east. It is the coastal areas which are populated while the inland forest and mountainous areas are home to various tribal peoples. Fishing, rice cultivation and coconut plantations are the main agricultural activities on the island. Mindoro Occidental is not a tourist destination whereas Mindoro Oriental has become a popular venue for travelers.

Puerto Calera and Apo Reef

Situated 150km (95 miles) from Manila on a beautiful natural harbour, with many fine beaches, sheltered coves and a backdrop of lush green hills, Puerto Galera ('Port of Galleons') has been since the 10th century a port where ships can safely shelter from typhoons. Billed as the 'pearl of Mindoro', this is now an international travellers' beach resort. In the early days the area earned a bad name, with hastily built huts crammed on top of each other, budget travellers, 'hospitality girls' and soft drugs. Some areas are still very crowded with bars and discotheques, but others are beautiful places to stay. Many expatriates have fallen in love with the place, married local girls and set up their own accommodation and diving operations.

The drugs problem is now a thing of the past and Puerto Galera has become a popular destination, particularly for divers. The better-organized dive operations now arrange their own ferries, so that clients can cross from Batangas in the evening instead of being reliant on the SI-KAT ferry. This enables expatriate divers from Manila to stay in Puerto Galera for a full weekend and saves international diving groups from losing a day of diving.

There are several beaches within walking distance of each other (though not if you are carrying luggage). The focal point is Poblacion (the town centre), where the ferries dock. The busy heart is Sabang Beach, with its plentiful nightlife, discos and resorts. Small and Big La Laguna Beaches are slower-paced resort areas with nice beaches and better snorkelling.

SCIENTIFIC STUDY

For nearly 50 years Puerto Galera has attracted scientists studying the eco-structure of microorganisms, animals and plants. The University of the Philippines Marine Biological Station was set up in 1934 and, in 1974, the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program International declared the area a research centre and the reefs a Marine Reserve. While some other desti¬nations are designated Marine Reserves and then allow divers and fishermen to do whatever they like, the residents and operators of Puerto Galera actively support marine conservation and police their own reefs.

DIVING AROUND PUERTO GALERA

The diving around Puerto Galera is famous for its diversity. There are all standards, from easy dives for training and novices to high-voltage dives in strong currents and some deep dives where large animals are encountered. Diving clubs, particularly with expatriate members from Manila and Hong Kong, continually return for more. The area is noted for its opportunities for macro-photography, fish and invertebrates, but there are plenty of larger subjects to photograph, plus corals, gorgonians, barrel sponges and whip corals. The reefs are forever changing with the tides. Battery charging can be a problem for photographers, as brownouts and low voltage are common.

Realistically, there are too many dive operators, and new ones are still appearing, sometimes cheekily setting up in front of well- established organizations. The better operators have been there almost since the beginning; the directors are still enthusiastic, still teach novices and (of note for serious divers) understand tide tables and use the stronger currents to good effect (there is a 2.2m [7ft] tide range in 61/2 hr). The top dive operator is Asia Divers, with several outlets along the beaches. Close on their tail are South Sea Divers, La Laguna Beach Club and Dive Center and Capt'n Gregg's.

Diving is possible all year round, with the best time being March to October. There is good snorkelling along most of the rocks from the eastern end of Sabang Beach to Escarceo Point. All dives are treated as drift-dives; the banca follows your bubbles. All times and directions in the following sites are given from Asia Divers on Small La Laguna Beach.

In good weather, day trips go out among the further islands (see Sites 26-9). These dives are possible from Puerto Galera, Anilao or a live-aboard boat, but are nearest to Puerto Galera. Malajibomanoc Island can also be reached from here.

PANDAN ISLAND AND APO REEF

Pandan Island is a small, rustic island 3km (2 miles) off the west coast of Mindoro. Designated a marine park by the local government and the local operator, the coral reef, which starts at the white sand beach, has 80% coral cover and good fish life. More importantly, Pandan Island has the nearest dive operator to Apo Reef, a large offshore reef system beginning 32km (21 miles) away that used to be among the best diving in the Philippines until destructive fishing methods caused considerable damage to the corals. Now itself a marine sanctuary, Apo Reef is starting to recover.

The whole northeast side of Apo Reef consists of drop-offs and overhangs where Whitetip Reef and Grey Reef Sharks, turtles, barracuda and shoals of snappers are common. The best areas for corals are around Apo Island (not to be confused with the island of the same name off Negros) at depths between 10 and 40m+ (33 and l30fH), with Acropora table corals, staghorn corals, Porites corals, fire corals and a variety of soft corals. The northern, eastern and southern sides have steep walls, turtles and pelagic species - recently Hammerhead Sharks and Manta Rays have frequently been spotted. However, the currents are unpredictable and make the northern dive sites difficult for novices. The western side of the island is more of a slope, which makes it easier for less experienced divers. There is a turtle sanctuary and a ranger station on Apo Island.

CORAL BLEACHING

Coral bleaching is the phenomenon whereby corals turn white and sometimes die even though no obvious culprit - e.g., the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish - is present The phenomenon used to be blamed on higher than usual water temperatures, possibly as a consequence of global warming, but recent research has shown that some areas which suffered coral bleaching in 1987 and 1990 did not experience unusually warm water.

Scientists now think that long spells of calm seas and clear water lead to a lack of natural particles - plankton and sediments - in the water. Normally these particles filter out some of the sun's ultravio­let light; in their relative absence, the corals receive higher doses of ultraviolet light, and this may be what causes the bleaching.

TIPS ON NIGHT DIVING

Choose an area with the least wave and current action, and with easy marks for navigation.
Dive the area during daylight first to familiarize yourself with the topography.
The easiest night dives for navigation are along reef edges, where you can go out and back along the face at different depths to give variety.
If there is a current, go out against it and back with it.
If you are new to night diving, begin with a dusk dive.
Avoid lights that are too bright, and carry a backup; underwater lights are notorious for failing
Rechargeable nickel-cadmium battery torches go out suddenly, without warning, so use alkaline batteries in your backup light.
Set up 2 marker lights in line on the beach to find your place of exit from the water.

1 MANILA CHANNEL

The Coron Wrecks

Location: The channel between Medio and Paniquian Islands.

Access: 15min by banca west around the northwest tip of Medio Island to the western end of Coral Gardens. Conditions: Usually calm with a slight current, though it can get rough.

Visibility can reach 20m (65ft).
Average depth: 12m (40ft)
Maximum depth: 13m (43ft)

The corals in shallow water here were affected by coral bleaching associated with the 1998 EI Nino-Southern Oscillation phenomenon, but there are signs of recovery. The dive follows rubble coral and sand along the edge of a 2m (6ft) to 3m (10ft) drop-off. Over the drop-off there is an abundance of good stony and soft corals, though these are mostly of the beige rather than the more colorful varieties. Large leathery corals are everywhere, together with lots of mushroom corals and bubble coral. There are several types of anemones with clownfish, Leopardfish Sea Cucumbers, colorful Linckia sea stars, Feather Duster Worms, Christmas-tree Worms and lots of small reef fish. There is good snorkeling all along this reef edge.

2 CORAL GARDENS

The Coron Wrecks

Location: The west face of Medio Island.

Access: 15min by banca.

Conditions: Usually calm. Best dived on a flood tide for visibility, which can reach 20m (65ft)
Average depth:: 6m (20ft)
Maximum depth: 9m (30ft)

Considered the best snorkeling in the area and a good dive for the novice. The terrain shelves out from the shore to 9m (30ft). Lots of corals, both stony and soft, are found around the 2m (61/2ft) level, with more sand and coral heads in the deeper water. The corals in the shallow water which live in symbiosis with algae were affected by coral bleaching asso­ciated with the 1998 EI Nino-Southern Oscillation phenom­enon, but there are now signs of recovery. There are some crevices deeper down with moray eels and the occasional immature Whitetip Reef Shark.

3 SWEETLIPS HOLE/MARCUS' CAVE

The Coron Wrecks

Location: Straight out from Batangas Channel. Access: 15min by banca.

Conditions: Generally calm but can have strong currents.
Average depth:: 51m (167ft)
Maximum depth: 58m (190ft)

Suitable for technical divers with recent deep experience only. Usually the two areas of the hole and the cave would be done on two separate dives. Sweetlips has a hole to swim through at 45m (150ft) where it is good to hang around and watch the action of resident shoals of batfish and sweetlips. Marcus' Cave has a wall running east to west with large gorgonian sea fans and schooling bannerfish. At the cave there are often Whitetip Sharks resting on the sand at 50m (165ft). Surgeonfish school here and Mantas have been seen overhead. The cave itself is quite large and contains a memorial stone to Marcus (he did not die diving).

4 BATANGAS CHANNEL

The Coron Wrecks

Location: The northern end of the channel between Medio Island and Coco Beach.

Access: 10min by banca to the west end of Coco Beach.

Conditions: Usually calm with some strong currents.

Visibility can reach 20m (65ft).
Average depth:: 14m (45ft)
Maximum depth: 27m (90ft)

Experienced divers would treat this as a drift-dive on a strong flood tide. There are lots of barrel sponges up to 2m (61hft) high around the 14m (45ft) depth. When the current is running there are shoals of jacks, sweetlips, snappers and fusiliers. There are many reef fish, several stingrays and the occasional Whitetip or Grey Reef Shark.

5 THE Hill

The Coron Wrecks

Location: The southeast end of the channel between Medio Island and Coco Beach.

Access: 10min by banca west around Coco Beach to the southeast end of Batangas Channel.

Conditions: Usually calm, but can be rough with strong currents.

Visibility can reach 20m (65ft).
Average depth:: 12m (40ft)
Maximum depth: 12m (40ft)

This is a safe dive for novices so long as they accurately hit slack water. Good soft corals and sponges abound, with small reef fish teeming around them.

6 LA LAGUNA POINT

The Coron Wrecks

Location: Off La Laguna Point.

Access: A few minutes by banca west to La Laguna Point.

Conditions: Usually calm with a gentle current.

Visibility can reach 20m (65ft)

A verage depth: 12m (40ft)
Maximum depth: 15m (50ft)

A short wall from 12m (40ft) to 15m (50ft) with lots of small reef fish, nudibranchs and colorful crinoids.

7 ST CHRISTOPHER (ST ANTOINE'S WRECK)

The Coron Wrecks

Location: 100m (330ft) out from Small La Laguna Beach.

Access: A few minutes by banca.

Conditions: Generally calm but can have strong currents.
Average depth:: 18m (60ft)
Maximum depth: 24m (79ft)

Once owned by EI Galleon's resident chef, Antoine, this 22m (72ft) wooden 'pig boat' was sunk by the dive opera­tors. Its hull is intact, with gaps to view the fish, including snappers, lionfish, pufferfish, butterflyfish, emperors, jacks and occasionally frogfish. Finish the dive ascending the reef either west to Small La Laguna or east to the Point, looking out for stingrays, cuttlefish, frogfish and good corals in the shallows. Snorkel ling is good in the shallows.

8 SABANGJUNK

The Coron Wrecks

Location: Straight out from the floating bar on Sabang Beach.

Access: A few minutes by banca.

Conditions: Generally calm but can have strong currents.
Average depth:: 12m (40ft)
Maximum depth: 20m (65ft)

This 16m (52ft) wooden junk was sunk in 1993 by all the local dive operators, but now only the hull remains. Numerous batfish and large surgeonfish come out to investigate divers. Large morays, scorpionfish, trumpetfish, lionfish, stonefish and the occasional frogfish may be found on the wreck, while there are snake eels, gob­ies with bulldozer shrimps, Bluespotted Ribbontail Rays and pipefish on the sand.

To the south-southeast there is sea-grass with inter­esting small creatures if you look hard. To the east there is a little left of an aeroplane and some Spanish anchors brought from other areas. The lengths of wood near the floating bar are all that remains from the Nuestra Senora de la Vida, a galleon that sank off Verde Island in 1621. Snorkel ling is good in the shallows.

9 SABANG POINT

The Coron Wrecks

Location: Off Sabang Point.

Access: 5min east by banca.

Conditions: Usually calm with a slight current.

Visibility can reach 20m (65ft).
Average depth:: 15m (50ft)
Maximum depth: 22m (72ft)

A good wall dropping down to 22m (72ft), with stony corals, soft corals, fish and invertebrates. A ridge coming up from the wall to 5m (16ft) is covered with even more corals and colorful crinoids. A good night dive.

10 MONKEY WRECK

The Coron Wrecks

Location: East of Sabang Point.

Access: 8min east by banca.

Conditions: Generally calm, but can have some current.

Visibility can reach 20m (65ft).
Average depth:: 35m (115ft)
Maximum depth: 40m (130ft)

A 20m (65ft) local island transport (pig boat), sunk by Asia Divers in early 1993, lies in 40m (130ft) of water and is a little dangerous, as it rolls around in the swell. It is already collecting its own resident fish, including a small shoal of batfish.

11 MONKEY BEACH

The Coron Wrecks

Location: Off Monkey Beach

Access: 10min by banca east until opposite Monkey Beach.

Conditions: Generally calm, often with less current than at the dive sites further east.

Visibility can reach 20m (65ft).
Average depth:: 12m (40ft)
Maximum depth: 18m (60ft)

A pretty coral slope down to 18m (60ft) makes this an easy dive, especially good for novices. Small coral heads have crinoids, nudibranchs and plenty of small reef fish. There are sea stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers on the sand.

12 ERNIE'S CAVE

The Coron Wrecks

Location: East of Monkey Beach.

Access: 10min by banca.

Conditions: Usually calm with a medium-strong current, but it can get rough with strong currents.

Visibility can reach 20m (65ft).
Average depth:: 22m (72ft)
Maximum depth: 30m (100ft)

Ernie was a large lone grouper, sadly departed. There are in fact two small caves, one at 22m (72ft) and the other at 27m (90ft) There is plentiful fish life, includ­ing shoals of surgeonfish, unicornfish, jacks, snap­pers and fusiliers, as well as the smaller reef fish and occasionally Whitetip Reef Sharks. There are good stony and soft corals, sponges, small gorgonian sea fans and crinoids.

13 DUNGON

The Coron Wrecks

Location: West of Wreck Point (Site 14).

Access: 15min by banca until just west of the point.

Conditions: Generally choppy; on occasion it can get very rough, with strong currents.

Visibility can reach 20m (65ft).
Average depth:: 18m (60ft)
Maximum depth: 30m (100ft)

An easy, multilevel dive with drop-offs from 12m (40ft) to 27m (90ft), lots of good soft corals, colorful crinoids, most reef fish and the occasional tuna.

(Note that all the dives described east of here past Escarceo Point get into rough surface water and strong currents. Escarceo Point itself is named after the tide-rips off it, which are considerable, causing strong eddies. Some of the later dives are very close together; others are hard to find underwater and easi­ly missed in a strong current. It is wise to have a good local dive guide, both for these reasons and because he or she would be familiar enough with the under­water terrain to know when to come up if, say, you were being swept out to sea or too far away from your boat cover.)

14 WRECK POINT

The Coron Wrecks

Location: The first point west of Escarceo Point.

Access: 18min by banca east to Wreck Point.

Conditions: Usually a bit choppy on the surface with a strong current, but it can sometimes get very rough with fierce currents.

Visibility can reach 25m (80ft) on a flood tide.
Average depth:: 25m (80ft)
Maximum depth: 30m (100ft)

There is one wreck on the beach, and a further two small wooden wrecks - one 12m (40ft) long and the other 15m (50ft) long - sunk by Asia Divers in early 1993 in 27m (90ft) of water.

You will find a gentle slope of sand with large heads of all types of stony corals and some rock boul­ders. There are a lot of small reef fish, including angelfish, butterflyfish, damselfish, sergeant majors, parrotfish, groupers, surgeonfish, triggerfish, trumpet­fish, lion fish and anthias. There are also pufferfish, jacks, sweetlips, juvenile Pinnate Batfish and moray eels, together with lizardfish, goatfish, gobies, Leopardfish Sea Cucumbers and Linckia sea stars down on the sand. In addition there are colorful crinoids everywhere.

15 WEST ESCARCEO

The Coron Wrecks

Location: Just west of Escarceo Point and Hole in the Wall.

Access: 20min east by banca.

Conditions: Usually a bit choppy on the surface with strong currents, but it can get very rough with fierce currents. Visibility can reach 25m (80ft) on a flood tide.
Average depth:: 18m (60ft)
Maximum depth: 27m (90ft)

On a gentle slope from 9m (30ft) to 27m (90ft) you will find many large coral heads on sand. Other attractions include very large, healthy table corals, good boulder corals with Christmas-tree Worms and Feather Duster Worms, blue and white sponges, large barrel sponges, blue and yellow sea squirts, nudibranchs, flat worms, sea cucumbers, sea stars and colorful crinoids. There are many male Titan Triggerfish guarding eggs in nests, groupers, trumpetfish, shoals of Ehrenberg's Snappers, jacks, fusiliers, sweetlips, Moorish Idols and lone

Blacktail Snappers, lionfish and Zebra Lionfish. The abundance of marine life makes this a good dive for photographers.

16 HOLE IN THE WALL

The Coron Wrecks

Location: Just west of Escarceo Point.

Access: 20min east by banca. You need a good local dive guide who can take account of the currents if you are to find the 'hole in the wall'.

Conditions: Usually. choppy on the surface, with strong currents, but it can be very rough with fierce currents.

Visibility can reach 25m (80ft).
Average depth:: 12m (40ft)
Maximum depth: 19m (62ft)

Allowing for currents, you drop into 9m (30ft) of well-lit water, with fields of table corals as good as anywhere in the world. You descend in several stepped drop-offs, each about 3m (10ft), and eventually reach the hole in the wall at 12m (40ft) The hole is about 11/2m (5ft) high and O.8m (21I2ft) wide, covered with multicoloured sponges and crinoids, leading to the Canyons (Site 18)

The area teems with small reef fish, angelfish and butterflyfish. There are male Titan Triggerfish guarding eggs in nests, shoals of parrotfish, pennantfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, Moorish Idols, snappers, sweetlips, trumpet­fish, pufferfish, Scrawled Filefish, lionfish and jacks, plus some tuna and groupers. There are several species of nudibranchs on the wall, sea stars and sea cucumbers on the sand, and moray eels in crevices.

17 THE FISH BOWL

The Coron Wrecks

Location: Northeast of Escarceo Point.

Access: 25min east by banca.

Conditions: Usually choppy on the surface with strong currents, but can get really rough with fierce currents. Visibility can reach 30m (100ft) on a flood tide.
Average depth:: 40m (130ft)
Maximum depth: 60m (200ft)

This is an advanced dive within a bowl-shaped depres­sion at 40m (130ft), where you sit on the edge and look down. You need a good dive guide to allow for the cur­rents. When you enter the water you will be swept down to where you hope to arrive; photographers can operate only by getting into the shelter of large rocks.

There is just about everything here, in quantity, but the main reason for this dive (as with Site 18) is to see bigger fish and shoals. Whitetip Reef Sharks and Grey Reef Sharks are common, as are large tuna. There are shoals of Rainbow Runners, smaller tuna, batfish, snap­pers, Oriental Sweetlips, Spotted Sweetlips and jacks, plus some barracuda and groupers.

18 THE CANYONS

The Coron Wrecks

Location: Northeast of Escarceo Point. Access: 25min by banca.

Conditions: Usually choppy on the surface, with strong currents, but can get very rough with fierce currents. Best dived on a strong flood tide, when visibility can reach 30m (100ft).
Average depth:: 29m (95ft) Maximum depth: 60m (200ft)

Another advanced dive that needs a good dive guide to allow for the currents, to get you swept into posi­tion. You drift past the hole in the wall and race over several small drop-offs covered in soft corals and sponges. There are a couple of smaller canyons where photographers can briefly shelter; moray eels have been found in one. As with Site 17, the main reason for the dive is to see the teeming fish life - just about everything, including Six-banded Angelfish, Royal Angelfish and Emperor Angelfish. There are some large barrel sponges and gorgonian sea fans in the deeper water.

If you get the current right, as Tommy Soderstrum did for me, you are eventually swept onto a 11/2m (5ft) anchor, where your group can gather together before letting go, to be swept away in the current and decom­press in open water. A high-voltage dive.

19 HORSEHEAD

The Coron Wrecks

Location: East of The Canyons.

Access: 25 minutes east by banca. Conditions: Usually choppy with strong currents.
Average depth:: 36m (118ft)
Maximum depth: 50m (165ft)

This site is only suitable for advanced and technical divers. A flat, rolling seabed with a wall and slope to the north and east, it is best treated as a drift dive from The Canyons on a flood tide. It has very large gorgonian sea fans, turtles and sea snakes, shoals of jacks, sweetlips and snappers, large groupers in a hole, enormous starfish and occasionally Spanish Dancers during the day.

20 SHARK CAVE

The Coron Wrecks

Location: East of Escarceo Point.

Access: 25m in east by banca.

Conditions: Very rough with fierce currents.

Visibility can reach 20m (65ft).
Average depth:: 25m (80ft)
Maximum depth: 30m (100ft)

The Shark Cave is an overhang 30m (100ft) long at a depth of 29m (95ft). It is 1 m (3ft) high at the opening but closes to 15cm (6in) about 4m (13ft) back. Whitetip Reef Sharks rest up here during the day. Nearby is a large boulder covered in soft corals, green Tubastrea corals, small gorgonian sea fans and small barrel sponges.

There are lots of different species of nudibranchs, Six-banded Angelfish, Longnose Butterflyfish, shoals of Moorish Idols and pennantfish, filefish, triggerfish, parrotfish and shoals of soldierfish under the overhang. The area is teeming with the smaller reef fish and colorful crinoids, which open out when the current is running.

21 THE BIG ROCK (THE ATOLL)

The Coron Wrecks

Location: Southeast of Escarceo Point.

Access: 25min by banca east round Escarceo Point to just south of Shark Cave.

Conditions: Usually choppy, with a medium-strong cur­rent, but can get very rough.

Visibility can reach 25m (80ft).
Average depth:: 20m (65ft)
Maximum depth: 33m (108ft)

An atoll-shaped rock, 15m (50ft) wide, rises from 33m (108ft) to 21 m (70ft). There are lots of fish around but, in particular, severallionfish under the overhangs and in crevices and Bluespotted Ribbontail Rays on the sand.

22 PINK WALL

The Coron Wrecks

Location: East of the southeast corner of the southern headland of Escarceo Point.

Access: 25min east by banca.

Conditions: Usually calm with little current, but can become rough with a strong current. Must be dived on a flood tide, when visibility can reach 20m (65ft).
Average depth:: 10m (33ft)
Maximum depth: 15m (50ft)

Here an overhanging wall at 10m (33ft) is covered in pink soft corals and cup corals. This can be recommend­ed as a good night dive.

23 KILIMA STEPS

The Coron Wrecks

Location: South of the southern headland of Escarceo Point.

Access: 25min by banca east around Escarceo Point to the south of Pink Wall (Site 18).

Conditions: Usually choppy on the surface, with a strong current, but can get really rough with a fierce cur­rent. Visibility can reach 20m (65ft).
Average depth:: 20m (65ft)
Maximum depth: 40m (130ft) plus

This series of several small drop-offs, descending in steps, is best dived as a fast drift-dive on an ebb tide. There are plenty of good stony corals, soft corals, fish and inverte­brates. There is no point going deeper than 30m (100ft).

24 SINANDIGAN WALL

The Coron Wrecks

Location: Off the headland at the southern extremity of Escarceo Point.

Access: 30min by banca east around Escarceo Point to the bottom southeast corner.

Conditions: Usually a bit choppy on the surface, with a strong current, but it can get really rough with fierce cur­rents.

Visibility can reach 25m (80ft).
Average depth:: 25m (80ft)
Maximum depth: 40m (130ft) plus

A real wall goes down to 40m (130ft), with all manner of corals - especially soft corals - plus at least seven differ­ent varieties of nudibranchs and plenty of the larger fish species: groupers, snappers, jacks, trevallies, tuna, bar­racuda and occasionally Whitetip Reef Sharks.

25 THE BOULDERS

The Coron Wrecks

Location: The next headland south of Escarceo Point.

Access: 30min by banca east around Escarceo Point until you reach the next headland south of Pink Wall (Site 18).

Conditions: Usually choppy with some current, but can get rough with strong currents.

Visibility can reach. 15m (50ft)
Average depth:: 20m (65ft)
Maximum depth: 24m (80ft)

Several big boulders, down to 24m (80ft), form over­hangs, tunnels and swim-throughs. Big fish are often seen here, but the'visibility tends to be poor.

26 VERDE (GREEN) ISLAND - EAST POINT

The Coron Wrecks

Location: The east point of Verde Island.

Access: By banca or live-aboard boat.

Conditions: Usually calm with some current. It can be really rough, but you would not normally come out here then.
Average depth:: Whatever you like
Maximum depth: 60m (200ft) plus

This is a true wall, from the surface to 60m (200ft) with all the large soft corals, gorgonian sea fans, fish and pelagic visitors you would expect. The dive is done as a day trip.

27 THE WASHING MACHINE

The Coron Wrecks

Location: The centre of the south side of Verde Island.

Access: By banca or live-aboard boat.

Conditions: An advanced dive; can be very rough.
Average depth:: 15m (50ft)
Maximum depth: 30m (100ft)

This a high-voltage dive comprises a series of small canyons at 15m (50ft) with currents going in all direc­tions, throwing you around. The dive is generally done as a day trip.

28 THE GALLEON

The Coron Wrecks

Location: The centre of the west side of Verde Island.

Access: By banca or live-aboard boat.

Conditions: Usually calm with a strong current; you would not come out here when conditions are rough. Average depth: 12m (40ft)
Maximum depth: 20m (65ft)

Popular with divers having barbecues on the beach, this was the site of the wreck of the Nuestra Senora de fa Vida, which sank in 1621. Built in Cebu she was bound for Mexico but ran aground in a storm. The wreck has been excavated, but you can still find porcelain and shards in the sand between 5m and 20m (16ft and 65ft) and on the beach. There are staghorn corals, anthias, garden eels, mantis shrimps and moray eels.

29 VERDE ISLAND - WEST POINT

The Coron Wrecks

Location: The westernmost point of Verde Island.

Access: By banca or live-aboard boat.

Conditions: Usually calm with a strong current. It can be really rough but you would not normally come out here in such conditions.
Average depth:: 18m (60ft)
Maximum depth: 18m (60ft)

A good fast drift-dive on a rich coral slope teeming with fish life. This dive is done as a day trip.

Mindoro: Puerto Galera and Apo Reef

How TO GET THERE

Puerto Galera is on the northern tip of Mindoro Island, 2hr by road from Manila to Bantagas, followed by 2hr by ferry. The easiest way to get there is to take the Sunshine Run, air-conditioned buses that leave the Centrepoint Hotel (formerly Sundowner Hotel) around 09:00 each morning to con­nect with the midday 51-KAT ferry. Tickets are purchased at the desk in the foyer of the Sundowner Hotel, 1430A Mabini Street, Ermita, Manila 1000; tel 02-5213344; Email: sundowner@skyinet.net It is not possible to buy a return ticket; this has to be bought at Puerto Galera. The return ferry leaves Poblacion at 09:00 daily. Ferries do not run during typhoon warnings.

Alternatively, BL TB buses depart from E. de los Santos Avenue, Pasay City, for Batangas City, from where you can get a jeepney to the pier or the ferry terminal. Other buses run from the terminus in Plaza Lawton.

At Batangas ferry terminal there is a choice of bancas that will take you directly to some of the more popular beaches at Puerto Galera. Asia Divers arrange ferries from Mainaga Pier directly to EI Galleon Pier at Puerto Galera. Make sure, on the ferry, that you are in position to have a good view of the beautiful approach to Puerto Galera.

If you disembark at Poblacion, jeepneys may be hired to reach Sabang, from where it is a 15min walk to the beaches, although you would not want to carry luggage. In fact, the easiest way to get to most of the beaches from poblacion is to hire a banca. You can cut costs by sharing, but they are not very big. Due to their outriggers, bancas are not capable of mooring side-on to a jetty, so they are awkward to board without getting wet, and you will have to wade ashore at your beach destination: it is useful to wear shorts and sandals.

Pandan Island is nearest to the town of Sablayan on the Mindoro mainland. To reach Pandan Island by air you fly from Manila to San Jose, take either a public or pre-arranged jeepney to Sablayan and then a water taxi to Pandan Island. By land and sea you take a bus or car to Batangas from where there are weekly ferries to Sablayan. Alternatively, from Puerto Galera you can charter a banca to Abra de lIog and then take a jeepney to Sablayan.

WHERE TO STAY

Puerto Galera

Accommodation has improved, though even in the best places mosquitoes can be a nui­sance after rain.

Upper Price Range

Atlantis Resort Hotel & Gold Palm 5-5tar PADIIDC Resort Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera;
tellfax 0973-497503
e-mail; atlantis@vasia.com
Website: http://www.atlantishotel.com
Spanish/Mexican design - the rooms are unusual in being mainly whitewashed concrete.

Portofino Small La Laguna Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel/fax 0973-776704
Email: resort@portofino.com.ph
Website: http://www.portofino.com.ph

Hotel and condominium resort.

Medium Price Range

Coco Beach Island Resort Puerto Galera;
tel 0912-3187994/fax 0912-3050476
Email: phidivco@aol.com
Website: http://www.dive-info.com/pdc
Nice cottages, with all facilities, away from the bustle of the main beaches.

EI Galleon Beach Resort/Asia Divers Small La Laguna Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel/fax 02-8453248:
Email: admin@asiadivers.com
Website: http://www.elgalleon.com
Part of Asia Divers, with all facilities, the popu­lar Point Shooter Bar and excellent restaurant.

Coral Cove Resort Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro
Manila: tel 02-8450674
Email: coral-cove@asiagate.net
Set in a secluded cove away from bustle of the popular beaches.

Capt'n Gregg's Divers Lodge Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel 0973-496691, tel/fax 0912-3065267
Email: info@captgreggs.com.ph
Website: http://www.captngreggs.com.ph
Various standards of accommodation.

Sabang Inn Beach Resort And Dive Center Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel 0973-490101, 0912-3114335
Email: sab-inn@mozcom.com
Website: http://www.geocities.com/sabang/inn
Various standards of accommodation.

Pandan
Pandan Island Resort 5104 Sablayan; tel 02-2537007/fax 02-8235162
Email: info@pandan.com
Website: http://www.pandan.com

WHERE TO EAT

At Puerto Galera, the Corsican chef at EI Galleon has made this restaurant a popular place to eat. In the evenings Asia Divers bar, on the point beside EI Galleon, is a popular meeting point for divers and instructors.

On Pandan, eat at Pandan Island Resort.

DIVE FACILITIES

Puerto Galera
Action Divers Small La Laguna Beach and Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera; tel 0973­751968/fax 0973-776704
Email: info@actiondivers.com
Website: http://www.actiondivers.com
Or c/o Swagman Travel, 411 A. Flores Street, Ermita, Metro Manila
PADI courses and IANTD Technical Diving Nitrox courses.

Asia Divers/EI Galleon Beach Resort Small La Laguna Beach and Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel/fax 0973 865252/mobile 0912 3050652;
Email: asiadive@mozcom.com
Website: http://www.asiadivers.com

Manila contact: Asia Divers Manila, 57 Gil Puyat Avenue, Villaflor Building, Unit 3, Palanan, Makati City;
tel/fax 02-8453248, fax 02-5223663;
Email: asiadivers@Vasia.com
Website: http://www.asiadivers.com
A PADI 5-Star IDC Center, including IANTD Technical Diving, Nitrox, Trimix and Rebreather courses. Established at Small La Laguna Beach in 1987, by Alan Nash and Andy Norman and joined by Tommy Soderstrom in 1988, Asia Divers added their Sabang operation in 1990 and a new one at Small La Laguna Beach in late 1994. Asia Divers trained most of the resort dive mas­ters that now compete with them. Alan Nash is a full PADI Course Director.

Atlantis Resort Hotel And Gold Palm Padi Idc Resort Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel/fax 0973-497503
Email: atlantis@Vasia.com
Website: http://www.atlantishotel.com
PADI courses up to Assistant Instructor and IANTD Nitrox courses.

Big Apple Dive Resort Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel 0912-8345572/tellfax 0912­3081120;
Email: info@dive-bigapple.com
Website: http://www.dive-bigapple.com
PADI 5-Star Gold Palm Resort with courses up to Assistant Instructor plus Nitrox.

Capt'n Greggs Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera; tel 0973-496691,
tel/fax 0912­3065267;
Email: info@captgreggs.com.ph
Website: http://www.captngreggs.com.ph
BSAC and PADI courses up to Assistant Instructor, IANTD Technical Diving and Nitrox courses.

Cocktail Divers Big La Laguna Beach and Sa bang Beach, Puerto Galera. Manila
contact: Cityland 8 Condominium, Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati;
tel/fax 02-8921443
Email: cdiver@vasia.com
Website: http://www.vasia.com/cdiver
PADI courses up to Assistant Instructor level.

Coral Cove - Neptune's Habitat Inc. Coral Cove Resort, Puerto Galera;
tel 097­37;571.
Manila: tel 02-8450674
Email: scotty@divescotty.com or neptune@pacific.net.ph
Website: http://www.divesotty.com
A secluded resort where the diving is run by Jim Carrol of Scotty's Dive Center in Cebu; PADI courses up to Assistant Instructor.

Eco Divers White Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel 0917-9884448;
Email: swein@hotmail.com
Away from the main beaches; PADI courses.

Fishermen's Cove Beach Resort & Dive Center Sto. Nino, Puerto Galera;
tel 0917­5332985/fax 0917-8765902
Email: divercov@globe.com.ph or divercove@batangas.i-next.net
Away from the main beaches. Italian-run with top Italian food.

Frontier Scuba Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel 0973-490095
Email: fdivers@mozcom.com
Website: http://www.frontierscuba.com
Rick Kirkham, another highly experienced operator with knowledge of much of Philippines diving, training up to PADI Assistant Instructor level and IANTD Nitrox diving. Naturalist, reef surveying and photography are among the speciali­ty courses.

La Laguna Beach Club & Dive Centre Big La Laguna Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel 0973-855545,
tel/fax 0973-878409
Email: lalaguna@llbc.com.ph
Website: http://www.llbc.com.ph
PADI courses up to Assistant Instructor and IANTD Technical diving courses on Nitrox, Trimix and Rebreathers.

Octopus Divers Villa Sabang, PO Box 30413, Puerto Galera;
tel 0917-9039780, tel/fax 0912-3134486
Email: info@octopusdivers.com.ph
Website: http://www.octopusdivers.com.ph
PADI courses up to Assistant Instructor and IANTD Technical diving courses on Nitrox, Trimix and Rebreathers.

Pacific Divers White Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel 0912-2709663/fax 0912-2707371
Email: pacificdivers@yahoo.com
Away from the popular beaches. PADI courses up to Assistant Instructor level.

Philippine Divers at Coco Beach Island Resort Puerto Galera;
tel 0912­3187994/fax 0912-3050476;
Email: phidivco@aol.com
Website:
An operation of the Philippine Divershttp://www.dive-info.com/pdc Group, with PADI courses up to Assistant Instructor and IANTD Nitrox courses.

Rudy's Dive Center Small La Laguna Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel 0973-679096/ fax 02-5223663;
Email: rudydive@Vasia.com
PADI Course Director offering Instructor Development Courses, PADI Nitrox courses.

Sabang Inn Beach Resort and Dive Center Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel 0973-490101/0912-3114335;
Email: sab-inn@mozcom.com
Website: http://www.geocities.com/sabanginn/
PADI courses up to Assistant Instructor.

Scuba World Sabang, Puerto Galera;
tel 0912-3553044
Email: swidive@compass.com.ph
Website: http://www.scubaworld.com.ph
An operation of the Scuba World Group, this PADI 5-Star IDC facility offers courses up to Assistant Instructor level. TDI Nitrox and rebreather training.

Scubaplus Dive Center Sunsplash Resort, Small La Laguna Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel 0912-2709653
Email: reservations@scubaplus.com
Website: http://www.scubaplus.com
PADI courses up to Assistant Instructor level.

Seoul Beach Club Sto. Nino, Puerto Galera. Manila;
tel 02-8312921 Caters to South Korean divers.

South Sea Divers Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel 0912-8850246/fax 0912­3476993;
Email: dive@southseadivers.com
Website: http://www.southseadivers.com

'Sky' Tellman has been around since 1983 and discovered much of the original diving in the area. PADI courses up to Advanced Open Water Diver level.

Triton Divers Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera;
tel/fax 0917-4007616
Website: http://www.tritondivers.com
PADI courses up to Assistant Instructor level.

Whitetip Divers (Manila) Unit 206, Joncor II Building, 1362 A. Mabini Street, Ermita, Manila;
tel 02-521 043/fax 02-5221165
Email: info@whitetip.com
Website: http://www.whitetip.com

Whitetip Dive Tours Unit 208 Joncor II Building,
tel 02-5268190
Email: divetours@whitetip.com

Pandan
Whitetip Divers Pandan Pandan Island Resort, 5104 Sablayan;
tel 02-2537007/fax 02-8235162;
Email: info@pandan.com
Website: http://www.pandan.com
PADI AND NAUI courses to all levels, diving at Apo Reef and safaris to the wrecks at Coron, Busuanga.

DIVING EMERGENCIES

Makati Medical Center 2 Amorsolo Street, Makati, Metro Manila; tel 02­8159911/fax 02-8195423

The nearest recompression chamber is at AFP Medical Center, V. Lunar Road, Quezon City, Metro Manila;
tel 02-9207183.

LOCAL HIGHLIGHTS

If you tire of water sports and sunbathing, you can walk to Tamaraw Waterfalls, visit nomadic Mangyan tribespeople who have settled at Baclayan and Talipanan, and look at nearby Python Cave. All are a short jeepney ride followed by a 2hr walk. Marble quarrying and gold panning can be seen near Dulangan (10km; 6 miles), or you can climb Mt Malisimbo (15km; 9 miles).


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