Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Philippines March 2010

I had mostly recovered from a horseback riding injury and it was time to head off on a dive adventure with my new camera ,a Nikon D90. I was thrilled with the prospect of really being able to see my images in the camera's larger viewing screen.
I recently read a fascinating book by Richard Bergreen entitled Over the Edge of the World, a spellbinding account of Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe. Magellan's goal was to establish a route to the Spice Islands, but he met his unfortunate fate in the Philippines at Mactan. I am currently working on a multi-media project for my images and dive travel journals throughout Indonesia, to trace the voyage of Magellan and what remained of his fleet from the Philippines down into the area I have been diving for the last 3 years.
Down a dusty hidden shrub-lined lane in Dauin lies the new boutique Atmosphere Resort. It is really NOT a place for divers,but more a romantic hideaway for couples who enjoy an occasional dive.Regrettably I had no one to be romantic with...
The property faces southeast onto a windblown sea in Negros Oriental near Apo Island.The sloping gray rock and garbage strewn beach is shaded by coconut palms. At the end of the resort to the left is a gauze curtained airy gazebo where you can get a deep massage at the end of the dive day.
The lot is a narrow rectangular shape dotted with simple white buildings. Bushy plumeria tress light up with ivory globe shaped lanterns in the evening, but no blossoms perfumed the night as it was dry season.Staying at Atmosphere is a bit like vacationing in a barnyard.At sunset a cow bellowed boisterously next door to the bamboo wall behind our outdoor shower area;before dawn ,roosters crowed and ponies whinnied in the lot behind the dive storage area.
The bar and infinity pool were delightful and inviting for a leisurely swim looking out to the horizon, after a great morning espresso or an evening cocktail.
Boarding our dive boat Victoria in the surf off the beach was a bit like a Navy SEAL drill. First one must be suited up to walk out the LONG beach, then wade out into the waves pounding the rocky eroded shore and scamper up a narrow bouncing plank /ladder onto the side deck. YIKES! We were told no piers were allowed to be built due to "marine sanctuary restrictions" which were enacted just as the resorts opening for business occurred.
The worst of the boat's amenities, besides the lack of fresh water rinse or a decent rinse tank for the cameras, was the open top WC that barely reaches neck height when seated on the marine toilet, and provides on a modicum of privacy( forget comfort) when going to the loo or changing into a dry bikini.
Entering the water for scuba is a feat of daring especially in high winds that blow around Apo Island, where we spent 2 days diving.Due to my injuries I had to inch to the bow in my wetsuit where I donned my dive rig with the crews's assistance and then tottered to the edge and was pushed off into the water, at least 7 feet down jarring myself as I plunged several feet below the surface in the bubbles.Needless to say the crew found this hilarious!
Exiting was even more perilous. If lucky, the dive guide ended our excursion under the boat. If unlucky, we had to swim out against the surge and waves with camera in tow, waiting in a cluster for the boat to pull up with us between the hull and the outrigger pontoon.Sort of like waiting to be run over... we then had to grab the ladder,remove weights, BC and fins, and being mindful of the waves slapping us in the face, we hoisted ourselves up the ladder to safety. What ever happened to boarding aft on a swim step:-(?)or back-rolling in from a low panga ...