Downey Duck Dumiguete, Phillipines

Bahura Resort, Philippines - September, 2008

As part of a FAM (familiarization) trip to the Philippines, we spent 3 days diving at Bahura Resort on Dumaguete Island, after spending a week on the liveaboard Stella Maris. From Manila we made a one hour flight on Philippine Airlines to Dumaguete, where we were transported 40 minutes to Bahura Resort & Spa. Although there was plenty of storage in the plane, the check-in weight limit was 44 pounds, and carry-on was limited to one 15 pound bag plus a "personal item", which caused some hand-wringing for photographers. They even weighed some of the carry-on luggage. One person in our group managed to talk his expensive video equipment onto the plane; we ended up paying extra for "special handling", which I must admit seemed to work OK.

The Bahura Resort & Spa is beautiful, with two large infinity pools, fresh-air restaurant and bar, beautiful grounds, massages, and gourmet Asian and Western cuisine. The expansive rooms include refrigerators, A/C, huge bathrooms, TVs with cable and DVD, and small patios. After being on a boat for a week, this felt like heaven. Mosquitoes were a minor problem.

The diving is from a large out-rigger boat called a banca, roomy with the eight of us plus staff, but it would start feeling crowded with many more divers aboard. Travel time ranged from under an hour to Apo Island to two minutes to the house reef. Each diver was assigned a large crate with his name on it. These were put in the middle of the back deck where they sometimes were in the way. Gearing up was interesting due to the nature of the boat, but one quickly got used to it, and the crew was always helpful. We did have one person fall while walking down the ramp off the boat, and another fell across three crates when he lost his balance. Fruit, water, coffee, and hot tea were available between dives.

There is a nice variety of diving. Apo Island, dived when it's not too lumpy to get there, has colorful soft and hard corals, sea snakes, and lots of fish. There can be quite a bit of current and there are numerous fishermen in their small boats. We saw quite a few fish traps while diving, and what looked like an abandoned fish net lying all over the shallow reef for a few hundred yards. We did a dive consisting of three wrecked vehicles on a sandy bottom where we saw several lion fish and numerous small crabs and nudibranchs I hadn't seen before. The Ducomi Pier is worth doing all day-we spent two 80 minute dives searching for strange critters-it reminded of Lembeh Straits in Indonesia. Fantastic! Right in front of the resort is a cordoned off sanctuary. It can be dived several different ways-shallow sand, shallow grassy area, reef, and deeper area where the reef and sand meet. We saw all kinds of interesting things. One evening we spent an hour watching the Mandarin fish, then headed into the sanctuary for a fantastic night dive, all five minutes from the resort. Unlimited shore diving is also available. We didn't see any pelagics, but we did see turtles, blue-spotted rays, snake eels, a golden mantis shrimp, sea snakes, many types of anemonefish, numerous nudibranchs, and various schooling fish. We did three dives each day, each one lasting 80 minutes or more.

The dive operation wasn't perfect. There was a fresh-water bucket, but only small point-and-shoot cameras would fit into it, and it was a struggle getting people not to use it for mask rinsing. We arrived early at the boat one dive to see the crew carrying tanks out, throwing them in the water, loading them on the boat and then hooking our regulators to them without purging the tank valve. We quickly explained to Paul, who had come along with us from the Stella Maris why that's not a good thing. They were supposed to rinse our gear, but it didn't always happen. Sometimes wetsuits were brought to the boat, and sometimes they were left back at the dive shop, so we had to check our crates each morning. The dive shop did have roomy rinse tanks for dive gear, which we used at the end of the week ourselves. The resort is only three years old, so some things are still being ironed out.

While we were at Bahura, the Atlantis resort in Dumaguete took us to their resort for a tour and evening meal. The food was good and the resort is lovely. The rooms are smaller and the resort has a more closed-in feel, with lots of palm trees, but the dive operation looked more organized; they had a sanctuary in front of the resort as well. Paul Ancla, a native Filipino, deserves special notice. He acted as our liaison, coordinated our luggage at the airport, made sure we had everything we needed at the resort, translated for us, checked our bills, organized a tour, and generally acted like a concerned parent. I'd go anywhere with him!

Although a little rough around the edges, I'd definitely return to Bahura Resort & Spa.