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Dive Review of Atlantis Azores in
Philippines/Tubbataha then Donsol

May, 2010, an Instant Reader Report by Frederick R. Turoff, PA, US
Sr. Contributor   (22 reports, with 1 Helpful vote)
Report Number 5584
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
BVI, USVI, Saba, St. Lucia, Bonaire, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac, Costa
Rica, Coco Island, Revillagigedos, Sea of Cortez, Palau, Yap, Red Sea,
Sipadan, PNG, Indonesia
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, dry  
calm, no currents  
Water Temp
84   to 88    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
60   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
return with 500 psi, no deeper than 130 ft  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
5 stars  
Large Pelagics
  4 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
large table in dive prep area with two levels for more storage, ample
charging stations, dedicated rinse tank for cameras, no tank on inflatables
but trips on them were short and crew cared for cameras well.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
5 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
3 stars   
5 stars    
The Atlantis Azores is a well-run boat with a caring and detailed crew.
Captains Paul and Randy have a fine crew who all went to every effort to
make our week fruitful. Dive masters Paul, Ambo and Jess did their best to
find us interesting creatures to view and photograph.

Departing from Puerto Princesa on Palawan, its maybe a 10-11 hour
overnight boat ride to Tubbataha Reef park.  After a checkout at some
relatively easy sites, the action picked up the following days. The first
day we did 5 dives, then had a group decision to reduce this to 4 dives per
day to allow more down time between dives. Snacks met us a 6a, first dive
at 7a, then breakfast, second dive at 10a, lunch, third dive at 2p, snacks,
twilight/night dive at 5:30p, then dinner. Breakfast and lunch were served
family style while dinner was served individually. Chef Norman made
constantly excellent food with portions to feed bigger eaters than I am. A
woman passenger and I convinced him to split one meal between the two of
us, which worked out fine. Each dinner had several choices of
meat/fish/poultry along with rice and vegetables. All were yummy.

Our compliment of passengers numbered 6, so we had the best of all worlds
on a 16-passenger boat, as each of us four singles were offered a single
room. Only our couple stayed together. We always dove together and had many
life forms pointed out by the dive guides. I noticed there were not as many
nudibranchs as I might have expected, maybe one or two per dive average.
However, we saw numerous gray reef and white tip sharks plus one large
nurse shark. Only one manta cruised by that week, and one lone eagle ray
stayed in the distance. However, the water was as warm as Ive been in,
generally 87 degrees with a tolerance of +1 to -3 from that measurement due
to some currents we met. And speaking of currents, most dives were calm but
occasionally were had swift rides that moved us around the reef.
Sea life was plentiful. We ran into schools of bigeye barracuda and jacks,
turtles, the biggest barrel sponges Ive seen, a large hill top covered
with staghorn corals looking like a mid-America field of wheat. Octopus
sightings were common, with individuals willing to play and display. Many
Napoleon wrasse were seen but stayed away generally. Large titan
triggerfish kept us wary of entering their nesting areas, as they will
attack and have strong teeth. Occasionally tiny critters were found, such
as commensile shrimp on fans and stars, pygmy seahorses and juvenile fish
and lobsters. We found a large Tritons Trumpet snail with a beautiful
shell in the act of devouring a blue star.

I had electronic troubles on this trip to drive me nuts. On our third day
of diving, my Canon 20D camera stopped working, so I couldnt use my
housing or strobes. I had a small Olympus with a housing along as well and
had to rent a slave strobe from the boat to take pix. This slave didnt
have a fiber optic sensor to tell the slave when my flash went off, so it
didnt work in sunlit waters, but worked in darker-background areas. Still,
not the plan I went there with. Also, my old Orca Phoenix computer died the
next day, but fortunately I had brought spares along. I think for future
trips Ill get a second Canon 20D body from E-bay to bring as a spare, just
in case.

The Atlantis organization proved to be well-run on land as well. We were
met at our hotels for transport to MNL airport to get to the boat. On the
way back, three went to Puerto Galera, one stayed in Manilla, while the
other went to Atlantis Dumaguete. I chose to do a two-day trip to Donsol to
snorkel with whale sharks before continuing to Puerto Galera. An Atlantis
member met me in MLN and took gear I would not need  diving apparatus,
[broken] camera box with strobes  and returned it to me after that jaunt
when I was provided transport to Atlantis Puerto Galera for a few days,
where I had a reunion with the three Azores divers. This way I avoided
overweight charges on the CEBU airlines I flew to and from Legazpi. It was
an hour drive from that airport to Giddys in Donsol, Sorsogon. They had
arranged a whale shark encounter trip for me the next morning, so we met in
the lobby at 7a and got on the boat at 8a. I lucked out here, expecting to
share a boat with 5-6 others, but shared it with a recent U of PA grad
working for WWF on a whale shark ID project. During the next 2.5 hours we
had 8 encounters with whale sharks in plankton-filled water (the
non-allowed strobes would not have been effective in such conditions).
Other boats and passengers were there, too. The sharks were generally 15-20
feet deep and generally that size, so getting down to their level and
waiting for them to show (appear out of the gloom) was a skin divers
challenge. I did manage to get in position a few times and got some photos,
but was not able to get below any shark for an upward shot. Later that
evening I took a boat ride on the nearby river to see the firefly show.
Their fireflies are only just over 1cm, with males flashing 2 sec at a time
while females flash 5 sec at a time. Once in a while we came upon the type
of mangrove that produced blooms that attract these fireflies by the
thousands. Picture a tree with a light or two on each leaf, constantly
flashing. We tied up under two such trees and enjoyed natures show for a
while. The fireflies were easy to catch to see up close and then release.
Ill cover Atlantis Puerto Galera next.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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