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Dive Review of Sea Explorers/Alona Vida Hotel in
Philippines/Alona Beach, Bohol

Sea Explorers/Alona Vida Hotel, Oct, 2007,

by Michael Judd, OR, USA (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 11 reports). Report 3834.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Palau, Maldives, Thailand, Truk, Cocos, Fiji, Caribbean
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy Seas calm, choppy
Water Temp 80 to 84 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 1
Water Visibility 40 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions General rule was to stay with guide, but people could wander off with a buddy. Come up when you're out of air.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

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

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 2 stars
Service and Attitude 2 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments Alona Beach is on Bohol Island, about 300 miles south of Manila. It's turning into a dive resort, but fortunately isn't all the way there yet. Along the beach are quite a few dive operators, restaurants and hotels, but it's not too "touristy". Very few touts and hawkers, and I didn't see a single strip joint. The main street is a path along the beach. In a week of diving, didn't run into a single American (whether you consider that a plus or a minus). All in all, a very comfortable place. For low-key entertainment, Philippine TV is fun, including the karaoke channel, the model channel, and ads for fighting cock and pig feed.
Stayed at the Alona Vida, a new place right on the beach with the dive shop build in. $60 per night, including a mediocre breakfast. The room was large and cleaned well every day, but no amenities such as soap or coffee; a little refrigerator would have been an improvement. The restaurant isn't much, other than being right on the sand; I had breakfast there because it was part of the package, but usually ate other meals elsewhere. The hotel has an open air bar, which is convenient for a beer but not so good if you're a light sleeper.
The diving can be summarized as lots of small stuff, no big stuff. If you like anemonae fish, this is the place for you - they're everywhere. Also saw a few of the more uncommon types such as scorpionfish, frogfish, cuttlefish and leaf fish. Lots of nudibranchs. I even got my first sightings of the famous harlequin ghost pipefish (not as impressive live as in the photos in the magazines!). Some of the areas close to Alona are just sandy slopes, but other areas have a good range of both hard and soft corals. The only place we saw larger fish (a few tuna and jacks) was at Balicasag Island, a 40 minute boat ride from Alona. It has better diving than the sites close to Alona, including a bit of a wall, and usually better viz. There is a "resort" on the island, which was much less attractive in person that it appeared in advertisements and on the web.
I dove with Sea Explorers, whose shop is attached to the Alona Vida. No complaints. Your equipment, including wetsuits, is kept in a locked area in the shop. The staff assembles it before the dive and carries it to the boat on the beach; the diver is only responsible for cleaning his or her equipment after the dive and hanging it in the shop. My BC and reg were always put on the tank properly. There is no firm schedule for dives. The whole operation is relaxed almost to the point of disorganization, but it works fine if you don't mind that sort of atmosphere. The boats are a "banca" (in essence a large outrigger canoe fitted with a deck) and a small speedboat, both of which do the job, although not particularly comfortably. The guides weren't much for briefings, but maintained a good pace on the dives and worked at pointing things out. The employees as a group were friendly and helpful.
Overall, I would rate both the diving and the operation "good but not great". Better than that if you like the little guys. The price is right (about $20 per tank), the diving is easy, and the people are pleasant. Worth doing.
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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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