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Warning: Dive Center specialising in Dugong watching-North Coron (Busuanga), Palawan

Discussion in 'Philippine Paradise Divers' started by britishseapowerman, Sep 13, 2010.

  1. britishseapowerman

    britishseapowerman Registered

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Kirkintilloch
    I have not named the dive centre specifically for the purposes of this post, however the market place for dive centres in this area is tiny and it will not be difficult to ascertain which dive centre I had this experience with. Therefore I hope the right message gets to the right people.

    Firstly I will state that I will stick purely to the facts for the post and avoid putting in my own opinion as it could cloud the issue - hopefully the story will be clear enough to ensure people can read between the lines.

    I have been on a month long diving holiday in the Philippines, all diving had been booked in advance, in the case of this dive centre it was booked in July.

    Busuanga Island has the majority of the wrecks in the south and is primarily dived from Coron town - I done 12 dives here and had good experiences with Seadive resort and dive centre. I intended to round my trip off by heading to the north of the island where a dive center organises day trips to see dugongs. On the centres website there are 3 options - 2 very high end resorts and one slightly expensive(for what it is) backpacker accomodation. I went for the backpacker option. I met another diver in Coron Town who was interested in coming with me, so one morning we got a public jeepney to the San Jose (about 1.5hours away) and walked the 2km into Maricaban where Vickis Lodging is. With 38kilos of equipment on my back! On arriving we met another guy from Singapore, Ash, who was also there to dive with the dugongs.

    I was already aware that the centre is not commonly visited, so I was texting and phoning the dive centre in advance to ensure that there would be other people there, they advised me to head up so I was confident we would have enough people (more so because the dive center was not aware of the extra diver I had met until that day). At 5.30pm, the day before diving was about to commence, the dive center, text to inform me that 2 other divers had changed there schedule and were not wishing to do the dugong trip - phoned to arrange the next days diving. Naturally we enquired to confirm the price - on the website the price for, and i quote exactly, 'DUGONG WATCHING - Full day excursion for divers and non divers is 2000pesos. When we arrived Ash from Singapore said the price he had been quoted was 2700pesos. The email I received from the manager confirmed this price. This seemed reasonable.

    The new price, now that we had arrived in the middle of nowhere, was then adjusted to include the dives(note above per the website the cost says for divers and non divers is 2000pesos) and also split the full cost of the boat between 3 persons. The cost for me was 5600pesos($120) as I have my own equipment and 6400pesos for the guys without equipment. For 2 dives. I am not sure why on earth they would have backpacker accomodation with these kind of prices. To put it in some context 3 dives on the wrecks of coron, with lunch and endless soft drinks and beer(after diving of course) is 2900pesos ($60).

    Also, note that the price if the other diver I had met in Coron wasn't there would have been circa 9000pesos each for me and Ash!!!

    This came as a huge surprise to me and especially so as I was extremely cautious as I have explained contacting them in advance before heading up there. After some discussion on the phone - I was told to contact the manager via text, which I did explaining the disappointment and the feeling that we had been mislead.


    This is the exact response from the manager:
    "Who is this? We suppose to have 2 different arrivals today. I gave you for sure the right info. We don't like to have a discussion later on. You must have understood something wrong. I am feeling sad for vicki. She must have bought all the food supply already. I think 1000pesos per dive is not much plus boat dependent on fuel consumtion is not much, especially on our boats. Dugong watching is a whole day with engines running, that cost plus boat cost plus dugong conservation fee.Sorry that you missed the chance to dive with the dugongs and or dive apo and our wreck with super visibility. Guess you compare with coron. You can't. This are two different worlds. Anyway hope you have some nice dives someplace else. Cheers"

    Now bearing in mind I have now committed 2 days of my trip to this I was now extremely agitated. Also, Ash had travelled to Busuanga specifically to do this dugong trip - he had invested a lot more than I had.

    There was further arguing but the end result was that we had left vickis at 3am to catch a jeepney back to Coron Town. Maricaban, where Vickis lodging is in the middle of nowhere, no bar no proper shop, nothing, just a tiny fishing village.

    I was particularly annoyed about his comment regarding poor Vicki's food - attempting to make us feel guilty. Fortunately Vicki was very understanding.

    Back in Coron town I explained what had happened to some other business owners down here. I will not voice there opinion, only their reaction - they were not surprised.

    I went to the north to do the wreck and the dugongs - I was too upset to even ask about the cost of the wreck. There is only one dive shop up there.

    My advice is avoid this place if you are a backpacker diver or a diver on a budget. Perhaps the center are used to dealing with the wealthy guests at the other 2 resorts - which is fine but why advertise $15 per night accom for 2 people on your website when the prices are as high as above. I will have to bide my time for my duging experience.

    Also there is absolutely no point in booking in advance - the price is entirely dependent on other divers going. Small fluctuations is price if there are not enough people is fine (in a country where fuel is 35pesos per litre - perhaps less for marine diesel) - however these fluctuations are too vast to be accomodated for by normal divers.

    I could say more but I will stop there as I may lose the kep point. Please feel free if you need me to clarify anything.
  2. Ashantiashanti

    Ashantiashanti Contributor

    I would like to bump this thread, as I am about to decide whether or not to go and visit this dive center to see the dugongs.
    I have not found any post on this forum, or any trip-reviews via. google regarding these guys, except this post - which I find strange.
    This is them: Dugong Dive Center: Coron Busuanga Palawan Philippines

    Anyone know anything about them?
  3. jale

    jale Barangay Pasaway

    If you want to see dugong, head to Florida..I would be really surprised if there are any left in Busuanga. I do hope i am wrong.
  4. Cheeki Diver

    Cheeki Diver New

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Coron, Palawan
    Hi all

    I would like to take this opportunity to let you all know that Vicky's guesthouse will ready to accept guests after 2 years of it being closed due to the super typhoon that heavily damaged the place last November 2013. Vicky's will be to be able to organize your Dugong watching trips and dives to the nearby island and the shipwreck hassle-free. For more information please contact (+63)-946-433-5257 or email brendawoodyatt@gmail.com.

    Hope to hear from you soon. :)
  5. eelpout

    eelpout Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: WI
    The animals you see in Florida are Manatees, they are not the same as Dugongs.

    "Dugongs and manatees are cousins which is why they have many similarities. Like their bodies for example. They essentially have the same body structure except for their tails. While considered large sea mammals, dugongs are actually smaller compared to manatees. Another difference in their bodies is their snouts. Manatees have a prehensile upper lip that they use to gather food and they have a generally shorter snout compared to dugongs. Manatees also don’t have incisors while dugongs have tusks. Both animals are considered vulnerable to extinction and strict laws are in place for their conservation"
  6. Ashantiashanti

    Ashantiashanti Contributor

    A fellow poster just sent me a PM asking about my experience with Dugong Dive centers and I would like to share my experience. I am not usually a person who writes reviews and so forth, as I cannot be bothered despite having a engative experience (I tend to want to "get over" such instances and just put it behind me.) I was there some years ago with my girlfriend, and I will just quickly copy+paste what I wrote to the fellow poster:

    It was a big disappointment. We went and it is not as advertised at all. Firstly, the high encounter rate which they advertise is a bit misleading, as they count dugong encounters even when the skippe spots it breaching from far away.

    Secondly, they combine the dugong trip with regular divers. So the first 75% of the trip is you waiting for the divers to finish their dives (double dives,) and then they go to spot the dugongs.

    Thirdly, it is a "chase the dugong" encounter. They try to drive close with the boat and tell you to jump in the water and swim after them. Dugongs swim fast! And are scared of the boat and all the splashing.

    Fourthly, when we complained to the owner and asked for a discount he started insulting us and threatening us. Some German or Austrian guy.

    I would strongly not recommend it.
    Pony likes this.
  7. NYCNaiad

    NYCNaiad Dive babble all day long

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: NYC
    I have not been diving the shops mentioned above, but I did dive with Sangat Island Dec. 2014. The DMs there have seen a number of dugongs in the wild in the Coron area. However, I did not see any dugongs while I was there.

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