Reef Diving in the Philippines

Last week, we spent an amazing week in the Philippines diving our tushes off.  We ended up doing 29 dives in 6.5 days - 4 or 5 dives each day.  Diving is relaxing, but tiring, even if you are breathing nitrox.  And after a while, they all tend to run together a little bit.  Not that that's a bad thing, but that just means I can't remember if I saw that awesome nudibranch on my 5th dive or 20th dive, so a dive-by-dive breakdown isn't really possible.  That being said, there are two main types of diving that we did in the Philippines - reef diving and muck diving.  Today, we are talking about reef diving.

One of the many Nudibranches that we saw

The Philippines, especially where we were, are known for their macro life, or small things.  Not so much for big things like sharks or whales (although, I think the further south you are, the more you will see the bigger things).  As a result, we spent a lot of time just drifting with the current, and looking for all the small things.  Most notable of these are Nudibranchs.  Essentially, they are sea slugs.  Land slugs are ugly, but nudibranchs are some of the most colorful things you will see in your entire life.  They are often bright pink, yellow, green, orange, or blue, with other colors added in for accent.  No two look the same and there are over 1000 different varieties (although we saw no where near this many different varieties).  While we didn't have the ''good'' camera in an underwater housing (those things are expensive!), we had our smaller, Canon point and shoot that Aaron bought 10 years ago.  I do have to say, he got some AMAZING pictures of the nudibranchs.  So good that I don't think he needs to house the big camera ;)

Along with all the nudibranchs, there are of course tons of fish.  Some of my favorites are the box fish and the cow fish.  Neither of them use their back fins to swim underwater, and when combined with their oddly shaped bodies, they just look adorable swimming.  They have been added to the ''must have'' list of fish if we ever decide to have a salt water fish tank.

I have always had a slight, ok, severe, aversion to snakes and anything resembling a snake, including eels.  But, with the numbers of eels we saw last week diving, I am happy to say that I am in the process of getting over my eel aversion (the snake aversion is still there though and likely won't go away).  As long as the eels stay in their holes, and don't try to swim even remotely in my direction I'm good.  In addition to the eels, we did see a couple of sea snakes.  Yep, I was fine to stay far away from those things.

A White Eyed Moray Eel.  He can stay in his hole :)

We also managed to see a couple of frog fish, a leafy scorpion fish, what I think were stone fish (they looked like rocks, but I couldn't find an exact picture of them), a couple of flamboyant cuttlefish (and yes, they do actually look like that!), a juvenile warty anglefish, the biggest lionfish I have ever seen (bigger than my head), some peacock mantis shrimps, both juvenile and adult sweet lips, and many more.  We also saw a couple of octopuses.  On one of our last dives, we came across one that was hunting.  There were fish that were biting his head (?) and you could tell that he was not a happy camper.  He kept trying to catch the fish with his legs, but wasn't successful.  The coolest part of watching a octopus is watching them instantly change their color to match whatever their surrounds are.  Over sand, they are white, but when they move over the reef/rocks, they change their coloring, even becoming mottled in appearance, to blend it.  It's pretty cool to see in person.  

In general, the reef didn't seem as healthy as it did when we were diving in Roatan a few years ago, but there was still a ton of life.  In fact, any life is pretty much more than we are used to since we typically are diving in cold, fresh water.  But if you're going to the Philippines expecting to see reefs like in the Caribbean, I would caution you to not to set your expectations too high.  BUT, if you are going for the macro life, this is the place!

More pictures from our reef dives are in the gallery below.  Just click on a picture to make it full sized.  Also, check back in a couple days to see some pictures from the muck diving :)  Way more interesting that I thought muck diving could be.  Plus I got to see a sea creature that I've always wanted to!

- Meghan -