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Dive Review of S/Y Philippine Siren in
Philippines/Between Tubbataha and Cabilao

S/Y Philippine Siren: "From Cabilao to Tubbataha", Mar, 2014,

by Jorge J. More, IL, US (Contributor Contributor 13 reports with 7 Helpful votes). Report 8063 has 1 Helpful vote.

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 N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments I was on a 10-day trip aboard the S/Y Philippine Siren, with the ultimate destination being the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. If you have not heard of Tubbataha, you are in good company; I was interested in Tubbataha because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a restricted diving season of three months, from mid-March to mid-June.

Getting there is not difficult. You fly into Hong Kong, and take a
three-hour flight to Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines. If
you feel that there will be no delays, you can arrive in Cebu without an
overnight stay, but I have had too many cases of lost luggage so I elected for the overnight in Hong Kong; this made the trip relatively easy.

I was somewhat apprehensive about going on a Siren fleet liveaboard. I had read an Undercurrent report (July 2012 issue) about the sinking of the Oriental Siren. This report raised serious concerns about the safety record of the Siren fleet. On the other hand, it did say that the response by the ship's operator, World Dive and Sail (WDS), was exemplary. I discussed these issues with the owners of my dive shop, and was reassured.

My concerns started to evaporate once I boarded the Philippine Siren. At 40 meters (about 131 feet), the Siren is about 30 feet longer than other liveaboards, and the extra space can be seen in the sleeping quarters. The rooms are spacious; two beds on opposite sides of the room (no bunk beds), about 10 feet apart. Clothing and gear can be stashed in the overhead cabinets around two of the walls, or in the cabinet between the two beds. There was an audio-visual system of some sort. The bathroom was large, with enough room to move around. Most importantly, the air-conditioning
unit in the room had individual controls so that you and your mate can set it to your liking (assuming that you can agree on the setting).

The Philippine Siren is a wooden (yes, you read that right) sailing
boat. Ok, the part about sailing is not accurate. They do have sails and were deployed one day so that we could take pictures as we circled the Siren in the dinghies. The arrangement of the boat is unusual with the dive equipment in the bow and the dining room aft, both under a canopy. A sun deck is in the middle, above the lounge. The captain's helm is in front of the dining room at the same level. As it turns out, this arrangement worked out well. For example, it was good to be in the open during dinner and watch the sunset.

The diving was world-class with a critter diversity way above any of my previous liveaboards. We visited the islands of Cabilao, Balicasag, Siquijor and Apo, the shores of Dauin and Oslob, and the Tubbataha marine park; google any of these for more information. There was a mixture of macro sites (Cabilao, Balicasag) and wall dives (Siquijor, Apo, and Tubbataha) with ripping currents or currents that reversed. Among the most memorable (small) creatures were the flamboyant cuttlefish, thorny seahorses, the wonderpuss octopus, nudibranches of all sorts (banana, lemon, and strawberry), the Mandarin fish, the hairy Frogfish, and the Devilfish.

All the diving is done from skiffs. You put on your gear, go down a ladder into the skiff, then back roll. Easy. On your return, you are met with a drink or cookie. Nice. The crew asked if you wanted help getting out of your wetsuit. In any case, they would take your wet suit, rinse it, and hang it to dry under the bow canopy.

The diving operation worked well, except for one occasion when four of us surfaced away from the main group. They were invariably excellent at finding strays but in this case they did not see us. We floated for a while, saw that the skiffs were busy picking up others, so we waited. It was another beautiful day so waiting was not a problem, but after a while (10 minutes?) we decided to radio the Siren (they had given a Nautilus Lifeline to each diver). They acknowledged our call, but it must have taken another 10 minutes before they finally came. A communications problem, they said, and apologized profusely. A free bottle of wine at dinner sealed the deal.

In Oslob you can snorkel with baby (15 feet) whale sharks. The whale
sharks were in an area clearly marked by small buoys. There must have been at least a dozen whale sharks, with each whale shark sticking his/her head out of the water by a canoe, and the canoe driver feeding the whale shark. You would need to look at photos (google will get you many) to get a sense of this operation. We were told that the whale sharks do not become dependent on this feeding and eventually leave as they mature. We were also told that the number of whale sharks in the area has increased. So, this is good, right? The villagers charge for snorkeling among the whale sharks, and the whale sharks are protected.

The Tubbataha Reefs marine park is comprised of the North and South atolls, and the Jessie Beazley atoll. There is also a bird sanctuary and a Ranger station. The park is large (about 20 miles in diameter) and desolate; we did not see any other boats in the area. The Rangers came on board when we got to the South Atoll, and invited us to visit their station, a small building that stands on stilts near the North atoll. I was impressed with the rangers; the station has minimal facilities (no internet connection!), and they serve a 2 month tour of duty. There are no re-supplies. Amazing!

The rangers protect the park, but this is difficult due to size of the park. Illegal fishing is a problem, but there are other problems: About a year before our visit, the USS Guardian (a mine countermeasures vessel) ran aground. The Navy admitted fault. The rescue operation required cutting the Guardian into three pieces, with the pieces being lifted off the reef by crane ships. Additional details can be found at

[en.wikipedia.org link]

About a week after the Guardian was removed, a Chinese fishing vessel ran into the reef. The Chinese vessel was re-floated and taken to Puerto Princesa; it was still there when the Siren sailed into port.

The coral reefs were not in perfect shape, but there was enough healthy coral to satisfy all. The wall dives at Tubbataha have the top of the walls at around 60 feet, and then drop into the blue. Beautiful. The dive at Washing Machine lived up to its name with strong currents that changed directions. Shark Airport and Shark Point were also excellent with dozens of sharks patrolling nearby. There were large schools of fish, including barracudas and Jacks. Several Napoleon wrasses made their appearance. On the last dive three of us spotted a school of about a dozen hammerheads at 100 feet. Nice way to end the trip.

Based on my experience on this trip, I feel that the Siren Fleet is doing
all they can to provide excellent service. Problems noted at the beginning of this report may just be isolated incidents. On the other hand, they are expanding, and this may lead to problems. I do not tend to have difficulty booking a liveaboard at my selected dates (but note that I travel solo), so we do not seem to need more liveaboards. I could be wrong.
Websites S/Y Philippine Siren   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Truk (Chuuk), Philippines, Palau, Yap, Socorro, Galapagos, Cocos, Fiji, Cayman Islands, Turk and Caicos, Bahamas, Thailand, Coral Sea, Cozumel, Bermudas, Belize
Closest Airport Cebu Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, currents, no currents
Water Temp 78-80°F / 26-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 50-100 Ft/ 15-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions They assumed that you were a responsible diver
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 5 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 4 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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