Monday 

We signed up for the early morning thresher shark dive again. Beautiful, cartoonish sharks with long, ribbony tails and big, puppy dog eyes were a good enough reason to drag my sleepy butt out of bed at 5am. We were late leaving because one of the guys didn’t show up to work, and as such most of the thresher sharks were already gone when we descended into the chilly water. We still saw enough to make the dive worth it, just not as many as the day before. Of course about halfway through the dive when I’d given up on seeing any and was staring at the sand looking for small critters, Fletch nearly got slapped in the face by the tail of one sneaky shark. I saw it up close as it was swimming away, but not slap-in-the-face close. 


It turned out to be a cold, overcast day, and so with no sun to warm me up from the chilly water, I ran back to the room as quickly as I could after the dive to stand under the hot shower. Hot showers are mandatory as a diver. I can live without a lot of the luxuries of the first world, but hot showers are a must. 


For breakfast I was delighted to discover that I could substitute the side of toast with fruit. Fruit! On demand and in stock! I tried to order a side of fruit at the little diner we used to go to for breakfast in Palau once. They didn’t have any. One of the most well known restaurants in Palau and they didn’t have any fruit. Oh Palau. 


The day trip that would have taken us out on two dives with lunch included got canceled because of the weather, and so we signed up for the local dive instead, which was one tank and a shorter boat drive. That brought us to a site called Chocolate Island, where we spent an hour searching for macro life. The diving in the Philippines, or Malapascua at least, is pretty unique compared to everything else I’ve experienced. At first glance the sites would seem like a bit of a letdown and like the guide brought you to some lifeless rocky spot, but then you start exploring and find all sorts of incredible little critters. 


Chromodoris Magnifica

Nudibrach

Nudibrach

I've never seen feather stars in so many colors of the rainbow.

Nudibrach

I saw my first flamboyant cuttlefish. I’ve seen videos of how cephalopods camouflage themselves; they have microscopic sacs of pigment that they open and close to change colors, but wow, seeing this little rubber duck-sized cuttlefish in action was like watching a miniature plasma tv screen. Stripes of purple and yellow and white were flashing down his body in the most vibrant display. He was quite a show off, and deserved to be one.

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

How cute is this little guy! 

I was lost, completely transfixed, admiring the little cuttlefish, when I spotted another diver a little too close for comfort out of the corner of my eye. I must have overstayed my turn admiring the show, and so carefully finned away to give the next guy a turn. Not carefully enough though, because sure enough my fin managed to make contact with the guy’s face. It’s a known fact in diving that when you get finned in the face it’s your own fault 99% of the time, but nevertheless, I always feel as though it’s mine. I felt bad until I saw his group of ten Chinese divers all descend directly on top of him, an underwater flesh pile. Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad anymore. He was Chinese. He was used to it. That’s how they all dive, with no skill or awareness of the space they are occupying in the water. I’m not trying to be mean, the majority of them really are that bad in the water. I did feel sorry for the poor little cuttlefish though.

I was later relaying the story of how I kicked the guy in the face and then almost got buried under the pile of Chinese divers. One of our divemasters reassured me that it was most definitely not my fault. He said he had watched me follow a little dragonette critter around without ever actually moving. It had looked as though the dragonette was dragging me around via an invisible rope. That was nice to hear. Everyone thinks they’re a good diver, but it’s nice to hear it from someone else.

When we ascended, the weather had turned into nasty gray skies and huge rolling waves. The boat was tossed every which direction on the journey back to Malapascua. The Chinese boat behind us looked as though they had left all their divers behind at the dive site, because they were all huddled in the little half box of a sheltered area in the middle of the boat. We all had a good laugh at that. Most of us stayed in our wetsuits because they were warmer than getting splashed repeatedly only to have the cold wind blow in between waves.

Back at the resort I ran to the hot shower once more and then Fletch and I headed to the Craic House for lunch. We ended up sitting with the same group of people we had been diving with and just sat around talking for a few hours. Eventually happy hour rolled around, as did dinner time. Everyone just sat around and visited and made travel plans. It turned out that the Dutch couple we had befriended was traveling to Bohol on the same day as us, so we arranged to travel together. Everyone stayed at the same table until eventually one by one, we all drifted off to bed.

Tuesday

Tuesday we woke up at our own leisure, which pressed us for time to eat breakfast and make our 9AM dive, but then the dive time was moved from 9 to 10 and we were able to move at a more relaxed pace. The weather was better than the previous day, but still choppy and overcast. During the dive briefing, we were told we had two different options for dive sites, and would decide which to go to once we were out in the water and could better evaluate the conditions. I never heard which one we ended up at, but it seemed like it was probably the crumby local site. Every shop has one. It was still a great dive, we found some awesome macro life, but there was no coral or topography to speak of and it seemed like a lot of boats were parked in the area. Still I'm not complaining in the least. We found some amazing little critters I had never seen before. 

Nudibrach

Halloween Hermit Crabs
\
Nudibrach

Rough Box Crab

Lionfish

Commensal shrimps on a vibrant purple anemone.



Nudibrach

Nudibrach

Zebra Urchin Crab
We decided to stop after one dive in order to give our gear time to dry, in preparation for our journey to Bohol the following day. Having your own dive gear is a wonderful thing, but maybe not for traveling around from place to place in a short period of time. Fletch and I both decided to send our BDCs home to save space in our luggage and just use rentals. That was a smart move. Giving all our other gear time to dry out after every place we visit is proving to be a chore. Maybe we should have gone with all rental gear. But then again the thought of using a rental wetsuit is not a good one. People pee in those.

The rest of the little group we had been hanging out with decided to take the afternoon off as well, and so we all set off on a walk to explore the small island. We walked down the beach, picked up some trash (the beaches were littered with a sad amount of trash and broken glass) and found some ducks. When we reached the end of the beach, half of our group opted to keep walking down the road where there was nothing to see, and half of us turned around and took a back road back in the direction we had come.

We came across the 24-hour bar we had found the previous day, and seeing as there was a good sized restaurant attached, decided to try it for lunch. Not really giving much thought to the fact that we were in the Philippines, we ordered an assortment of sushi and sashimi. Of course when we saw what arrived, raw tuna with a questionable and unsavory shade of grey, we realized that ordering sushi in a third world country might not have been the smartest idea. We made friends with a cat named Malambing (which we were told meant sweet, and later found to mean melodious) and fed her the majority of our tuna. She gobbled it up like candy, so it couldn’t have been too bad, but I was still afraid to eat more than a few pieces of it. 

Malambing

We said our goodbyes to Balambing and made our way back to Evolution, where we found the rest of our group drinking at the Craic House. A very uneventful hour passed by with everyone glued to their phones, until Fletch set his down on the table with a flair and asked who was joining him. Pretty soon all the phones were stacked one on top of the other, except for one or two phones that had to be removed for a moment to take pictures of the stack of phones. Before too long the atmosphere returned to lively conversation and gingerinhas in abundance. We all sat and talked, telling stories of home, of our previous travels, and of our plans to come.

Dinnertime came around and I ordered a prawn and mango salad, a bowl full of freshness, fresh that is except for the sesame bread that came with it. I don’t know how they prepared it, but it tasted like it was drenched in sesame oil. Bruce the dog wouldn’t even touch it.

We confirmed our plans with our Dutch friends for the following morning’s departure, and eventually drifted off to bed.