Ani-wow!

The final diving spot Anne and I were visiting was Anilao, a world famous muck diving area about 100kms south of Manila, near the city of Batangas (see the previous post ‘Muck‘ for more details on muck diving). This time we decided to skip the pre-organised transfers from Manila Airport and to rather travel a bit in the local style. After catching a normal metered taxi from the airport we jumped onto an intercity bus to Batangas from one of the fairly chaotic bus terminals in Manila. The buses are quite comfortable, with some TV screens showing a dodgy and rather violent B-grade movie! and vendors hopping on and off with snacks for sale. You don’t need to prebook tickets – you just hop on and the conductor comes down the aisle first asking where you are going to give you a ticket, and then coming back to collect the money. After getting off at the Batangas Terminal we then hopped on a jeepney heading towards our accommodation in Anilao. A jeepney is the Philippines version of the standard form of public transport that appears around the world (the South African version being the minibus taxi). Apparently they started after World War II when old US Army jeeps were converted by adding benches lengthways down the back section. Over time they have changed a lot, but generally still have a resemblance to jeeps. Often the jeepneys are heavily decorated, with bright signs and decorations added, particularly those in and around Manila. They aren’t the most comfortable, with around 20 – 25 people squeezed in and onto the jeepney, but they are a really cheap way to get around.

Back of our jeepney
Front of our jeepney
Anne enjoying the tricycle ride from Dauin

After getting off our jeepney we caught a tricycle for the final part of our journey. The ones around Anilao are a lot more cramped than those in Dauin, but also very cheap to use, and much better at navigating traffic than the jeepneys.

We stayed at Anilao Backpackers, a place set up by some diving enthusiasts who wanted to provide a cheap accommodation option for divers. The rooms are very simple with shared bathrooms and are quite loud, as the you are right next to the road and the chickens, but are much cheaper than the alternatives (at around USD30 a room, including breakfast).

View from just outside our room

Onto the main reason we came to Anilao – the diving! There were 5 of us diving, plus our excellent guide Obet, who was very experienced and great at making sure everyone saw everything, and a lot more respectful of sea creatures than some of the other dive guides we have seen in Asia. We also had two very experienced divers who had been working for a dive operation at Mabul, near Sipadan for almost a year, and who also spotted many different creatures for us. As with many of the dive sites around the Philippines, Anilao was affected by the 2013 typhoon, with some dive sites completely destroyed and wiped clean. They are still waiting to see how they recover when the high season hits at the end of the year, but things are looking good. We only had enough time for 8 dives over 2 1/2 days, but even in that short time we saw some amazing things including several creatures we have been trying to see for ages: hairy shrimp, spindle cowry, soft coral cowry, bobbit worm, mushroom coral pipefish, the extremely rare pearl fish (which lives up a sea cucumber’s bum during the day) and saw-blade shrimp. Our initial highlights selection was over 60 photos (and there were several things well beyond the capabilities of our little camera to capture), but we managed to cut this down (slightly). Most of the highlights will be in a separate post together with the remaining highlights from Dauin, but here are a few of our really special sightings:

The long sought after (and terrifying looking) bobbit worm
A flamboyant cuttlefish
A snake eel emerging from his hole
Squat shrimps everywhere!
A couple of hairy squat lobsters
A tiny pregnant Pygmy seahorse
A coconut crab emerging from the shell he uses for protection
A shrimp on a beautiful blue anenome
Another cool frogfish
An orangutan crab surrounded by skeleton shrimps
The sea-cucumber-bum-living pearl fish

The only negative of our trip to Anilao was that something in the sea in Dauin caused both me and Anne to develop a very itchy rash all over our bodies. Mine was unfortunately also accompanied by red swelling of my ears and the area around my eyes, resulting in me looking a lot like a red Shrek. Luckily things sorted themselves our after a few uncomfortable days.

This was after the swelling had gone down quite a lot…

After Anilao, it was sadly time to say goodbye to Anne, as her 9 weeks of leave was up. We managed to cram in a huge number of things over this time, including:

  • 21 flights (and no lost luggage)
  • 71 dives
  • Innumerable jumps into and out of dinghies trying to see whales and dolphins
  • About 25 ski runs
  • 1 volcano

It’s been amazing, and it is going to be very weird not having her with me for the next 6 weeks. I’ll miss her a lot.

I’m heading to Singapore on Friday on my way to Myanmar, with 6 nights in Boracay to catch up on some drinking, sleeping in and generally doing nothing. Boracay is the top beach tourism island in the Philippines, with a gorgeous fine white beach as the main attraction. It is quite developed and very busy, even now during the rainy season, but I’m staying at a nice little hostel called Frendz away from the main noisy bits, so I’m managing to achieve my aims. My horrible facial swelling has almost disappeared, although that didn’t stop a Russian tourist assuming that I was also Russian (I really hope it was the swelling).

White Beach, Boracay
Sunset on White Beach

Hope you are all well, and I’ll catch up again in Myanmar!

 

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