Wreck Dive at Kyokuzan Maru in Northern Coron

Docking at the northern part of Coron wasn’t originally part of the plan. For some reason, a part of our boat got broken while in transit to Quiminatin Island in Cuyo. It was fortunate though that we had an emergency stop at Coron for half of the fun of the whole dive trip happened there.

Coron - Club Paradise Resort

When we woke up that morning, we found ourselves docked in front of Club Paradise resort. And since it will take some time for the boat to get fixed, the only option left for us was to maximize our stay in Northern Coron. This was also the only time, after we left Manila Yacht Club, that we were able to get cellular reception and go online.

Northern Coron is home of the endangered sea cow or dugong. Although we did a little research online on where to find the dugongs, we were only able to get its approximate location.

The second option that we had was to go for a wreck dive on Kyokuzan Maru, a wrecked Japanese cargo ship, which is located a few hundred meters from where our boat was anchored. I got excited with the thought. You see, wreck diving is on top among my favorite diving activities. I already had experienced diving in some of Coron’s famous Japanese ship wrecks last year and so far those were among the best.

A shot of Kyokuzan Maru's bow.

For our first dive, we went into the water before lunch. It was spectacular. The underwater current was almost zero and the visibility was the best on wreck dive standards. From afar, one can still see half of the ships body considering that we were looking at a ship that’s 152m in length. Most of the Kyokuzan Maru’s structure remains intact and a good number of coral species, including different kinds of fishes and marine life-forms, thrive on the ship’s deck. Due to lack of proper equipment and knowledge about the ship’s interiors, our dive masters didn’t allow us to penetrate it and the best we had was to enjoy the upper and middle exterior sections of the ship.

Kyokuzan Maru

After our Japanese lunch on Oceana Maria, the group decided to go again for another dive on the same wreck. This time, we brought torches so we can peek into the open interiors of the ship. I also tried going down into the silt bottom of the ship but I didn’t stay long in the fears of beating the no-decompression time. Just like the earlier dive, it was easily among the best wreck dives that I had.

Kyokuzan Maru
We finished at around three and the group had no plans of doing another dive since it was almost getting late. Unfortunately, one of our dive friends accidentally dropped his dive computer towards the end of the dive. Since there was virtually no current in the area, the more experienced grouped decided to go for a search and retrieval dive for the lost dive computer in the late afternoon (yay!!).

We did the last dive just before sunset. It was one of the deepest dives I did in my entire dive life. We went back to the area where we thought the dive computer must have fallen. We did a direct descend into the area, in the hopes that the computer was directly beneath where we thought we lost it. We only had six minutes at 140ft before we will hit the threshold for a decompression stop. Before the set time, Penn, one of our dive masters found the watch lying on the silt bottom below the wreck. Whew!

It only took us twenty-five minutes to complete the entire retrieval dive but it was an unforgettable experience. My friend’s dive computer kept on beeping while we were ascending back to the surface.

It was already dark when we reached our boat. We didn’t wait long before the boat started sailing for Tubbataha in Sulu Sea.

[box icon=”http://www.travelblog.ph/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/camera_black-e1364642191560.png”]Photo Credits: Jun V Lao (Professional Underwater Photographer). Visit him at www.paparazsea.com.[/box]

[box type=”note” icon=”http://www.travelblog.ph/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/seaturtle16.png”]This post is part of my transition trip to Tubbataha on board The Oceana Maria. Follow the rest of my other related posts through this link.[/box]

Quiminatin Island in Cuyo – my little paradise from nowhere

It was the second day of the transition trip of The Oceana Maria to Tubbataha and we were scheduled to dive in Quiminatin, a small island off the coast of Cuyo, Palawan.

Quiminatin Island

Our boat anchored a few hundred meters away from the island. From the boat’s deck, I already saw the gem that the island has. The thought of walking and swimming on the island’s small patch of white sand beach with aquamarine waters appealed more to me than the thought of diving the deep blue waters around the island.

Diving in Quiminatin

The diving experience was just a topping on the whole trip to Cuyo, Palawan. We saw lobsters, glass shrimps, jelly fishes, bat fishes, and huge sea urchins. The highlight of the whole Quiminati dive maybe was the experience of swimming into the small cave in the wall. We went inside at 18m and emerged at 15m above the small tunnel where we went in. Near the end of the dive, there were also occasional thermoclines. Our dive master, Kuya Edgar, mentioned that hammer head sharks love staying at the cooler waters. I was on the look out for any hint of sharks but I failed to see one until the end of the dive.

To borrow one of our colleague’s thoughts, Quiminatin is one of those few locations wherein the view above the water is prettier than what’s below.

My Little Paradise

Shortly after getting off our dive suits and equipments on Oceana Maria, we went back to our speed boat with our cameras, sun blocks and sun glasses. This should be my ideal tropical summer, I thought. Swimming on a virtually empty white-sand beach, surrounded by giant lime stone rocks under the warmth of the sun.

Quiminatin Island

I love the thought of staying in the beach of a random island for a day and you don’t know to worry about visum usa. Had I not known the island’s name at the time we set foot on its white sand beach, the experience would have been a lot better.

Quiminatin Island

After taking several photos and done several jump shots (each of us had a jump shot photo and my jump pose was not as good as that of the others), we set off back to our big boat where the second dive group had just finished their dive.

Although we didn’t stay long in the island, it was nice to feel the ground especially when you’re set for a week’s worth of journey and adventure on sea.

[box type=”note” icon=”http://www.travelblog.ph/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/seaturtle16.png”]This post is part of my transition trip to Tubbataha on board The Oceana Maria. Follow the rest of my other related posts through this link.[/box]

Diving in Malapascua, Cebu

Malapascua is a small island located northern most part of Cebu province. The island is famous for its white sand beaches and world-class dive sites. It’s also known for sightings of mantas and thresher sharks.

Malapascua Island, Cebu

I was really excited when we started planning about the Malapascua trip. For one, it was my first time to visit a destination in Cebu outside of the bustling city and second, I was excited to see the famous thresher sharks. When we learned about the long weekend earlier this month, I didn’t hesitate getting a ticket to Cebu for this trip.

On our way to Malapascua

Malapascua belongs to the town of Daangbantayan. From the airport, we hailed a cab that took us to the town. The whole trip lasted for around four hours and we waited for nearly half an hour before we reached the island. Malapascua Island is relatively small. From the pier, you can almost walk to any point in the island. But if you’re bringing gears/equipment with you, taking a motorbike or a water taxi to your resort is highly recommended. We walked and it wasn’t the best experience.

The accommodation and diving reservations were all arranged while we were still in Manila. As recommended by our diving friends, we decided to book our dives for the whole duration of the trip with Evolution. They operators of the dive resort are the same set of technical divers who retrieved the late DILG secretary Jesse Robredo. However, for a group of four traveling on a budget, the accommodation with Evolution was a bit pricey for us and we decided to stay at the resort next to Evolution which we were able to get at a very good deal.

Diving in Malapascua

The highlight of the trip was the thresher shark dive in Monad Shoal. The minimum diving depth to have a good visibility of the thresher sharks in Monad Shoal is 85 feet. To assure the safety of their divers, Evolution requires their guest divers to either have an advanced open water certification or to at least have 30 logged dives for open water diving certification (CMAS One Star, in my case). Although I have already logged more than 30 dives, the owner requested that I undergo a pre-Monad dive just to make sure that I have the right skills to go for a deep dive at Monad.

The first dive that we had was at the House Reef located a few minutes away from the resort’s shore. The location is popular among macro photographers. However, I didn’t have an underwater camera at that time so I took the opportunity to practice my trimming for the succeeding dives. The dive was a shallow one, with the deepest recorded depth at 13m (42 ft). Although it wasn’t that deep, it was my longest recorded dive which lasted for 1 hour and 10 minutes and only left me a third of my air supply.

Meeting the Thresher Sharks

Thresher Shark dives in Monad Shoal are among the popular underwater attractions in Malapascua. At 5a.m., you can see different dive boats from different resorts in the island racing towards Monad. Although there are enough space underwater to accommodate all of the divers, there’s a limited number of “cleaning stations” where the sharks do their early morning visits. Hence, the reason why dive operators “race” to get the best spot to see the sharks.

We left the island a few minutes past 5am and took around 20 minutes before we arrived in Monad Shoal and we were already in the water just before sunrise. The Monad Shoal dive si a deep direct descend at 25 meters. Maybe we were lucky at that time that 2 minutes after we started our descend, we saw our first thresher shark. A few more more showed up as went closer to the cleaning stations. On average, there’s a fair chance that one can experience 4 to 5 shark sightings in a dive. We saw five that time and the closest was just around 10~20 ft away from us.

To cap our trip, we decided to go for another visit with the thresher sharks. We didn’t have enough of our first Monad Shoal dive that we booked for another one the morning before we left the island. I can say that the second dive was better than the first one. We didn’t have to find the sharks since it was the sharks who surprised us by showing up less than 10ft away from us. We were literally clinging at the side a wall trying to avoid the shark from seeing us.  The second Monad dive was also deeper than the first one that I almost reached my decompression time.

Here’s a video of our shark sighting during our second Monad dive.

We had a total of five dives for that three-day trip in Malapscua. We’ve only dove four of the many available dive spots in the island. Come February or March, I’m looking forward into visiting the island again for mantas and hammer heads.

You may get in touch with Evolution via email: info (at) evolution dot com dot ph.


Cameron Highlands, Malaysia


Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap is known for his “off-the-beaten-track: adventures. Unlike many tourists, he literally goes “out of the way” to explore a place.

During a recent trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Ed ventured of to the Cameron Highlands to explore its majestic mountains. If you even find yourself in Kuala Lumpur, why not venture away from the city and try something different./ Ed describes how to get there on his blog…

Cameron Highlands, Pahang: Dreamlike Mossy Forests of Gunung Brinchang

A diversion road from the junction to the BOH Tea Plantation and Factory leads to the dreamy forested slopes of Gunung Brinchang (Mt. Brinchang), the second tallest peak in Cameron Highlands at 2000 meters high. A four-story high observation tower, flanked by telecommunication towers, tops the summit of the mountain, providing a fantastic vantage point – most especially when the weather is clear – to survey the nearby forests, countryside and towns of Cameron Highlands. This is a popular vantage point to watch the sunrise, but due to the occurrence of haze, which would otherwise obstruct the sun, we were advised by the tour operator to visit the mountain only as part of a full-day tour.

Upon descending the mountain, we stopped the side of the access road to take quick hike through the mossy forest that carpet the mountain. The tangle of warp tree branches and roots enveloped in dewy moss and ferns gave the environment a somewhat fairy-tale atmosphere. One could easily imagine the Big Bad Wolf lurking in some damp and dark corner!

Read the whole article here.

AirPhil Express flies from Manila to Kuala Lumpur three times a weekk. Book your tickets on AirPhilExpress.com

Go on a walking tour of Cotabato City


Sometimes, the best way to see a place is on foot.

Regular tours take you through the typical tourist destinations of a place. Taking a set tour takes the hassle out of figuring out what to do and where to go in any place. The downside of a set tour is that you are constrained by where the tour planners want to take you, and you are put at the mercy of the pace of everyone in the group. Going around on foot can be an adventure… and allows you the opportunity to discover the richness of a destination at your own pace.

Follow Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap of eazytraveler.com as he visits Cotabato City on foot.

DIY Walking Tour – Cotabato City & Datu Odin Sinsuat (Maguindanao)

While not part of the region, Cotabato City is the administrative center of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Geographically located at the heart of Maguindanao province, which it is politically independent from, it sits on the river delta of the Rio Grande de Mindanao, the second largest river system in the Philippines.

Once the center of the Sultanate of Maguindanao and later on occupied by the Spaniards in the late 19th century, the city is a convergence of Muslim and Christian Filipino cultures, with a diverse population of Moro indigenous people, such as the Maguindanao, Maranao and Iranun, as well as Christian migrants from Luzon and Visayas.

Read the whole article here.

AirPhilExpress flies to Cotabato City from Manila. Book your tickets at airphilexpress.com

Travel Guide: Zamboanga City


Travelling around by yourself can be fun. Travelling to some pretty dangerous places (by reputation) makes the adventure all the more awesome!

Follow The Pinoy Adventurista of PinoyAdventurista.com as shares with us his travel tips on his adventure around Zamboanga City and Basilan Island

Travel Guide : Basilan and Zamboanga City Solo Trip Summary, Itinerary and Expenses

The Basilan and Zamboanga City Trip is a series of blog posts during my visit to south-western Mindanao last July 2-3, 2011. I waited for almost a year to be able to fly to “Asia’s Latin City”, via AirPhilExpress’ seat sale last year. Originally, my plan was to explore Zamboanga City, but Basilan came into picture when I met Dom, a fellow blogger. He helped me discover and experience Basilan’s exceptional splendor and exquisiteness, a beauty not everyone is lucky to see.

To date, Basilan is the 29th province on my list. Also, this is my 5th solo trip and my first time to set foot in Zamboanga peninsula.

Read the whole article here.


Airphil Express flies to Zamboanga from Manila and Davao. Book your flight at http://airphilexpress.com

Tricycle Tour of Pagudpod, Ilocos Norte


When you fly to your destination, one of the problems you face when you get there is “how do I get around?” There are always the typical tourist solutions which include joining a tour group and ride a tour bus, or you can typically rent a van and a driver to take you around. You can also do what the locals do and take public transportation, paying at each stop.

Paoay Church in Ilocos
Paoay Church, one of the few destinations you can visit near Pagudpud, Ilocos

One creative solution, take a tricycle tour. Mica Rodriguez of Senyorita.Net did just that. It certainly made out to be an awesome adventure in itself. Read how she did it, and where she went. Read the whole article here.

[box]AirPhilExpress flies to Laoag, Ilocos Norte from Manila. Book your flight at http://airphilexpress.com[/box]

Adventures in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

When one thinks of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, one immediately imagines a modern city with awesome architecture like the iconic Petronas Towers at the heart of the city. Then, there is the city of such a rich cultural heritage that one envisions temples and shrines like the famous Batu Caves (pictured above).

Unless you are a seasoned traveler, going around the city and its outskirts might be a littler challenging. Doing research ahead of time as to where to go, what to do, where to eat, and of course… what not to do, comes in very handy. The most handy source of information, the experiences of those who have come before you, and took the effort to write it up.

Follow the adventures of Antonio Carranza, Jr. of pusangkalye.net as he shares with us his adventures in and around Kuala Lumpur and beyond. Start by following his adventures here:


AirPhilExpress flies three times a week to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysa. Book your tickets at: http://airphilexpress.com/

Touring Sagada’s Echo Valley

On our first day in Sagada, we decided to take the light route – a walk within town. After we setting our stuff at Residential Lodge, we took our lunch and then decided to explore on-foot the nearby attractions within the town-proper.

The weather was fine during that time. It was an hour past noon, yet, the sun was still too shy to show up. The cold mountain breeze was the break we needed from the warm Manila weather. One of the few things that you’ll love in Sagada is the cool climate. It reminded me of autumn in Kyoto.

St. Mary's Church Bell
St. Mary's Epischopal Church

Just about a hundred meters away from the bus terminal you’ll find the old church bell displayed at the back of St. Mary’s church which sits along the trail going to the Echo Valley. Several tourists go for a guided tour to Echo Valley but I guess it’s one of those few instances wherein you can do it yourself, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

Walking past the church and you’ll find yourself in a cemetery on a small hill.  It’s quite interesting on how the locales remember their departed loved ones. Instead of lighting a candle, they use dried up dead branches of pine tries and other firewood to light up a small bonfire on top of the grave. Locales do this every all saints’ day and calls this tradition “panag-apoy“. I’ve only seen it in pictures but it should be quite a sight to see an entire hill in red flames.

View of the Echo Valley from the top of the hill. The hanging coffins attached to the limestone are still visible.

A short walk after the cemetery will bring you to the Echo Valley. There are a couple of trails you can take should you wish to go down. For our case, we decided not to continue since it would have been cumbersome to take the trail back up to the hill. Few of the attractions that we’ve enjoyed from our location were the hanging coffins, despite our distance, were still visible from our location and of course, the scenic view of the entire Echo Valley.

We spent most of our afternoon at the cliff-side doing a teleconference from work and playing card games while savoring the cool climate and the scenic view. If you’ve gotten used to the bustling environment of the city, most likely, you’ll welcome the serenity the place can bring.

It wasn’t late enough when we went back to town to freshen up and catch the sunset at Lake Danum.

[box type=”note”]This post is part of a series of posts dedicated to my first trip to Sagada, Mountain Province.[/box]

Sagada Sunset at Lake Danum

The sunset in Sagada is best viewed from Lake Danum. The area is not that far from the town. After taking our rest from the on-foot exploration of the town (Echo Valley tour in Sagada) that we did during our first day in Sagada, we decided to join the group of tourists headed towards Lake Danum. They say it’s the best place to see the setting of the sun.

There were quite a number of tourists who have already arrived ahead of us. Some of them have set-up their blankets on the grassy hill top. Behind us was Lake Danum, partially hidden behind the tree branches. There was nothing magnificent about Lake Danum, or perhaps it was overshadowed by the beautiful sunset in front of us.

It didn’t take too long before the blue skies changed to the hue of orange and we watched sun as it set down behind the mountains of the Cordilleras.

I tried taking a photo of the lake behind us but it was too dark already to take a good shot. Maybe some other time, I can find time again to re-visit Lake Danum.


[box type=”note”]This post is part of a series of posts dedicated to my first Sagada trip.[/box]