A Tale of Two Cities (and Dive Resorts): Atlantis Puerto Galera and Buceo Anilao, January 2018

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Ironborn

Contributor
Messages
389
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Location
Miami, Florida
# of dives
500 - 999
Introduction

My first Indo-Pacific diving trip to Puerto Galera and Anilao in the Philippines greatly exceeded my previous Caribbean diving experiences in the quality of both the diving and the dive operations. I greatly enjoyed my first exposure to Indo-Pacific fauna and the greater biodiversity of the local environments on both sides of the Verde Passage, despite diving conditions that I might have found unappealing if I had encountered them in the Caribbean. I indulged and reinforced my growing interest in small marine life and took my first steps as a serious underwater photographer. This trip also exposed me to a diving culture with different norms from what I found in the Caribbean.

I enjoyed my first exposure to the dive resort business model and my experiences with two dive operators whose positive reputations are well-deserved. Puerto Galera was a good place for me to familiarize myself with the region's marine life and diving conditions and enjoy both its marine biodensity and its urban environment. That experience prepared me well for Anilao, where the diving impressed me more with its greater biodiversity, albeit at the cost of isolation in a remote area. My experience with Atlantis in Puerto Galera has motivated me to consider their Dumaguete resort and their liveaboard for future trips, and my continuing fascination with the creatures of Anilao will likely motivate me to return there when I have matured as an underwater photographer. This trip also motivated me to visit other parts of the Philippines and other Indo-Pacific destinations in the future.

Genesis, Planning, and Logistics

The Philippines came to my attention as a dive destination when I joined Facebook groups for underwater photography, particularly macro photography. A high proportion of the photos and creatures that caught my eye came from Anilao, particularly from night dives, in which I have a high level of interest. Other divers that I met in Cozumel and Bonaire also recommended that I try muck diving in places like Anilao and Lembeh, as they observed my tendency to look for small creatures. I further developed an interest in the Philippines in general and in the Atlantis resorts in Puerto Galera and Dumaguete by attending presentations on them at Beneath the Sea in March 2017. A local diver acquaintance further persuaded me to visit Puerto Galera for the diving and for other reasons. I also considered Dumaguete but decided against it for this trip because of the need for domestic flights and because of a local holiday on the neighboring island of Cebu, which I would have also visited.

Atlantis stood out in my pre-trip research as by far the most popular and the most respected dive operator in Puerto Galera. It struck me that there was a disproportionately high number of reviews and trip reports for it and a much larger amount of feedback on it, compared to nearly all the other local dive operators. Atlantis is not cheap, so I looked into its competitors. None of them had anywhere near the track record of Atlantis, so I decided to stick with the most well-known and well-documented option. The solid reputation of Atlantis is well-deserved, but the dearth of information on its competitors may be due to linguistic and cultural barriers. Once I was in Puerto Galera, it appeared that many of the other dive shops cater to Chinese and Korean divers, which may explain the dearth of English-language reviews, trip reports, and other feedback on them. What I saw of those Asian-oriented dive operations, both topside and underwater, was not encouraging. It appeared that Atlantis caters to American and other Anglophone divers; all of the other guests during my stay were Americans.

Buceo Anilao also stood out as the most obvious choice among its many local competitors due to both its well-deserved reputation in general and its fixed pricing (in contrast to most other resorts in Anilao, where prices for freelance dive guides and the other components of dive trips vary according to the number of divers). I also wanted to ensure that I had reputable guides and crew, in contrast to the pool of freelancers that circulates among the various resorts in Anilao. The very positive reviews, trip reports, and other feedback on Buceo Anilao were persuasive to the point that I felt no need to research its competitors any further. Most of this feedback is in English, even though the resort's clientele consisted mostly of continental Europeans; I was the only native Anglophone guest during my stay.

As a resident of New York City, the length, cost, and complexity of travel to Indo-Pacific dive destinations is a significant obstacle, compared to the short, simple, and affordable flights to many Caribbean destinations. This issue became less of an obstacle for me when I learned that Philippine Airlines flies direct from JFK to Manila, albeit with a brief stop in Vancouver to refuel and board more passengers that would not require me or my luggage to change planes. My distrust of airlines makes me warier of connecting flights as yet another point of failure in an industry that is quite prone to failure already, so the availability of a direct flight halfway around the world assuaged one of my key concerns. Also appealing was its affordability – approximately $200 less than the other options, all of which would have required me and my luggage to change planes and longer travel times.

The flights themselves were not bad, all things considered. I nonetheless experienced significant jet lag upon my return (but not in the Philippines) for far longer than I expected. My only gripe about the airline was that they weighed my carry-on for my outgoing flight (but not my return flight), claimed that it was overweight, and required me to transfer the excess weight to a checked bag. I have heard of puddle-jumpers and other small aircraft with strict carry-on weight limits, but it struck me as ridiculous that a plane that flies half way around the world with hundreds of people could not bear the weight of my travel alarm clock and a few other items. The airline allows two checked bags; I used one for dive gear and another for clothes. Filipino airport security does not allow regulators in carry-on baggage on outbound international flights or domestic flights, so your regulator will have to go into a checked bag for your return flight and for any domestic flights within the Philippines.

I had to decide which destination I wanted to visit first. Anilao might have been the more obvious choice, as it is on the same island (Luzon) as Manila, whereas Puerto Galera is on the neighboring island of Mindoro and requires a crossing of the Verde Passage. I nonetheless chose to do Puerto Galera first for two reasons. The diving on Anilao sounded more interesting to me (which turned out to be the case), and I knew that it was a hot spot for underwater macro photography. I thus wanted to give myself time to adjust to the new environment and my new camera in Puerto Galera before I went to Anilao. In retrospect, the above was a wise decision, as my initial introduction to the local fauna in Puerto Galera enhanced my ability to appreciate the greater complexity of Anilao; it would not have worked as well the other way around. Anilao's location on the same island as Manila also reduced the risk of lateness or other complications in my transfer to the airport for my flight home, as it does not require a crossing of the Verde Passage. For my transfer between the two resorts, Buceo Anilao recommended booking my private bangka transfer with Atlantis, as the bangkas in Puerto Galera were both larger and cheaper.

Crossing the Verde Passage is a non-trivial factor in one's travel plans, as I learned the hard way upon my initial arrival. My transfer from Manila to Puerto Galera turned out to be more of an ordeal than the 22-hour flight from New York. The Atlantis airport driver got me to Batangas early, but private bangkas were not operating that day due to a gale warning and pursuant to Coast Guard guidance. The ferries were not running either, except for the larger ferry to neighboring Calapan. Even in that larger vessel, the longer ride of more than two hours was extremely rough. This crossing was the first time that I ever felt unsafe at sea, as the waves were high and the ferry rocked quite a bit out of position. Filipino passengers were puking their guts out into garbage bags. Atlantis had a driver pick me up in Calapan for the one-hour drive to Puerto Galera through hilly terrain on winding roads.

(to be continued in the next post)
 
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Ironborn

Ironborn

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The Dive Resorts

I had never stayed at any type of resort prior to this trip; it was not until I became a diver that the very idea of a resort appealed to me at all. I wanted to try the dive resort business model in order to round out my experience as a diver, as I had tried other business models, e.g. a liveaboard, shore diving, etc. Both Atlantis Puerto Galera and Buceo Anilao are resorts, but they are quite different from each other.

If your reason for staying at a resort is to “get away from it all” and enjoy serene isolation in a remote area, Atlantis Puerto Galera would not be right for you, and Buceo Anilao would be perfect for you. Atlantis is in the midst of a dense urban area; in fact, a pedestrian street (really more of a glorified sidewalk) runs right through the middle of it. Puerto Galera has nightlife and other urban amenities. As a native New Yorker, this type of topside environment is more natural and appealing for me. In contrast, Buceo Anilao is so remote and isolated that there is not even a road leading to or from it; the only way in or out is by boat, and there are a lot of insects there. The trade-off is that Anilao has better diving (in my opinion), although I am uncertain if that difference is due to remoteness or other factors.

As for non-diving services: the rooms at Buceo Anilao were larger and nicer than I expected to find at such a remote and rustic location, comparable instead to what one might find at an upscale hotel in a major Western city. The only problem was the large number of stairs between the rooms and the main areas of the resort. The rooms at Atlantis Puerto Galera were a bit small for the price and had awkward bathrooms and a Flintstones architectural style that some might find odd. The food and the service at Atlantis Puerto Galera's restaurant (Tokos) was excellent and worth a visit even if you are not staying there. The buffet meal service at Buceo Anilao was acceptable but otherwise unremarkable.

Both resorts provided the “terrestrial liveaboard” or “dive camp” experience that I sought. Both offer “unlimited diving” packages, which may yield better value for the money (i.e. cost per dive) than paying for a smaller number of individual dives. Atlantis Puerto Galera offers five dives per day: two in the morning, two in the afternoon, and one at night. Buceo Anilao offers four dives per day: a two-tank trip in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one at night. The availability of a night dive every night at both resorts was a key selling point for me; night dives are of great interest to me, and there is usually nothing else to do at night that appeals to me in most dive destinations (although Puerto Galera has a certain variety of nightlife that may appeal to some male divers). I did every available dive at both resorts, logging 54 dives in less than two weeks. Dives at both resorts typically lasted about 60 minutes. I used the Nitrox-compatible aluminum 100 tanks available at both resorts.

The boats at Atlantis were skiffs, whereas the boats at Buceo Anilao were larger bangkas. Atlantis did its dives one at a time, given the relatively short boat rides. Buceo Anilao usually did two-tank trips in the morning and one-tank trips in the afternoon and at night, given the longer boat rides and larger boats that could hold two tanks for each diver. Buceo Anilao had snacks and drinks for surface intervals on its boats; Atlantis served them upon return to the resort. One must wade out to the boats from the beach at Atlantis due to the lack of a pier, so dive boots are a must. Dive boots are also a must at Buceo Anilao, as one must walk on the rocky beach to board the bangkas via a narrow plank. Buceo Anilao's house reef (or “house muck,” since it is a muck dive) is also doable as a shore dive. When surfacing near bangkas, always look up, as one could easily hit one's head on its bamboo outriggers.

The staff at both resorts demonstrated a stronger sense of customer service than I encountered in the Caribbean. I wonder if this difference was due to the high quality of these two well-regarded operations, Filipino culture, or both. They went out of their way to satisfy customers both topside and underwater and were highly responsive to customer requests. Even underwater, they often observed and gauged my reactions and responded accordingly; I did not have to say (or signal) anything. For example, a Buceo Anilao guide saw on the viewfinder of my camera that I was having a hard time photographing these black ornate ghost pipefish, as their color absorbs so much light and they blend in to the background, so he went and found this white one nearby instead, yielding a sharper image:

Paul on Instagram: “Ornate ghost pipefish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Ornate ghost pipefish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Buceo Anilao distinguished itself in this regard by helping me with two problems that I experienced. My camera light died on my last day in Puerto Galera, leaving me with only a cheap Chinese knock-off light that I bought in Puerto Galera's only camera store (to which Atlantis staff had directed me). When I arrived in Buceo Anilao, I asked what other options I had. The manager called around and eventually found a dealer in Manila who could replace it. One of the resort's transfer drivers picked it up and brought it to the resort within 24 hours. My dive computer came off of my wrist during a night muck dive in Anilao. I figured that there was no realistic hope of finding it at night at a site with no natural navigation features, but the dive guide re-entered the water and found it within a few minutes.

The ability of dive guides to spot marine life, including small creatures and those with strong camouflage, has always amazed me, but the dive guides at both resorts demonstrated the strongest skills in this regard that I have ever encountered. Their skills were all the more remarkable in that much of the local marine life is so small and has such strong camouflage. I learned a lot from observing them and thus increased my own ability to find local marine life that I would have otherwise missed. Guides at both resorts demonstrated excellent skills in this area, but my experiences at Buceo Anilao were more impressive in this regard, which may be due to greater biodiversity and complexity in Anilao.

(to be continued in the next post)
 
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Ironborn

Ironborn

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The “Diving Culture”

The diving culture that I encountered with other guests and with guides differed from what I had experienced in the Caribbean. The biggest difference was that diving at both resorts focused much more heavily on photography. Every guest had a camera, including a high proportion of DSLRs.

I learned early on that the easiest way to recognize the guides from a distance was not from any distinctive gear that they wore; they were the only ones without cameras. Photography appeared to be the central purpose of diving for many other guests; for example, one guest missed a dive because his camera was not working, as if it were an essential piece of dive gear.

Many guests indicated an interest in photography in general, including terrestrial photography. For example, guests at Buceo Anilao used their macro lenses to photograph the many insects on the premises. Post-dive conversations often focused on photography in general and image reviews, rather than diving per se, if at all. This photography-centric approach to diving was new to me, as I was used to photographers of this kind being a minority among divers, with many divers carrying relatively simple GoPros or the like (such as my previous Intova camera), if they had any cameras at all.

I understood in retrospect why their approach to diving there may have been so photography-centric. It is revealing that divers generally use the photography term “macro” describe small animals but generally do not use “wide-angle” or “fisheye” to describe big animals. Most divers might describe Anilao or Lembeh as “macro destinations,” rather than “small animal destinations;” by the same token, most divers might describe the Galapagos or Cocos Island as “big animal destinations,” rather than “wide-angle destinations.” I found that macro creatures look more interesting through the viewfinder of a camera with a macro lens and artificial lighting than they do to the naked eye. The magnification and lighting capture details and colors that one might not otherwise see. One can appreciate a shark well enough with the naked eye, but I think that a nudibranch looks much more interesting through a camera lens. My use of continuous video lighting, rather than strobes, enhanced this experience, as I observed illuminated and magnified animals at length through my viewfinder. Sometimes I did not notice these fine details until I reviewed my images. For example, I photographed this blenny hiding in a bamboo pole in Anilao and did not notice the eggs that it was guarding until I reviewed my images.

Paul on Instagram: “Blenny with eggs, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

I did not notice the small crustacean on this nudibranch in Puerto Galera until I reviewed my images.

Paul on Instagram: “Nembrotha mullineri nudibranch with a small crustacean on it eating tunicates, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with…”

The rhythm of the dives and the style of the dive guides at both resorts reflected this photography-centric approach, particularly for muck dives, of which there were more at Anilao, but also many at Puerto Galera. I was used to cruising along a reef for most of a Caribbean dive to soak up the reefscape and general marine life, with an occasional stop to observe and photograph an especially interesting animal. These dives were more like a series of photo shoots with a larger number of more interesting animals, with an occasional lull in between them as we sought new photographic subjects. Organizing a dive in this fashion with so many photographers must be like herding cats, but the guides not only executed it well, they also managed to find a steady stream of subjects for multiple divers.

Guides served not only as spotters for marine life but also often as de facto photography assistants, such as prying open crinoids in order to reveal the shrimp that lived within them, or dusting off a partially exposed stargazer or crocodile snake eel. It appeared that they had a more flexible view than Caribbean dive operators when it came to engaging with marine life in order to show it to divers or enable them to photograph it. They also gave subtle cues to move on when we had been photographing an animal for a long time, so as to avoid stressing the animal and also in order to give other divers a chance to photograph it and to keep the group together. Some divers took matters to the extreme and molested marine life in order to photograph it, such as destroying a mantis shrimp's burrow in order to force it out into the open and poking an octopus with a reef stick in order to move it into a better position for a photograph. Beyond the stress that such practices placed on the animals, I could not help but wonder at the foolishness of destroying the home of an animal that can deliver a blow with the force of a bullet, or poking an animal that is both highly intelligent and highly poisonous.

I was used to a Caribbean dive culture in which guests occasionally requested dives at specific sites. For example, I particularly enjoyed dives at Secret Bay in Anilao, which I found to have the largest number of interesting animals, and the most interesting animals at that. I asked to go there again toward the end of my stay, and they accommodated my request. I normally like to try as many different sites as possible and avoid repeating them whenever possible, for the sake of variety, so my desire to revisit that site speaks volumes about its richness and biodiversity. That site had some unusual algae growth and some geothermal activity; I wonder if those factors contributed to its biodiversity.

Most guests asked to see specific animals, not specific sites. This approach seemed a bit unrealistic to me, given the difficulty of trying to predict or control nature; perhaps it is better to let nature surprise us and expose us to equally interesting experiences that we did not actively seek. I have a soft spot for cephalopods and encountered more than enough of them during my trip, so I did not see the need to ask for them specifically. I also developed a greater interest in crustaceans over the course of this trip, which I might not have developed if I had focused my previously existing interest in cephalopods. With that said, the guides at both resorts demonstrated an ability to accommodate guests' interest in specific animals. For example, both knew the locations of pygmy seahorses for those that wanted to see and photograph them. One guest at Atlantis wanted to see a rhinopias, so we went to the last site where the guides had seen one. I was skeptical of the likelihood of finding it, but lo and behold, we found it.
 
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Ironborn

Ironborn

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Location
Miami, Florida
# of dives
500 - 999
Diving Conditions

The richness of the marine life in both places and the quality of both dive operations were great enough to outweigh diving conditions that might have resulted in a rather unsatisfying trip if I had encountered them in the Caribbean. Alternately, perhaps I have just gotten used to more challenging or uncomfortable conditions with increasing experience as a diver. These conditions did not really have a significant impact on my trip, beyond the occasional annoyance.

Visibility at both destinations was quite low for a diver used to the crystal-clear blue water of places like Bonaire and Cozumel. The best visibility may have been in Puerto Galera, with as much as 60-70 feet atimes. The worst visibility may have been in Anilao, as low as 10-20 feet at times. I would say that visibility of 40 feet or so was typical or average in both destinations, with significant variations from one site to another at both destinations. The tendency of some photographers to stir up sand while resting on the bottom exacerbated these conditions. Guides always carried torches during daytime dives and often used them to get our attention and prevent separations, which may be a greater risk here due to the combination of low visibility and photography-centric diving.

I got the sense that both destinations are inherently silty and “mucky” environments, although a guide at Atlantis suggested that recent weather may have further reduced visibility. I wonder how much of the low visibility stemmed from silt or from plant life, give the water's often greenish hue and the significant algae growth at the Anilao muck dive sites with the lowest visibility. In that vein, I found that the sites at either destination with lower visibility often had greater amounts of marine life: the reef dives in Puerto Galera and the muck dives in Anilao. The reefs in Puerto Galera tended to have lower visibility but richer marine life. The muck dives in Puerto Galera tended to have greater visibility but were not as rich in marine life as those of Anilao. The reefs of Anilao had better visibility than those of Puerto Galera but were not as rich in marine life as those of Puerto Galera or the muck dive sites of Anilao, which had the lowest visibility and the richest marine life of all. In any event, most of the marine life is small, so you have to be close to it in order to see it anyway. The low visibility nonetheless reduces the amount of natural light illuminating the reefs, robbing it of much of its color, so it is worth using a torch or a video light to illuminate it, if you want to appreciate it fully.

Strong currents were common at both destinations. I understand that these conditions are not unusual for either destination, but the currents may have been stronger than usual during my stay, particularly at Puerto Galera, which coincided with the new moon. Atlantis staff consulted tidal charts in order to plan dives so as to avoid the strongest currents; sometimes that approach worked, and sometimes it did not. Some of the dives thus turned into impromptu and unplanned drift dives. The Atlantis guides always deployed SMBs for the boat to pick us up, rather than trying to return to the boat ourselves. Buceo Anilao actually took us to the planned sites in order to check the current before entering the water and often ended up taking us to another site known for weaker current instead. Buceo Anilao moored its boats, so we navigated back to them ourselves; I cannot recall the guides ever deploying SMBs. Strong currents and drift diving might be OK for reefscapes and big animal destinations, but they can be an impediment to macro; trying to stay in place to photograph a nudibranch during a drift dive is not easy.

Water temperatures at both destinations consistently ranged between 77 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit, according to my computer. With that said, I felt a bit more variation in Anilao, as there is geothermal activity at some sites, where one could feel the heat fluctuations within those sites. If you put your hand into the sand, you can feel the warmth; sometimes it even felt uncomfortably hot. There is even a site, Bubble's Point, where one can see gas bubbles escaping from the bottom. I cannot help but wonder to what if any extent this geothermal activity contributes to Anilao's biodiversity.

Despite the above, both destinations overall had colder water than I had experienced before. Almost all of the guides and the other guests wore at least a 5mm wetsuit, if not more; one of the Buceo Anilao guides wore two wetsuits. Many also wore hoods, gloves, and boots. I only wore my 3mm and my boots and felt fine most of the time, except for the brief and occasional chill, usually upon exiting the water – not frequent, enduring, or severe enough to upgrade to a 5mm. The lower water temperatures required some acclimatization on my first day in Puerto Galera, after which I felt fine. The guides and other guests often commented on my thinner wetsuit and expressed amazement that I was not cold.
 
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Ironborn

Ironborn

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Marine Life

My enjoyment of dives at both destinations, particularly at Anilao, stemmed primarily from encounters with individual animals, rather than the overall reefscape. Of course, the muck dives in both places do not have any reefscape to enjoy, but even the reef dives in both places were more remarkable for individual animal encounters. The lower visibility, silt, and overall “muckiness” obscures much of the reefs' natural color, unless one illuminates it with artificial light. Reef dives were usually better in the morning, when there was more ambient light, and muck dives were usually better in the afternoon and at night, when the more unusual creatures came out and there was less or no ambient light for the sand to reflect. Shallower reefs and safety stops yielded better reefscapes because there was more ambient light. The reefscapes of Puerto Galera also struck me as richer and more fulfilling than those of Anilao. The most interesting creature encounters in both places occurred during muck dives, especially in Anilao. Both operations tried to balance reef and muck dives for the sake of variety, but Puerto Galera was heavier on reef dives and Anilao was heavier on muck dives.

Both destinations had significant amounts of more exotic and unusual animals, but it was in that respect that Anilao distinguished itself and outdid Puerto Galera. One aspect of diving that I have always enjoyed is seeing creatures that were totally unknown to me, even from photographs or ID books, or that even the guides could not identify offhand, or that look like they came from a science fiction movie. I have felt this “what the hell was that?” effect more often on night dives; Anilao muck dives often had that effect even during the day, but the night dives in Anilao (all of which were muck dives) were truly exceptional in that regard and were some of the best dives in my diving experience thus far. They consistently yielded a near-constant flow of some of the most unusual and exotic creatures I have ever encountered. Much of the photography that initially interested me in Anilao came from night dives, and now I see why. I recommend doing every available night dive in Anilao, since they are so fantastic and there is nothing else to do at night there anyway. If you do not have the energy for four dives a day, then skip one of the day dives and save your energy for the night dive.

Both destinations, but especially Anilao, are heavy on small animals. If you visit either place in search of big animals, you will be extremely disappointed, although Puerto Galera had more of the larger animals (in relative terms). Ironically, though, the largest animal that I encountered during my trip may have also been one of the largest animals that I have ever encountered in the wild: this sea turtle in Puerto Galera, which might have been the size of a small car. The guides remarked that they had never seen such a large turtle in their entire careers.

Paul on Instagram: “Sea turtle, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Sea turtle with remora on its shell, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #padi…”

Turtles in general were the largest animals that I encountered in both places, and they seemed bigger than their Caribbean counterparts. I saw maybe three turtles in Puerto Galera and two turtles in Anilao. As for other reptiles, I saw a few sea snakes in Puerto Galera.

Paul on Instagram: “Sea snake, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

I once saw two large grouper at Ernie's Point in Puerto Galera, which is famous for them, and a few of these sizeable map puffers in Puerto Galera as well.

Paul on Instagram: “Map pufferfish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

I saw a few blue-spotted rays in both destinations and a spotted eagle ray in Anilao, which was evidently an unusual sighting.

Paul on Instagram: “Blue-spotted ray, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Blue-spotted ray, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

The biggest animals that I encountered on a regular basis in both destinations were multiple species of moray eels. They were only on reefs. They seemed smaller, more diverse, more colorful, more ornately designed, and more photogenic than Caribbean moray eels. They occasionally had cleaner shrimp on or with them, which made for great photo opportunities.

Paul on Instagram: “Yellow-edged moray eel with a cleaner shrimp, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Fimbriated moray eel with cleaner shrimp, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving…”

Paul on Instagram: “Yellow-edged moray eel with banded coral shrimp, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba…”

Paul on Instagram: “A pair of yellow-edged moray eels, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #padi…”

Paul on Instagram: “Snowflake moray eel, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Yellow-edged moray eel, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Yellow-edged moray eel, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Snowflake moray eel, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Yellow-edged moray eel, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #scubadiving #paditv #diving #photography…”

I saw two ribbon eels (one black and one yellow) at one site in Puerto Galera, where the guide explained in the briefing that he expected to find them there.

Paul on Instagram: “Ribbon eel, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Ribbon eel, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

More unusual and reptilian-looking eels were present at muck diving sites at both destinations, such as these crocodile snake eels in Puerto Galera, and these snake and sand eels in Anilao. These eels bury most of their bodies in the sand.

Paul on Instagram: “Crocodile snake eel, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Crocodile snake eel, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Sand eel, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Sand eel, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Snake eel, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Snake eel, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Equally reptilian-looking was this crocodile fish in Anilao.

Paul on Instagram: “Crocodilefish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

One of the most unusual fish that I have ever encountered was this stargazer, which I saw swimming before it buried itself in the sand during a night dive in Puerto Galera:

Paul on Instagram: “Stargazer, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

(to be continued in the next post)
 
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Ironborn

Ironborn

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Scorpionfish were common at both destinations, including both the plainer ones with which I was already familiar and these more colorful and ornate tassled scorpionfish, which I found to be great photographic subjects, since they do not move. The tassled scorpionfish were more common on reefs, whereas the plainer ones were more common on muck dives.

Paul on Instagram: “Tassled scorpionfish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Tassled scorpionfish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Tassled scorpionfish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Tassled scorpionfish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Juvenile tassled scorpionfish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Scorpionfish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Scorpionfish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Scorpionfish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

I also saw some of the related rhinopias: one in Puerto Galera and three in Anilao.

Paul on Instagram: “Rhinopias, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Rhinopias, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

More common in both destinations were frogfish: adults were usually on reefs, whereas juveniles were often at muck dive sites. Frogfish may be hard to spot and photograph because of their camouflage and their tendency to position themselves awkwardly. The black ones in particular are notoriously difficult in that regard; I even photographed a lighter-colored one without realizing that there was a black one next to it until I reviewed my images. (They often live in pairs). Divers with a special interest in frogfish should go to Kirby's Rock in Anilao, which had an unusually large population of them.

Paul on Instagram: “Frogfish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Frogfish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Frogfish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Frogfish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Frogfish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Juvenile frogfish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Juvenile frogfish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Juvenile frogfish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

I had never seen a seahorse in over 100 dives in the Caribbean and saw more than enough of them in both places, but more so in Puerto Galera. They were usually at muck dive sites, except for the pygmy seahorses, which live on sea fans on reefs. Seahorses are hard to photograph due to their tendency to turn away and their general tipsiness, as if they were drunk. Guides at both resorts know where to find pygmy seahorses: yellow ones in Puerto Galera and red/purple ones in Anilao. I got a decent photograph of a yellow one (see below), but my camera could not focus on the darker red/purple ones. I found the medium-sized spiny seahorses to be the most photogenic of them all (see the last photo below). The larger ones are big enough that it is easier to photograph them without a macro lens.

Paul on Instagram: “Pygmy seahorse, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Seahorse, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Seahorse, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Spiny seahorse, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Spiny seahorse, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Seahorse, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Spiny seahorse, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Equally interesting were the related pipefish. I saw some in Puerto Galera, but they were more common in Anilao. I had seen some of the straight ones before, but totally new to me were these mushroom coral pipefish; I had never seen photos of them, perhaps because they are so hard to photograph.

Paul on Instagram: “Mushroom coral pipefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #paditv #padi…”

More common are the ghost pipefish, which tend to swim in pairs at muck dive sites. The ornate ghost pipefish were often around crinoids and were usually black but sometimes white.

Paul on Instagram: “Ornate ghost pipefish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Ornate ghost pipefish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

If you see what look like swimming green or brownish leaves, they might be robust ghost pipefish. This pair of them was attracted to my light during a night dive and was practically chasing me.

Paul on Instagram: “A pair of robust ghost pipefish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Robust ghost pipefish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

The famous anemone clownfish are ubiquitous at both places, yielding plenty of photo ops, but they are hard to capture because they keep darting around.

Paul on Instagram: “Anemone clownfish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Anemone clownfish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Anemone clownfish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

(to be continued in the next post)
 
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Ironborn

Ironborn

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A larger proportion of notable creature encounters in both places involved invertebrates. The largest and most frequently encountered category of any kind of animals in both destinations by far was nudibranchs, for which this area is rightly famous. Scientific classifications aside, I would divide nudibranchs into two categories: “reefy” and “mucky.” The “reefy” nudibranchs, such as chromodoris, nembrothas, phyllidias, and phyllidiellas, are more often on reefs and have bright, “reefy” colors and simple body structures. One often encounters a large number of different individuals from these same species over and over and over again. They are very common and easy to spot.

Paul on Instagram: “Chromodoris joshi nudibranch, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi…”
Paul on Instagram: “Chromodoris lochi nudibranch, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi…”
Paul on Instagram: “Chromodoris magnifica nudibranch, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi…”
Paul on Instagram: “Chromodoris willani nudibranch, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nembrotha chamberlaini nudibranch, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nembrotha kubaryana, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nembrotha mullineri nudibranch eating tunicates, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba…”
Paul on Instagram: “Phyllidiella pustulosa nudibranch, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving…”
Paul on Instagram: “Tambja morosa nudibranch, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #padi #paditv…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch (chromodoris annae), Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch (chromodoris dianae), Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch (chromodoris magnifica), Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch (chromodoris willani), Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch (nembrotha chamberlaini), Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch (phyllidia picta), Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch (phyllidia pustulosa), Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “Phyllidiopsis nudibranch, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

The “mucky” nudibranchs are usually at muck dive sites. These more exotic or unusual nudibranchs have more complex body structures, and some of the colors on some of them may be more subdued or neutral. They may be harder to spot, and one may encounter only one or a few individuals from the various species, which may be harder to identify; I still have not identified one of these that I saw.

Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch (phyllodesmium karenae), Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #padi #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “Aegires nudibranch, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “Caloria nudibranch, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch (favorinus tsuruganus), Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv…”
Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch (flabellina exoptata), Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “Janolus nudibranch, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “Tenellia nudibranch, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”
Paul on Instagram: “The “Pikachu” nudibranch, also known as thecacera pacifica. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv…”

(to be continued in the next post)
 
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Ironborn

Ironborn

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I had only seen regular sea slugs before this trip and did not understand why so many divers found nudibranchs so uniquely fascinating, and why they are so popular with photographers. They are not only photogenic, they are also very easy to photograph, since they move so slowly. They are a perfect example of the ways in which macro photography can significantly enhance one's appreciation of the details of small creatures that one might miss, or not see in all their glory, with the naked eye. I found that nudibranch sightings were often more “action-packed” than one might expect from sea slugs, as they often appeared to be doing gymnastics or acrobatics in awkward or gravity-defying positions.

Paul on Instagram: “Chromodoris nudibranch, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Chromodoris joshi nudibranch, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi…”

Paul on Instagram: “Chromodoris lochi nudibranch, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi…”

Paul on Instagram: “Chromodoris willani, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scubadiving #scuba #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch (chromodoris lochi), Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Nudibranch (chromodoris willani), Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

As for other types of action, the “reefy” nudibranchs were sometimes in pairs; I saw pairs of them mating four times in two weeks.

Paul on Instagram: “A pair of chromodoris lochi nudibranchs, Puerto Galera, Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving…”

Paul on Instagram: “A pair of nudibranchs (chromodoris annae), Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “A pair of tambja morosa nudibranchs mating, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving…”

Paul on Instagram: “A pair of hypselodoris tryoni nudibranchs mating, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba…”

Paul on Instagram: “A pair of nudibranchs (ceratosoma trilobatum) mating, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving…”

Paul on Instagram: “A pair of nudibranchs (nembrotha chamberlaini) mating, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving…”

Both places further distinguished themselves with sightings of another type of mollusks: cephalopods, in which I have a special interest (see my avatar). Totally new to me were cuttlefish, which do not exist in the Caribbean; they were present at both places but in larger numbers and with greater variety in Puerto Galera. Previously unknown to me were pygmy cuttlefish, which I found endearing and also made great photographic subjects, as they never swam away and often approached my camera lens, perhaps out of curiosity. I was pleased with how much of the texture of their skin my camera was able to capture, which one cannot see as well with the naked eye. They were only at muck dive sites, but I only saw one in Anilao and several in Puerto Galera.

Paul on Instagram: “Pygmy cuttlefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Pygmy cuttlefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Pygmy cuttlefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #padi #diving #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Pygmy cuttlefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #padi #diving #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Pygmy cuttlefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Pygmy cuttlefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Pygmy cuttlefish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Also in Puerto Galera, I saw this group of flamboyant cuttlefish at a muck dive site twice. There were two smaller and more ornate males fighting over a larger and plainer female. We also found flamboyant cuttlefish eggs inside coconut shells at that same site.

Paul on Instagram: “Male flamboyant cuttlefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #padi…”

Paul on Instagram: “Two male flamboyant cuttlefish fighting over a female, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Two male flamboyant cuttlefish fighting over an off-screen female, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts.…”

Paul on Instagram: “Two smaller male flamboyant cuttlefish fighting over a larger female, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with…”

Paul on Instagram: “Two smaller flamboyant cuttlefish males competing for the larger female, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with…”

Paul on Instagram: “Female flamboyant cuttlefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #padi…”

The medium-sized cuttlefish (perhaps size of a cat) were at both reef and muck dive sites:

Paul on Instagram: “Cuttlefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Cuttlefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Cuttlefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Cuttlefish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

I saw two larger cuttlefish (maybe the size of a dog), one in each place; both of them were on reefs.

Paul on Instagram: “Cuttlefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Cuttlefish, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scubadiving #scuba #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Cuttlefish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #uwphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Cuttlefish, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

(to be continued in the next post)
 
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Ironborn

Ironborn

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Puerto Galera may have had more cuttlefish, but Anilao had a significantly larger number and wider variety of octopi, another area in which Anilao truly distinguished itself. Anilao may be famous for its nudibranchs, but perhaps it should be famous for its octopi instead. I saw more octopi in a week in Anilao than I did in my entire diving history up to that point and encountered several different species. It was typical to encounter two or three octopi during a single night dive. Octopi were often out in the open during the day at muck dive sites, and all but one seemed diver-friendly and photo-friendly.

Paul on Instagram: “Octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #uwphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

I saw one each of three of the most noteworthy octopus species in the region, including: the blue-ringed octopus;

Paul on Instagram: “Blue-ringed octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Blue-ringed octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

The mimic octopus;

Paul on Instagram: “Mimic octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Mimic octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Mimic octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

And the wonderpus;

Paul on Instagram: “Wonderpus octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Wonderpus octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Many of the octopi here were very small; I am unsure if they were juveniles or just small species.

Paul on Instagram: “Octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Octopus, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

In contrast, I only saw four octopi all week in Puerto Galera, and I only got a passing glimpse of all but one of them. The fourth and only substantial sighting was of this white-spotted octopus at night.

Paul on Instagram: “White-spotted octopus, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “White-spotted octopus, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv…”

As for squid, another favorite of mine (see my avatar), Anilao introduced me to the tiny, bottom-dwelling (at muck dive sites) bobtail squid. They have richly colored and detailed designs and bury themselves in the sand up to their eyes:

Paul on Instagram: “Bobtail squid, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scubadiving #diving #scuba #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Bobtail squid, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Bobtail squid, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #diving #paditv #photography #underwaterphotography…”

Paul on Instagram: “A bobtail squid buried in the sand, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv…”

I saw a handful of the usual nocturnal reef squid at both destinations, such as this one in Puerto Galera:

Paul on Instagram: “Squid, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

(to be continued in the next post)
 
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Ironborn

Ironborn

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Beyond indulging my previously existing interest in cephalopods, this trip, particularly Anilao, left me with a newfound appreciation for and interest in crustaceans and echinoderms. I am lumping those two together because some of the most interesting crustaceans were the ones that live on echinoderms. Seeing the relationships between the different species made them all the more interesting.

Even the local urchins were more interesting than their Caribbean counterparts, which I had usually seen as little more than black balls of spikes and potential hazards. These urchins were quite colorful and had elaborate designs:

Paul on Instagram: “Sea urchin, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Sea urchin, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Sea urchin, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Sea urchin, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

My favorites were these fire urchins, which looked like UFOs to me:

Paul on Instagram: “Fire urchin, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Fire urchin, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #padi #paditv #photography…”

The fire urchins, which I had initially encountered in Puerto Galera, became more and more interesting as the guides at Buceo Anilao introduced me to three species of crustaceans that live on different parts of them. I did not see any of these crustaceans in Puerto Galera, so I wonder if they live there or not. I first encountered the coleman shrimp that live on the urchins' sloping sides. I found them to be fantastic photographic subjects, as their simpler body structures and black and white colors contrasted with the vibrantly multi-colored and numerous spines of the urchins.

Paul on Instagram: “A pair of coleman shrimp on a fire urchin, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “A pair of coleman shrimp on a fire urchin, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “A pair of coleman shrimp on a fire urchin, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv…”

The guide must have sensed my fascination with these animals, so he later showed me these zebra crabs that live on the bottoms of the urchins, which I found equally fascinating and photogenic.

Paul on Instagram: “Zebra crab living on a fire urchin, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Zebra crab living on a fire urchin, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #paditv…”

Paul on Instagram: “Zebra crab living on a fire urchin, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv…”

To top it all off, the guide further indulged my interest in these crustaceans by pointing out these squat lobsters that live on the lower levels of the urchins, which made them a bit harder to photograph.

Paul on Instagram: “Fire urchin squat lobster, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Fire urchin squat lobster, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Seeing three different types of crustaceans on different parts of the same species of urchins was the type of experience that truly distinguished Anilao. I saw nothing like that in Puerto Galera.

Crinoids like the ones below were very common in both destinations. Seeing a feather or basket star in the Caribbean had been an unusual treat for me, so I found these more interesting than most guests. However, they could also become a nuisance, as they would often attach themselves to wetsuits.

Paul on Instagram: “Crinoid, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #padi #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Crinoid, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #scubadiving #diving #paditv #padi #photography…”

Crinoids became even more interesting in Anilao when the guides showed me the crinoid shrimp that lived within them. I might have seen a few of them in Puerto Galera, but these were common in Anilao. They are great photographic subjects but may be difficult to shoot due to the writhing of the crinoids.

Paul on Instagram: “Crinoid shrimp, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “Crinoid shrimp, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv #photography…”

Paul on Instagram: “A pair of crinoid shrimp on a crinoid, Anilao, the Philippines. From a dive with @buceoanilao. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #paditv…”

Even the local sea cucumbers were more colorful and ornate than their Caribbean counterparts and more photogenic.

Paul on Instagram: “Sea cucumber, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scubadiving #scuba #diving #padi #paditv…”

The sea cucumbers became even more interesting and worth scrutinizing when a guide in Puerto Galera showed me the emperor shrimp that live on them. I did not see any of these in Anilao.

Paul on Instagram: “Emperor shrimp on a sea cucumber, Puerto Galera, the Philippines. From a dive with @atlantisdiveresorts. #scuba #diving #scubadiving #padi…”

(to be continued in the next post)
 
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