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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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September 2022    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 37, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Atmosphere Resort, Philippines

primo macro, fine wines

from the September, 2022 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver,

Just because "muck" rhymes with "yuck" doesn't mean that a mucky dive site is dirty, smelly, or disgusting. When "muck diving" was first named more than 40 years ago by the iconic Aussie Bob Halstead, he was shooting tiny critters in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea, on the silty, sandy sea floor, not on the reefs or bommies. Today, macro shooters enthusiastically pursue muck because the many inhabitants are highly photogenic, and at Atmosphere Resort, muck critters abound. Most sites are less than 20 minutes away from the private beach of this surprisingly luxurious boutique resort, 400 miles south of Manila. For about $400/day, double occupancy for room, board, and diving (depending on room and season), it's quite the deal.

Poolside at the Atmosphere ResortThe deck of their primary dive boat, a 50-foot bangka (a double-outrigger Philippine boat), sits a good five feet above the water, so my first giant stride entry carried me deeper than I'm accustomed. (I got used to this, but a fellow male diver had to learn the hard way not to spread his legs too much during the drop.) After I surfaced. I looked down, but the bottom was not visible, not atypical for the Philippines. The visibility was a relatively low 15-20 feet at many sites, and the bottom is mostly featureless. But for my dive group, six Americans with cameras, none of that was a concern.

Upon reaching the mucky bottom, our dive leader, Saimon, pointed out small, colorful critters that were wonderful macro subjects. Saimon, who started at the resort 10 years ago, is a PADI divemaster, as are the other leaders, Arjay and Michael. On a single dive, I patiently photographed a seahorse, a frogfish, and a nudibranch. In the Caribbean, I'd be lucky to see just one of these critters once in a week. During other dives, I spotted several species of frogfish, seahorses, shrimp, and nudibranchs, as well as a pipefish and a few interesting reef fish such as Moorish idols and anemone fish. I was delighted to discover both a mimic octopus and the deadly blue ring octopus -- one bite can kill a person -- and even a 5-foot olive sea snake. I never saw big stuff like sharks, mantas, or dolphins. They're rare in these waters, though the Atmosphere offers 1.5-hour trips to Cebu to snorkel with whale sharks....

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