Being a boat-ride away from the port of Batangas and with over 30 diving spots to choose from, its no surprise that Puerto Galera is a favorite destination among divers. Whether you’re just getting your feet wet or are a Dive Master on holiday, there is always something for you here. I spent a few nights at Puerto Galera’s most luxurious establishments, Infinity Resort, with a good friend and dive fiend, Cecille Chang. We were there to relax, unwind, work on a tan, and eventually get me to try scuba diving, her favorite sport. I met up with Cecille and another friend at the resort, as she had been staying and diving around White Beach over the weekend.
On our last day on the island, I finally mustered the courage to try the Discovery Diving, compliments of Infinity Rersort’s affiliate partner, Marco Vincent Dive Center. We were dropped off at the dive center by Zaldy, our designated driver at Infinity, and were met by Faith Decena, the dive shop’s administrator and our coordinator for the dive.
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The Dive Shop
The Marco Vincent Dive Center is probably one of the best dive shops along White Beach in Puerto Galera. I have to admit, I found the rates a tad bit steep, but once I got into the swing of things I could appreciate all the little extra things that came with the dive, like the boat and the very helpful crew.
Before diving, we were required to fill our certain paperwork and waivers, just in case something were to happen to us out there. Since it was my very first time diving, I signed up for Discovery Diving (Php 5,400/ dive) to see how I would fare being underwater with a tank of oxygen strapped to my back and breathing underwater for over an hour. Cecille mentioned how most first-time divers don’t last too long underwater anyway, and we expected to be down there for around 30 minutes, which doesn’t seem that long.
Before doing anything in the water, I had to sit through a long PADI video about what to expect during the dive, the basic hand gestures underwater, and the do’s and don’ts when puttering around underwater. Now, usually before diving, the center requires that noobs like myself practice the basics – like breathing with a regulator – in the pool, but since we were pressed for time we decided to just go through all of it on the boat ride out instead. I was with Cecille and a seasoned guide anyway, so I was pretty confident they would take care of me.
Cecille helped to pick out my wetsuit, mask, and booties, and fins, while the guide loaded my tank, BCD, air tank, weights, and other necessary gear into my dive box. The dive shop also has lockers for those who want to leave their clothes and other things you don’t want to bring on the boat or keep in a dry bag. I think the hardest part of my whole diving experience was squeezing into my wetsuit! I was advised by Cecille to buy my own wetsuit if I planned on getting the Open Water certification, as it is normal for people to pee in their suits when underwater. Eew.
Diving In Style
We took a jeepney out onto the pier and were expected to be met with a little speedboat of some sort since it was just the two of us. Apparently, the guys at Marco Vincent travel in style and we were treated to this sweet diving boat – a 40-feet single haul with 4-feet diving flatform. The boat comes with a licensed captain and his crew, a VHF radio, a fish finder with GPS capability, fresh water showers on the dive platform, and a special rinsing container for underwater cameras.
We headed out to the Giant Clams dive spot while Cecille gave me an overview of what to expect, how to inflate and deflate my BCD, how to clear my mask of saltwater, and basically to just enjoy the experience. She’s been an avid diver for a little over two years now, and is a staple at Puerto Galera, even going out by herself to get a few dives in. The total girly girl, she’s been on the hunt for pink diving gear for the past year now – check out how cute she looks!
I felt panicky stepping of the boat and into the water. Frankly, I just couldn’t wrap my head around how it would be breathing underwater. As we were slowly sinking, lessons from my old swim coach, Mrs. Turner, came to mind. Who would’ve ever thought the basic “blowing bubbles” technique would be perfect for diving? Taking in deep breathes and slowly taking long breathes out helped center myself and it didn’t take me too long to get used to the environment underwater.
I had a number of things running through my mind as we sunk deeper and deeper into the ocean: “What if I feel claustrophobic and panic?”, “What if I forget to breathe through my regulator and snort in sea water?”,”What if I can’t acclimate?” and “What if I run out of oxygen?” You know, totally normal gut-reactions that first time divers experience. But once I got over it and began to enjoy the experience, everything started to change.
It was beautiful. I had to be conscious of leaving my mouth open slack-jawed in awe of everything and spluttering out salt water. The giant clams at the ocean bed were at the very least a meter and a half tall, with bright, periwinkle-hued anemone growing across its shell. Cecille also found a napping turtle that she woke up for me to see – it looked quite grumpy, peeking out from under its coral nook, looking for the nosy Nelly that disturbed his siesta. There were lots of different, brightly-colored fish, a gigantic sea cucumber, and two little fishies that looked a lot like dancing leaves. I had The Little Mermaid’s ‘Under the Sea’ song playing in my head for most of the time I was under.
The only annoying thing about my first experience was that the weights my guide had fitted for me was way too heavy, and I kept nose diving downwards therefore spending a lot of my time trying to kick myself back up so I wasn’t kissing the corals.
Overall, I lasted a good 47 minutes underwater – a really good time for someone’s first dive! Cecille was pretty happy that I naturally know how to manage my air, since it also meant that she’d spend more time underwater, too. The adrenaline rush hit me after the dive and all I wanted to do was get back into the water and do it all over again! What a rush! I got a certificate of my Discovery Dive from the Marco Vincent Dive Center as a souvenir – I will be using that as a reminder of why I now want to invest in getting a PADI Advanced diving license.
The Discovery Diving experience with Infinity Resort’s affiliate – the five star diving center, Marco Vincent – is one I will always remember, especially as my first dive experience was with them. They really spoiled me with the beautiful boat, and having both my guide and Cecille taking care of me that afternoon was the cherry on the cake! I had been pushing back taking up PADI’s Open Water Diving Course for a whole year now, and this is just the push I needed to commit to getting certified for that in January.
Marco Vincent Dive Center is located on White Beach, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. For inquiries or to book a dive, please call +63 2 813 6329, +63 2 813 6812, +63 2 813 6806 or +63 920 951 012.
Photo Credit: Giant Clam from tripadvisor.com.in