In march 2018, I went to the Philippines – again! After visiting these beautiful islands the first time, there were even more places I wanted to visit. So I found a cheap flight which had the additional benefit of 2 stopovers in Beijing, China. Upon our first arrival, we queued at different queues since nobody could tell us where to go. Eventually we saw a well hidden sign pointing us at the right counter for the transit visa and waited ~1.5 hours until the 10 people in front of us were finished (pretty slow :D). After enduring some questioning regarding the purpose of our visit and our intentions for the 15 hour stopover (you really want to go to the city centre for just 10 hours?) we finally got our visa-stamps. We went to the city centre, had a look at Tianmen square, went through a ridiculous amount of consecutive ID-checks (on the same, fenced, pedestrian walk), went to the entrance of the forbidden city and tried to turn around again and ate the original beijing duck =).
On our way back, we had another stopover and decided to go to THE GREAT WALL. Luckily, we met 2 other backpackers who wanted to join and easily found a cab driver to get us to the wall. Equipped with chinese cash and Starbucks coffes, we got in the car for the 1.5 hour ride and ended up buying cable-car and sledging tickets to get up to the wall and downhill fast. This allowed us to spend about 2 hours on the actual wall before heading back.
Having booked the komodo-flights just hours after coming back from the liveaboard, I was scrolling down my facebook-feed and noticed Phoenix Divers Koh Tao – whom I had visited the year before – had been posting whaleshark pictures for days in a row. Erik, my dive-buddy just said ‘can’t we go there?’ – And since we had 4 days before our flight to komodo, we started googling how to get to Koh Tao asap. Flights were expensive but we found a bus-ferry route and messaged the diveshop if they had beds in the dorm and spots on the boat. They did =). Delayed by a day due to the late kings funeral ceremony (may he rest in peace) and after leaving our krabi-hotel 3 days early, we were on our way to Koh Tao – anticipating to see those magnificent giant spotted whalesharks. A few hours of cab, bus and ferry rides we arrived in koh Tao in the evening and set up our gear. The next day we had 3 great dives – without whalesharks 🙁 . And the evening was overshadowed by backpackers and tourists deserting bars due an alcohol ban.
On the 2nd and last day of our ridiculously short trip over to Koh Tao we were on the boat again – enjoying coffee, the salty air and stunning view while making new friends among the other divers. Then we saw it: The captain lifted his hand sideways in front of his forehead – and people started getting enthusiastic while the diveguides tried to keep us calm since there’s absolutely no guarante these animals stick around. Luckily it did =)). When we reached chumpon pinnacle, we got ready and as soon as someone spotted the whaleshark jumped in.
It stayed with us for most of 2 dives, circelling in and out of sight and coming really close.
As mentioned previously; we didn’t get to see any manta rays during our liveaboard trip. But we met a few swiss people who told us about komodo… and once we were back on land and had wifi, we found (return) flights to komodo for ~160€. Glad that we hadn’t booked anything besides the liveaboard, we booked the flights and – after a short visit to Koh Tao (upcoming post) – flew over to flores to enjoy 2.5 days of diving followed by a visit in the national park to see the last living dragons.
Our boat was really comfortable with a sundeck complete with bean bags to enjoy the ~2h boat ride to the first dive site. Those were the first current-dives with hooking in for me and I saw sharks, mantas and lots of turtles. Komodo is definetly worth a visit but don’t go there just for the dragons.
In october 2017 I went on my first liveaboard heading for the famous richelieu rock. We decided to book the 5 day 4 nights trip from Khao Lak to the similand islands. This was the first and only prebooked part of a 2 week dive-trip to SEA. After flying into phuket in the evening, we spent the evening and the better part of the next day chilling by the pool or visiting restaurants nearby. We were picked up the next day around 5 pm and driven to Khao Lak where we boarded our home for the next 4 nights; the MV Pawara. Besides the crew of ~14 (boat boys, engineer, awesome cook and other helping hands, the captain, and our dive masters/guides) it offers cabins for up to 26 people, a huge dining area, a livingroom and a sundeck. Luckily, the season had just started and it was only half booked so we had lots of space. The following 4 days can be described in just 4 words:
DIVE EAT SLEEP REPEAT
We got up, had coffee, went for a dive and were welcomed with breakfast. After some deco time on the sundeck, in the shade or inside on one of the many sofas we went diving again – you get the schedule :-P. Besides me and my Buddy, there were americans, swiss, and even a professional underwater videographer (Alex del Olmo aka Naucrates ductor) who joined in for the dives. Long story short: We went diving in Koh Tachai, Koh Bon, the similan islands, Richelieu Rock and even the Boonsung wreck. We saw amazing sealife and had a lot of fun. The only downside was that we didn’t encounter any mantas or whalesharks.
Food was amazing; the divesites were diverse and offered plenty of new sights and Beto and the diveguides (especially Kewalyne and Liane) as well as the other guests made this an unforgettably awesome first liveaboard experience for me.
In september 2017 I joined my parents and my brother for a week in sicily. We stayed near Taormina; went to the aeolian islands to see the stromboli and I also went diving near Taormina.
I’ve been to the Philippines! – In april 2017 I continued discovering new parts of the world and decided to go to the Philippines (Kind of an idea I had with a friend a few months back when we both felt, we needed holidays in the middle of the night via whatsapp :D) . Unfortunately, I’m working so the amount of days I can take off are limited in number and by projects / deadlines. I squeezed in a few holidays around easter and managed to fly for 20 days. The Philippines are gigantic and have so much to offer. Now, after being there, the list of places I still want to see in the Philippines is even longer than before 😀 . We went straight to Malapascua and then to Palawan – which I tried to visualize here.
I was glad to get another chance to dive in Asia again. This time in the Philippines; more specifically in Malapascua, around El Nido and Port Barton in Palawan.
Those were also the first ocean-dives for my dive-computer – which was really helpful for monitoring depth and RNT. Thanks to the divemate-app, I can now log all my dives on my smartphone, including a depth-profile (though I couldn’t afford an air-integrated dive-computer to see my air-consumption at different points through the dive and depth-levels, which might be really interesting).
Anyway, I dived with four different dive-centers and all of them were awesome! I always had nice company and felt in good hands when crawling towards an eel garden or spotting thresher sharks.
I just updated my ‘scratch-map’ and made it more interactive with links to all posts:
To simplify it, I marked whole countries instead of regions – we all know it’s impossible to see all of a country.