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Dive Review of Stella Maris in
Philippines/Apo Reef, Coron, Verde Island

September, 2008, an Instant Reader Report by Jeanne & Bill Downey, PA, US
Top Contributor   (39 reports, with 5 Helpful votes)
Report Number 4479
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
Caribbean, Bahamas, Caymans, Australia, Micronesia, Malaysia, Indonesia,
Cocos, Socorro, etc.
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, windy  
Water Temp
83   to 84    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
30   to 70    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Depth limits suggested. Fifty to sixty minute dives suggested, but no
problem going over.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
1 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
3 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Two dedicated camera rinse tanks. Extremely small camera room.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
4 stars   
3 stars    
This was our first trip to the Philippines, as part of a FAM
(familiarization) group of eight. Our routing was Pittsburgh, Houston,
Honolulu, Guam and finally Manila, all in one very long day. We overnighted
at the Manila Hotel. The next morning, after an excellent buffet breakfast,
we boarded a bus for the three hour ride to the Anilou Outrigger Resort
where the Stella Maris was waiting for us.

The Stella Maris is not a luxurious liveaboard by American standards, but
the rooms were decent sized, with three categories of rooms. Bill & I
were in one of the two owners rooms, although it was rather gloomy
looking, with dingy beige colored wall paper and dark gray slip-resistant
flooring. The bed was huge, with an offering of mint wafers waiting for us.
The bathroom, with shower and commode, was small with a constantly wet
floor. The sink, in the main part of the cabin, had generous counter space.
Some cabins were similar; others had the sink in with the shower. Each
cabin had its own air conditioning unit. Some had bunk beds.

Our first dive was right off the resort. Although they could have squeezed
the eight of us into one skiff, two skiffs were always used. After a short
ride, we back-rolled into a huge amount of trash, then went down to 60 feet
where we had an enjoyable dive, seeing  juvenile crocodile fish, several
large nudibranchs, a black lionfish, blind shrimp gobies, and a dozen
chubby, aged tridanca clams; we did a safety stop while floating with the
trash. A good dive except for that. 

All meals were buffet style. Our first supper consisted of a delicious corn
and chicken soup, roasted chicken, fish, vegetables, rice, and a
mouth-watering mango and banana dessert. Cereal, toast, and coffee were
offered as pre-dive breakfasts; a more substantial post-dive breakfast
might include hot porridge, eggs, meat, and pancakes. Lunch and suppers
always included yummy soups, rice, fish, meat, and fruit for lunch or a
succulent dessert for supper. Between dive snacks might include hamburgers,
cake, or delicious banana or mango smoothies.

The boat traveled all night toward Apo Reef after our first supper. A
typhoon was forming in the area so for some it was a tummy-tossing trip,
although travel exhaustion helped us sleep. Apo Reef had clear water, a
couple white-tip sharks, colorful anemonefish, schooling pyramid fish,
banner fish, titan and clown triggerfish, and a humphead wrasse, among

The typhoon, getting stronger, chased us from Apo Reef after three dives;
instead of an overnight ride, it was a rough evening, night and much of the
next day trek before we finally did an afternoon dive at Coron Bay. Coron
Bay had a nice variety of diving, depending on the dive site, from
interesting critter diving, to some well salvaged WWII wrecks, to Barracuda
Lake, similar looking to Jellyfish Lake in Palau, without the jellyfish.
The top portion is fresh water, then a halocline, then some really warm (97
degree) water at 80-90 feet. We dove the wrecks during the 64th anniversary
week of their sinking. Unfortunately the typhoon affected visibility, even
though it was now moving away, so the diving was not as enjoyable as it
should have been. 

Heading back north to Verde Island, our three dives there consisted of a
rubble slope with many fish and good critter possibilities, and a large
pinnacle where we saw sea snakes, schooling fish, and other smaller things.
My first dive I came up early due to camera problemsno skiff. I raised my
flag, blew my whistle and started swimming toward the boat; eventually they
noticed me. The skiff transferred me to the Stella Maris where the only
comment was its too soon for you to be up. 

Among the 14 crew members taking care of us and our gear, boat manager and
divemaster Paul stood out, going way out of his way to make sure we were
comfortable and well taken care of. He even ended up going with us on the
next portion of our trip, to Dumaguete. We never had to touch or rinse our
gear, including wet suits. Warm towels were wrapped around us after each
dive, and there were 4 showers on the back of the boat, although they
ranged from cool to luke warm. No bathroom on the dive deck. Sheets were
not changed during the week, no big deal, but neither were towels, although
when I asked for fresh, dry ones, it was no problem.

Would we do this trip again? Maybe. The cabins were a bit dingy, although
the rest of the boat was OK. The crew was fabulous, as was the food. But
the boat will sleep up to 22 peopleI would not want to be on it with that
many people, or on the skiff with 12 divers. The camera room is very small,
with enough room for one or two people at a time. We averaged fewer than 3
dives/day, mostly due to weather problems. The quality of the dives was
good, but not worth the extended travel times. I would not do this
particular route again, especially during typhoon season! I would do the
Stella Maris again in a different location if I knew there would be a
maximum of 16 divers aboard.
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