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Sabang Trip Report - Brief Version

Discussion in 'Philippine Paradise Divers' started by Johncn, Nov 16, 2019.

  1. Johncn

    Johncn Registered

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Cape Canaveral, FL - USA

    We just spent a week in Sabang, and had a great time and some nice dives, despite somewhat rainy and gloomy weather due to Tropical Storm Ramon spinning up off to the east. The only days we saw sun were on arrival, and then the day we departed...lol. So it goes, but still had an excellent visit, and may return in February if we can find time.

    Trip to Puerto Galera from Manila was no problem. We were staying on the outskirts with friends, and so caught the Alps the Bus (company) express from Alabang to the Batangas City Pier (190 pesos, or so). This is the "express" bus because although it has a couple of towns it stops in, it does take the Calabarzon Expressway. If taking other buses to Batangas (no matter where in Manila you start), make sure the bus has a sign in the front that says "Calabarzon" to avoid all the little town stops. The trip took about 2.5 hours, with one CR (comfort room) stop on the expressway.

    The terminal in Alabang is the "South Station" next to Starmall. This was not overly easy to figure out, as there are a couple of terminals and the Alps website provides little guidance, but if in doubt, ask for the "Provincial" bus station at Starmall, or just put "Starmall Alabang" in the GPS and look for entrance that has the green "Wake Up Cafe" sign where you pull into the lot. The provincial buses are on the right when facing the mall.

    The Batangas City Pier is the last stop (after the Grand Terminal stop), and you simply cross the street, enter through security and buy your ticket to Puerto Galera, then the terminal fee afterward (50 pesos?). There are porters if you are so inclined, and they have posted rates, but I don't recall what they are.

    Ferry Update

    The last time we were in PG there were bangka boats (outriggers) that delivered us to the town pier. Those days are over. There was a mandated phase out of outrigger public transport to Mindoro (island province Puerto Galera is in), and so it is served by both "fastcraft" and "ro-ro" (roll on / roll off) vehicle ferries. There are two destinations that serve Puerto Galera itself: Muelle Pier (closer to Sabang, and served by smaller fastcraft ferries), and Balatero Pier (farther from Sabang, has both fastcraft and larger vehicle ferries. User Blueringocto_73 posted a good resource with updated ferry schedules in another thread, and I added a spreadsheet that breaks ferry trips down by pier of destination / departure.

    Lalaguna Villas / Dive Resort

    Stayed with LLV (Lalaguna Villas), which is about a ten minute walk from central Sabang along the beach. Their speed boat picked us up directly at the Muelle Pier for a 1000 pesos ($19 USD). I realize we could have taken a trike or jeepney combinations cheaper, but it was fast (10-15 minutes?), easy and efficient.

    Check in and communication with the resort prior to arrival was very good....Hannah and Princess handled most of it, and did a great job keeping us informed on pick up, and providing a smooth welcome and move into the room.

    The room we had was VERY nice. It was a "Premium Suite" (#56) sporting a balcony with great sea view, the pool six flights of stairs below, and Luzon in the distance. The balcony is shared with one suite next door, but divided with a low wall, and had a slight overhang for shade / rain (in our case) protection of the two loungers. Nice sitting area with a leatherette couch near sliding doors, good aircon, safe, medium sized fridge (with minibar capabilities and snacks we did not use), King "Slumberland" box coil spring mattress, Samsung 40” LED TV, and Jacuzzi Bath and separate shower. Strong wifi with router node integral. Very handy drinking water dispenser refreshed as needed, and provides both chilled and hot water. The "Premium Suites" are located on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th floor of the back building of the resort against the hill. Lots of little details well thought out in these units. Nicest room we've had in the Philippines, except for possibly one last trip to a different part of the country.

    Staff at the resort are great...friendly and authentic, not forced into it. Seem genuinely happy as a group, and many have been with LLV quite a while, which is a good sign. Food in the restaurant by the pool was excellent, reasonably priced, and the open kitchen (glassed in) is very clean and well run. Weekends had featured themes, and barbeque night (Friday or Saturday?) was Australian beef and local seafood. When a fresh tuna was brought in by a fishing boat, it was featured for two nights in various combinations. Local beers 90 pesos, except 45 pesos during happy hour specials. Cocktails around 200 pesos, but you can actually taste the alcohol.

    Conan and Liam are the expat divemasters, and Jessica is the local DM. Despite gloomy weather, diving was very good. Corals (both hard and soft) in great shape, lots of little critters through medium sized fish, many turtles. No big fish, but didn't expect that. Gentle currents on all the dives we did, which were mostly drifts, and guides popping a safety sausage up to the surface for the trailing boat when the dive was over, or someone hit 50 bar. Highlights included some awesome frogfish (biggest and coolest looking I've seen), ghost shrimp, nudibranchs, and oodles of pretty fishies. We did not join the Verde Island trip this time, as wife was having issues with new prescription mask (which were eventually sorted out), but will next time. Boat staff very attentive with the gear. Once we dropped gear at the shop, didn't have to touch it except on entry and exit from the boat unless we wanted to. ;-)

    DM Conan was especially helpful and personable, and pointed out some special sightings. He also went out of his way to assist with my wife's mask issue. Jessica and Liam were both very good, as well. No complaints at all, and we hope to dive with these guys (in better weather) again in February. They are building a new dive shop on the property, but the temporary quarters are fine, and have gear storage and rinse tanks, drying racks for wetsuits and so on.

    Transfers back to the Muelle Pier went smoothly, but the return bus was not Alps the Bus...they don't pick up there (we were told), so had to use Dela Rosa bus company. Rate was the same, but a little less spiffy, and no CR break. It worked, and we returned to Alabang after fighting some unusually (even by Manila standards) traffic.

    That's it for now, but will add pictures when I get to the next place with solid WiFi. Guess it wasn't all that brief after all. ;-)

  2. aviator8

    aviator8 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Georgia
    Nice report, thanks for writing it up.
    Blueringocto_73 likes this.
  3. bill22

    bill22 Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Guam, USA
    Very good and once again happy to hear that the ferry situation is straightened out! It was still a mess when I was there in March. We got stuck having to take a private boat. I'll never be convinced that it was necessary for them to screw up transportation so badly! But, this is much more workable :) The big problem was the uncertainty of the schedule before. They seem to have that worked out now :coffee:
  4. Pillpusher

    Pillpusher Contributor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Katy, Texas
    Nice report, thanks. I'll also be going back to PG in February and staying at LLV (21st-28th). I dove last time with Action Divers next door, and I'm a pretty loyal customer when I find a great shop, which Action Divers is. But, Out of the Blue is completely booked out that week, so I'm concerned that it may be packed boats, which I'm not a fan of. If that's the case, LLV seems like they'd be a good backup plan.

    What was LLV's dive schedule (how many dives per day, what times, etc)? I wasn't able to make it to Verde Island last time, and would love to this time if able, so I'm also curious if they head out that way at all.

    Thanks in advance
  5. Johncn

    Johncn Registered

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Cape Canaveral, FL - USA
    Actually, we are thinking about going back in February, but have not checked availability yet.

    We also used Action last time, but were very happy with LLV's staff, divemaster Conan, and service from dive guides. Boats very nice (both speedboats and bangka for Verde trips), well maintained, solid gear well organized. Two expat dive masters from UK, and local guides. Never saw more than 6 divers on any trip, and usually 4 or so. Couple times we were the only divers, and the other boat took a different group, based on interests.

    Each diver gets a numbered crate for loose gear, rinse tanks and wetsuit storage right there, too, with 24-hour security. Never had to touch a tank after initial fitting of BCD. Staff carried it all, helped with everything on board, even wanted to help with fins. ;-) Backwards roll on the speedboats, ladder to reboard boat. Rubberized non-skid on decks.

    Trips were generally three a day (8 or 9 AM / 11 AM / 2 PM?) and sometimes night dive. Verde trips went about every 3 days, if I recall correctly, depending on weather. They are / were also in the process of building a new dive shop area, but were in temporary quarters at the front the property.

    Hope this helps. Have a great trip.

    Pillpusher likes this.
  6. Pillpusher

    Pillpusher Contributor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Katy, Texas

    Very helpful indeed, thanks! Since you've dove with both ops, how would you compare them in terms of critter spotting?
  7. billywinter

    billywinter Registered

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: New York
    Agree with johncn on Lalaguna villas and Conan. Been there 3 times now, great place.

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