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El Galleon resort, Puerto Galera

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I just got back from my first Philippine trip, a big group excursion to Puerto Galera at the El Galleon resort. After arriving in Manila, it's a 2 1/2 hr bus ride to southern coast of the main island, Luzon, and then an hour boat ride across the channel to the town of Sabang near Puerto Galera on the island of Mindoro. The El Galleon is a well-established large resort on the water that can accommodate up to 60 divers. The rooms are nice (with a/c), although it can be a hike to some (ours was the worst - 85 steps - total buzz kill!). There's a small pool, a big common dining area and the Point Bar above the dive op can get pretty lively. We had buffet meals included in our package which were generally good with a couple failures over the course of our 9 nights (dinners only failed - hard to f** up breakfast w/ omlets made to order and fresh mango!). You can also order off the menu which was generally quite good. If you really want to whoop it up, Sabang is only a few minutes walk away with restaurants, bars and all the other diversions the Philippines is known for.

 

The dive op, Asia Divers, was outstanding - they had to gear up big time for our group of 47 (!) and the were staffed to meet our every need with lots of guys offering to carry your gear to the boats. Ratio was 1 DM for 6 divers, which proved a problem for me given the *ahem* diverse skill level of our group and the fact there were only a handful of photographers. Diving was mostly from local wooden fishing type boats, bankas, which were spacious and easy to back roll off and had small wooden ladders for easy re-entry. Although they're slow, it's not an issue as most of the dive sites were no more than 10 minutes away. They do have a new speed boat for up to 12 divers plus DM's for the longer trips out to Verde Island or if they needed to combine groups.

 

The diving was great, especially the macro! We only had so-so vis (20-40 ft max) and the water was unseasonably cold (mid-high 70's), but it didn't matter. The reefs are generally very healthy, although not as lush as some places I've been. Nevertheless, the amount and diversity of fish and critters was great. Crinoids of every color blanketed the reefs. In our 8 days of diving we saw at least 2, maybe even 3 DOZEN different nudibranch species!

 

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There were octopus, cuttlefish and sea snakes almost every day

 

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And great opportunities for other critters as well

 

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I kept my 100mm on for almost every dive, the first time I've really used it extensively and I was pleased I got a decent handle on it. I even tried my hand at some super macro with a wet mount +10 diopter - to execrable results (couldn't even get it to focus!). Although this is primarily macro territory (esp given the vis we had), there were some good wide angle sites, the best being the San Agapito sea mount off Verde Island (a 30 minute ride in the speed boat - we had one dive in our package, additional dives there were extra), the Canyons and Hole in The Wall.

 

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There are also a few wrecks in the bay (sunk by the local dive assn) about a minute from the dock, the best of which (wide angle-wise) was the Alma Jane with schools of grunts, batfish and several lionfish

 

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The best part about the whole thing was it's CHEAP! Our whole package, 9 nights accommodation, 8 days of 4 tanks/day, 3 meals/day, transfers, etc. was under $2000. Extra (ie night) dives $29! OK, the reefs weren't quite as lush as X (a well-known Indonesian dive resort that shall remain nameless), but the accommodations were almost as good and more importantly, the animal life was more diverse and plentiful - at almost 1/3 the cost! I will most definitely be exploring more of the Philippines in the future!

 

Phil

 

The rest of the best at http://gallery.me.com/philsokol#100222

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I was pleased I got a decent handle on it.

 

 

I guess so! Stunning stuff Phil! Congrats partner. :D

 

Steve

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Thanks for the trip report and sharing your engaging images! I've heard similar things about the Philippines. If you were to go again, would you go during a different time of the year?

 

Cheers!

Jen

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Great stuff Phil. Were you on Ken K's trip? 47 divers - holy (*&*&(^^(

 

Cheers

James

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Thanks for your comments everyone. James, it was indeed Ken K's trip! As always, Island Dreams managed every detail perfectly, esp coordinating that many individuals' itineraries, transfers, etc.

 

Jen, this was my first trip there, so I don't know much about the seasonality, although a couple of the guides did mention that it gets really windy there starting in late spring/early summer and things pretty much shut down for a few months.

 

Lots of places I've heard of (many in these forums) to explore in the Philippines, and given the cost, a great value destination!

 

Phil

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Phil -

 

Excellent images, and more in your gallery. Thanks for sharing them!

 

Tim

 

:D

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Phil,

 

SSSHHHHH!!!!!! Don't give away the secrets of diving in the PI! :D I've been diving there for over 10 years, it's definitely a hidden gem. I personally avoid Sabang proper as I find it a bit too scuzzy, hard to fault the diving in PG. If you ever go back, ask for a dive at the Drydock.

 

The monsoon season starts sometime in June and you get strong winds and rain, not that big a deal diving but it could affect your boat crossing from the mainland.

 

Asia Divers is one of the better operators and El Galleon is very nice.

 

Can't wait to be back in the PI in November!

 

Stu

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Wow, very nice pics! Thanks for sharing.

 

I've been to PG quite a few times in the last few years and have stayed at El Galleon maybe 5 times. It is a nice and simple resort and the people are great. I usually do my diving with Tech Asia (sister to Asia Divers), who are fantastic, and I've heard good things about Asia Divers.

 

In terms of seasons, the best diving is said to be in the winter months, say Dec-Feb. The water can be quite cold (for these parts), as low as 23C if you are unlucky. I was there 3 weeks ago and the water temperature was around 27C. The water gets very warm during the summer but there can be monsoon storms from time to time, which can result in anything from choppy seas to canceled dives.

 

I too avoid Sabang but usually stop by Cap'n Gregg's for a meal.

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The diving was great, especially the macro!

 

 

Good Job! I like the Mantis close up and the moray in the xenias.

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Great report Phil and some lovely images to go with it. I especially like the sea snake.

 

Stew

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Great portfolio, Phil! You really nailed those nudi's! John and I go to PI at the end of this month ( May). I hope the weather is good, I think we are pushing the season.

 

Fletcher

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Hi Fletcher!

 

Thanks for the compliments. You will have a great time! Andy (your trip leader) and Allison are friends of mine. I was even considering joining once I heard you and John were going, but alas, I cannot swing it :)

 

Look forward to your pics!

 

Phil

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Wonderful gallery. The eel shot 36 is stunning. Ditto the pipefish (124) and the sea snake (141). Great nudi shot (23). Don't you just love the trips with so many great critters that it's hard to pick the ones to post? :)

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I prefer Little Sabang Beach because we are eat-sleep-dive types that don't do nightlife. Last year was really screwed up weatherwize. The best time for the Philippines IMHO is January.

 

My experience with a subsee +10 diopter is that you need practice and a focus light. Keep at it. Here is a +10 shot.

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Nice photos!

 

We stayed at El Galleon in Jan and enjoyed the resort. Asia Divers were a well run outfit, but for filming and photography the truck and train approach where you absolutely had to stay with the group just wasn't working and as a result we ended up only doing a handful of dives over 10 days. In general we really enjoy PI diving and it is certainly great value and from what we've seen so far it is almost always good diving, but so far never exceptional enough to want to revisit somewhere we've already been.

 

Cheers, Simon

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Beautiful stuff, Phil! I love the sea snake, and based on the results of this trip, I'd say you've got the 100mm mastered! :)

 

The Philippines are near the top of my wish list, and this report reinforces that!

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Just noticed this post as I trawl through stuff I missed.

 

Having just returned from a week staying at El Galleon and diving with Asia Divers I cannot commend them enough from the Gas Analyser to the crew that take care of you.

 

Two speedboats with double Mercurys are up and running, and the hot towels after the dives is just like flying business class. :)

 

Nudibranchs abound and that shot of the Nembrotha chamberlaini is stunning.

 

I have already booked up for a return trip in February

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Gordon,

 

Shame you can't join us in January... really looking forward to it. :dancing:

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