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Dive Review of Sea Explorers Philippines/Pura Vida in
Philippines/Visayas

Sea Explorers Philippines/Pura Vida: "Visayas - Dauin and Pura Vida Resort", Mar, 2016,

by BOB HUCKABEE, CO, US (Reviewer Reviewer 5 reports with 1 Helpful vote). Report 8895.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments The resort was our second favorite of the four Sea-Explorer locations and is located on a quiet island with beautiful views of the ocean. We stayed in a standard bungalow (Cardinal Room) toward the back of the property for 5 nights. The standard bungalows are very cute, though just a bit small, with lovely front porches and thatched roofs. The upgraded bungalows were toward the front and some had ocean views. They looked quite lovely. Wi-fi is available in the room.

Breakfast is served buffet style above the dive center and consisted of fresh fruit, fresh fruit juice, and a selection of eggs, pancakes, ham and bacon, cheese, etc. Lunch and dinner is served down in the bar area that faces the ocean. Lunch and dinner selections are made from a menu and we especially enjoyed the mango and coconut shakes. Note that there are several restaurants in town (about 10 minutes from the resort) if you have the time and know where to go. We tried a restaurant called Cats that was great. (Try their avocado shakes – delicious.)

The dive operation
The dive operation has very friendly staff and everyone works hard to please. The rinse tanks are convenient and the drying rack in front is convenient for hanging wetsuits. All gear is locked up in the dive center at night. Our dive guide, Nixee, was extremely friendly and made an extra effort to accommodate our desire for muck diving. She showed us many wonders on the black sand. My only recommendation to the dive operation in general is that they should take a few minutes to speak with divers at the beginning of the stay to explain the diving options available, the current conditions, and design a plan so that divers can dive according to what they want to see. Dauin has world-class muck in addition to Oslob (whale sharks) and Apo Island (drift and wall diving) so careful planning would help divers understand how to maximize their time given conditions in the water.

Safety – in general, I think Sea-Explorers is a safety minded dive operation. We did their Island Hopping package in their 4 locations (Malapascua, Cabilao, Alona Beach, and Dauin) so we were exposed to all of their dive centers. On our trip we had two incidents that should be mentioned. The first happened in Malapascua - my nitrox tank had been replaced with an oxygen tank for one of the thresher shark dives without informing me. Since the thresher shark dives are deep (90+ feet for a long time) this could have been quite a serious mix-up if I hadn’t noticed that the tank on my BC didn’t have my name on it. The mistake was twofold: one, someone switched out the fitting on my tank after I analyzed it, and two, when the fitting on my nitrox tank didn’t fit my regulator someone just put an oxygen tank on my BC instead of asking me. The second incident happened in Cabilao - our friend’s tank’s o-ring blew underwater on a shore entry night dive. Fortunately the guide (Kevin) noticed immediately and got our friend safely back to shore.

The unlimited dive package is a bad deal price-wise. We bought 10 days of unlimited dives and were told prior to the trip that we could pay for the entire trip at the final destination. We had planned on using the unlimited dive days on the days when we dove at least 3 times and planned on paying for additional dive days using the per-dive price. Instead, Sea-Explorers forced us to use our unlimited days in sequential order, so we ended up paying a much higher price per dive overall. This included the days we could only dive twice because of the transfer to another Sea-Explorer location. You are far better off buying the amount that gives you the best price because you can always buy more on location.

The diving
We spent one day going to Oslob to dive with whale sharks, another day diving Apo Island, and two days diving in the muck. The Oslob day trip was thrilling if you’ve not seen whale sharks up close. The sharks are fed from canoes but they can come and go as they please. You have the option to dive or snorkel with the sharks. This was a dive day well spent. The other dives done on this day from the boat were just average.

There are ripping currents on Apo Island and the 2013 earthquake broke most of the coral on the east side (I believe). We went into the water where the currents were strong but manageable, then dove around the corner to the west side. The currents were extremely strong and down currents can occur. The water was quite occluded so it was difficult to follow the guide, let alone take pictures. Although you are required to follow the guide there wasn’t time to take pictures and stay with the group. Between the currents and occluded water the dives here weren’t very good. It’s possible they would be better if the water was clearer because the reef was healthier than anything else we saw in the Visayas, but it still rated average compared to most other pacific wall dives.

The muck diving from the Pura Vida house reef and on nearby reefs was spectacular. Almost all of our muck dives were filled with the weird and wonderful – so many that you barely finished looking at one subject when you heard the “ting-ting” to look at another. The night dive we did at the house reef was one of my all-time favorites. On a 3 foot square section we saw 4 frogfish, 2 cuttlefish, several crinoid shrimp, and many crabs. We thought the muck diving was almost as good as in Lembeh.

The island hopping experience
We wanted to try the island hopping adventure because it is rare to see pelagic fish, macro, and muck in the same trip unless you’re on a liveaboard. And though it sounds great in theory it did not work out well in practice. I wish I could recommend island hopping but you use too many days and go through too many hassles for this to be recommended.

You can put together a dive package that includes any or all 4 locations: Malapascua in the north for the thresher sharks, Cabilao for wall diving on a remote and quiet island, Alona Beach for more wall diving on a busy island, and Dauin in the south for diving with whale sharks and muck diving. We dove all four locations from north to south. The trip from Cebu airport to Malapascua is a hectic 5 hour car trip followed by a small boat ferry to the resort. The transfer from Malapascua to Cabilao is by small ferry, then car, then a big ferry, then another car, and finally a small ferry. This took the entire day and no diving is possible. The transfer from Cabilao to Alona Beach is done entirely by ferry, and if you’re lucky you can dive en route. However, the ability to dive en route is not guaranteed and if the dive transfer boat is busy in the morning you won’t be able to dive. The transfer from Alona Beach to Dauin is also done entirely by ferry, and though you might get the chance to dive en route we couldn’t because the boat wasn’t available to take us until the afternoon. (See my review of Alona Beach diving to see why we chose not to dive from the resort in the morning while waiting for the boat.) And finally, the transfer from Dauin back to Cebu is done by car, then by a small speedboat, then a long car ride to the airport.

We used two vacation days to transfer to the various locations if you exclude the day to get to the first resort and the day to return to the airport at the end of the trip. On those two days we only did 2 dives. (And we had to pay the unlimited dive price so it turned out to be pretty expensive.) Because of all the modes of transportation you’ll be paying quite a bit in porter fees to haul your stuff from car to boat to ferry and back to car. Tips are required on each end of the transfers. On the transfer from Dauin to Cebu we almost missed our flight because of traffic problems on the road. Our driver told us the couple he transferred the day before also almost missed their flight. Recommendation to Sea-Explorers is to leave one hour earlier for the ride to the airport. We arrived at the Cebu airport barely in time to board our flight and made an already hectic trip more so.

The unlimited dive package is a bad deal price-wise. We bought 10 days of unlimited dives and were told prior to the trip that we could pay for the entire trip at the final destination. We had planned on using the unlimited dive days on the days when we dove at least 3 times and planned on paying for additional dive days using the per-dive price. Instead, Sea-Explorers forced us to use our unlimited days in sequential order, so we ended up paying a much higher price per dive overall. This included the days we could only dive twice because of the transfer to another Sea-Explorer location. You are far better off buying the amount that gives you the best price because you can always buy more on location.




Websites Sea Explorers Philippines   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Komodo, Lembeh, Bali, Solomon Islands, Anilao, Fiji, Hawaii, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Belize, Honduras, San Salvador, Turks & Caicos, St. Vincent, Dominica
Closest Airport Dumaguete or Cebu City Getting There Cebu is a direct international hop, but a long transfer from Daurin

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas
Water Temp 26-28°C / 79-82°F Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 4-15 M / 13-49 Ft

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions must follow guide
Enforced diving restrictions: max dive time 60 minutes
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks > 2
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 2 stars Tropical Fish N/A
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 3 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 4 stars
UW Photo Comments Dive guides orientated to cruising not photography. Discussion with dive manager and guide resulted better guide support for photography and small critter spotting. Macro opportunities at Darin are outstanding. The east side of Apo Island reefs suffered a lot of damage in 2013; they have not recovered to date. The Visayas are reported to have 10-30 M visibility. Perhaps we arrived at a seasonal change.
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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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