My uncle Ray de la Paz, an avid scuba diver himself, brought me to dive with him and his family last 14 March. It was my first time to dive with them together: Tito Ray and my cousins, Raymond and Christian, plus their sister’s husband, Kyle. There were also two friends of Christian’s with us. We were joined by one of Davao’s best critter spotters, Maeng Lejarso, and a dive guide.
We did two day dives and one at night, with a brief stop at the family’s beach resort on Talikud Island, Leticia by the Sea. We were ferried — and closely trailed like a huge chase boat — by the M/B Leticia dive boat, and assisted by the crew and dive guides.
It was one of those dive trips that makes you go, “Ah…this is the life!”
The dive boat is what I’d call a luxury banca: she has enough space for 15 divers and their gear, without any danger of tanks banging during pre-dive preps. There’s an ample tub of fresh water for rinsing underwater cameras, too. But what I appreciate about M/B Leticia is her steady ride. She can be fast when need be, but she is also quite stable in rough seas.
Our first dive was at Mansud Wall, Talikud Island. I like this spot for the richness of its coral cover, with lots of gigantic gorgonian sea fans from 70 feet (21m), and the myriad reef fish that abound in the area. And that day, the visibility was astounding! Times like that make me wish I possessed a couple of those powerful video lamps…
Here’s the highlight of that dive — a frogfish nimbly perched on a stand of sponges. (Not yet sure, though, whether it was the painted frogfish or the warty.)
We had lunch on board: lechon de leche from Beko’s Biik and homemade kinilaw na malasugui, plus a freshly-caught barilison bought from a passing fisherman. We lounged around while two non-divers in the group did their first discovery dive at Leticia by the Sea.
Two hours later, we were in 40 to 70 feet of water at Dayang Beach, the underwater photographer’s favorite dive site in Davao. I’ll let my latest pictures from that critter heaven do the talking:
However, the stars of the Dayang dive was this mesmerizing pair: two harlequin shrimp chowing on a leg of starfish. They were at a depth of about 45 feet or so, under a hollow outcropping.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Dayang Beach never disappoints.
We were supposed to go to Limao Reef for the last dive at dusk, to observe the brilliant mandarinfish and their unique mating ritual. But we missed the window and did a night dive instead. Limao Reef is off the western coast of Samal, at the island’s point closest to Davao City.
We observed the usual — nocturnal crab, lots of rock-boring sea urchins, sleeping fish, etc. I spotted a black-and-gold-colored squid the size of my thumbnail, but it was too quick for me. It hid under a barrel sponge as soon as I approached it with my torch. (Next night dive I’m bringing a red-filtered light.)
There was a rather huge cuttlefish, too. She was so docile, she even let us pet her. She changed colors and patterns, but not as erratically as I expected. She was about a foot or so long, and had an egg in her tentacles, if I’m not mistaken. She didn’t even try to escape or avoid us — we just eventually let her be after we had had our fill.
On our way back to Davao at around 8pm, we had some ice-cold beers on the boat while swapping stories of underwater exploits. There are very few things that taste better than beer after an hour or two underwater, don’t you think?
The efficient crew arranged our gear and rinsed the underwater rigs and generally made our trip a very comfortable one. What a way to go diving, huh?? Don’t think I should get too used to being pampered like that… but it’s something to experience once or twice. ;)