the lovely thing about the coastline here is that it is unspoilt, protected by Filipino law under which all beaches are public. Resorts can’t build on them and steal the views for themselves.
Even stronger local laws along the Dauin coast also mean that it is impossible for resorts to build piers and jetties, so the coastline remains more natural. These local laws stretch to the diving, whereby all divers must be accompanied by a guide who holds certification from the mayor (so sorry, no solo diving) and diving in the marine parks can take place only during certain hours of the day.
The Philippines, like many other parts of South-east Asia, sits on the “Ring of Fire”, which means that there is always a volcano close by.
The black sand or, in the case of the Dauin coast, slightly grey sand, shouldn’t put you off, because the diving is anything but grey, and actually provides a dramatic backdrop for a photographer like me.
A moray eel enjoys his morning freshen-up from the local cleaner wrasse.
Most diving along this part of the coast is on these grey-sand slopes, with beach-entry possible for many of the dive-sites.
Atmosphere also has three boats: two modern speedboats and a bigger traditional-style boat. Extra vessels can be hired by the resort for larger groups, so you always have access to wherever you should want to go.
Local dive-guide Richard asked me what my favourite critter was, because he really wanted to find it for me. I told him that I didn’t have one, and no checklist of things I really wanted to see, but just enjoyed each dive for what it brought me. I did however mention that I had never seen a “Shaun the Sheep” (Costasiella kuroshimae) nudibranch, and he smiled and said: “No problem!”
All the way along the Dauin coast there are small marine reserves. Atmosphere Resort sits right in the middle of one of these, so its house reef is in excellent condition, and my first dive was there.
We walked in, put our fins on and as soon as I ducked my head under Richard called me over to show me what looked like a yellow grain of sand, indicating that it was a nudibranch of some sort.
It wasn’t until I put my macro lens on that I started to make it out, but I still couldn’t see it properly until I zoomed into the photo on the back of the camera and realised that it was an Oxynoe bubble snail, one of the smallest critters I have ever seen.
Richard clearly had amazing critter-spotting eyes, and he went on to find me critter after critter throughout the dive. He told me later that there were even more that he had seen but hadn’t shown me.
As a photographer, I was pleased that he didn’t try to show me a new animal every few minutes, because there are only so many things you can photograph on one dive successfully.
The house reef truly had lots to offer. At one point I was “in the zone”, photographing one of the many frogfish, when I heard Richard shouting in his regulator. I looked up and was shocked to find that I was face to face with a sea snake, one of many that inhabit the area.
I could tell that Richard found it very funny that the snake had made me jump so much, and he was still giggling to himself when we exited the water.
Shaun the Sheep had eluded us, but Richard promised that we would find him next time!