(Photo courtesy of Seng Vital: That’s me and Seng)
Honestly, it was scuba diving that brought me to Davao. I have missed a trip to Davao long ago, just when I was starting at my previous job and that time I wasn’t entitled to file a vacation leave yet. I thought I’ve forgotten about it, but I wasn’t. The time I was looking for a promo ticket to Bangkok, I couldn’t find a cheaper one but instead I saw a promo fare to Davao. I couldn’t resist it and booked the Davao trip!
Ok, so let’s cut the BS and get to the diving story… It was Day 3. John texted me night before that we have to be at the dive center at 7:30am. So Seng and I got up at around 4:30AM, had a shower and got to find a breakfast place. Nitini’s resto was still closed, good thing Seng saw bunch of taxis parked few steps away from Nitini’s, she said there’s always carinderias (street restaurants) where taxis are parked. She was right, and so we had our quick breakfast there and took a jeepney going to Magsaysay Park after eating.
(Briefing with our diving instructor, Laklak)
Fitting the wetsuits…
At the dive center, John greeted us good morning and told us to get ourselves to fit some wetsuits at the next door. They assisted us choose the wetsuits for ourselves. Finding the best fitting wetsuit we didn’t remove it, made it our pants and just wore back our tops(we’re not obviously excited).
Back to the main center, John offered us to have a coffee that we refused. In my case, I’m trying to avoid coffee as much as I can because as a former coffee addict, my addiction came back after my trip to Kota Kinabalu-Brunei. Anyway, our dive instructor came in to chat with us, his name is Laklak, a former military officer, he was inviting us to have a try on gun firing. Wow! I’d love to, only I am leaving the next day. I asked him how much it would cost us, but since a former military person he said we’ll just have to buy rounds of bullets that we’ll be using. He wanted to bring us to the shooting range where he spends his time mostly when he’s not diving. I asked the ladies sitting next to us if they are diving too, they said ‘yes’.
(Photo by Seng Vital: The eco heroes, L-R: Ma’am Diding, Aying, East, and Dominic prepping the artificial reefs)
Lucky to dive with Davao eco-savers!
8AM we bought some food that we could bring for lunch beside the center and then we board the pick up truck where the ladies who are diving with us boarded. We found out that they are scientists of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Davao and they will be working underwater for the project “Coral Reef Rehabilitation” (DENR project’s story coming soon). I got really excited when I found out we will get to witness how they will be working underwater!
When we arrived at the Sasa dock, we saw the ferry lined up with passengers to Samal. I was told that the fare to Samal varies from Php10-60 depending on how far your destination would be. They told us we would not dock at any shore, the boat will stop just at the middle of the beautiful and clear green waters of Davao. As the boat started its engine, Laklak called us for the briefing. He taught us about the scuba diving gears, how to breathe, hand signals, and all that we need for the dive as well as our safety underwater.
When we reached the spot where the DENR people will start their work, Seng and I were told that we are free to swim and snorkel around while they are all (including our instructor, Laklak) works on the project underwater. So excited to see them work, we put on our life vests, fins, and snorkels to begin watching them. Few minutes after I dipped into the water, water keeps coming in to my goggles giving me a drowning feeling as it enters my nose. Laklak noticed it saying that it seems like I’m having a hard time snorkeling, I told him I am due to the water coming in to my nose. He said, maybe my goggles are loose. I immediately went back to the wooden stairs and tightened my goggles as much as I can. While sitting there tightening it, I tried several times submerging my head underwater to test if the water would still comes in. It didn’t.
(Photo by: Seng Vital; Watching our heroes work underwater)
Snorkeling in the morning
Soon enough I was already snorkeling around the area where they were working, and its fun seeing them underneath how they do it. I saw a group carrying the metal frame to locate it somewhere, some are already setting some frames up hammering it on the seafloor (I can even hear their hammer pounding underwater).
(Photo courtesy of Seng Vital: Me and Seng on the open deck)
Laklak was right its totally different underwater, it’s like you’re in another world. It was my first time to dive, it’s my way of feeling myself if I can drive myself into that path one day because I really love water, I love being surrounded by it. From my difficulty snorkeling by myself (snorkeling in Kota Kinabalu was easier because I have Marine to tag me around), I thought I shouldn’t give up if I really want to professionally dive one day. After few hours of snorkeling, Seng and I went up to the open deck and took some photos while waiting for the guys, the view up there was beautiful.
When the guys came up, we all had lunch together. They cooked lots of huge Tunas, Kinilaw Grilled Liempo with Cucumbers (the dish I love the most in Davao), together with our food we bought from the shop near the dive center. The DENR people were nice enough to share us their food and drinks, yum! Had few minute break before they called us to do the plunge.
(Photo courtesy of Seng Vital: L-R; Lyndon, me, Seng, and Laklak gearing up for the dive)
Up for the plunge!
Send was the first to gear up, she dived with Laklak while I dived with Lyndon. I saw how Laklak conditioned Seng before going under and when it was my time to jump I just went with it, I have no idea what I’m doing. As soon as I got the oxygen tank on my back, goggles on, put the mouthpiece to my mouth and tried breathing I was half dreaming. As soon as I did it I was transported back to my SOLAS days, it was the intensive training before you get to work on a ship where you have to undergo first aid, fire fighting (literal fire fighting on a dummy ship), and driving different kinds of watercraft(oar boats, motor boat, and speed boats). The fire fighting training then was the last time I used an oxygen tank with face mask. So there I was floating with that thought, Lyndon called me to jump in to the water, I stood up and walked at the edge with my fins imagining that I’m a giant duck walking on the boat. They all told me to step my foot forward, hold my mask and the mouthpiece then let myself fall.
(Photo courtesy of Seng Vital: “The Real Duck Walk”)
(Photo courtesy of Seng Vital)
Splash! And there I was, so cool how I sank and floated back up again. Lyndon tagged me to the middle of the water away from the boat and from the two(Seng and Laklak). It was a wavy afternoon and I can feel the water splashing everywhere on me and it was even going in to my goggles again. I told it to Lyndon and he helped me fixed it. Soon enough he said, “Okay…so, relax…we will go underwater when you’re relaxed and comfortable to go under”, while I’m telling myself and my whole body to relax he began talking about hand signals, equalization(which is the most important to avoid your ears to hurt), etc. Half of me was listening and half was trying to get the feel of what was happening around me. The water splashing here and there, my breathing, my goggles, the way I should dive to come up alive, and all the weird imaginations that I tried avoiding to wash my fears away.
(Equalizing caught on cam)
I’m going under…♫♪♬
Ten minutes later I am comfortable enough not to get up, I have my head down on the surface like snorkeling. Lyndon left observing me that way for 2 minutes and then he signaled asking if I’m okay(he’s slightly underwater already), I signaled okay and so slowly he was controlling my gears to sink me in to the water. While we go deeper into the sea, I equalize whenever I felt that my ears are feeling the pressure (according to Lyndon, don’t wait that your ears will hurt, equalize if you are starting to feel the pressure), so I did.
Equalization is the process of pinching your nose and blowing hard to feel the air out of your ears to equalize the pressure and avoid your ears hurting.
(Finally, a mermaid)
Part of that world…♫♪♬
Few more minutes and we are already swimming with Nemo, Flounder, and all the wonderful sea creatures that welcomed us. Man, they’re world looks amazing! Then I noticed Lyndon took out the camera which means I am on my own, he was no longer tagging me by any means. I was excited to know I’m swimming on my own while watching the beautiful corals and seeing myself swim with fins, it felt like my dream to become a mermaid came true! Yeeehaa! I’m part of this world!
(There’s Nemo and friends)
It was soooo much fun underwater seeing the DENR people work up close, Seng and Laklak having underwater photo shoot, beautiful coral reefs and freakin’ amazing sea creatures were priceless! It was hell of an amazing half an hour underwater experience, when we came up everyone’s asking how was the first dive? Man, path to take scuba diving courses is now possible ahead of me. Definitely. I don’t know when I’d start but definitely it will happen.
(Me watching the heroes work)
I feel blessed
I am so fulfilled that I can do it on my own over the water riding the waves when surfing and went underwater like a mermaid. It will take an open water course to do it on my own for scuba diving but I’m happy to have done it with the awesome dive instructors of Carabao Dive Center that day. I definitely recommend to get their services, our intro to dive costed Php850(just a little over $20USD) inclusive of the instructor service, use of scuba diving equipment and gears, boat rental, and underwater photos. The manager, John, will be happy to greet and assist you with anything you need. Staff are all friendly (dude, you’re be in Davao where everyone is) and cool. Check out the contact details below if you wish to get their services.
Carabao Dive Center’s Contact Details
You can contact John Neri at [landline] +63(82)300-1092, 302-6255 | [mobile] +63(928)504-7642, +63(922)861-0874 or email him at: john.neri [at] divedavao.com for more inquiries.
*I am not advertising the dive center for any payment in return, this is just to share my wonderful experience with them and hospitality they showed us.