© 2016 Lindsay Cope

Diving Anilao, Batangas

I have long awaited to dive Anilao.  One of the exciting parts of my site transfer was proximity to this dive haven.  Over Holy Week, I finally made the trip.  Anilao is surprisingly close to Calatagan, it only took two hours.

I stayed at Planet Dive, a top notch dive resort filled with great dive professionals. Technically, the resort is not in Anilao, but in Barangay San Teodoro.  We chose Planet Dive because Max, my dive buddy, had set up one of his projects for NOAA on the house reef there.

Anilao is known for the macro dives and is a place of pilgrimage for underwater photographers. Which was very apparent on our first dive, a new site for muck diving just past Mainit Point on the southern tip of Mabini.  There were a ton of dive boats there and when we descended it was loaded with divers, for good reason though, we saw some cool stuff: mimic octopus, frog fish, sea turtle, sea snake, frog fish, and pipefish!  I had never been on such a crowded dive before, so many divers had their fancy underwater cameras and were gathered around the sea creatures capturing pictures like underwater tourists. It was so alarming and amusing. I really felt like a tourist, waiting in line for my chance to view the unique creatures of the sea.

Our second dive was Mainit point, a gentle drift dive with great visibility. We saw so many nudibranch, one was as big as my hand — I didn’t know they could get that big. Mainit point had really gorgeous corals and was a great second dive of the day. I returned to Mainint point on my last dive in Anilao, and it was a completely different dive.  There was a strong current and we drifted quickly past the wall that was so spectacular on the first dive.  We held onto the reef at the “high way” watching a sea turtle drift with us, and barracudas school around us.  Our dive master said he saw a shark, but I am not sure if he was just making it up. He did bang his tank and point out to the depths, but with the strong current visibility was low and if there was anything there I didn’t see it.

The house reef at Planet Dive proved to be an awesome shore dive.  Max and I went out to the twin rocks and made our way toward the barge.  Our first mission was to find ARMS, the autonomous reef monitoring structures installed by NOAA last year.  We found all six units!  ARMS is a cool program that allows NOAA scientists to study the genetic biodiversity of the reef, learn more here: http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/cred/survey_methods/arms/overview.php    There was a lot to see at Twin Rocks, just past the barge we saw multiple GIANT Giant Clams and a sea turtle resting beneath an overhang of coral. Max and I emerged at sunset and enjoyed an evening with the dive staff at Planet Dive.

Our second day in Anilao, we got up early to catch a ride down to Anilao Camper where we boarded a dive boat and made our way to Verde Island.  We dove at a site called San Agapito, a gorgeous dive site teaming with anthias around the healthy coral reef. The dive site, as you can see in the picture below, is a cluster of underwater seamounts.  We dove past the coral garden (on the left of the drawing) and made our way to the pinnacle, where we encountered a strong current.  Somewhere between the coral garden and pinnacle, we saw some eagle rays. I saw we liberally, I only saw one speed away after I saw a flash from one of the divers cameras.  The report was that there were four of them.SanAgapito


Reefscape at San Agapito, Isla Verde Photo by Noel Guevara


San Agapito, Isla Verde Photo by Noel Guevara

After our dives at Verde Island we made our way back toward Mabini for lunch and our last dive.  As we went to a small island for lunch, Balahibo ng Manok (Chicken Feather), we were waved down by some people in distress.  A young man had been pulled out by the current and was struggling to get back to the shore. Our banka, loaded with hungry divers, raced off to rescue the man from the current. Our rescue was a success, one of our dive masters dove into the current with a leash to the boat and swam to the distressed swimmer. Good deed done for the day!

Our last dive of that trip was underwhelming, though anything would be after diving at Verde Island regarded as the center of the center of marine biodiversity. It was a site off the coast of Tingloy, the coral was nice, but it just didn’t team with fish the same way Verde Island did.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 9.17.51 AM.png

All nudibranch are hermaphrodites. When they mate, their gonopores protrude and they fertilize each other. Apparently it was mating season because there was a lot of this going on. ‘Tis the season, photo taken at East Saddle on Easter Sunday. Easter is filled with fertility symbols!

On our last day in Anilao, Max and I went on two more morning dives with the staff from Planet Dive.  We dove a site between Tingloy and Sombrero Island called East Saddle.  It was a nice dive with great visibility, lovely coral, so many nudibranch it was almost underwhelming except that we found some that were mating which was really exciting! We also encountered a friendly sea turtle.  Our last dive was at Mainit Point, which I described earlier in this post.

Anilao was awesome and I cannot wait to get back to dive there again!  I am busy this month but hopefully will find a moment to sneak away!


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