I’ve been in the Philippines for about 2 & 1/2 weeks now and it’s about time I write down everything that’s happened thus far. The flight took about 20 hours (transit and layover) from Montreal to Toronto to Taipei to Cebu but due to crossing the date line I arrived 2 calendar days after my departure date. The flight was very surreal because it lasted 14 hours and I didn’t see the sun the whole time because we were travelling in the same direction as the sun, effectively remaining between 2 AM and 5 AM in whatever time zone we were flying over.
My first day in Cebu was hectic and exhausting. I had 2 large heavy bags to carrying around, the heat was beating down hard and I had a full day of travel from Cebu to Dauin ahead of me. I quickly realized how friendly and happy the local people here are. Everybody was very willing to help guide me to my destination and the cab drivers gave me the same rates as a local could expect. In order to get to Dauin I had to take a long bus ride down to the tip of Cebu island, a ferry to cross over to the island of Negros, another bus to continue down to Dauin (this time no AC) and then find my way to the Bongo Bongo divers, where I had made my reservation for a few days before the ZooX program began. When I arrived at my stop, I got off the bus and was standing in the middle of the road at 9:00 PM with no idea how to get to Bongo Bongo. Luckily, the owner of a local diner spotted me and asked where I was headed, offered me a lift on the back of her sons motorbike and even took her own so that I would have to hold on with 2 large bags. They even refused my tip. After a full day of travel and heat, setting down my bags in my tiny room at Bongo Bongo was such a satisfying feeling.
The courtyard of Bongo Bongo Divers
I spent 5 days at Bongo Bongo and got to know a lot of people, the locals who worked at the shop and the guests from all over Europe. I had heard that Filipinos are known for their sense of humor and this is when I started to see it first-hand. The dive guides, the receptionists and the owners were so fun-loving and always cracking jokes, the perfect atmosphere for a tropical dive trip. During these first few days I took advantage of the excellent reefs and macro fauna around Dauin to get back into the swing of diving. The water is clear and warm and the sea life abundant. I even took a day trip with some of the other guests to the nearby marine sanctuary Apo Island. The quality of the reefs and the abundance of fish was astounding, no doubt a result of the area being so well managed. The banner image is a photo I took with my waterproof camera on my second dive in Dauin.
Spending a few days at Bongo Bongo was a great way to begin the trip. It allowed me to get a few dives in before doing more professional Green Fins (GF) assessment diving, to adjust to the climate and to relax from the stress of travel. After 4 days, I was picked up by the ZooX staff along with the other GF volunteers and we headed over to the Marine Conservation Philippines (MCP) HQ to eat and get acquainted with the area. Here is where we will be spending the next 2 weeks, training and learning about the world of marine conservation before beginning our work as GF assessors. In my next blog post I’ll go into detail about what the first 2 weeks of training at MCP were like.
My first night at MCP, photo credit: Anders