This is our last day of diving in the Philippines. In order to meet the time restrictions on flying after diving, we’ll do two long morning dives and come back to the resort for a late lunch. To allow us more room, we are diving off two large boats rather than one. I am once again on the Titan with the divas.
We are sailing to and then diving near Apo Island, considered by some to be the best diving in this area. On one side of the island the sea was extremely calm and the water beautifully clear. Definitely my favorite sites since arriving in Dumaguete.
Same groups today, with the divas and Tom diving with Marco and Vernie. All of us are doing better on air consumption, so we were able to stay down an hour and 15 minutes for the first dive and over an hour for the second one. I have definitely learned a few things from Marco and “see” underwater a little differently. I did spot one of the spiny oysters he showed me yesterday. This one was more brilliant, but it closed up on me when I tried to get a photo.
By special request, our musicians have returned today and I am lucky to be back on the Titan to enjoy them. We had more dancing this time and Neal adopted an alternative Johnny Depp look. Just about the time the music was ending so we could dive again, we had visitors that arrived by outrigger canoe. Women with t-shirts and sarongs to sell came aboard our boat and spread out their offerings. The Divas totally got into it, but it was Martin who bought the most. I think Martin and Bill, who had both stayed at Atlantis and dove at Apo Island before, would have been the most disappointed if we didn’t have the shopping opportunity. Marco just laughed at us. (He also negotiated for me and got me a free sarong out of the deal. Always helps to speak the language.)
I was not ready for the diving to end and let Marco know that on his slate during the safety stop on the last dive. I didn’t take as many pictures, but rather just enjoyed the diving on this last day. One more look at the rare creatures that are unique to this part of the world.
It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed the ride back, knowing that our afternoon would be filled with cleaning and sanitizing equipment, the worst part of diving. Vernie helped out Donna and I by finding us a large bucket and we were able to do the extra cleaning step that avoids carrying back smelly gear. After getting everything hung up, we had a final lunch and then afternoon spa treatments. I opted for the body scrub and hair conditioning treatments. This time the shower (in the larger, regular spa in Dumaguete) worked and the scrub was less “invasive” than my scrub in Puerto Galera.
For our final evening, Atlantis went all out and hired special drummers and fire dancers for cocktails on the beach and patio. All the dive masters came and once again Vernie led the dancing. I got into spirit of the event and led the congo line (ah, memories of the Girl Scout national convention). After a first set, we had a special Filippio buffet with a roasted pig complete with apple in its mouth. Dive Mom acknowledged the special events we were celebrating, including my birthday, and the resort had special decorations. I had a “happy b-day JJ” at my spot, the only one with a special place setting. Since I had missed diving with her for my 200th dive (that was with Rocky in Bonaire on spring break in March), Dive Mom gave me recognition as an “Environmental Diver”. The drummers did a second set and eventually the dive masters decided to take their turn at the drums. We ended with cakes celebrating our occasions and accomplishments.
I want to take this moment to recognize the amazing staff at Atlantis Philippines and highly recommend diving with them. Their locker room, dive shop, and camera room is the best organized I have ever seen. The dive masters are well-informed, safe, and fun. The entire staff goes above and beyond and you are addressed by your name from day one. While I now know better than to dive in the Philippines during the rainy season, I have no hesitation about diving with Atlantis Philippines again. It will be hard to leave the new friends I have made and hope to have the opportunity to dive with them again.