January Dive Trip to Mindoro
Saturday, 15 Jan 2011
We were on the road this morning by 0430. The only real traffic was on the other side of Manila just before getting on the SLEX (South Luzon Expressway) around 0630, but even that was not too bad. From there it was smooth sailing. We hit the Batangas Pier just before 0800, in time to catch the 8 o’clock Montenegro RORO (roll on roll off) to Calapan. It was a big ship and mostly empty. The waters were as still as I’ve ever seen them; not even the hint of a ripple. The skies were strange; from the time daylight allowed us to see, the visibility was obscured by a smoggy looking haze. Even Makiling, a picturesque mountain marking the end of the SLEX was mostly hidden by this odd haze, which lasted right up through the end of the day, even right here on Mindoro. Could be it lasted so long because the air was so still, no breeze to drive it off.
The drive from Calapan went as well as it ever has—no incidents of any sort. It was obvious that the rains have continued to batter the area since our last trip almost two months ago—lots of evidence of cleaned up mud on the Nautical Highway and fresh scars on the adjacent hillsides. We arrived at the Calapan Pier at 1030, the drive up the Nautical took but one hour ten minutes to PG; so, with another twenty minutes or so to the resort, we arrived at Coral Cove exactly at noon.
With the relatively early hour of our arrival we decided to get a dive in. Why waste the first day? Especially since the water appeared so clear and calm. I had a banana and a Coke Zero at the bar which is where Don found me when he wandered up from our beach side rooms. It was one pm by then. We decided to start getting ready by two pm. Suiting up we were in the water by two thirty, the dive ending at four thirty for a total of two hours. A loooong dive!
Don took along his pneumatic speargun, the first time he’s tried it since overhauling it. He demonstrated how it works by first pumping it up with a bicycle pump and shooting the spear into a tree trunk with a heavy thunk six feet away. Not sure if spearfishing is legal here, anyway, he only made one shot and missed with it. I do know that I don't like it, but, sigh... There's lots of stuff that I don't like. Add it to the list I guess...
Around eighty feet down at the bottom of the stair stepping slope I caught sight of a fleeing stingray. It was about four feet long from stem to stern and two and a half feet across at the head/body. It’s my second stingray sighting and I love to see them swim, even though both times they were intent on making getaways from us. I’m looking forward to the next sighting and hopefully will be ready to get a photo or video of it.
Don forgot himself, never stopping during the first half of the dive he kept a pretty good head of steam as we continuously followed the amazing bio diversity along the cliff face. I knew why he was so intent in his swimming—he was looking for a big fish for dinner. We saw lots of fish, but the only large ones were a few distant parrot fish. I began to become concerned when I realized how far we’d gone and my air was just about down to 1200. 'How are we going to get back?'
Then I spotted a good sized lionfish hiding in some kind of green coral or sponge. I can’t remember how deep we were at that point, but the fish appeared to be black, white and gray. I took several shots of it but should have taken at least one with the flash in case the depth was taking away the color. Still, it was cool getting the opportunity to see one so big from so close. I even nudged it once trying to get it to change from its head down position.
When I reached 1000 lbs of pressure I grabbed one of Don’s flippers. The problem is that by that time we both realized that we were WAY down the coast. Oh great! There was going to be hell to pay getting back.
The shoreline was only forty or fifty feet away when we turned to go back. We headed for it to discuss our situation. Revising our plan we decided to closely follow the cliff lined shore, conserving our air by staying shallow and making frequent resurfacings to rest and strategize.
Following the rocky cliff along the coast was pretty sweet. The water was still without waves and the scenery with all the big tumble and jumble of gigantic half submerged rocks and boulders is amazing. In fact during one of our underwater jumps from point to point I happened to look down and saw the biggest puffer fish that I have ever seen. It was about ten feet down and ten feet away. From nose to tail this thing was at least four feet long and as fat as a baby harp seal. It looked like a swimming dirigible. Even now I cannot believe that I saw this thing. Amazing!
At last we made our last underwater leg to the breakwater beach in front of the hotel. My pressure gauge was riding on zero.
On a sidebar, the hotel’s beach and waterfront was surprisingly well groomed upon our arrival. I congratualated the staff on it. Tina told me that it was clean this time because it had been several days since any big storms had washed any trash up. On the other hand, the concrete stairs to the beach are no more. Even though they are formed from at least a half a ton of concrete, a storm had produced waves that not only knocked it loose from its moorings on the seawall, it was moved more than fifteen feet away and half buried in the coral sand. We spent about a half hour trying to dig it out so we could try to roll it back into position, but even with three of us putting our backs into it, along with my pathetic one, the thing would not even give us a subtle shift in the sand. Until we can get a block and tackle it's not going anywhere. As a stop gap one of the staff rigged the dive boat ladder to allow us access to the little beach. Heaven knows that boat ladder will probably never be used for its intended purpose again anyway.