June 15, 2017
Scuba Diving Balicasag Island with SeaQuest Dive Center
Dive Shop: SeaQuest Dive Center
Phone: (63) 38 502.9069
Mobile: (63) (0)999.380.2420 (Smart) / (63) (0)927.309.6383 (Globe)
Location: Alona Beach, Panglao, 6340 Bohol, Philippines
GPS waypoint: 9°32'54.5"N 123°46'23.6"E
SeaQuest Dive Center
SeaQuest is the sister company of Oasis Resort, where I stay. It's got its own boat which is the biggest in all of Panglao. It's long and wide, I could practically hold a yoga class there. "Big", "spacious" and "luxurious" seem to be trademark of these companies. It was also clean, organized and well-maintained. SeaQuest also offer PADI dive courses and yes, Freedive courses! They were the first few ones to establish a dive shop in Alona 27 years ago when there was nothing yet on the island! Their long experience is evident in the professionalism to everything they do. 2 thumbs up to SeaQuest and Oasis!
Since my Dumaguete days in 2008, I was already hearing about the great dives in Balicasag Island - the pencil-shaped coral reef sticking out from the ocean floor at over 100m deep (in some areas) and onto the island top. I even heard about a marine biologist back in the 70s who was towed by a slow pumpboat around the island with his mask/snorkel. He said it was raining fish, and that every 50m, he would see a Volkswagen - a moniker for a giant Grouper as big as a Volkswagen Beetle. Just a few years ago, I actually met this guy - and the story is true! We're talking nearly 50 years ago. Now, of course, as excited as I am to finally make this dive, I had to manage my expectation.
Dive Master: Jerson
Dive No.: 38
Cathedral Dive is a vertical wall that plunges down 60m. I couldn't see the bottom as we hovered on the 18m depth. The feel and visual spectacle was something similar to the Catherdral Dive of Apo Island - both are simply wonderful. Plant life and marine life are thriving with all their vivid colors. From the small ones like the nudibranch to the big groupers, and every size in between, you see them all.
Black Forest Dive
Dive Master: Jerson
Dive No.: 39
Black Forest was a lot of fun with its strong current. It was a drift dive where you still have to do a lot of steering to coast along the drop-off area. Although the drop-off descends down to a dark-blue abyss, we only hovered where the drop-off began, roughly 15m. The coral reef was intense and colorful...very healthy and animated. There were thousands of little fishes of different species just clustered along the reef system - you had to wade through them! The big stuff I saw were a Green Turtle, Titan Triggerfish and Marbled Grouper. The Titans were not hostile this time around. This dive is a winner!
Finally, I could check-off Balicasag off my "must-do" list. And yes, it lived up to its reputation! My wish for this island? Do whatever it takes to ensure the re-emergence of the Volkswagen! Just think what that will do for tourism! Big thanks to my dive master, Jerson, the boat crew and to SeaQuest for the memorable experience!
** all photos by Leilei Show
Bohol FYI / Tips
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located within the Alona Beach area
- the tourist attractions in Bohol are far apart and spread-out. It would be difficult to visit them all using public mass transit. Better hire a van (P3500/day) if in a big group, or rent a motorcycle (P400/day + gas)
- Bohol relies on its tourism for revenue. As expected, everything they can capitalize on from tourism is extensively used and developed
Tagbilaran Port to PanglaoYou can charter any tricycle from the port all the way to Panglao (~P300), but if you want to do it on the cheap,
- don't take the tricycles lined-up inside the port. Walk past the port gate and immediately outside, you'll see many tricycles. Take one to the bus terminal in Dao (~P15)
- in Dao, take the jeep that plies the Panglao route (~P20)
Tagbilaran (Bohol) to Cebu City by boat** schedules and rates keep changing, call for latest schedule
- Weesam Express - departs 6:15 AM, 11:30 AM, 4:00 PM
one way: Economy (aircon) P500.00, Economy (non-aircon) P400.00, First Class P600.00
round trip promo (at least 2 days advance booking): Economy (aircon) P600, Economy(non-aircon) P500, First Class P1200
round trip promo (1 day or on the day booking): Economy (aircon) P800, Economy (non-aircon) P700, First Class P1200
- Ocean Jet - departs 6-7:05-8:20-9:20-11:40AM, 1-2-3:30-4:20-5:30-6:30PM, 2 hours, arrives Pier 1 in Cebu
Open Air / Tourist Class P800, Business Class P1000
+63(32)255 7560 / +63 (32) 255 0115 / 0917 638 0000
- SuperCat (2GO) - departs 5:50-11AM, 3:45-5:25-8:15PM, arrives Pier 1 in Cebu
+63 32 233 7000
Things to do, Places to go in Bohol
- Chocolate Hills - this is a clustering of more than 1200 hills within a 50km2 area. They range in height from 30-50 meters. What's unusual is their near-perfect conical shape resembling an individual chocolate chip. No one knows how they were formed. Entrance is P50/pax.
- Tarsier Conservation Area - located Upper Bonbon, Loboc. The tarsiers are no longer being played at by tourists as circus props, but instead, visitors now view them in cordoned-off areas in their natural 6ha habitat. As they are territorial and nocturnal, they are predictable on where they can be viewed. P50/pax.
- Alona Beach (Panglao) - Alona Beach is the tourist hub of Bohol. It has 1.5 kms of white sand beach lined-up by bars, hotels and restos. Alona is also the jump-off point for Balicasag Island, a world class dive destination.
- Danao Adventure Park - located in Barangay Magtangtang, 72 kms (2 hours ride) from Tagbilaran. Adventure activities include river trekking, tyrolean traverse, rappelling, bouldering, rock climbing and ziplining.
Carlos P. Garcia Island
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