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Dive Review of Acacia Resort and Dive Center in
Philippines/Anilao

Acacia Resort and Dive Center: "Fantastic diving at reasonble prices with a friendly staff", May, 2015,

by Joel Snyder, AZ, US (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 26 reports with 22 Helpful votes). Report 8213.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Acacia Dive Resort Trip Report (Anilao, Philippines)
May, 2015

The Anilao stretch of coastline is a short (2-3 hour) drive from Manila, which makes it ideal for divers who have a short layover and don't want to fly. A number of resorts, perhaps 15 or 20, are stretched along the beach, which makes the diving from all of them very similar. You can pick your price-point for the resort and comfort level, but all the diving seems to be run in about the same way.

Obviously, more expensive and larger resorts might have in-house divemasters who are there full time, but the smaller ones (and most of the places here are small) make heavy use of free-lance divemasters and boats to accommodate shifts in demand.

Technically, Anilao is not the right name for this area, although this is what it is called by divers. The area is really the Mabini peninsula and Tingloy island, just south-west of Batangas and north of Puerto Galera. But the historic path to these dive sites ("go to Anilao and take a boat") gave it the name, even if there are now roads and you can drive directly to the resorts without going through Anilao city.

We picked the Acacia Dive resort, but other popular ones in the area include Crystal Blue, Eagle Point, and Solana.

This was our second trip here. The facility is small: 16 rooms. 1-4 are lovely upper-level large-sized rooms ("suites"); 5, 7, 8, and 10 are small double rooms ("deluxe"), with 6 and 9 double-sized with two double beds in each (also "suites"). The small deluxe rooms are definitely not much more than a bed and a bathroom. Ours had a cooler which was poorly maintained and noisy, and a toilet that ran continuously. Overall, the place is a bit more run-down than it was 2 years ago; it doesn't look as if any real changes other than basic maintenance have occurred since then.

There are another 6 rooms which are considered "standard," which I never saw; I think those were packed into the building above the registration area and had no view or deck. I think that the difference between deluxe and standard rooms is the deck and view, not the room.

Getting to Anilao you can do inexpensively or not. The hotel will be happy to arrange a shuttle from Manila airport, which costs about $100 for the shuttle (each way). If you're 4 people, that's $25 a head, not too expensive and very convenient. If you want to "go native," there are many other public transport options, or you can rent a car. Honestly, if you can pack 4, 6, or 8 divers into your trip, everything gets more reasonable. But even if you're a single couple, it's not outrageously priced.

The central acacia tree for which the resort is named looks out over a large deck used to serve meals (B/L/D), sometimes buffet, sometimes "family style," sometimes to order, probably depending on the guest count. Food is good but not "wow," as one would expect for a mid-range facility. The staff was generally helpful. English was a second language for everyone, and most staff had only a basic level of English, but a pleasant attitude and willingness to help out.

Under the deck is the dive area, many rinse tanks for your gear, and hanging space, all well-aerated. The area is open to the beach, but there is 24-hour informal guard and I suspect theft is very low. A pool is at the same level as the dive area.

From the dive/pool area, you walk downstairs to the beach, where a panga will take you diving. These are all local-manufacture bangka, not really optimized for dives, but the team (usually 2 people running the boat) know the procedure and have made things as easy as they can with this boat design. Entry is via backwards roll, return using a ladder (with gear on or off; we did it on this time). Our boat held us 2 and probably up to 4 comfortably. We saw another (slightly larger) boat leave with 8 divers on it which was quite packed to the gills.

Diving here is aimed at the guests, so you pick your profile and dive type and they assign you a guide and a boat for the trip. You may be asked to share (this happened once on our previous trip), but generally it's yours for the time you are diving.

This type of diving leads to some unfamiliar pricing, since you're hiring the boat and dive master (through the resort) for a fixed price. If you add more divers, the price per diver gets lower; if you don't, it gets more expensive. If you do 2 dives a day, it's more expensive; if you do 4 dives, it's cheaper. This is different from other typical dive-oriented locations where divers pay by the dive or by the day and there are enough divers to even out the costs to be the same for each diver. More on pricing at the end.

The dive shop seemed to have a full spectrum of options. The compressor hut across the pool yard was filling air, but nitrox was available and there were doubles for rent as well. Based on the equipment laying around, they seemed ready for more advanced training. One dive master was in-house, plus some helpers and the dive manager who ran things, managed tanks and boats and so on.

Typical timetable is breakfast at 7:30, get on your boat around 8-ish, in the water about 20-30 minutes later. Longest ride is about 30 minutes, most are more typically 15-20. Dive as long as you want, then return to the boat. They will pull into a buoy or ashore for a surface interval, then take the next dive. Back around 12:30 for lunch, and then repeat in the afternoon.

The first time we came, they gave us only the option for 3 dives a day; this time we asked specifically for 4 and this was not a problem, although the last dive was really a dusk dive. With us spending 70-75 minutes underwater, this pushed things late. If you dive shorter dives, you would get more sunlight.

Generally, there isn't a lot of dictated structure. Someone assigned us a boat and divemaster before we came, and we didn't get an intro or orientation to how the place worked. I don't know if this is because they knew we had been here before, or whether the manager was off-premises for the few days, or what. But if you didn't know how it all works, you'd be mildly confused.

Nitrox was available, blended (not banked) at 450 pesos/tank; you check your own pressure and mix in front of the dive manager before they load your tanks. Air tanks are 250 pesos/tank.

Two years ago we were assigned a dive guide who was inexperienced and a reef killer. He was constantly landing on the reef, finning it, and using his pointer as a digging device. This year we were assigned Bert, who told us he was an officer in the local divemaster association. He was a serious expert---very precise in his movements, controlled at all times, and also an expert spotter.

We asked for him to give us general freedom to dive, and he was fine with that: he led us very gently in the right direction, pointed out things when it was really interesting, and otherwise let us progress at our own rate. We asked to run 70 minute dives, and we all ran the dive with a calm profile: down slowly to around 70-80 feet, then even more slowly ending up around 30 feet. When we hit about 70 minutes, we'd all go up to 20-ish for a safety time and then pop up. He didn't make an effort to bring us back to the boat, so sometimes we'd be right under and sometimes we'd have to wait 30 seconds for the boat to come and pick us up. All seemed very casual and straightforward.

Surface intervals the resort had sent out some water, hot water for coffee or chocolate, and a fruit snack.

Diving was a mix of coral and muck (what they call "mac," probably for "macro") diving, your choice.

Most of the dives we didn't run into other divers, but often the ones we did were clumsy and poorly managed. In some cases, it was the guide (as our experience 2 years ago) who was the problem, along with the divers. There doesn't seem to be a "whip the guests into line" attitude here, which probably would be a good idea if they want to maintain the quality of their reefs. Instead, groups of novice divers were laying on the reef, grabbing coral heads, and smashing their large white-colored fins into anything and everything. This included photographers with heavy-duty gear.

The coral dives are not spectacular. We had just been on Tubbataha Reefs a few days before and there was no comparison. But they were nice casual dives. Some still had surprises: in one, a sea snake hunted, went for air, and returned to continue the hunt. Eventually, he found a moray, fought and paralyzed it, and began to consume it. We chose to mix coral and muck dives, 50/50.

Muck dives were impressive. We haven't done a lot of muck diving, so we saw something new and often unidentifiable on every dive. Nudibranchs everywhere, often mating or laying eggs. Interesting venemous fish: strange varieties of stonefish and lionfish, different from the common types, as well as bottom walkers such as gurnards and sea moths. Some truly strange anenome (one with large green pointed tentacles made me want to shout "release the kraken!") and sea pen varieties, plus other unfamiliar bottom dwellers---strange types of crabs with 12" wingspan and 3" bodies, enormous mantis shrimp and others.

Pricing here makes it advantageous to have more divers in a group, since there are economies of scale. You individually pay for your tanks (air or nitrox), anything you rent (including lead), and a basic "dive pass" of about $5/person/day. Then, your group has to add on a boat and crew (about $110/day if you do 4 dives) and the required divemaster (about $90/day if you do 4 dives) which you can spread across your party.

This is definitely not a bargain place to go if you are a single diver! We went as a couple and paid a total of 75,000 pesos (about $1650) for four nights/three diving days for two people, including hotel room, all meals, transfers to/from Manila, and 11 Nitrox dives each on a private boat. That's about $75/dive. If there had been four divers in two rooms, the per-dive price would drop to about $60/dive, so there's a big incentive take a second or even third couple with you.

The big question here is whether we would go back to Anilao? The short answer is yes: this was our second trip. The diving here is unique, casual, and beautiful with an emphasis on critters very different from most reef dives. Nudibranch fiends will find something fascinating on each dive. Would we go back to Acacia? I certainly wouldn't avoid it. We had a great experience overall. Is it possible that there's something a little better just down the reef? Yes, definitely, there's room for improvement. Would I risk planning an entire 10-day trip at an unknown hotel next door after having such a good experience at Acacia? Probably not. Acacia is a safe bet and recommended.
Websites Acacia Resort and Dive Center   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Caribbean, Hawaii, Oceania, Australia
Closest Airport Manila Getting There Manila is well-connected; Anilao can be reached by land from Manila airport in about 2 hours.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, choppy
Water Temp 80-84°F / 27-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 20-40 Ft/ 6-12 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions No restrictions on time or depth, but most dives were within 100 feet and you spend most of your time at 60-70 feet.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]
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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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