Philippines: To Bohol for some nude diving and karaoke

Leaving the whale sharks behind in Moalboal I hopped on a local bus which took way longer than expected north to Cebu City. Once there I made my way to the pier where I caught a fast boat (2 hours) to a neigboring island to the east, Bohol.  My planned destination was the small island off Bohol called Panglao but as the day’s travelling had taken longer than expected I had to spend the night in the mainland city of Tagbilaran.

The next morning I caught a jeepney to Panglao. Jeepney’s are converted stretched jeeps that act as local buses for the masses.  There is nothing official about them and they are privately owned; the owners paint them bright colours to attract punters and also have a motive to ram as many people in to increase their profits (which can’t be much as a single journey anywhere on the route costs 12p). In addition, as the jeeps were left behind by the US armed forces in WWII they are ancient. On this particular day business was booming for the owner which meant the hour-long journey to Danao beach on Panglao Island was pretty unpleasent as I was squished between 20-odd Filipinos in hot sweaty conditions.

In the back of a jeepney.  Tiny benches were placed in the area where the passengers legs should go, onto which they crammed extra people:

Arriving at Danao I found my hotel and had a stroll around. Unlike Moalboal, there was quite a pleasant beach so I spent the afternoon doing a bit of swimming and searching for a dive operator to take me diving the next day.

Danao beach:

An hours boat ride from Panglao is Balicasag island which is reputably home of some of the best diving in the Philippines (famous for Macro i.e. small detailed stuff like nudibranch) so I decided to go with one of the dive shops going there and at 8.30am we were on the pump boat and heading over open ocean to the island.

Most boats in the Philippines seemed to be these pump boats with what look like stabilisers either side of a narrow hull; and our dive boat was no exception:

Approaching Balicasag island:

For me the diving was great but I will remember the day more so becasue it was my 100th dive, which traditionally means you have to do it in the buff. I was a bit wary of doing this because I was with a bunch of strangers and the Philippines is quite a conservative country. But I felt I would be letting myself down if I didn’t and therfore when it came to my second dive I ditched my wetsuit and swim shorts and did the dive in the nude (OK, not totally as I had a camera case to house my unmentionables..). It just so happened the second dive site was really busy as the weather had turned and this was one of the only safe places to dive which meant I caused quite a spectacle for the Korean and Japanese tourists on several neigboring boats.

Moray eel hiding behind some soft coral:

Nudibranch.  The bright colours are to warn predators that they are not a tasty lunch.  Depending on the species they either secrete toxic chemicals or stingers when disturbed which have taught predators not to mess with them:

I just love watching these guys play around in the anenome:

Mantis shrimp lurks beneath a rock:

I got a bit too close to these anenome fish and, defending its territory one went for my hand which made me drop the camera:

The 100th dive:

More nudibranch:

And another awesome looking creature:

Without the wetsuit it was a rather cold dive and back on the boat I struggled to warm up as the sun had gone in a a brisk breeze had whipped up. Matters were made worse when it started lashing it down, which led to a hellish journey on the way back in huge waves and freezing cold. The journey ended up taking 2 hours as we had to go slow to avoid capsize which meant I was super relieved when we were back on dry land and the sun came out to warm me up.

Wanting to celebrate my momentous day with a bit of singing I headed to a karaoke bar next to my hotel that was quite out of the way. This meant punters were few and far between and I ended up just sharing the mike for a few hours with the bar maid. Eventually a group of exceptionally voiced Filipinos turned up after finishing their shifts at a local hotel and we ended up singing the night away.

I’d heard about the karaoke culture in Japan but had no idea how big it was here. If you ask most people about their hobbies, usually singing is the first thing they say.  It’s awesome, but they do have a penchant for slow soppy songs and I prefer a bit of rock.  Although I did discover an awesome old Queen track that had slipped under my radar back home but is a favourite in the Philippines: Love of My Life.

After a few days in Panglao chilling by the beach I headed back to the mainland, but changed my transport method from the jeepney; this time opting for the more expensive but quicker and personal Habal Habal (which is just a man on a moped).  The boat back to Cebu left late which meant that it was another close-shave at the airport as I arrived with just 4 minutes before the check-in desk closed for my flight to Kalibo on the island of Panay 300 miles south east of Manila.  Kalibo is the dropping off point for onward travel to the beach paradise and main Filipino tourist destination of Boracay which was my next stop.

By the beach at Danao:

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