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Dive Review of S/Y Philippine Siren in

S/Y Philippine Siren: "Seriously Amazing Diving in Tubbataha", May, 2016,

by Angela Richards Dona, HI, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 9 reports with 8 Helpful votes). Report 9420 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments I've now seen some pretty spectacular reefs and these are at the top of my list in terms of health, diversity, and overall experience. Tubbataha is a truly special place. Upon reaching the top of the reef on one dive, I actually began to cry. Everything was healthy as far as I could see. And these days, that is a rare thing to behold. The ecosystem in Tubbataha appears intact. Everything large and small is present. There are algae (turf and macro), small invertebrates (nudibranchs and such), larger invertebrates (lobsters, sea stars, etc.), small fish, large fish, pelagics, turtles, eels...I could go on.

The Siren and Diving
Tubbataha is practically in the middle of the Sulu Sea. It takes several hours (7-8) to get there from Puerto Princesa, on the Siren, and we were lucky to have pretty calm waters for our crossing. There was to be no night diving because of the unpredictable currents and abundance of large sharks (cool with me) so the dive times were strictly enforced (ugh), and the times between dives were shorter than on previous Siren cruises we've done. The set up was exactly the same as we had experienced in the past with 16 divers aboard - a full house. One of the things I cannot understand though, is why, since we are repeat customers, the DMs or cruise managers, always divide our group. Each time they do it and each time we clarify that we are a group of three. It causes us to make requests that we would not like to have to make. In this instance, things started off on a bad note because one of us was put with a single person so the less experienced single person would have a dive buddy. While I appreciate the thought for the single girl, we really didn't come to Tubbataha to be someone's buddy. We came to dive, the three of us, together. I asked the co-cruise director to move our companion back to our group and he insisted that he also move the single girl to our group as well. I told him that we didn't want to have to buddy with another person but he brushed me off and said the dive leader would take care of her. Well, none of the dive leaders ever paid her much attention. We were stuck with her and she was not a particularly good diver. She became our problem. And she did some very erratic things that really irritated us.

One of my complaints about the previous Philippines Siren cruise we had done was the food. The previous crew did not prepare well for vegetarians and we watched all the other guests get catered to brilliantly while our food was poor. That was not the case this time! I spoke with the main office several times before the cruise to remind them of our needs and with suggestions on how to provide good proteins (and choices) for us and they did a very good job of making dishes for us. We recognize that vegetarian dishes are not common in Philippines and are truly grateful for the effort. What I did not appreciate was the manner in which I was approached before we disembarked by the cruise director about the food. They had gone out of their way to accommodate but she made sure I was aware of the burden. In her defense, she checked on us after just about every meal to make sure everything was ok. It was not amazing food, it was ok in most cases, but it was enough, there were veggie choices, and we were not lacking nourishment. For the Philippines, I think that is pretty good.

The boat is amazing. We are repeat customers because we really like the way the operation is organized. The crew is always terrific. And our cabin was awesome. Best one yet! We took the single beds to have more floor space. And the A/C worked, bathroom was in good order, and we enjoyed napping between dives down there.

Kitting up is a breeze at your station because you have plenty of space to yourself, a drawer (not on the ground, but at waist height) for your loose ends, and your gear is always on your tank. All you have to do is verify your Nitrox (by the way, it's free), percentage, sign, and you are off! Dive groups get on dinghies with nothing in hand (all put on boat for you) and you backroll onto the reef. Getting back into the dinghy is pretty easy, and you are aided by the top notch crew. They also clean your wetsuits after each dive and hang them up for you to dry. Before the dive your suit and accessories are back at your station, ready to be donned. This part of the operation is excellent. We love it!

It used to be that groups would enter the water depending on the group number you were assigned randomly at the beginning. But seems people complained and now group 1 (closest to the dinghy) goes first only for the first two days, group 2 goes first on days 3, 4, etc. That is not an improvement in my opinion, but they are trying to make people happy. What happens now is that group two (or three for that matter) has to get past the other groups to arrive at the dinghy. That means if you are in group one and have your foot up on the side of the boat while putting something on such as a wetsuit or booty, you will have to move out of the way of the group that is getting onto the dinghy. This is not optimal. Used to be better regardless of the group you were in.

It also used to be that groups would be randomly assigned a DM or leader from the crew and that person would be with the group for the entire trip. This also changed. With the change in rotation for which group goes first, we also got different dive leaders. Again, not an improvement necessarily, but people complained, I heard, and so they are trying to appease. We did not love our dive leaders. Donato is great, we have been with him before and would have loved to dive with him more, but the others were very detached and did a lot of looking into the blue. Clearly, people like a good pelagic shark sighting, but there was very little interaction and we often wished our leader would have been paying attention to our extra buddy when she was ascending too fast etc.

We were told to ascend directly upward and never swim under the surface to the boat. For the most part, this was doable, but on one occasion, the dinghy picked us up about 20 meters from the Siren and was stationary. For whatever reason, we felt it was safer to ascend gradually toward the dinghy and got a very snide, chewing out by one of the dive leaders when we hit the surface. Oops. We could hear him speaking about it to others, which was pretty unprofessional, but I guess we messed up so it was our bad. Still...

What we saw
We saw lots of sharks (whitetips, blacktips, nurse) on every single dive. The other groups saw whale sharks, but sadly, we did not. :( We chose Tubbataha for that possibility, so we were disappointed, but there is just nothing you can do about that. It is no one's fault. We saw eagle rays, garden eels, bumphead parrotfish, Napoleon wrasses, completely unafraid turtles, tons of sweetlips, a very pregnant whitetip shark, an oceanic manta ray, octopus, nudis, healthy coral as far as the eyes could see. Tubbataha is truly marvelous.

We did not have a particularly current-y week so none of the warnings about the place applied. We did have some strong currents but nothing unpredictable and nothing too crazy. We visited first North Atoll, then South Atoll, back to North, then Jessie Beazley. All terrific dives, and great memories. We did 18 dives in five days of diving. Far too short if you ask me, but that is the trip. and so worth it. I guess we will just have to return if for nothing else, to see those dang whale sharks!

Websites S/Y Philippine Siren   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Raja Ampat, Philippines: Southern Visayas and Honda Bay, Micronesia, Fiji, Egyptian Red Sea, Hawaii, Bonaire, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas, Cozumel, etc.
Closest Airport Puerto Princesa Getting There Philippines Airlines Honolulu to Manila, Manila to Puerto Princesa

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy, cloudy Seas calm
Water Temp 26-29°C / 79-84°F Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 5-30 M / 16-98 Ft

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Strict one hour limit. No night dives. No peeing in your wetsuit (seriously)! Stay within Nitrox depth limits.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments All Sirens have a dedicated rinse bucket, a place to store and charge your camera in the salon, drawers for keeping your tiny bits etc. Overall, a very good setup.
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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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