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November 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 34, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Aiyanar Beach & Dive Resort, Anilao, Philippines

only if you are a macro photographer

from the November, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver,

Frogfish are a rare sight in the Caribbean, and if you see one, it will usually be on a sponge of the same color and texture. I remember a St. Lucia dive where a guide pointed out a frogfish that was right before my eyes but matched its sponge exactly, so I never really saw it. Not so in Anilao, a two- to three-hour drive south from Manila, where frogfish are plentiful and can be easily seen in sharp contrast against mucky sand and gravel bottoms.

Bangkas waiting outside the resortOn my first dive, at Secret Bay, I asked one of my dive guides if he could find me a frogfish. (We had one guide for two divers, and the resort never has more than four divers per guide.) After backrolling in, I knew this wouldn't be Caribbean-style diving -- visibility was 25 feet, and all I saw was sand and gravel with discarded bottles, tires, and other trash, but that's where my skilled guide came in -- he found a frogfish within five minutes, plus other unique photo opportunities in this underwater desert. I was impressed with Aiyanar's Filipino dive guides -- while they only spoke passable English, they worked hard to find us critters to photograph and were usually successful. (As I've come to expect in Asian countries, many of the dive leaders smoked before and between dives, but here they vaped, which, I suppose, is a much less likely way to start an unexpected fire).

Small, unique critters are what Anilao diving is all about. Which is why you need to be a critter-loving photographer to enjoy Anilao fully. Don't go if you're looking for bigger creatures, because they are not there. Nearly all the divers -- mostly American, with a few from Europe, Australia, China, and South Korea -- were there with serious camera gear. It's all about your guide finding an interesting critter, then letting you spend all the time you want getting a good photo. My dives were typically no deeper than 50 feet, so dive times were routinely around 70 minutes, making four dives a day easy (plus a night dive when I wanted). I wasn't asked to do a checkout dive and never heard a post-dive roll call, but with two divers per guide, I felt well looked after....

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