Atmosphere Resort Philippines Trip Report
Text and Photos by Scott Gietler
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The ultimate relaxing getaway
Some resorts impress you right off the bat, whether it is because of an elaborate entrance, or built up expectations. You enjoy your stay, but by the end of your stay you are ready to return back home. Others, like Atmosphere Resort in Dumaguete, Philippines, reward you with treasures every day, until they have to drag you from the resort on the last day.
The Biggest Problem is Where to Begin
Apo Island, Wide-Angle Jewel of the Philippines
A thirty minute boat ride away, Apo Island is where you go to see the “big stuff” - huge beds of hard corals, turtles, sea snakes, schools of jacks, large anemones, and large frogfish. Most trips to Atmosphere Resort include just one to Apo Island during the week - but we were to change that plan.
Thirty minutes is not far. It is just 15 more minutes than the local dive sites. The place was amazing, our new plan became Apo Island every other day. I think we did 5 trips there. The island has several dive sites, some with jacks, some with sea snakes, others with 20 or 30 turtles. The photo opportunities were amazing, off the charts. You can read my Apo Island photo tutorial here.
Can Snorkeling really be this good?
I was not prepared for what awaited me off the beach in front of the restaurant. After entering the water, I swam for no more than 15 seconds. In only 6ft of water, there was a complete coral reef, with soldierfish, clownfish, angelfish, wrasses, eels, sergeant majors, and dozens of other reef fish. The reef continued down the shore, never in more than 10ft of clear, fairly calm water. My 6 year old snorkeled here every day, it was his first ocean snorkel experience, and we even brought out our 2 year old to see the fish. She was ecstatic.
What makes the macro truly special
The local reefs along the Dauin coast have numerous muck and macro sites, filled with frogfish, sea snakes, nudibranchs, pipefish, eels, octopus and more. But what really makes these sites special, is that many of them have great coral reefs filled with fish, right alongside muck sites. This means that a hard-core macro photographer diving with family or friends can go to the same dive site together, but have different dive guides for different underwater experiences. For many of our guests, this flexibility was priceless.
Oh, and there is a house reef!
You can do a fabulous dive right in front of the resort by simply walking into the water, and kicking out for 2 minutes past the snorkeling area. It is an extensive area, a mix of reef, rubble and sand. You can keep yourself busy for hours looking for pretty much any kind of macro subject or reef fish, ranging from depths of 10ft down to 100ft along a gentle slope. There is no solo diving, but you can go at any time with a buddy or a dive guide.
Whale Shark Trip - Tourist Trap or Must-do?
I had low expectations for the Whale Shark trip to Oslob on Cebu Island, which the resort offers as a day trip. Who wants to endure 2 hours of grueling travel, crowds of tourists, and a day away from a wonderful resort? Fearing the same, some of my guests even opted out of this trip. But my 6 year old son wanted to snorkel with the largest fish of the ocean, so we awoke for a 5AM departure.
When I left the whales sharks, all of us were in state of intense bliss only an incredible experience can bring. None of my fears came to fruition - the travel to Oslob was quite easy, most of the time was on a comfortable ferry. The whale sharks were enormous, abundant, and in warm crystal clear water. Yes, there were hundreds of other people, but we were the only people with fins - they all stayed clinging to their boats. Swimming just 15ft from the line of boats, you felt like you were in another world - just you, the whale sharks, and the fisherman feeding the sharks. My son said it was the best experience of his life.
After much research and investigation - I ended up working out a special plan ahead of time with the resort and the whale shark association for this trip, that actually gave us more time with the whale sharks, and less time away from the resort. Just another thing that makes the Bluewater Travel experience special!
Dive Operations & Guides
We were quite happy with the dive guides, they knew the sites well, gave good briefings and were very helpful with gear. Depending on the dive, the guide ratio varied from one to one, up to four to one, I believe 4:1 is their limit. For my dives 2:1 or 3:1 was most common. The resort has smaller boats for local sites and larger boats for going to Apo Island, all boats are covered, and the larger boats are quite stable and very roomy. Fruit, coffee, drinks at a hot towel were a nice touch on trips.
Their camera room was quite nice, with plenty of large camera stations and outlets for charging. But what I liked the most was every diver had a large vertical personal dive area to store their fins, wetsuit, mask, etc. It was the first time I had seen an amenity like this.
Spa, Pool, Food & Babysitting
My favorite part of the resort is the layout. The 3 pools, bar, dive center, front desk, and restaurant are literally all just a few steps from each other. This means there is very little time wasted trying to find other people, or going from one place to another.
To say the spa at Atmosphere Resort is another world is an understatement. It is a resort within a resort, filled with flowing brooks, lily ponds, and mini cabanas each with their own changing room, shower, massage tables and privacy curtains. The beauty is beyond belief, and it is one of the only spas I have ever been to where you don’t hear chatter, distractions, annoying music or other stresses.
The Atmosphere Resort babysitting service is a godsend. Each morning at 7:30AM, the friendly nanny would fetch our 2 kids and bring them to the kids club, kids playground, restaurant or one of the two kids pools. My wife and I would have a worry free morning of diving, followed by a “lunch date”, after which we would retrieve the kids start the “afternoon routine” of the 3 “S’s” - swimming pool, snorkeling, and smoothies. Life was good.
How good was the food? Let me explain. On two different occasions, the Atmosphere staff suggested that we enjoy our meals off-site, either at a remote island or after our whale shark trip. That immediately led to a tirade, where I explained they would have to drag me from the resort to miss a lunch in the fabulous restaurant. Ok - I’m kidding about the tirade, but seriously I was not going to eat outside of the resort. The food was several levels above anything I’ve had at most other places. Steak, chicken, seafood, pastas, fruit dishes, quinoa, salads, and protein shakes were some of the indulgences.
The resort also offers a healthy menu, with gluten-free, vegetarian and paleo options. Last, but not least, they have an in-house bakery which is constantly making tasty treats.
Atmosphere resort has 4 room options: suites, family rooms, apartments, and penthouses. Suites are the closest to the main resort area, and are large rooms perfect for a single or couple. Family rooms are slightly further away, and are even larger rooms with several beds and lots of open space. Apartments are at the back of the resort and have a bedroom & kitchen. Penthouses are larger size apartments with two bedrooms. Guests who want to partake in the cooking classes with the Chef often get the Penthouse and hold the class in their unit.
Good place for Family or Friends?
With its 3 pools, excellent snorkeling, amazing bar and spa, & great nanny service - I found Atmosphere Resort to be the perfect getaway. Many groups who stay there are a mix of hardcore divers, casual divers and snorkelers or non-divers. In fact, the resort was filled with small groups fitting these descriptions.
How to Book Atmosphere Resort
Bluewater Travel can seamlessly arrange a custom package at Atmosphere Resort for yourself, or your family or friends for any time of the year. Mention this article when booking for a special freebie you won’t get anywhere else. In addition, we run a yearly trip every summer - perfect for bringing a non-diving spouse or children. Join our summer 2018 trip here.
My kids are sad to leave the resort
Very spacious camera room, and large rinse tanks with dedicated areas for cameras, wetsuits, and masks / computers.