Sep 14

Philippines 2014: Scuba diving for the first time, at Samal Island (Davao)

Date: May 6, 2014

The plan for today began with the idea that I would take a ferry to Samal island and hope to go an island tour from there. Trouble is, it wasn’t easy to book tours to the island as the few travel agencies I made contact with at Davao City told me they only do the tours on certain days and that too if they get enough tourists.

So figuring I could try my luck and find some tour agency near Davao port, I took a taxi to get there early enough. When I was dropped off near the port entrance, I saw many dive centers.

Carabao Dive Center Davao Philippines

Carabao Dive Center was a name I came across when researching Davao tours

I inquired about their ‘introductory dive’ scheme which cost ₱850 (₹1100/$19/€14). To my luck, they told me there was a group today and if I pay up, I could join them. I thought about whether to do a Samal island tour — or (finally) experience scuba diving for the first time.

Scuba diving it was!

I paid up, and was asked by the staff to choose a wetsuit and scuba foot fin that fit me.

Davao port sea side

I was a bit nervous, and at the same time excited. Although I have always wanted to try scuba diving, I never planned for it today!

Davao port Philippines

We walked towards our boat

Davao port tour boats Philippines

The boat ride to the dive spot wasn’t very far off

Scuba dive boat tourists Davao

This was my group

Loading up the boat scuba tour Davao

They loaded up the boat

Boys swimming Davao Philippines

And we were finally off!

Ship Davao Philippines

The large piece of land you see behind the ship is Samal Island

Scuba dive instructor Davao Philippines

Our instructor taught us the basics of scuba diving. From hand signals to be used underwater, how to inhale and exhale, and other useful tips

Samal island blue water Davao

A few short minutes and we already reached the shores of Samal island where we would go diving

Samal island shore Davao Philippines

The water looked very clear

Beach house Samal island Davao

We weren’t going to the island, so no tour of Samal Island for me

Carabao first dive Davao Philippines

We were all going to go down under water in pairs

Pier Samal island Davao

I just sat on the boat and took some more photos of Samal island

Samal island hill Davao Philippines

The island is inhabited

I figured I would prep my body for the scuba dive and so I took out my GoPro and went in for a swim.

Under water emerald blue Davao

The water was quite clear

Scuba diver under boat Davao

The Carabao Dive instructors with the first two people in our group

Scuba diving first dive Davao Philippines

The instructors are right beside you

Scuba dive instructor lesson Davao

Those are air bubbles blown out by the divers

Above water Davao Philippines

Went back up again

Philippines boat swimming Samal island

I swam around some more

GoPro wide shot sky clouds from sea

I love some of the photos I get out of the GoPro

Getting ready first dive Davao

After an hour long wait, it was now my turn

Go Pro Philippines swim

Here we go

Underwater coral Samal island dive

The following photos were edited using this technique

Corals Samal island Davao

The dive spot was very rich in coral life

Mithun Divakaran diving Philippines

Scuba diving selfie!

Okay, so first impressions: it’s unbelievable how after just a few feet beneath the surface pressure builds up in the ears. It was painful! Of course, the instructors teach you how to deal with the pain — squeeze your nostrils and just give one or two heavy breaths. It took a few breaths but the pain went away.

Small corals Davao Philippines

Okay, back to the corals

Black fish under water Samal island

Plenty of fish in the sea

Inside a coral Davao Philippines

A nice variety of corals too

Dive instructor with camera Davao

If you didn’t get your own underwater camera, don’t worry, the Carabao Dive instructors carry one and will take photos of you during the dives

Stream of fish under sea

I love watching schools of fish swim around

Sea bed corals Davao Philippines

Coral rocks deep sea Philippines

After a while, I felt relaxed and just soaked in as much as possible

Small orange fish hiding in coral

It wasn’t easy to snap close ups of the fish using a GoPro

Diver going deep sea Davao

Once I was okay with 10 feet, we moved further down to 20 feet

As we went deeper, my ears started to pain again! I felt a slight sense of nauseousness. I don’t know if it was the pure oxygen I was breathing in from the tank coupled with the fact this was my first dive, but I signalled to my dive companion if we could go up a bit.

Swimming through corals reef

We slowly swam back down after they kept signalling if I’m okay to go lower

My ears used to pain from time to time and it was always the same solution, squeeze nostrils and breathe

My ears used to pain from time to time and it was always the same solution, squeeze nostrils and breathe

Coral reef in Davao Philippines

I tried my best to avoid hitting the corals with my feet

Butterfly fish Davao coral reef

Butterfly fish

Coral rock formations

Sun rays through ocean under water

Tried to extract as much sunlight shining through

Colourful corals Davao Philippines

The thing was, there is a lot of fish here, but it’s kinda hard to spot them in the photographs I took as many of them are small

Horn corals Philippines sea

Corals come in all sorts of amazing shapes

Corals sea bed Davao island

We slowly descended

Diver samal island diving classes

We were supposed to be descending towards the 20-30 feet zone

Clownfish nemo coral reef Davao

But before we descended any further, we paused for a pose with the most famous of all coral fishes — the Ocellaris clownfish! Or Nemo as everyone likes to call them now.

Common Clownfish scuba diver

Needless to say, the common clownfish is quite the star of coral reefs around the world

Coral beds Samal islands Philippines

We moved on

Big coral Samal island scuba dive

Now we were going to the 30 feet zone, again

Samal island scuba dive Davao Philippines

But… my ears started to pain so much that signalled to my instructor if we could up again

Sunlight from under water

Sigh, as much as I thought I could do it, I couldn’t.

Mithun first scuba dive Philippines

When the ear pain had gone away and when I felt better, we descended one last time

Scuba diving Samal island Coral reef

You realize just how different a world it is down here

Blue under water Davao scuba dive Philippines

As beautiful as it looks, it’s also equally dangerous

Clam shaped coral Davao Philippines-sea

Strange world, and it’s amazing how the laws of physics are wildly different just a few feet beneath the surface and the incredible (and slightly painful) things it does to the human body.

Rainbow fish coral reef Davao

After swimming around a little bit more, we tried to go back to the 30 feet zone

Orange coral fish Samal island

This was the last photo I took of the fishes

Because when we reached the 30 feet depth, my head — in a fraction of a second — started to spin and I immediately signalled “back up” and the diver took me back up to the surface.

Sun rays through water Philippines

Oh well

Back above water, my instructor removed my breathing apparatus and asked me what was wrong, and just asked me to breath normally. He told me I was breathing quite heavily, he could tell from the bubbles I was breathing out. Anyway, he said it was nearing the time each diver normally spends under water. He asked me if I would like to go one more time. I said no. I felt tired after all the nauseousness.

He asked me if I had breathing trouble or asthma. Although they did ask us even before anybody got in the water, my breathing ‘trouble’ was limited to dust allergies and the fact that I breathe through my mouth when I sleep. Does that make me unfit for scuba diving? Maybe?

Anyway, back on the boat, I was a bit disappointed my 30 minutes under water wasn’t as easy and pleasurable as I thought it would be. Watch scuba diving videos, you assume it’s all as simple as gliding through the deep sea. Reality is that, like a lot of things, it’s not as easy as it looks.

Anyway, here’s a video I took on the GoPro while I was under water:

Although the half-day tour included lunch on the boat, my body felt uneasy and I just didn’t feel like eating anything for a while. I just drank some water and ate some light snacks.

Leaving Davao port Philippines

On the way back, they dropped us back at some other part of the part

The only shitty part was that, because they dropped us at a different spot, I forgot to go to the office and ask them to send me the photos from their cameras. I eventually did e-mail them but despite two e-mails requesting the photos, I never got them! :-/ It’s not that bad for me considering I had my own underwater camera to capture my experiences, but imagine if you are a customer who wanted to a memorabilia from your first dive — and they don’t send it.

Chinatown Davao Philippines

Anyway, I took a taxi back. The port is near Davao’s China town

Once back at my hostel, I took a fresh bath and ate a light lunch. In the evening, I stepped out to have a proper dinner. I stumbled upon a Chinese restaurant that seemed quite crowded at 7pm.

All you can eat buffet Davao

It was an ‘all you can eat’ buffet for just ₱148 (₹200/$3/€2.5); the selection was pretty good

Black out Davao city Philippines

When I stepped out, the power went out

Jeepney power cut Davao city Philippines

Funny to experience power cuts coming from India

Today was an eventful day. It wasn’t perfect, but now I can scratch off scuba diving from my ‘to-do’ list. In a way it was a nice way to cap off my days in Davao. Tomorrow, I head back to Manila.

Previous post(s) in this series:

Philippines 2014: Philippine Eagle Center, Davao

Philippines 2014: Attractions at Eden Nature Park… and getting lost

Philippines 2014: Sky Cycle at Eden Nature Park, Davao

Philippines 2014: Leaving Cebu for Davao; Davao City sights

Philippines 2014: Tumalog Falls; Oslob church, Cuartel

Philippines 2014: Oslob – Swimming with whale sharks

Philippines 2014: Trek to Mount Pinatubo crater lake

Philippines 2014: The itinerary this time around; UP Diliman and Maginhawa

My Philippines journeys: 2011 series | 2013 series

Aug 14

Philippines 2014: Philippine Eagle Center, Davao

Date: May 5, 2014

After an eventful day at Eden Nature Park yesterday, I realized I had to make yet another long journey today to get to the Philippine Eagle Center. Using public transportation, you first need to get to Calinan and then to Malagos.

After breakfast, I walked from Green Windows Dormitel to Calinan Transit Terminal near Bankerohan Public Market.

Durian jeepney Davao Philippines

They had to offload quite a few durians at the market before the jeepney could set off for Calinan :-)

Davao highway Philippines

The jeepney ride to Calinan costs ₱45 and it took an hour or so

Once I reached Calinan, bike taxis approached me asking if I wanted to go to the Philippine Eagle Center. It cost ₱20, so I hopped on one and I was on my way.

Davao town Philippines

It wasn’t a short ride to Malagos but it only costs ₱20

I was dropped at the entrance to a park, for which the entry fee was ₱5. The Philippine Eagle Center is housed inside this park.

Water reservoir Davao Philippines

Some water reservoir

Philippine Eagle Center Malagos

This was the entrance to the Philippine Eagle Center

The entry ticket for the Philippine Eagle Center costs ₱50 (₹69/$1/€0.8).

Philippines Eagle Center walk

The park didn’t seem very big

Visitor steps Philippines Eagle Center

As a fund-rasing scheme, visitors can pay to have their names on concrete slabs and leave a memorabilia behind. As long as you don’t mind being stepped on.

Continue reading “Philippines 2014: Philippine Eagle Center, Davao” »

Aug 14

Philippines 2014: Attractions at Eden Nature Park… and getting lost

Date: May 4, 2014

The first half of my day was spent at the SkyCycle and zipline area. Now it was time for lunch.

Forest path Eden Nature park Davao

I crossed the road and walked to the cafe where my lunch coupon was valid

Restaurant Eden Nature park Davao

This is the main restaurant at Eden Nature Park

Buffet Eden Nature Park Davao

They have buffet lunch too, but that costs extra

Cafe Eden Nature park Davao

This is the cafe where I was going to get my ‘lunch’ as included in the ticket

Spaghetti tomato sauce Eden Nature park

A glass of soft drink, a cupcake and a plate of spaghetti with meat sauce, and garlic bread

If you are wondering where the meat in the sauce is… yeah I wondered that too. I only got mushroom bits, and when I asked the server where the beef bits where, he looked at the plate and poured more of the same sauce.

So after a sloppy, lousy spaghetti meal, I began to explore the rest of the park.

Family Village Eden Nature Park Davao

I walked to the Family Village

Philippines monkey Eden Park Davao

More of a mini-zoo really. This the Philippines Monkey.

Cockatoo Eden Nature park Davao


Peacock Eden Nature park Davao


There were a few more animals and birds but it was all things I had seen at many other zoos or bird parks. Plus the condition the cages were in were pretty poor. So I felt guilty standing there taking photos of these animals. Continue reading “Philippines 2014: Attractions at Eden Nature Park… and getting lost” »

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