Quick recap and some shots from 9 days in Anilao/PG

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jjmochi

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I was in Anilao and dived 4 days w Blue Ribbon, then moved to Puerto Galera and dived 5 days with El Galleon/Asia Divers. I did 16 dives in Anilao, 16 in PG, and 2 to Verde Island. This was my second time to Anilao (last time was 2019 w Buceo Anilao in low season) and first time to Puerto Galera. I came wanting to get some nice macro shots and both places delivered, but compared to my last trip Anilao was a bit disappointing.

Photos:
Anilao - Anilao (Apr/May 2022)
PG - Puerto Galera (May 2022)

P.S. can someone please tell me what this is? It unfurls itself flat to swim then curls up into a shell shape when it stops moving. It doesn't look like a nautilus?

Anilao
Blue Ribbon is a small resort w only 7 rooms. I was in the most basic standard room behind the reception and it was fine for the most part - it's large, clean, and comes with all the essentials for a comfortable stay. There were some hiccups in the beginning - my shower head was clogged on day 1 but replaced w a new one after I told them, they sprayed the room for mosquitos after I asked them to but didn't clean up the 2 dead cockroaches on the bathroom floor, etc. But the staff is all super nice and will try their best to fix whatever needs fixing. I would avoid the room behind the reception tho as it does get noisy early in the morning - impossible to sleep in past 6am. The camera room is located right by the dive shop area and is well equipped, and the staff will take your camera to and from the boat for you. Service is really A+. Food is delicious also - I had mostly their Asian menu and all were great.

Diving is done at 9am for a 2 tank dive, 3pm for an afternoon dive, and 6.30pm for a night dive. Only 1 boat goes out and for most of my stay they only had 1 dive guide/group - so groups ranged from 1:1 to 6:1 depending on whether the other guests wanted to dive or not. A second guide joined us on some dives but we still dived as one big group. There were 4 of us with big cameras and it definitely felt too crowded at times. My last day another guide returned from PG where he had been doing instructor training and took me on 2 dives by myself, which was much better. I tried to request some sites I knew from my last trip like Secret Bay but they were reluctant to go across the channel, I suspect because of fuel costs. They kept going back to Cathedral I think for the new folks - so I ended up diving Cathedral 3x (while set up for macro), El Pinoy 3x, and Anilao Pier 2x. They said a new resort was being built which knocked out a number of dive sites, so there's not many options. Compared to our last trip at Buceo where we had eagle eyed Elmar to guide us I definitely feel the Blue Ribbon guides were not quite on the same level. Not bad, we still found something every dive, but there were definitely a lot of dead periods where we're just looking and not finding anything. My critter wish list this trip was pygmy seahorses, blue ring octopus, harlequin shrimp, and flamboyant cuttlefish - and ended up only finding a single pygmy on the last day (while PG knocked out 3/4). Dive times were a bit inconsistent also - sometimes they capped at 60min, other times they let us stay down for 90min. You need 2 people for the night dive to take the boat out otherwise they will only do a shore dive - which was actually really good.

They don't offer blackwater so I didn't get to try it, but I think I experienced something similar on the night dives. There were larvae shrimps, jellies, worms, things I have no idea what they are swarming everywhere and swimming towards the light. This was by the shore in just 5-10m of water so I'm guessing true blackwater will be even better, but I was quite amazed by it, very cool to experience, but no photos as I couldn't figure out how to get the focus right when they're moving so quickly. My last night dive I saw a bunch of squids swimming at ~5m and got some nice shots.

Overall it was an enjoyable stay, but next time I come back I think I'll try Anilao Photo Academy which someone else posted about and has 1:2 guide ratio and does blackwater. Overall it felt like there were less critters vs 2019 but I'm not sure if it's due to the guides not being as good, impact from covid, or seasonal (Sept vs Apr).

Puerto Galera
El Galleon is much bigger and nicer and as a result I think attracts a more casual crowd - a lot of non-diving family, folks who only want to do 1 or 2 a day etc. Dive operations are run very smoothly and sometimes 4 boats go out at once, each w 6 divers. They don't decide where to go until ~30min beforehand - which makes it hard to know which boat/group you want to sign up for. There is not a lot of individual attention like at Blue Ribbon, and they definitely cater for the bigger groups vs solo divers - and by this I mean they slot the solos wherever there is space irrespective of whether where that group wants to go fits what the solo person wants to see. Food is decent - I think catered more for western tastes - the Asian options were not great but their salads, pastas, and seafood specials were good. Food takes a long time to come out because of how busy they were, which made it a bit stressful at times to make the dive schedule.

5 dives are offered a day and you can do an unlimited diving package for $86/day if you do 5 or more days. Dives are at 8am, 10.30am, 1.30pm, 4pm, and 6.30pm. I tried to do all 5 but ended up only doing 4 for 3 days and 3 for the last 2 days. I didn't see anyone do all 5 - and I think part of the issue is the dives are not planned in cohesion as the idea is to pick and choose what you want to do. They did offer blackwater but the conditions weren't right, too much current and waves, and said Anilao was much better since it's more protected.

Being my first time to PG I wasn't sure what to expect, had read there were good wide angle sites but I wasn't impressed with the reefs. There was a lot of grey/white fuzz in the water everywhere, visibility was horrible despite there being a fair amount of current. I did one day (2 morning dives) to Verde Island which was good, but I would not put it on the same level as say Tubbataha or Sipadan. There was a lot of small fish (triggerfish especially was everywhere) but no big stuff - in fact I didn't see any sharks at all this entire trip. Some big turtles and 1-2 big schools of surgeonfish but that was it. I didn't make it to Canyons b/c we did Verde and later a private macro day, but heard the current was so strong some had to abort the dive early and those who stayed didn't see much anyway. I did go to Monkey Beach, Boulders etc which was supposed to be good for wide angle but it wasn't that memorable to me.

The macro was surprisingly good tho and I would say even better than Anilao - so much so that I decided to book a private guide for my last 2 days and go back to the best macro sites - Montani and Boatyard which I dived 3-4x each. This was much more enjoyable as you could space out the dives a bit more and go at your own schedule. I managed to see my first blue ring octopus, my first hairy frogfish, my first (3) flamboyant cuttlefish, another pygmy, cuttlefish eggs about to hatch and babies that just hatched, my first Spanish dancer, a bunch of new nudies I haven't seen before, a ton of bobtail squids, a couple of peacock mantis shrimps (saw a lot last trip to Anilao but none this trip) etc.

I liked the resort but I'm not sure if I would go back to PG - if I go back I would just do a private guide for macro - but it's really expensive even splitting w someone and I think places that offers 2:1 ratio by default are better. 6:1 is just not workable if your goal is to work on getting nice photos - if you just want to see critters and maximise your time underwater then I think it's a great choice, especially if you have non-diving family with you. There's a nice spa (massage was great), bar (daily happy hour), etc.

Moving between the 2
A private car to Anilao ran ~6k php and took 2.5 hours w no traffic
Private boat from Anilao to El Galleon was quoted at 20k php and ~45min, a cheaper alternative is to do a car to Batangas port for 2k ~45min, and private water taxi to El Galleon (10k php, ~30min)
Private car back from Batangas to the airport was 4.5k php
Going back I was lucky to share the water taxi w 5 other people and the van w 3 the people, but definitely very pricy if you can't find anyone to share. But the upside of private transport is you don't lose any time diving - I was picked up at Blue Ribbon at 7am and arrived at El Galleon ~9am w plenty of time to make the 10.30am dive.
 

dflaher

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There was a lot of grey/white fuzz in the water everywhere, visibility was horrible despite there being a fair amount of current
I did my open water in PG, the viz is still something that I wish every dive site had.
Wow...2 diametrically opposed viewpoints about the visibility. For others that have dived in PG, how would you rate bit it?

@jjmochi when you booked your private dives were you on your own boat, or with others but just having your own guide?
 

Centrals

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Vis is always better in dry season especially from Dec to early Apr. Unfortunately with so much activities happening around the area eg. population grow, non stop development etc etc, vis is never the same. Sewage treatment is the main issue. If anyone walk around especially Sabang one should notice the constant flow of "water" from everywhere! "Grey/white fuzz" is common particularly round the corner of the light house.
Private boat?
Unless the client wants to go to a specific place at specific time and there is no other to share the boat. In PG there is usually no surcharge but not in Anilao for private boat.
 

dflaher

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My own experience only.
Vis is always better in dry season especially from Dec to early Apr. Unfortunately with so much activities happening around the area eg. population grow, non stop development etc etc, vis is never the same. Sewage treatment is the main issue. If anyone walk around especially Sabang one should notice the constant flow of "water" from everywhere! "Grey/white fuzz" is common particularly round the corner of the light house.
Hmmm. Not very encouraging! 😊 I am contemplating a trip there next May.
 

Trailboss123

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Hmmm. Not very encouraging! 😊 I am contemplating a trip there next May.
I was in Puerto Galera the first 2 weeks of April in 2019. Visibility was variable, but generally 40-50 feet. Sometime better. Sometimes with particulate in the water and other times more clear. Verde Island was amazing. Here is my trip report. If you are considering a trip, you might find it informative: Trip Report - Trip Report-Philippines-Puerto Galera-El Galleon/Asia Divers-April 1-14, 2019
 

dflaher

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Centrals

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Hmmm. Not very encouraging! 😊 I am contemplating a trip there next May.
Choose a reputable(established) operator and you will be fine. I would avoid all inclusive package because there are some nice places to eat other than your own resort. Room + breakfast is all you need.
May is the low season so you have better bargaining power!!!
5 dives a day is never an issue because most of the sites are within 15 mins from resort. The boat only goes out for one dive and then return to base unless it is Verde Island(must dive).
Eat, dive and sleep. Take it easy with alcohol because it is dirt cheap.
Enjoy Cozumel.
 

dflaher

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Thanks Centrals. I was thinking of the combo that TB used -- El Galleon and Asia Divers. They get good reviews, and while more expensive than others, still a good value. Since diving is close to shore, is shore diving an option?

Take it easy with alcohol because it is dirt cheap.
Good advice!
 

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