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Dive Review of Atlantis Azores in
Philippines/Tubbataha then Donsol

Atlantis Azores, May, 2010,

by Frederick R. Turoff, PA, US (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 25 reports with 6 Helpful votes). Report 5584.

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

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, no currents
Water Temp 84 to 88 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 60 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions return with 500 psi, no deeper than 130 ft
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 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 N/A
UW Photo Comments 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):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments 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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