Bicol Dive Center Donsol Reviews
Nice staff, good equipment Feb 27, 2013
I did a day’s diving with Bicol Dive Centre at Donsol. My initial enquiries were handled very professionally by an instructor by the name of D (for David). He absolutely won me over compared to the other dive centres.
The dives were led by local dive masters who have better knowledge of the area. We did three dives as follows:
One at San Miguel: There was no pre-dive briefing, so we didn’t know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised by what we saw, which was a wall with lots of soft light-pink coral, and some hard green ones on the seabed. This was meant to be a bit of a check on our abilities but it didn’t quite seem that way.
Two at Manta Bowl: There was a minimalist briefing for these dives. The current at Manta Bowl is known to be strong. We were issued with hooks so we could fix ourselves to some rock while waiting for mantas at various locations. Sadly, they didn’t turn up.
The first Manta Bowl dive was probably the most intense I have ever experienced. Apart from a drift dive, I had never experienced current like this before and having to use a hook. At the strongest moments, I held on to rock and knelt on the seabed in addition to using the hook. In the milder moments, I hooked myself and floated in the current but thought that I may have been slightly over-weighted.
I later learnt that the current gets much stronger than that! What we experienced was like 1.5 or 2 (not sure what scale) but some times it gets up to 6. I wouldn't like to be out there!
I’m not sure if you can call us lucky for having been able to dive Manta Bowl (fruitlessly though). The weather had been bad for about a week and today appeared to be a perfect day with calm seas that looked like mirror or oil.
Despite no manta sightings, I feel like I had come out of Manta Bowl with a new skill and confidence in handling currents. And a bit of an adrenalin rush as well!
Overall, I thought the divemasters kept a close eye on us. As our hands were busy holding on to the rope-and-hook, he came to read our gauges periodically. He also assisted when he didn’t think we had chosen the most appropriate rocks to sink our hooks into.
They were a bit eager at picking up things to show us, eg. a porcupine fish. While this is strictly a no-no, I’ve been told they have grown up diving since their pre-teens and harvesting the sea using all means including dynamite fishing. So their current career is already a big step in the right direction environmentally.
I do have some concerns about the vetting process (by the office) as to who they will take on to dive the Manta Bowl though. One member in our group finished is air on the first dive rather quickly. For the next two dives at Manta Bowl, he got so low that he had to buddy-breathe with the dive master. I found that he had only done about 14 dives in his whole life.
As with any dive centre, one’s experience depends very much on the dive master you have on the day.
Part of the 2012/13 Myanmar, Malaysia & Philippines travel blog
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