After a long journey we all finally arrived at our isolated tropical paradise. Our first destination was Kasai Village Resort which had a relaxing, laid-back family-feel atmosphere. Gentle cross breezes and mild temperatures were a pleasure above water while a reef teaming with life greeted us below!
During our stay at Kasai from October 2nd thru October 9th we were treated as family and started life-long friendships with people half a world away. It did not matter that our group only numbered 7; we were treated like kings and queens.
Whether it was diving three dives a day and reaching milestones (congratulations to Tomo for his 50th dive, Mike for his 200th and Jane for her 300th!), getting a relaxing massage (for Paul the first ever), playing volleyball with the staff, enjoying cocktails after a great day or eating what was agreed to be some of the best food many had had on dive vacations there was something for everyone to enjoy.
During our trip at Kasai we were treated with seeing all that you would expect underwater in the marine-rich waters of Philippines and more. Several species of anemone fish, lionfish, frogfish, pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs and beautiful reefs were abundant. The house reef boasted a wall environment just as diverse as the rest of the boat dives with the added benefit of mandarin fish and blue-ring octopus! The highlight dive location was Pescador Island. A small island out in the passage which had the most immense schools of sardines any of us had ever seen. It was easy to get lost in them and be mesmerized. We were always vigilant to try to see the elusive thresher shark hunting the school and even though they did not appear I think we can all agree it was worth going back several times for the sardines alone. I know Tomo didn't mind!
We were all a little sad to leave when the time came and were nervous about how the 2nd resort would ever be able to compare to Kasai but Pura Vida Beach and Dive Resort had its own unique and wonderful advantages!
Our stay at Pura Vida Resort began on October 9th after one of the best ways to transfer from one resort to the next...diving transfers! We were treated with our own very large out-rigger dive boats that could have easily held 15-20 divers but we were the only ones on the boat. We enjoyed one last dive at Pescador and made the trek south to Pura Vida and "muck" diving.
Many didn't really know what to expect with "muck" diving and Larry even coined it "gunk" diving! The dark sand and lack of natural reef is what defines "muck" diving but it is the creatures that keep people coming back. We saw it all from thorny seahorses, flamboyant cuttlefish, mantis shrimp, crinoid lobsters, crinoid clingfish, flounders, and just about every juvenile fish you could think of including Paul and Laura's favorite... the "squiggle" fish (Emperor Angel Juvenile). Pura Vida had the advantage of having both "muck" diving as well as excellent wall diving at the outer islands of Apo and Siquijor.
The outer islands had an even healthier reef that at Kasai as fishing is not permitted. The waters had some of the best visibility of the trip and where the sites near Kasai were noticeably absent of larger fish they were abundant here.
While the trip over to the dive sites at Apo and Siquijor were longer than what we had become accustomed to it was well worth the all-day trips. One of the best discoveries by our appetite driven group was that the crew loves to barbeque! They packed the meat and we had BBQ Sate cooked right on the boat. All the guys were in "hog" heaven! For a shore break we were taken over to the island to walk around and quickly found out that the locals are on the watch for any tourists who come as they had all walked down to the beach with their textiles (shirts, wraps) before those that ventured even landed! Many of the ladies were industrious enough that they "stole" the small boats that went to shore and brought their items to our boat for those of us who did not go on-shore!
While Pura Vida was a large resort compared to Kasai and had more precautions due to its close proximity to town we were always greeted with smiles and the staff quickly learned our names and were eager to assist. Besides, the grounds and free 1 hour massages were amazing... and not to worry, they had Mangos at every meal (something Laura really appreciated)!
At the end of our journey (at least in the Philippines) we were all a bit sad to go and agreed that we would all love to come back someday. Thank you to the staff at both resorts and dive guides that made us feel at home and always welcome.
Thank you all for joining me on a wonderful vacation and making it such a memorable experience. I hope we can all travel together again soon!