What a fantastic trip! As you’ll see from the photos, the diving is superb, particularly if you’re into macro critters, nudibranchs and beautiful reefs. But, to top it off, Scandi Divers, is an incredible dive resort. The rooms are super comfortable, air conditioned and clean. The food is plentiful and tasty. I don’t typically gain weight on a dive trip with 3-5 dives a day, but I did at Scandi. And, most importantly, the staff of Scandi Divers, from Luke, the manager, to all of the dive staff, to the cooks, the servers, the cleaning folks and the front desk: my hat is off to everyone of them. They take care of every need and do so with genuine friendliness that pervades every action.
You’ll find incredible reefs, small wrecks and a significant number of much dive sites. The best reef diving is a 30 minute boat ride to Verde Island…though, because Covid restrictions were already in place, we couldn’t partake in the typical Verde Island picnic after a couple of morning dives there, we were taken to another island and had an amazing barbeque! Almost every dive is about a 10 minute boat ride, so the surface intervals are back at the resort where you have enough to time to refresh and get ready for the next dive adventure of the day.
There are direct flights from LAX to Manila, so that makes for a fairly short travel day. We did arrive just as Philippines were placing restrictions within Manila — mandatory temperature checks at the hotel, nearby restaurants, etc — but we got a decent night of sleep near the airport and headed to Puerto Galera early the next morning. A long van ride followed by a shorter boat ride and we made it to Scandi Divers.
There’s not a lot to do in the nearby town, but there are a few night clubs and we did go out one night, but most evenings we did night dives and one night was a blackwater dive. Unfortunately, I had camera trouble that night so didn’t get any photos on the blackwater dive.
Several days into our trip and a few days before we were supposed to leave, we were informed that Philippines was restricting all flights into and out of the Manila airport. Of course our initial reaction was, “well, we’ll get to dive every day for next god knows how long, so we’ll make the most of it!” However, that quickly turned to a dark reality when the local island officials decided to shut down all diving activities. I mean, yeah, the island was beautiful, but not only was diving restricted, but also all hiking, biking and other activities were shut down.
That made it quite the adventure to leave the island because all boats were restricted from taking us off of the island and back to the main island so we could get to Manila.
After much wrangling with the local officials on our behalf by the manager of Scandi Divers, we were able to somewhat stealthily make it back to Manila where some international flights were given a short window to allow foreigners to leave.
Two boats, a several hour long van ride through a number of military/police checkpoints and 4 flights later (with a number of cancellations and rebookings) and I finally made it back to Tucson.
Despite all of the “troubles,” I’d do it all again. That’s how awesome the diving and the resort are.
I plan to return in 2021 and hope you’ll ask to join us!