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April 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 30, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Magic Island and Atlantis-Dumaguete, Philippines

creature comforts, incredible sea life, affordable prices

from the April, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

After a lifetime of hemming and hawing about whether the trek would be worth the effort, I selected the Philippines because I wanted to see the unusual critters of the Indo-Pacific and, going that far, I wanted to stay a week each in two different venues without breaking the bank. I wanted good accommodations, good food, good people. I got it all, and I think you can, too.

Frankly, however, getting there is not half the fun, expecially if you change planes. Sipping my welcome drink (it should have been a good-night toddy) at 2:30 a.m. at Magic Island seemed a bit out of sorts -- my partner and I transferred in Seoul and flew directly to Cebu City, where we were met at midnight by a van for the twohour trip to the 10-cabin resort near Moalboal. I quickly discovered that the gain far outweighed the pain. After the very first dive the next day, I tried not to get too excited while reviewing my photos. On my house reef checkout dive, hundreds of hydra-tentacled Lampert's sea cucumbers swarmed on blue sponges. Clusters of soft Xxenia coral pulsed madly. An olive Ridley sea turtle swam by, pausing to munch on a sponge. Messmate pipefish were foraging vigorously. And 15 minutes into my second dive, my guide showed me one of the crown jewels: a pygmy seahorse.

Magic Island's Outrigger BanakasDrifting slowly along the offshore wall, I would see astonishing sights. A pink and white soft coral crab looked like a peppermint with spikes. The reef seems to be lit by gas flames. Beautiful pale blue social tunicates, then an ornate ghost pipefish -- the cover girl of Reef Fish Identification for Tropical Pacific, by Gerald Allen et al. -- along with brilliant nudibranchs, camouflaged whip coral shrimp, and false clown, tomato and other anemonefish. At Magic Island's twilight mandarin-fish-mating dive, I surfaced with 190 photos of this little bundle of romance. One swam right up to my camera, lips puckered for a kiss. Visibility ran less than 50 feet, but no problem for shooting the marvelous critters.

Most of Magic Island's 10 cottages, with woven walls and wood floors, offer small front porches overlooking the Strait of Tanon; the others overlook a nice swimming pool. The louvered windows and shrubbery made for plenty of privacy. Simple furnishings included a king bed with nightstands, and a desk large enough to work for my camera workstation. A small bathroom and shower had plenty of hot water.

The compact dive center had a well-ventilated gear area and a separate room with rinse tubs, boat assignments and illustrated dive briefings. Outside, divers could rinse off and hang gear on a roomy open patio. Staggered departure times meant only one group of four to six divers needed to suit up at once. Magic Island had three beautiful, white, outboard-powered outrigger bankas, each narrow and about 40 feet long. The crew loaded gear on board and changed everything over between dives. Entry was by backroll, exit by climbing the ladder after handing up weights, BCs and fins to a divemaster....


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