2018 Dumaguete Trip Review
By Trip Leader Erik Lukas
The 2018 Dumaguete workshop at Atmosphere Resorts just concluded and much the as in past trips here, the location, the resort, the weather and most importantly the diving all delivered. Travel to Dumaguete for most guests requires a connection in Manila onto a short one-hour flight into Dumaguete, and then a 35-40 minute drive from the airport to the resort. Pulling off the main road and into Atmosphere Resort is like stepping into another world; one covered in well manicured gardens and giant Plumeria trees full of bright white flowers.
Image: Julie Barrett’s incredible portrait of a cuttlefish posing among a crinoid.
As guests began to arrive on the Saturday and Sunday at the beginning of the trip, cameras were set up in the well appointed and spotless camera room, while dive gear was set up in the roomy dive locker. The arrival day for most included either morning or afternoon checkout dives on the house reef which offered a great variety of subjects directly in front of the resort, with the attentive dive staff assisting with carrying cameras or dive gear onto the beach, and into the water, for the easy shore entries.
Image: A Flamboyant Cuttlefish strokes at prey. Photo: John Berschied
Image: Seahorses are always a popular subject on macro sites. Images by Nancy Arena (left) and Jeffrey White (right)
For anyone who has visited Atmosphere Resort, there is little to add that is not already known. The resort is beautiful, with amazingly lush gardens, a 5-star PADI dive center, outdoor restaurant with a temperature controlled wine room, two pools with a poolside bar, and their famous spa.
If the locale or the resort amenities alone are not enough to impress, the staff at Atmosphere certainly will. Whether it’s the guest services or the restaurant and kitchen staff, to the groundskeepers and dive team or the resort managers themselves, every member of the staff is more than attentive to guest needs, remembering your name and greeting each guest with a smile.
Image: One of the many neon colored sea stars found among the reefs of Dumaguete.
Photo by Susan Epperson
The spacious and well appointed rooms are spread out over the resort, with the Garden suites offering rooms comfortable for two to three guests or larger family style apartments to meet the needs or larger groups or those with children. The rooms at Atmosphere are both clean and modern, as well as comfortable. Television with access to many english language channels, air conditioning and stylish outdoor showers were just some of the creature comforts. Small touches such as the use of eco-friendly refillable water bottles, no disposable plastic containers for the shower products showed the resorts commitment to maintaining a minimal footprint on the environment.
While Dumaguete offers diving to satisfy both macro and wide angle photographers, the coastline, where most of the dives are done is clearly a place for macro shooters. It is considered one of the top destinations for muck diving, and many of the spots we visited were devoid of all but sandy slopes. Certain other spots had a mix of coral reef and sand or grassy patches, while a few spots were entirely made up of artificial reef such as tires or concrete structure that has become home to a larger variety of creatures and critters.
The staff at Atmosphere’s dive center are among the most talented I have seen. From the well appointed dive center with excellent dive site maps, a full wall-sized board where boat assignments are posted, to the amazing attentiveness of the dive guides and support staff. High praise has to be offered to the entire crew that supports both the front of house and the behind the behind the scenes dive operation.
Image: The crew at Atmosphere resort en route to one of the many amazing muck sites located along the Dauin coast
This year’s trip which happened at the end of June fell at the tail end of the peak cephalopod and frogfish seasons, however that did not mean these two types of subjects were in low supply. It felt like every diver reported seeing multiple varieties of frogfish and upwards of 6-10 individuals on each dive.
Image: Karen Spencer nails the peak moment of action with this yawning orange Frogfish
Cuttlefish, bobtail squid, several species of octopus were also plentiful. Several guests were even treated to multiple encounters with the always popular Wonderpuss octopus.
Image: A very young, and very small Bobtail squid. Photo: Erik Lukas
Nudibranchs are often a popular subject for macro shooters, and while there were not as many varieties as I had expected, the nudibranch species that were present were excellent and plentiful. One site in particular, San Miguel, featured a gentle slope of brown sand covered in countless 2-3 inch tall Avrainvillea algae, which is the home to the Costasiella kuroshimae nudibranch, more commonly known as Shaun the Sheep. These are always considered a prized subject and for those with good eyes, strong diopters and a healthy amount of patience, this site was a treasure. As a bonus, multiple other species of the Costasiella nudibranch were found here as well as tiny golden gobies and many other critters.
Image: A beautiful Nembrotha species nudibranch, tack sharp and big in the frame.
Photo: Julie Barrett
Image: Mantis shrimp are found everywhere in the sand and rubble of the muck sites in Dumaguete,
but on occasion a brilliantly colored example would be found. Photo: Sarah Vasend
For a break from macro and a wonderful day excursion, Atmosphere Resorts takes guests to the amazing marine preserve of Apo Island. After a quick 10 minute ride to the north to check in with the coast guard we headed south for the 35 minute boat ride to Apo Island for three dives on the pristine and very healthy reefs.
Image: A view of Apo Island from the beach at Atmosphere Resort
As Murphy’s Law would dictate, the one day of rain that we got during the trip happened to be on the same day we scheduled the Apo Island dives, and while the seas were calm and there was no wind, the rain and cloud cover certainly did not help with respect to wide angle photography. Luckily by the midday surface interval for lunch the clouds had parted and we were provided with sunshine for dive three. Highlights from Apo Island were the amazing number of green sea turtles...on our first dive we encountered six turtles in one small area of the reef, as well as several others while on the same dive.
Image: One of the many healthy turtles photographed at Apo Island. Photo: Erik Lukas
Apo Island is a shining example of what can be done when government and environmental groups work with local communities to protect the area's natural resources. Apo Island was one of the more healthy reefs I have had the privilege of diving, and continued growth of the marine preserves around the island would indicate that the desire to further protect this resource is strong.
Image: John Berschied created a stunning wide angle image of the healthy reef at Apo Island.
Oslob Whale Sharks
Another of the more popular excursion offered in Dumaguete is the chance to visit Oslob in the province of Cebu. This day starts with an early wake up and departure from the resort at 5am. A 35 minute van ride, followed by a 25 minute ferry crossing and another short 20 minute drive brings us to the site where masses of tourists congregate for a chance to swim with whale sharks. I was a bit skeptical upon arrival of the somewhat carnival like feel of this tour, however it was abundantly clear that the operation was well run, and based on the orientation, the well being of the whale sharks was a top priority.
Image: It’s never a bad day in the water when there are three whale sharks within view.
Photo: Carrie Orchard
Guests are put into small dugout canoes and brought out to where fishermen toss handfuls of small shrimp into the water. This feeding attracts several juvenile whale sharks in each morning for the free meals, and gives guests a change to dive with one of the oceans most beloved creatures. While most visitors simple enjoy the view from the canoes, some of the more adventurous enter the water but retain a firm grip on their boat. Our group, cameras in hand were able to swim freely among the whale sharks and photograph them as they made multiple passes at arms length to us and our cameras.
Once the group was finished with the whale sharks, it was clear that everyone, myself included, really did enjoy the trip. We headed back to Atmosphere and pulled back into the resort by 10:30am, which meant the guests were able to do up to three more dives that day.
Keep an eye out for more Bluewater Photo & Travel trips and workshops to Dumaguete in the future. The resort and the location are world class, and worthy of visit for anyone looking to dive and see a pristine part of the Philippines.
Image: Apo Island is known for large anemones with red skirts. Photo: Sarah Vasend
Image: One of the cutest images from the trip was captured by Julie Barrett of this very small juvenile frogfish
Image: Carrie Orchard’s portrait of this lovely pink tube anemone.
Image: On the house reef at Atmosphere Resort were a pair of Harlequin Shrimp which were quite popular subjects.
Photo: Jeffrey White
Image: Anemonefish of several species were abundant in Dumaguete. Photo: Karen Spencer
Image: The reef of Apo Island from above. Photo: Erik Lukas
Image: Neon green and orange...one of the beautiful anemones to be found in Dumaguete with a friendly clown fish happy to pose.
Photo by Julie Barrett
Image: Small tunicates dot the reef. Get close and fill the frame. Photo: Susan Epperson
Image: The Harlequin shrimp from the house reef occasionally made an appearance as a pair.
Photo: Nancy Arena
Image: One of the many Hairy Frogfish found during the trip. Beautifully lit and well composed by Julie Barrett
Image: The odd couple...a goby and snapping shrimp sitting outside the burrow they call home on the dark sand of Dumaguete.
Photo: John Berschied
HOW TO BOOK A TRIP TO DUMAGUETE
Bluewater Travel can book you a resort in Dumaguete for the same cost or less than booking any other way. We know the diving, accommodations, and when to go better than anyone else! Email us at email@example.com to book your next dive trip to Dumaguete.