Common Clownfish scuba diver

Philippines: 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.

Next post(s) in the series:

Philippines 2014: Japanese tunnel; leaving Davao for Manila

Philippines 2014: Bargain shopping in Manila; Paseo de Santa Rosa & Solenad

Philippines 2014: Corregidor Island tour

Philippines 2014: Manila Chinese Cemetery

Philippines 2014: Pahiyas Festival in Lucban; Kamay Ni Hesus

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

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