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Dive Review of Atlantis Dive Resorts in
Philippines/Negro Oriental

Atlantis Dive Resorts: "Dumaguete & Apo Island Dive Trip", Aug, 2016,

by Russ Battisto, MN, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 9 reports with 3 Helpful votes). Report 9018 has 2 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments Where to begin...

First, To explain my star rating above. This was an expensive trip for us. Although well worth it, your "bang for the buck" is easy to improve upon but hard to find elsewhere... Next, the beginner will have no trouble at the sites we were at. If air is an issue, they will compensate, no problem. The lower rating on the "advanced" diver is not because there is an issue, it's because my impression of what an "advanced" diver might be looking for could be different than the easy diving we encountered. If you are looking for a challenge (hence advanced... think Gallaagos, you won't find it here. If you are a camera buff looking to settle in and have a great time, this is your place...)

GETTING THERE:
From Minnesota this isn't an easy task. Our travel agent of many years booked us on Philippine Air from LAX to Manila. A LONG flight! Hint: Try to get booked on their newer Boeing 777, not their older Airbus A340. The difference is amazing. The Boeing is more comfortable, has the entertainment centers, recharging stations and just felt better. The Airbus A340 was... not so much. We had the "great" fortune to experience both, the "old" Airbus on the way to Manila and the "new" Boeing going home.
Another hint: Unless you are a FF on their airline or willing to pony up for their business class seats expect no choice of seats. We tried and failed (separated) both ways. They don't negotiate at all. They don't need to. Both flights were booked solid.
(Last "humorous" hint: we were also two of the only Caucasians on the flights, not that it matters, just an observation telling us "we ain't from around here." We were also the largest (tall, not fat) getting on the plane so there were no size-challenged passengers sitting in the middle seats next to us or anyone else for that matter. We were able to negotiate our seating together because of of very nice Filipino-American lady willing to take Mary's aisle seat so Mary could sit next to me on the way there but we were separated by 7 rows & 4 seats on the way back. With a family with kids next to me it would have been hard to break them up. Both of us made it thru just fine...)

The flight from Manila to Dumaguete (on Negro Oriental Island) was another experience. I'll chock it up to "island time" as we were delayed getting started, then sat on the tarmac waiting for a "rain" delay, then headed back to the terminal to add fuel to the plane (the pilot must have been idling too fast). Once refueled we finally took off after over being delayed by 2 hours. The landing was a memorable one also but that's in my log...

Once on the island of Negro Oriental at the Dumaguete City terminal everything changed. We were met by a young man (Alfred (Alf) from Atlantis Dive Resort. (We could tell by his red "Atlantis Resort" shirt) I think he found us pretty easily again because we were the only "Americans" in the terminal... He led us thru the crowds and out to their "trolley" looking bus for the trip to the resort. He went back to retrieve our luggage while we cooled off in the bus with the very friendly driver. Alf found that our luggage hadn't made the flight (not on land long enough apparently...) so they would come back when the next flight came in to retrieve our luggage for us. I got the impression that this is pretty common here.

We took off for a 40 minute, eye opening" ride thru Dumaguete to the resort. Dumaguete is a mix of urban shopping areas, schools, churches, Universities an some areas of complete poverty. The closest I can compare it to was Dar El Salam, Tanzania or Caracas, Venezuela. Not quite as bad but hints of it close to a "normal" city doing normal business. The people we saw were a good mix of business, farmer, peasant & uniformed school students.

We arrived at the resort and were met by the staff who led us to the bar/restaurant area for a welcome drink. Very friendly! Almost immediately we felt the stress of traveling melt away. We filled out some forms and handed in our voucher and once finished with our welcome drink we headed over to the "Camera Room' (more on that later) for our "Orientation on the diving procedures. Atlantis Dive Resort is first rate, in my opinion, 5 star dive resort: [atlantishotel.com link]
We had one of the best experiences of our many travels. The resort caters to any need and does it in a professional AND friendly way. They wanted us happy and you could tell. Everyone there was more than friendly, remembered our names and routines and tried to anticipate our desires. It was simply amazing! And, by the way, we dove our brains out. (some videos and pictures posted on my Facebook page at [facebook.com link]).

DIVING: OK, for those of you expecting a long list of what I saw under water, you will be disappointed. I'm not that kind of diver. I don't make this a "course" effort like some of my dive buddies. If you want to know what I saw, Google Philippines diving or go to the Atlantis Dive Resort website (linked above) for details. All I will say on the "critters" is, you will see more on each dive than most any other place I've been in the Caribbean. However, if you are looking for larger pelagic & other fish, don't bother, this is a "little" critter dive paradise. A camera and video mecca. Slow diving and the ability to stop, look and take lots of shots. Biodiversity beyond what I've seen anywhere else rivaled only by Fiji. Now I haven't been everywhere to put this in context. My experience has been mainly the Caribbean, Mexico, Africa & Fiji. Most of the South Pacific & Australia, not so much. I will say that (a guess here) the reason there are few larger fish is because of over fishing. I saw no lobster (although I'm not sure they are common here) and only one or two grouper and snapper so my guess is if you can eat it, it will not be on your dive site.

We had four Divemasters during our stay: Alf, (yes also our initial greeter) Genie, Warfi and Wing. All were professional, friendly, concerned with our safety and comfort and last but not least able to work with us to maximize our diving experience. Once Alf saw we were experienced divers (on our "checkout" dive) he allowed us lots of leeway. He led if needed, pointed out many critters (always writing them on his board so we'd know what we were looking at as did all of the divemasters) and allowed us to experience the broad variety and multiple species. All four of the Divemasters were trained the same. First dive was more of a "checkout" to make sure we were OK and once found competent, allowed to really explore and roam. Air is no problem here. We used Nitrox because it was available not because we necessarily needed it. We didn't "max" out our diving. We'd do 4 dives one day, 3 the next, and on one day we decided to relax in the afternoon and only did the morning dives so over-diving wasn't an issue. And the profile here is very safe. From the boat a short swim over sand (where there was plenty to see) to the "site" usually coral or other structure to hunt for the little "creatures" then once thoroughly examined, a slow ascent back to the shallow sandy or grassy area for our safety stop. These were usually longer than needed but also filled with plenty to keep us occupied. The dives all ranged from 55 to 80 minutes although they tried to keep us limited to 55 to 60 minutes. We were allowed leeway again depending on who was diving and their air usage. Our usual "buddies" were all comparable to us and could make 60+ minutes easily. There were a few exceptions. In those cases we could allow the heavy breathers to surface early when the boat was moored but we all had to surface when we were drift diving as the boat didn't want to be moving around above us with the prop moving. Very safe operation!

HIGHLIGHTS: More Seahorses than I've ever seen at any dive site(s). A not-so-happy Triggerfish that snapped at my GoPro, more nudibranchs than I've ever seen in my life, cute little "sweetlips" and so many other creatures that my mind is swirling. Bottom line: You'll love it.

SIDE TRIP:
We took a day off of diving to head over to Cebu Island and Brumini Resort where we swam with the Whale Sharks. A fun experience that entails a bus ride, ferry ride and a truly different experience. Hint: stay away from the crowds once in the water. Get out by yourself and wait. Your in the water 45 minutes to an hour (good swimmers only), they will come to you. I had my GoPro and at one point with 5 or 6 whale-sharks descending on my position I didn't know where to point the video. So much fun and some good shots! Try it, you'll like it. A good diversion and a nitrogen reducer...

Back at the ranch... Our final dive of this trip was a "dusk" dive to find the elusive "Mandarin Fish" a shy but very colorful little fish that hides behind coral (dead) and only rarely come out to play. They don't like light... We arrived on site around 5:15 PM and stationed ourselves above the suspected hideout. The strategy is to stay dark and let the little critters show themselves just in time to turn on our lights and get a peak. For me this is an experiment and a work in progress as my new GoPro with the light is good but its user is inexperienced with these type of elusive critters. This site is a coral graveyard. No color, all dead and crumbled probably from the last big typhoon that decimated the island some time ago. I was supposed to research when that actually happened but I havent taken the time yet. So being shallow we could have stayed there for three or four hours but actually decided after 75 minutes of this wed had enough. How this evolved was we all lined up behind Warfi to watch his lead. Hed poke around and every once in awhile hed point but at first I couldnt see what he was pointing at. With our 2 other dive buddies competing for position with Mary and I once we actually saw what we were looking for Mary moved off to find her own Mandarin hideout. I saw what she was doing and decided to follow. She had her flashlight (Id borrowed mine to Warfi as his primary and backup failed) but I wasnt planning on using a flashlight. I had a GoPro and was itching to give it a shot. So Mary would partially cover her light and search for the little critters while I waited in the wings. Once she had a cute little couple poking up I moved in. I turned on my strobe, put my hand over it and turned on the video. The trick is to get into position and wait for the happy couple to appear. Once they pop up Id take my hand away from the strobe and watch. Theyd loiter for only seconds then duck back under the broken coral to get away from the light so Id cover my light and wait again. Mary stayed right above catching the show the whole time. We worked well as a team. She scouted the finicky little critters and I did my best not to scare them away too fast. They are shy and the light didnt help but with a lot of reviewing and some editing I think weve got some good shots.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The fantastic, Atlantis Dive Resort! Try it you'll love it!
The great: The diving! Diversity and quantity in numbers unmatched any other places.
The so-so: I have to mention if there was one thing that struck me as not necessarily bad but not what I expected was the coral reef to be healthier than it actually was. Although this is a "little critter" mecca, the coral has been decimated by recent typhoons and will take a LONG time to recover. Don't let that keep you away. Just an observation.
The not so... so-so: The travel time and comfort level. If this was in the Caribbean it would be in my top 2 places to visit all things considered. Because of it's distance from us I have to say we need to win the lottery so we can "travel in style" as that's the only way I'd do this next time. I guess, for now, I'll build my FF Miles back up and see what my options are.

Hope this helps. We enjoyed it and hope you will to if/when you decide to visit..
Websites Atlantis Dive Resorts   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Mainly Caribbean, Fiji, Hawaii, Africa
Closest Airport Dumaguete Getting There LAX to Manila then short hop to Dumaguette

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy, dry Seas calm, choppy, surge
Water Temp 80-84°F / 27-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40-80 Ft/ 12-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Nitrox limits as well as longer safety stops due mainly to the profile which brought us back to the shallow area to board the moored boat (in most cases where there was little or no current).
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities 5 stars
UW Photo Comments The camera room was perfect for my needs. Plenty of room, compressed air (most of the time) and secure. Because we returned to the resort after each dive (except on trips to Apo Island) we could change batteries and do any other minor fixes/adjustments needed before the next dive. I brought both my camera with strobe as well as my GoPro system. Much like the dive boats we've been on. Using either was easy, convenient and well accepted by the staff and crew.
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Subscriber's Comments

By Gregory S Brucein WA, US at Jan 25, 2017 11:30 EST  
Thanks for the detailed report and taking the time to post it.
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