3 -7 March at Atmosphere Resort, Duana, The Philippines
Left home on the 1st and got to the Philippines, with stops in Atlanta and Narita, on the 2nd. Just one little hiccup that Delta handled well in Japan. My seatmate to Manila was interesting. One of those controlling protective guys who proceeded to tell me how to do everything from stowing my bags, to what I should watch for entertainment. By the way, he’s single. Who would have thought? I showed him, I went to sleep without his instruction or permission. Other than that, very smooth.
The Belmont Hotel, a new hotel for me, is nice. The shuttle takes a long time to make its rounds to the World Resort Complex, but it is reliable. I decided that I preferred the shuttle to a ten minute bag drag at 4 am the following morning even though the shuttle took longer. I feel like that was a good decision. The shuttle did take 40 minutes, putting me at the airport 2 hours and 40 minutes before takeoff. Seemed early but I didn’t get through check in and security until an hour prior so it was a good pace. I will consider the Belmont in the future. It was quiet and comfortable.
Arriving in Dumaguete I was impressed with the beauty and efficiency of the airport. This is where it gets a little strange and I’m going to blame it on Ben Jackson, of Equator Diving. By the way, Ben and Bonnie of Equator Diving plan most of my dive trips. I’ll include a link in the blog to their website and Facebook page. Couldn’t ask for more professional dive travel specialists and good friends.
So, Atmosphere Resort collected me in a big, 10-passenger van as Ben had arranged and immediately started asking where my traveling companion was. This is reminiscent of a previous trip to Indonesia where the hotel was insistent I was there on my honeymoon. It’s things like this that keep me looking over my shoulder to see if someone is following me.
It’s a 40 minutes drive to Atmosphere. Leaving the airport I finally felt as though I was in The Philippines. All of the sites and sounds I associate with this country are everywhere. There are people I have met that get anxious when they are riding in a vehicle in a country where the most common taxi is a jeepney, and there are hundreds of them, and the right of way is determined by fortuitous, tiny spaces between you and any obstacle, moving or stationary, that might further you to your destination. So it is common to see a wall of jeepneys, motorcycles, people, trucks, dogs, and bridges approaching the front of the vehicle you are riding in at any time. The Philippines are not unique in this—Nepal, with 15 times more horns and cows, Indonesia, Guatemala, and Dallas—all and more seem to employ this method of traffic flow. For me, I look at it with an artist’s eye, the colors of the roofs of the Jeepneys, the buses, and buildings make an incredible collage of shapes and lines framed by the windshield. No one gets excited and all are accustomed to the flow.
Atmosphere is in Dauin and is an oasis. I have many friends that have recommended Atmosphere in the past. If you have seen my Facebook conversations with them you already know that. I have to agree with them.
Upon arrival the check in staff also wanted to know where my traveling companion was. My check in paperwork said a room for two, full board and unlimited dives. I felt bad for causing all this confusion but I couldn’t pull a companion out of my pocket. Finally the person who had been working with Ben on my reservation said it was, in fact a clerical error, and they were fine with me being by myself. A complete relief to me. My theory is that Ben conspired with them to play a practical joke on me.
My room is spacious and very comfortable. The resort has a dive shop, a nice restaurant, a spa that really can’t be described, a view that’s fantastic, and friendly, and helpful staff. All in all, a great place to swing your clock.
Upon arrival I forwent an afternoon nap and decide on an afternoon and night dive instead. I can’t tell you the last time I did a shore dive, but I will be able to tell you when my last one was after this trip. I admit it. I do not like schlepping my gear across the surf. Give me a boat I can fall out of with my gear on any day. The afternoon and night dive were both shore dives. The dive shop staff and Dive guides were extremely helpful and it wasn’t a bad experience. Still, I’m not a convert. Lots of cool critters though.
On the fourth, fifth, and sixth I managed four boat dives each day. My Dive guides were great about letting me dive my tank, and with a 1:1 ratio of guide to guest I had great access to all the critters my guide found. Lots of seahorses, cuddlefish, pipefish and pipehorses. Also nudibranchs, shrimp, cowries, crabs, etc. this is muck diving without the trash. There are a few reefs thrown in that have a lot of anemones and anemone fish, reef fish, and the associated critters. There are schools of squid, turtles as well as turtle headed sea snakes, small devil fish, scorpionfish, sanddivers, snake eels, juveniles of many fish, and puffer fish galore. There are supposed to be some of the highly sought after wonderpuss, blue ring, and mimic octopuses as well but I haven’t seen them yet. In essence, critters abound. The visibility is good for muck diving.
You can take a little longer trip out to Apo Island which has a nice reef and wall but I will get to do a lot of reef diving this trip so the muck diving is appealing right now.
In total, I will have done 14 dives with the Atmosphere Dive shop. I would recommend them. The staff at the resort are the kind of staff that I like. They make you feel like you are not just a guest but visiting family—the kind of visiting family that doesn’t have to babysit, do the dishes, cook, etc.
I had a massage in their award winning spa. It is a little like walking into Wonderland. They have a lovely, open reception area that is deceptively small with an obvious door that is actually just a utility area. When I visited to make my appointment I didn’t notice the main door behind me. So I had a very nice surprise when I returned for my appointment. The grand doors open into a secluded garden with massage tables and treatment areas hidden in nooks around a winding path with a central relaxation pool. Now the awards begin to make a lot more sense. The massage was excellent by the way.
I made new friends, a nice couple from Washington State, thanks for Diving with me Steve and Dana, who are reconnecting with their love of diving after a kid break, and a very nice young man from Switzerland, hi Sebastian, who is relatively new to Diving and excited about the potential.
So, today, the 6th is my last dive day before I join the Philippine Siren.
see a few more photos on My Facebook account.