Monday, February 03, 2014

Diving with Critters in Samal/Talikud Island, Davao Philippines

What is a vacation without some underwater action?!?!  Little known Davao actually has pretty amazing macro diving!!!  A small island just 20mins from Davao itself is Samal island, and just a little away from Samal is a littler island - Talikud.  Around these 2 islands are critters, critters and more critters.  Basically a macro photographer haven!  At least according to the guys from Samal Watersports Center Samal Watersports Center FB
My research was basically typing into the google search engine for dive centers in Samal and chanced upon Samal Watersports Center.  They seemed pretty organized and good, so an email to PJ and pretty much instant reply (provided he's not out on a dive) to confirm everything! Just like that!  No additional questions asked!  Everything was confirmed via email and I just went out to meet them at Davao Boat Club.  Although they are based on Samal Island, it is no problem for pickup at Davao as they will dock at Davao Boat Club to get their tanks for the dives.  So just arrange for them to pick you up at Davao Boat Club at 9am and they'll be there for you.  Payment is made after the dives, at the end of the dive before they let you off the boat.  P2,500 for 2 dives, including lunch (freshly cooked onboard), and if you choose 3 dives it will be P3,100 where the 3rd dive would be a night dive.
At 9am, I waited at Davao Boat Club.  At Lanang road, right beside Pearl Farm.  A taxi from Davao City costs about P160 or jeepneys kinda do go there as well!  25mins and you are there.
I was greeted by my DM for the day - Klo Lim.  Onboard the boat were 6 more divers.  Our group were split into groups of 2, each with their own DM.  Fortunately for me, I got 1 DM to myself - Like a private tour. 
The visibility that day was not the best, at most about 7-8m due to the changing weather.  But still, didn't deter the critters from being spotted.  My DM was pretty good at digging and discovering the critters.  I wouldn't have known there were things hidden beneath rocks!  We spotted lots of different types of shrimps, crabs, some I've never seen, also mantis shrimps.  Not to mention Seahorse!!! 

The water temperature was pretty cold - 26 degree celsius, common for this time of the year in Philippines where it is still kinda winter waters.  Current is not particularly strong in Samal/Talikud, though at times there were some small ones.  But if you have been to Komodo, this is nothing!  Relatively speaking, it is an easy dive.  Not much of corals so as to speak, as all are dead.  But I must say it really is a macro paradise of sorts.  According to East (resident Dive Instructor) it is even better than Lembeh Straits.  I for one had been to Lembeh and with this dive, I wouldn't agree, but he has been diving in Samal for longer and had seen better days and visibility, so I would not disagree as well.  I've seen photos that they have taken, and they were really amazing discoveries!  I guess, if you went at the right time, it would be amazing too!  Also, we only went to 2 dive sites near Talikud, and I didn't have time to explore dive sites nearer to Samal which might provide even better creatures.
Still, if you have time in Davao, I would highly recommend taking a dive in Samal.  Davao city doesn't have much to offer, so why not spend your time diving??  You can choose to stay on Samal island too, however the resorts on the island are slightly on the pricier range.  Samal Island can easily be visited on a day trip as the boats leave Davao pretty frequently.
Depending on your budget, you can get a room in Davao from as low as P350 (fan with bathroom).  D'Counter Executive Dormitel offers fan room with bath and toilet and TV for P370 (single) or aircon at P560 (single).  If you are ok with shared bathroom, there are hotels at P250 (single fan).  Staying in Davao presents you the chance to do some shopping at the SM Ecoland, or walk to the local public market Bankerohan to buy some really cheap fruits.

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