Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Diving in Puerto Galera

Long overdue post on my weekend dive trip to Puerto Galera back in March 2013.  Well, it's my 2nd time back to PG and this time to ensure I have evidence of the dive!
As usual, an uneventful bus ride from Manila to Batangas late night.  Arriving close to midnight there and finally hopped onto a tricycle from the Pier to Traveller's Inn.  Mind you, the tricycles are out to extort!! They charge 150Php per tricycle and there's no bloody way I was going to pay that for a 5min ride!  I was planning to walk in the darkness when another couple came along and 3 of us shared 1 tricycle for 50P each.  Geez, what a difference 1 year makes!  Last time I went, I paid 40P but courtesy to a local who helped with the negotiation.
Next morning up at 6-ish for the 730am boat.  This time, I walked to the Pier (20min walk), bought my own tickets (without the help of touts) and got on the boat!  Same price as before - Ticket price+ environmental fee+ terminal fee.  The boat departed late and by the time I reached Sabang beach, it was past 9am and I missed the 1st dive!  This time, I decided to choose a cheaper dive shop - Big Apple Dive Shop, right along Sabang Beach.  They have a fixed dive timing of 9, 11, 2pm approximate.  Unlike Blue Ribbon, which was a little more flexible.  So instead of 3 dives, I only did 2 dives.
My room was not ready when i arrived (another bummer compared to Blue Ribbon).  The only available room I got was for 1,100P - aircon and a big room at it.  But I kinda miss Blue Ribbon's bungalow (at 1,200P it is slightly more expensive) - there's a balcony with hammock and a nice cozy feel.  Big Apple has a big room, with a fridge and sofa but no hammock!
Diving at Big Apple is much cheaper because at 1,100P/dive, you get equipments for free! Blue Ribbon charges additional 300P for rental per day.  Plus, at Big Apple, I was told that repeat divers get a further discount of 900P/dive the next time they go back! 
Talking about the dive experience - I kinda went to similar sites + 1 new one.  But I must say I enjoyed my dives with Blue Ribbon more the last time round.  Maybe it has to do with the DM i went with.  The one I went with at Blue Ribbon - Pinoy DM, seemed more knowledgeable with the dive sites and area and was able to show more things.  This time @ Big Apple, the DM was a foreigner.  He was good and nice, but somehow I get the feel that he is less knowledgeable about the surroundings.  We saw some nice things too but felt not as in depth as Blue Ribbon.  But of course, I'm sure some divers feel differently and this is just my personal option.  If not for the additional 300P per dive day at Blue Ribbon, I would definitely go back to Blue Ribbon.  Yes, 300P is not much but still a little bit goes a long way!  Still it was good to try out a new dive shop for experience!  Also, Blue Ribbon was a little more flexible - they can start the dive at 8 or 9am, and they can schedule another dive at 10am for those who miss the 9am dive!  they even took just me alone out for a 3pm dive the last time i went!
About the place - Blue Ribbon is more quiet and secluded being in Small Laguna.  Big Apple is noiser as it is right smack in the middle of Sabang beach.  And the restaurant/bar area is a little more complicated at Big Apple.  By complicated I mean lots of farangs (the older kind) flirting with the local girls and vice versa.  Especially so at night.  Not so much the case down at Blue Ribbon.  But I didn't linger long at Big Apple's bar area - not my kinda scene and I don't want to be mistaken as a local pinoy. 
Went back to the restaurant in Sabang town for dinner again.  Same old place.  The other restaurants/bars look too shady... The same waiter served my food and he said he recognized me!  Yea right.. I just have the face.
Diving wise, PG is good for micro diving.  No big fish or exciting BIG marine life to shock you, but beautiful corals underwater and small things to discover.  It's not the most exciting dive sites and definitely one of the good ones!  And every dive sites is close by to the shore so no long commute!  The town itself is shady, and quite dead.  You don't see younger people there, full of old farangs/old folks.  So if you are looking for some party, go there with friends or you will be sorely disappointed.  Unless you don't mind partying with the local pinoy girls at the pole dancing bars.  Not many single travellers except for older folks. Who knows, maybe most younger divers are parked somewhere else?  Never been to White beach, only Sabang beach, so maybe it's more of a party town there!
The return trip was non-eventful which is good!  And I just found out you actually have to pay for the boat ride back to Batangas!  Now how did I ever managed to get a free ride the other time?? The 1st time, I barely made it to the departing boat and just boarded the boat when I saw it docked and about to leave. And nobody asked for my ticket.  And there I was thinking maybe I pay the boatman, then when it didn't happen, I thought maybe it IS FREE!  This time, I got there ahead of time, and everyone bought ticket.  They even check your ticket before you board the boat!  Doesn't matter if you just came out of nowhere! 
Would have loved to try the Verde Island day trip but that would definitely have to involved being in PG for at least 3D, counting the day of arrival and departure. Which means a weekend trip would not allow that, and I think mostly Verde trips are made on weekdays.