Trip Report Trip Report-Philippines-Puerto Galera-El Galleon/Asia Divers-April 1-14, 2019

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Trailboss123

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I thought I would try a somewhat different (for me) trip report. I usually wait until the trip is over and then attempt a comprehensive follow up report. Nothing that compares with the likes of @drrich2 though. So, I am going to try and give a blow by blow account of this trip along the way and see how that plays out.

DISCLAIMER:
This is the 1st time I have ever booked or paid for any travel through a 3rd party in my entire life. To put that in perspective, my wife and I have been traveling or living internationally since 1982 and throughout 50+ countries. I prefer to research and book/plan/pay for everything myself. I did do tons of research for this trip and much of it on Scubaboard, but not exclusively. I guess this is time to give a shout out to @outofofficebrb – once I had decided where in the Philippines I wanted to dedicate this trip, she definitely influenced or confirmed my choices on where to stay, who to dive with and how to go about booking/paying for everything.

That being said, we booked and paid for the accommodations, ground transport, diving and breakfast package for this trip through Bluewater Dive Travel | Scuba diving travel, dive news and travel specials - They have been absolutely fantastic to work with. I couldn’t be happier, and they have been outstanding liaisons between us and El Galleon/Asia Divers and we are definitely paying less than if I had tried to do this all myself and they have made things easier. Also, I can pay Bluewater via my preferred credit card, get all of my points and benefits and incur no international bank charges.

My own research and desired preferences led me to land on Puerto Galera as the location to spend this dive trip vacation. With thousands of islands and so many great options, it can be a daunting task to determine where you want to dive and stay in the Philippines. We decided that we’d prefer to stay in one location and settle in there for the duration, instead of moving around and trying to hit a variety of locales.

Since we love a diversity of diving (reef, muck, macro, walls, wrecks) but wanted to stay in one place, Puerto Galera ticked off the boxes as probably the best combo of easiest place for us to get to and the best spot for the level of diving and topside diversity we wanted for this length of trip. The Asia Divers on site location, their valet diving and the fact that they have an actual pier from which you can get on and off the dive boats was also a strong consideration. Everyone else requires a shore entry and exit, waist deep, to get off and on the dive boat.

RIGHT NOW:
It is Monday, 5pm, April 1st PST on the West Coast of the USA. My wife and I are headed out tonight from Seattle, WA. Flight departs at 1:30am on April 2nd technically. We have a 12 hour flight on EVA airlines to Taipei, Taiwan and then a 3 hour layover, followed by a 3 hour flight to Manila, followed by customs and immigration time (will post actual time later), followed by individual pick up at the airport and a 2-3 hour private transport to Batangas port, followed by a 1 hour high speed boat to El Galleon Resort.
Flight cost is $750 roundtrip per person.

Our 11 night stay in a poolside room at El Galleon + breakfast daily + 11 days of unlimited diving (4-5 dives a day) + personalized transfers from Manila Airport to Batangas in an air-con shuttle van + a high-speed boat directly to the resort came in at $1,614.00 per person (Nitrox costs will be extra and any desired trips across to dive at Verde Island will be an additional nominal cost, (which I will report on later) – We opted to not include lunch and dinner in the package in order to give us some flexibility and try some different places to eat on occasion. Like Cozumel, my research suggests that there are lots of great places to eat within walking distance that I would hate to miss out on and will be less expensive than paying for the inclusion of lunch and dinner.

Much more to come on airline, accommodations, food, diving, transportation, communications and overall value comparisons/propositions as the next 2 weeks unfold. Feel free to ask away or comment in the meantime.

Forgot to post a link to Asia Divers and El Galleon-- Also appears to be one of the better tech diving spots to base from for those who are so inclined: El Galleon Dive Resort & Asia Divers | Puerto Galera, Philippines
 

chillyinCanada

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Oh boy am I ever looking forward to this report!! What an awesome idea!!
 

flyboy08

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This should be good! I just love everything abound the Phillipines!
 

drrich2

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Flight cost is $750 roundtrip per person.

Thanks for including costs & travel times; that's key info. for comparing destination options for a lot of people, and sometimes left out of reports. All other things being equal between 2 options, a flight > 8 hours is...off-putting...

Crazy to me you can fly round trip to the Philippines for less than to Bonaire, and conquerable to many Caribbean destinations. Will be interested to hear the weight allowances and costs for baggage fees.

Good to hear about the value of dining out; in a far distant exotic place I'd have been tempted to go A.I. to keep things simple and easy, but good to know it's worth getting out there.

From an American perspective, it's easy to think of the Philippines, Indonesia, the Red Sea and the Maldives as destinations for seasoned divers who've dove at least a few different Caribbean destinations and seek something different and 'better,' but on ScubaBoard, even people not that far into their diving who ask about destinations sometimes get directed to such on the grounds of high quality diving (often at a good price).

My point, some divers who read your report may be a little newer. Details are really helpful.

Richard.
 

ams511

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Thanks for including costs & travel times; that's key info. for comparing destination options for a lot of people, and sometimes left out of reports. All other things being equal between 2 options, a flight > 8 hours is...off-putting...

Crazy to me you can fly round trip to the Philippines for less than to Bonaire, and conquerable to many Caribbean destinations. Will be interested to hear the weight allowances and costs for baggage fees.

Good to hear about the value of dining out; in a far distant exotic place I'd have been tempted to go A.I. to keep things simple and easy, but good to know it's worth getting out there.

From an American perspective, it's easy to think of the Philippines, Indonesia, the Red Sea and the Maldives as destinations for seasoned divers who've dove at least a few different Caribbean destinations and seek something different and 'better,' but on ScubaBoard, even people not that far into their diving who ask about destinations sometimes get directed to such on the grounds of high quality diving (often at a good price).

My point, some divers who read your report may be a little newer. Details are really helpful.

Richard.

If you are interested in the Philippines, @Centrals is the person to ask. From Atlanta you are looking at around $1,200 for the flight from Korean Air. The baggage allowances are 2 bags 50lbs plus the carry-ons.
 

ReefHound

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When you get to Manila airport, get a local sim card if you need your phone and use the ATM if you need cash as you can't count on one working in Sabang. Good choice on meals, lots of good places in Sabang.
 
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Trailboss123

Trailboss123

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This should be good! I just love everything abound the Phillipines!
Knowing your love for a good margarita, I will be getting my tequila on prior to boarding in hopes of getting a somw
Thanks for including costs & travel times; that's key info. for comparing destination options for a lot of people, and sometimes left out of reports. All other things being equal between 2 options, a flight > 8 hours is...off-putting...

Crazy to me you can fly round trip to the Philippines for less than to Bonaire, and conquerable to many Caribbean destinations. Will be interested to hear the weight allowances and costs for baggage fees.

Good to hear about the value of dining out; in a far distant exotic place I'd have been tempted to go A.I. to keep things simple and easy, but good to know it's worth getting out there.

From an American perspective, it's easy to think of the Philippines, Indonesia, the Red Sea and the Maldives as destinations for seasoned divers who've dove at least a few different Caribbean destinations and seek something different and 'better,' but on ScubaBoard, even people not that far into their diving who ask about destinations sometimes get directed to such on the grounds of high quality diving (often at a good price).

My point, some divers who read your report may be a little newer. Details are really helpful.

Richard.

With regards to baggage, in economy class with EVA, you get 2 free checked bags weighing 50 lbs each + the normal carry on allowance (one in overhead and one underneath the seat). I concur with you that flights in excess of 8 hours is quite off putting and not something I like to do. That being said, for those of us from the West Coast, most flights to the Caribbean are well over 8 hours also and as you stated, can be as or more expensive as a flight to Asia. We pretty much have to connect somewhere in order to get to any Caribbean destination (except Cancun and then only from LAX) and most connecting flights are difficult to make given the time change and usually require an overnight layover somewhere or a red eye with layover. Travel to Asia is challenging no matter what-- With the huge time differences and lengthy travel, jet lag is a definite and strong consideration and the reason that I have been unwilling to go unless I have at least 12-14 days minimum to work with. Given work considerations, getting 2 weeks off consecutively is a luxury that I only feel good about doing rarely. Thus the reason that I take 3-4 one week Caribbean trips per year instead.

Food in SE Asia is as inexpensive as it gets and I will be sure to give a breakdown on that and do a comparison between the AI option offered and what I chose to do by going a la carte for lunch and dinner. Also, everyone should take note that the $1614 per person price tag is for 11 nights of accommodation, basically unlimited diving for 11 days and daily breakfast. Not the typical 7 night and 6 days diving packages we are used to seeing quoted.

After 4 straight years of Caribbean, Florida and West Coast diving, I have definitely been looking for a change of pace.
Other notes: There are daily direct/non-stop flights to Manila from LAX on Philippine Airlines. Price varies depending on time of year. It was more convenient to fly from Seattle for us, as we are here this time of year. Also, based on research, it seems that April and May are the two "prime" months of the year for weather and diving where we are going, thus the reason we are headed there now.
 

Luko

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This should be good! I just love everything abound the Phillipines!
Oh well, maybe with an exception for the food...o_O
 
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