Since we’re not traveling, our day-to-day routine has become pretty consistent. As such, we haven’t had much to say on our blog as we are diving everyday and our routine doesn’t change much, not to mention we’re pretty tired at the end of the day so working up the energy to write a new blog post seems a gargantuan feat.
Our days go something like this:
- 6AM wake up
- 7AM load the dive boats with gear
- 7:30AM eat breakfast and drink tea
- 8AM boat leaves for the day
- 9:30AM first dive of day
- Noon second dive of day
- 1:30PM eat lunch (friend rice and fried noodles, everyday)
- 2:30PM third and final dive
- 5PM return to dive shop
- 5:30PM veg on couch, drink tea, watch Simpsons re-runs
- 7PM equipment check-in for divers diving following day
- 7:30PM logbooks
- 8PM dinner (chicken curry with french fries or pizza)
- 9PM beers (Tiger or Carlsberg)
- 10PM bed
Rinse and repeat…
All of this being said, we’re each averaging three hours of diving a day, submerged in the beautiful Celebes Sea, surrounded by sharks, turtles, barracuda, manta rays, nudibranchs, frog fish, and more. Most of our dives involve guiding customers, which doesn’t give us much time for photography, but we’re gaining more diving experience than we could have ever hoped for.
Since there’s not much more to report, we though it’d be fun to give everyone a description of the different islands we visit daily. So, without further ado…
Besides Sipidan, we spend more time at Sibuan than any other island. Sibuan is your classic tropical island paradise with white sand, palm tree, and warm tropical water. Philippine Sea Gypsies inhabit the island, so most of the day we have little naked children running about and if you ask nice enough, they will climb the palm trees and give you coconuts. . Sibuan is ideal for teaching people to dive as it has nice clear water and good patches of sand for Open Water students to practice their skills in. Since we have Open Water courses nearly everyday, we spend a good amount of time here.
My favorite dive off Sibuan is called Left Shoulder. It’s a shore dive, since we usually park the boat on the beach. I start in one metre of water and visit a pair of porcelain crabs, then some squat shrimp. Next, I visit Shaniquia, the resident Giatn Frogfish, black in color. Shaniquia is very sweet and sometime she lets me hold her hand if I put my finger under her webbed foot/hand. If you haven’t held hands with a frogfish, it’s like having a baby wrap their hand around your finger. There is also a tan frogfish and a rust one, but for some reason they blend too well with the surrounding environment and I can’t always spot them, but Kai finds them almost every time. (Guess he was good at playing Where’s Waldo). The dive ends with a hunt in the sand for Devil Scorpion Fish and Snake Eels, but some times we get lucky and find baby frog fish, which are even cuter than the adults, if that’s possile.
There are other dive sites at Sibuan, Froggie’s Boulevard, with it’s beautiful hard and soft coral, and a chance to see eagle rays, ghost shrimp living on fire coral, not to mention huge cuddlefish which look like the aliens have landed. The Drop Off is where I had my deepest dive to 41.1 meters, and also where I saw my biggest nudibranch at 6 inches. We usually see a Hawksbill turtle or two happily scratching their tummies on the sand or on coral at all the dive sites. At Mandarin Bay and Mandarin Point we look for Mandarin fish. The live in the black Sea Urchins and are quite shy which makes them hard to spot. If you do find them, they look like candy, with cutely pursed lips like they are blowing you kisses.
Yes Sibuan is Paradise.
Mabul is my second favorite island, because everytime I go there I see something that I have never seen before. The visibility is usually bad—10-15 meters—but that’s ok when you’re muck diving because you swim along with your nose close to the rocks anyway. There have been a few times where I was looking at nudibranchs and almost put my hand down on a stonefish or a turtle, because I was too busy focusing on some cute little bugger . Fortunately I do always look before I touch anything, and have managed to avoid sleeping turtles and poisonous fish. My two favorite dive sites at Mabul are Artificial Reef and Lobster Wall. The Artificial Reef has many sunken structures from 10 to 22 meters that have the feeling of a playground for divers. A huge school of Jackfish circles the sponge and soft coral structures which are home to a wide variety of animals including frogfish (yes there is a theme here) Scorpion Fish, Stone fish, Lion Fish, Banded Pipefish, a plethora of Nudibranches and Flatworms, Flying Gurnards, not to mention all of the common reef fish that make Mabul home.
You can stay on the island with accommodation ranging from 50 RM to 1900RM for a deluxe resort. Hopefully we will stay there someday, but for now Ping Ping’s is perfect.
Known for it’s black coral forest that looks like white fairy bushes, Mantabuan is one of the few small islands that doesn’t have extensive damage from past and present dynamite fishing. As such, Mantabuan has some of the most beautiful hard and soft coral in the area.
Dynamite fish was once pretty common here. Sadly, it’s still practiced by some, but the situation is improving. The difficulty is in teaching the locals about sustainable fishing practice. A fisherman can go out to sea, work all day, and maybe bring home a half-dozen to a dozen fish with traditional fishing practice and barely make enough money in the market to feed his family. Or, he can go out, drop some dynamite off the side of his boat, and watch as dozens of stunned fish float up to the surface. If you didn’t know better, which method would you use? It’s quite shocking to be diving and hear a dynamite explosion underwater. Since sound travels 4 time faster underwater than in air, you never know which direction the dynamite is coming from. Hearing dynamite underwater reminds us there is still much work to be done towards protecting these beautiful reefs.
We can’t rave about Sipidan enough. When the visibility is good it simply dwarfs every other dive site we’ve been too. Imagine diving at Yosemite Valley, and having all of El Capitan to explore underwater. Once you drop over the ledge, you are simply overwhelmed by sheer size of the wall and the amount of sealife that makes it their home. The beauty of Sipidan is that you can see everything, and lot’s of it. At other dive sites, you can see a few barracudas. At Sipidan, you can see a few thousand on a single dive, as well as giant schools of jackfish, bumphead parrotfish, napolean wrasse, batfish, yellowback fusiliers, and more. Of course, you have sharks, ranging from smallish white tip reef sharks to full blown hammerheads. The right of year it’s not uncommon to see a few Manta Rays. A few weeks ago we saw six four meter long grey reef sharks, a leopard shark, two manta rays, and a school of barracuda…all at the same time.
On my first time guiding at a dive site called the Drop Off, we went inside Turtle Cave, a giant cave that goes straight through the island and let’s out on the other side. The cave is quite dangerous to dive in it’s entirety as it’s easy to become lost. Some of the first people to dive the cave found turtle skeletons resting on the silty bottom. The romantic version of the story says that Turtle Cave is where turtles go when it’s their time to die. The real version of the story is that turtles have become lost in the cave and drowned before finding their way out. On our dives, we only enter 5-10 meters into the cave, and then turn around to admire the panoramic view. Anyhow, on my first time there as a guide we swam in a bit and I turned around to see a two meter white tip shark circling around us inside the cave. It’s a strange feeling to be in an enclosed space with a shark, and I had to keep telling myself that they prefer to eat fish than divers. Needless to say we didn’t stay long, but it was a thrilling experience! Nearly everyday at Sipidan something remarkable like that happens.