Philippines: Ocean Vida on Cabilao

A little slice of diving heaven on the island of Cabilao

There many dive resorts to stay and dive in the Philippines. But few have the intimate, personal service and the feeling of family as Ocean Vida on the small island of Cabilao. The Ocean Vida resort is a small but beautiful resort facing the calm side on the island, the means a lot of easy and amazing diving all week long. 

Due to the geographic nature of where Ocean Vida was built, you just don’t get much wind. That allows for numerous dive sites that are always open for diving on the north side of Cabilao. 

The house reef maybe one of the best house reefs in the world with; Giant Frogfish, stargazers, huge turtles, moral eels the list goes on and on. Tom Peyton, the vice-President of Kids Sea Camp could not wait to go do a 70-minute dive in 20 to 30 feet of water.  

“To be honest it was the best dive of the year for me,” Tom said, “We saw so much in such shallow water. I had no desire to go deeper at all. Clearly, for your diving dollar, the Philippines, is the most affordable vacations, to experience bucket list diving.”

The resort itself has so much charm you feel like you are part of the staff or part of their family. The view from the restaurant is ridiculously beautiful. The Philippines morning sun rising above the mountains and ocean in the distance is a stunning way to have a cup of coffee and breakfast. 

 

Introducing the magical islands of the Visayas Sea

July 10 arrival DGT Dumagette airport - July 22 departure out of TAG Tagbilaran airport

7 nights Pura Vida Homes Dauin, 5 nights Cabilao with Sea Explorers. Hosted by Margo & Tom Peyton.

Story 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 wishlist 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, which 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 from 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. 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 frogfish 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 noteworthy. 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. I must say Amun ini 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 smile driven 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. A 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

 

Dauin and Cabilao is two trips in one

The Ocean Vida Resort, July 17-22 on the island of Cabilao

  • Cabilao July 17- 22 5 nights accommodation
  • Transfer in: Vida Homes to Pura Vida Cabilao
  • Transfer out: Pura Vida Cabilao to Mocboc
  • 5 nights -4 days full board meal package (includes breakfast, 2-course lunch, 3-course dinner)
  • One Filipino dinner night with fire dancers
  • One BBQ dinner night
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi access in the restaurant
  • Complimentary unlimited filtered drinking water and provided daily juices
  • Complimentary coffee and tea in the room
  • 4 days all day diving (max. up to 4 dives a day— includes free Nitrox if certified)
  • 4 days snacks, cookies, and muffins between dives
  • Tote bags, T-shirts, Flap straps and other giveaways (giveaways vary from sponsors)
  • Inclusive Sanctuary fees around Cabilao Island
  • Includes all hotel taxes

If going to Pura Vida Homes Resort & Diving in Dauin with Sea Explorers.

  • 7 nights package Vida Homes, Negros Island
  •  7 nights / 8 days accommodations at Vida Homes resort
  •  Transfer from: Dumaguete Airport to Vida Homes, Dauin
  • Opening ceremony
  • Karaoke
  • Slide presentations
  • Free use of SeaLife cameras
  • SASY, Seal Team, PADI JOW
  • Private dive boat for adults and young adult divers from Sea Explorers, Philippines
  • Private PADI Dive Masters 1:4 ratio with Sea Explorers, Philippines
  •  Transfer out: Vida Homes Dauin to Dumaguete Airport
  •  Meet and greet in Manila (transfer from domestic terminal to International terminal excl. domestic flights)
  • Use of conference facility for slide shows etc at Vida Homes Dauin Resort
  • Mountain school excursion fully escorted with private transfers
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi access
  • Complimentary unlimited filtered drinking water, coffee, tea and juices
  • Complimentary coffee and tea in the room and on boats
  • Oslob whale shark dive & snorkel including permits
  • Apo Island turtle sanctuary special dive with Sea Explorers Philippines
  • 7 days all day diving (max. up to 3 dives a day incl, tanks weights, guides) with Sea Explorers and Kids Sea Camp staff
  • 7 days all day nitrox filling (max. up to 3 dives a day)
  • 7 days snacks between dives on the boat (cookies, muffins etc)
  • Rental equipment for Kids is included. Adult dive gear is not included and can be rented.
  • Nitrox is not included.
  • Transfer by boat to Cabilao including 1 dive and 1 snorkel with the Whale sharks of Oslob and lunch on way to Cabialao with Sea Explorers.

Not included:

  • Any special day trips and with it connected Sanctuary fees and other fees
  • Rental equipment
  • Gratuities / Service charges
  • Government VAT tax (subject to changes)
  • Departure tax
  • Any other meals other than mentioned above
  • Any soft or alcoholic drinks other than mentioned above

Two days to Philippines one day back to the states

Dauin arrival and dinner on July 17th.

  • Arrival in Dumaguete on July 10th with a full escort to Pura Vida Homes Dauin. 1.5 hrs
  • July 10th: Opening presentation, group dinner, and a good night sleep.
  • July 11-16: Daily diving 3 dives per day, with private boats, private guides, and valet diving service.
  • Daily dive courses as confirmed.
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily at the resort.
  • From Dauin there will be one extended dive excursion to dive Apo Island
  • From Dauin there will be one or two excursions to dive Oslob with the Whale Sharks
  • There will be a Mountain school visit on the 16th of July
  • Families departing from Dauin to either the airport or Cabilao on July 17th.

Cabilao arrival and dinner on the 17th of July.

  • July 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st: 3 dives per day 
  • There will be a village school excursion one afternoon
  •  July 22: In the morning will have the chocolate hills, zip line and monkey tour with lunch and departure to TAG airport for flights to Manila.
  • A detailed schedule will be provided for your family dive vacation in the Philippines by Margo and Tom Peyton.
  • All diving is with Sea Explorers Dive operation in all locations.

Additional nights can be added to either location or extensions to Amun ini Resort or Malapascua.  Please contact Margo Peyton for more information 803-419-2556

All the rooms have a view

Cabilao Ocean Vida: The name says it all. Set right on the water's edge. This resort has beautiful ocean view cliff side deluxe rooms and spacious suites as well as beach deluxe rooms sitting on the white sand. You will find this resort charming, small and full of culture. It's perfect for families. Each room has wifi, AC, and spectacular ocean views.

 

These are the rates for the five days KSC week from July 17th to the 22nd at Ocean Vida on Cabilao in the Philippines. This includes 5 nights and 4 days of diving (12 dives and 3 meals daily).

Room TypesDivers rates Non-divers
Deluxe Ocean View$2,550$2,250
Suites (only 2 available)$2,750$2,450

Dive Training

  • PADI SASY program: 6 mornings of activities from 8 am -1 pm daily. SASY kids keep fins, mask, and snorkel.
  • PADI SEAL TEAM: 6 mornings of activities from 8am-1pm daily includes all 5 aqua missions. SEAL kids keep fins, mask, and snorkel.
  • PADI Open WaterAll dives needed for certification (eLearning is not included.  For eLearning, you will have to pay PADI directly.  The link will be sent to you 4 weeks before departure to be completed prior to arrival.)
  • PADI Dive Master course: RSVP 14 DAYS REQUIRED $675 add-on to package price/Contact Margo 803.419.2556 for more information. PADI C Card, E: learning and Crew Pack included
  • PADI Dive Rescue Diver: RSVP $175 add-on to package price/Contact Margo 803.419.2556 for more information.PADI C Card, E: learning and Crew Pack included.

See more about Kids Sea Camp dive training

 

A view even at the restaurant 

Cabilao, Ocean Vida: This restaurant is located on the hill overlooking the sea. Serving made to order breakfast and lunch from the menu. Daily prepared dinner for the group with choices of fish, chicken, vegetarian and local dishes.

There is a great German chef at Ocean Vida ask for the Traditional German Schnitzel (Schweineschnitzel). It's awesome!

 

Contact Margo 803-419-2556 for information on getting to Dumaguette and Cabilao.

Other things to do on Cabilao

  • Photography
  • Fish id
  • Diving
  • Spa
  • Basketball
  • Village tour
  • Culinary classes
  • Snorkeling
  • Volleyball
  • Site seeing
  • Gym
  • Yoga