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Philippines

The Philippines come with us to the Coral Triangle

2018 dates July 10th -21st. Dumaguete and Amun ini. Call us for more information. 803-419-2556

MALAPHIL

 


Introducing the magical islands of the Visayas Sea

Immersion travel begins and ends with this family adventure! Kids Sea Camp is ready to take you on a journey of a lifetime, full of culture, history, and biodiversity.

By Margo Peyton

After landing on the main island Cebu, and being met by friendly smiles and helpful hands, Biggs Eggert with Sea Explorers, handed us a cool facecloth and a bottle of water.  We then headed to the tip of Cebu to board a Banka Boat, which reminded me of a giant bamboo water spider, spacious and smooth sailing like a mystical chariot. 

Malapascua, as I was told, had become well known as a dive destination fairly recently. This tiny island, just a little more than a mile and a half, is home to several villages that exist either directly or indirectly to support the growing dive tourism industry. Their economy is based solely on divers like us.

I had read that Malapascua is the only known place on planet earth where you can experience the rare and endangered Thresher sharks regularly, and as I prefer, in a natural setting at seamount cleaning stations on Monad Shoal.   Biggs said we would dive the shoal at sunrise and as crazy as that sounds, it was not hard at all. Jet lag combined well with the time lag, and we were wide awake and ready to go at 5 am!  Thresher sharks have been on my wish list for many years, and seeing them on every dive far exceeded my expectations.

The shoal also attracts devil rays, pelagic fish, and hammerheads, enough to thrill any level of diver. Families can also dive the coral gardens, coral walls as well as further-out sites including Gato Island, and Kemod Shoal. There are at least 20 dive operations and hotels on this small strip called Bounty Beach, however, Tom and I found only two properties we would deem as family friendly. Ocean Vida and Buena Vida, both have connecting rooms, family friendly food, kid friendly staff, with refrigerators in the rooms. Ocean Vida is oceanfront, and Buena Vida is right in the middle of the local village, hosting an amazing spa and restaurant that would please any palate. Gourmet breakfasts, vegan and vegetarian dishes and fresh seafood are featured.

We dove with Sea Explorers, a PADI 5 Star IDC, during our entire stay in the Philippines.  Top notch service, smaller dive gear and tanks for kids, and a well-trained staff for all levels of divers. They accommodated big rig photographers and first-time divers alike.  Each boat had hot coffee and tea, and warm face cloths, fresh fruit, and baked bread when you returned from your dive. And to top it all off, I never touched my gear.  It was rinsed and set up perfectly adorned atop my Nitrox tank,  awaiting my return.Heaven!  Nothing made the staff happier on this trip than to see the smile on our faces, and I guess that’s why their tagline is “Dive with a smile” because we certainly did.   

Dauin was our next stop, and we were beyond surprised when we arrived. The one and two bedroom villas can easily accommodate families of 5, and are crafted of rich hardwoods and majestic views. The beautiful beach, 2 pools, gym, spa and wedding chapel were most inspiring.  So much so, that we could not resist the opportunity to renew our vows at Sunrise. Owner, Chris Heim was on hand to give me away; Biggs was maid of honor, and the local Justice of the Peace presided, while his wife and daughter attended and sang.  I have no words for how welcome Sea Explorers made us feel. They treat everyone as if you are family.  

Along with all the local traditions, there is a very modern feel, microwaves, coffee makers, and the most comfortable beds in all the Philippines I am sure. There are villages to explore, a mountain school, and more amazing diving.   I could have stayed a month and not been bored.  Diving Apo Island provided an endless view of colorful soft corals, teeming with fish and punctuated with my favorite, turtles!  To end the day, I was so excited when Biggs asked me if I wanted to do a muck dive. I had read about them for years and never thought the moment would come. Tiny orange frog fish the size of a gumball, vibrant tiger shrimp and anemone crabs, pink seahorses and little soft bodied gastropods called nudibranch that presented extraordinary colors and patterns I could have never imagined. This type of diving allows kids to slow down and focus on the tiniest of beings in this magical underwater world.  

We had some crazy fun diving Oslob on our way to Bohol. With Sea Explorers, we were able to dive in 35’ of warm clear water while observing the whale sharks feeding on krill. I had only been diving with Whale sharks in the Galapagos, and it was fabulous in these much warmer waters. Kids and families can snorkel or dive this from Dauin any time during their stay.   

After our dives, we were transported to Amun ini, a small 16 room resort, and the most luxurious little gem yet.  Family owned, family run and family catered, Amun ini means “This is mine” and I can understand why as anyone would want to claim it for themselves.  A big beautiful private beach, infinity pool, and large spacious rooms greeted us at this eco- friendly, holistic and organic scuba retreat. Everything here is one with nature, but it’s the smiles and service that make your stay.

The owner’s daughter and her husband are the gourmet chefs, who create local dishes that will tantalize your taste buds and make you feel like you’re dining in one of the top 10 restaurants in the world.  If that doesn’t sound kid friendly to you, imagine the chefs two little girls ages 3 and 5 and the smiles on their faces when I told them about all the kids we would return with, and the SASY program I would teach them in the ocean together.

And for the husbands and fathers reading this, I must mention some of the things Tom thought were more than note worthy. Could you imagine that everyone in the Philippines plays basketball? And that they are really good at it too? Tom managed a few games after 5 PM with the dive team and to him, that was almost as good as the diving.  Besides that, he found a few spots to try out some fly fishing, he enjoyed sunset massages, good wine and many hugs from some of the happiest children we had ever met.   

These are a humble people, that prized family and each other above all things. Unlike most places, all the dive staff with Sea Explorers is provided health insurance and is well paid. Chris and Biggs treat them like family and they are just that. Amun ini I must say had the most incredible and vibrant reefs I have ever seen in my 30 years of diving. It affected me so much, that I dreamt about the colors for months, and it sadly changed my mind’s eye when diving the Caribbean. Amun ini is a marine park and in my opinion should be a wonder of the world.

Last but not least, Biggs whisked us over the chocolate hills and the hanging bridge to another little gem called Cabilao Island Bohol, a spectacular Sea Explorer resort called Pura Vida: Ocean front rooms sitting on the smallest of islets completely surrounded by spectacular coral reef. Unlimited shore diving, a plethora of pygmy seahorses, turtles, rays, sharks, and schools of wild dolphin. This boutique Island resort is perfect for small groups, family reunions and Kids Sea Camp. I loved the personal closeness this resort offered along with the continued exceptional service, food, and spa.

All in all, I have given a good chunk of my heart to the Philippines, as I found it to be one of the most welcoming, safe, and places on earth. If you’re ready to take a break from electronics and your virtual world, I invite you to experience these magical islands of the Visayas Sea. The world that brings your imagination to life. Join us for a  journey to the Philippines to explore and experience new worlds above and below that will open your children’s eyes to a humbleness, a happiness and a new way of looking at life that they will remember forever.

 “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” 
― Eleanor Roosevelt

Special Thanks To Biggs Eggert- Amun ini Dive Resort, Chris Heim Sea Explorers, Pura Vida, Ocean Vida, Buena Vida and Vida Homes, Philippine Airlines and The Philippine Department of Tourism.

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