Saturday, October 06, 2012

Puerto Galera Weekend Dive

Long overdue post on my quick weekend dive getawayto Puerto Galera, Batangas, Philippines. 

If you are ever in Manila, and want to get away for the weekend, like for a dive, Puerto Galera is the place!  It is the nearest place you can get to without having to worry about "Oh no, I can't dive 18H before a flight!"; "Oh no, if I fly in the morning, I don't have enough time to dive"; "Shit, I can't book a flight" etc etc.  It is across the waters from Batangas, which is a 2H drive from Manila.  Buses run throughout the day, which means you can make your way to Batangas even if it's 10pm at night!  Although I really don't recommend that unless 1) You are a Pinoy 2) You have company 3) You know your way around 4) You just don't care about shit! 

Of course, it's not just a 2H ride! You have to take an almost 1H boat ride across to PG, which runs from 730am to 430pm.  Which means YES, you wouldn't be able to set feet int PG if you travel at night to Batangas, but at least you can be the FIRST to cross the water to PG the next day!  Which is precisely what I did!
So here's the lowdown.  On Friday night, I made my way to the many bus terminals in Manila.  If you are in Makati, it is at Gil Puyat LRT station.  You WILL NOT miss it.  Or just tell the taxi driver "Bus terminal going to Batangas" they will know which one to take you to.  Different buses depart from different terminals.  My taxi driver took me to JAC Liner.  Ok, I would probably recommend JAM the next time cos I took that on my return and it was alot faster.
The moment I got off the taxi, touts came and helped me manuveur the crowd to find the right bus.  Yes, I know I should have done it myself to save the tipping, but oh well, it was late at night and I just couldnt be bothered.  Anyway, just a tip of 20pesos is not much.  The buses run really very frequently.  I missed about 3 buses as they were all filled up and I was across the street buying my dinner, but got on the 4th bus easily.  The buses were packed! I guess people were going home from Manila for the weekend.  The bus made several stops on the way, and they played movie on board!  Wear a jacket, it's COLD!!!
After almost 3H, I got to Batangas Pier.  Make sure you get off at Batangas Pier cos the town is a distance away and if you want to catch the first boat, better to stay near to the Pier.  After I got off, the place was dark and almost empty, except for 1 bus taking people further away.  A Pinoy got off at the same place and thank god for him!  Cos I was trying to get my bearing and finding where Traveller's Inn was!  People that were there couldn't speak English.  So he took me to the exit and was about to walk to the Inn with me when the Tricycle rider finally relented on 40pesos to send me there.  They wanted 100! Crazy.  Seeing that it was almost 11pm and the road was deserted, I took it and checked in PRONTO!!  Traveller's Inn is the closest to the Pier, it's about 700PhP per night, and the room is nice!  Air-conditioned, with shower, tv and a HARD HARD bed.  Bed was SOOOO hard I couldn't sleep the whole night!
Early next morning, jumped on the first boat to Sabang!  Again, there are touts at the Pier who would help you buy your tickets and all those environment fees thingy.  You can DIY or like me, I just tipped me a little to settle for me :) Added up to about 200Php in total.
The boat was surprisingly rather prompt! Though it didn't leave on the dot but not too long after!
After a long ride, I finally reached PG!! All sunny and hot!
So PG isn't exactly a nice beach.  There isnt really a beach per sey!  The boats were all anchored close to the shore, the shore was full of stones and rocks.. Not really that pleasing a beach for tanning or laying around.  But I was there for the dive! 
 The town of Sabang is really really small, nothing much to walk around with a few eateries here and there.

I booked a room with Blue Ribbon Divers, at Small Laguna, just a 5min walk from the pier at Sabang.  This area is a little nicer, the beach is a little cleaner too!  The rooms are not budget, i.e. backpackers may not find it cheap.  My bungalow ws 1200Php per night, fully air conditioned, TV (cable!), double bed (this is comfy bed), toilet with shower and amenities.  An best of all a PORCH with HAMMOCK!!!!!  Nope, no sea view, but I don't really care! I have a hammock!!!

Pronto, dropped my bag and went to dive! 3 dives on the first day.  Dives are 1,100Php per dive, equipment is 200Php per day, regardless of what you rent, just 1 price. 
We went to Hole in the Sea, Giant Clams and Monkey Beach.  Awesome dive! I mean look at PG beach you may think "So ugly, what can this place offer!!", but the dive is really good!  And they are just 5-10mins away from the dive center!  Corals are beautiful and visibility is good!  Of cos, if you are into really MACRO like Sipadan, you may be disappointed, but PG is good!  For a place so close to Manila, worth the trip and money!
Hole in the Sea so named because there is a hole about 5m wide and 8m long where you swim through.  That was fun!  And when you get to the other side, the marine life is real great!  We saw gigantic fish, trevalis etc etc..
Giant Clams, obviously GIANT CLAMS!! Like half the size of me!!! And loads of them on the floor!  That dive was good as well, we saw throngs of trevalis and really big fish just swim past.  Did Giant Clams twice!
Night life was not really much.  THing is, it's the off-season.  Not many backpackers.  I must say, i see alot of locals (weekend getaway) but they don't dive actually, and old westerners.  Old folks.  The atmosphere felt old, and very quiet.  I guess, if people are vacationing in Philippines, they wouldn't choose PG specifically.  I would definitely go Boracay or Bohol for dives.  So wondering around Sabang town for dinner, I passed by lots of local clubs.  Yes, those local clubs with pole dancers, skimpily dressed Pinoy pole dancers gyrating around the poles, with local pinoys sitting up close, and some old FOLKS (i.e. westerners).  WHen i say lots, I mean lots!  Every 5-10 steps, there's one.  And I did notice not many young females walking along the streets, except me.  Made me feel rather conscious....  But if I gota eat, I gota eat!  Parked myself at a local stall eating Pancit Canton.  Then slumped and fell asleep, too tired from the early day and the dives.
Sunday did 1 last dive @ Monkey beach.  That was really nice dive! Saw a lot of things, and generally just had a good vibe of the dive!  Saw lots of live and nice corals too!  After 1 dive, I packed my bag and rushed for the boat.  Ok, there may have been a fixed timing for boat departure, but really, you never know!  So I was lucky to make the 1045am departure!  The next departure would have been 1-ish.  Probably no in between, at least that is what the locals said.  But like I said, you never know!  I never knew there was a boat leaving at 1045am, they said 1130am!  So I was lucky to catch it before it departed!  I thought I had to pay for the ride, but I didn't.  Nobody checked for ticket or anything.  So I guess when you buy the ticket to leave for PG, it is a return ticket for you to get back to Batangas!
Once I reached Batangas, it was easy peasy to get back to Manila.  Tons of buses just waiting and calling out to you!  Took JAM back to Manila.  167Php (same price) and within 2H I was back in Manila!!
Would I go back again?  Well If I were in Manila and only have 1 weekend, I would.  It's close enough and good enough a dive spot for the weekend.  If I were vacationing in Philippines? Nope!  I would definitely choose Bohol for diving.

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