Saturday, April 10, 2010

Anilao Trip Report

I just spent 4 nights at Acacia Resort in Anilao. Anilao is south of Manila, about 3 hours' drive in normal traffic. The resort fits about 30 people and is quite a new resort (opened in 2008). Like all the other resorts in Anilao, Acacia does mostly weekend business from Manila. It's best to come during the weekdays - I was the only guest for the first day and one of a handful of guests on the second day. The rooms are simple, modern, and clean. The food is quite good and varied with a mix of local and international fare. The resort is named after a huge and ancient acacia tree that sits in the middle of the property - see pictures below. Overall, the resort is pretty, comfortable, and well equipped to handle visiting divers. The one annoying thing is that there are occasional power outages. We lost power 3 times during my stay, for not much more than an hour each time, but it can be disruptive for photographers who need to keep their equipment charged.

Diving is done from small banka boats with minimal shelter. They are crewed by 2 boatmen and one dive guide. Marlowe guided me on my 12 dives. He is patient, has a good eye, and is motivated to find interesting marine life. The macro life in Anilao is amazing - I saw more nudis than I have ever seen, by a wide margin. For context, I photographed more than 60 nudis on 12 dives (and passed on a number of others). Other interesting life includes various crabs, shrimp, octopi, scorpionfish, frogfish, etc. I did not have any luck with coleman shrimp (I was told that fire urchins are seasonal), mimic octopi, blue ring octopi, or stargazers, but I'm very happy with what I saw and photographed. I used a 60 mm lens for 7 dives and a 105 mm for 5 dives; that mix is about right for what I saw.

The dive sites are typically 15-25 min boat rides away from Acacia. Visibility ranged from 5m to 20m with an average of about 10m. Dives usually start with 20-30 min at 15-25m and end up in the shallows in a few meters of water. Most of the dives are leisurely, with little current or surge. The dives tend to be quite long (average over 60 min). The water can be quite cold from November to April. Personally, I will dive dry in the future during those months. We were getting cold after about 45 min and quite chilled during the surface intervals.

I'm very happy with my trip and intend to go back. My time there was very peaceful and laid back - but I'm not sure how it is during peak season on the weekends.

Thanks to Miko for making the arrangements and loaning me his gear.

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