Learning how to scuba dive is just one of those things that’s always been on my bucket list. I enjoy snorkeling, but have never tried diving before. I have no second thoughts jumping from crazy heights for extreme activities like skydiving and bungy jumping, but for some reason the thought of drowning and suffocating underwater scares the heck out of me. But I always like to try out new things when I travel. This year, I promised myself that I would choose trips based on what I really want to do and start seriously ticking all activities and destinations from my bucketlist while I still have the time, energy and opportunities to do so. Life is short, so you might as well do what makes you happy and enjoy, right?
Thanks to a writing assignment to cover FWD’s Bucket List Contest, I got a chance to learn to dive! FWD Life Philippines is a life insurance agency that wants to change the way people feel about insurance. Most insurance companies I know would caution people against engaging in high risk activities, so it’s refreshing to see one that’s actually encouraging the public to pursue doing the things that excite them. Their “Lifetime of Possibilities” social media campaign gave lucky winners and media guests a chance to tick learning how dive off their bucketlists.
The diving event took place in Casa Escondida (which is Spanish for “hidden home”), a resort designed by divers, for divers. Located about 2-3 hours drive from Metro Manila along the twisting roads of Anilao, Casa Escondida offers 24 rooms (16 standard, 4 Deluxe and 4 Suites), has its own restaurant and is fully equipped with top-of-the-line facilities for diving.
This is a great place to learn to dive, as the resort is just a boat ride away from over 30 breathtaking dive destinations. They have in-house certified dive instructors to hold lessons, training and certification workshops in various dive and specialty courses.
Scuba Diving 101
The first day was devoted to learning the basics and getting lessons in their swimming pool. We first watched an introductory video about diving, learned the hand signals to use underwater and learned what we should do when things go wrong (like when you run out of air or can’t equalize properly underwater), which had me thinking twice about what I got myself into. The part about how lungs can explode if you hold your breath and the risk of rapid ascents was very reassuring.
The resort’s swimming pool drops from 4 feet to 12 feet for both training and leisure. At the pool, we were paired with diving instructors. We learned how to equalize, learn how to breathe properly underwater, how to clear our masks underwater and recover and eject water from the regulator in case it gets dislodged underwater.
When we mastered those, it was time to move from the shallow part of the pool to the 12-feet deep section and just practice swimming and using the fins. It’s pretty nerve-wracking just descending down to the bottom of the pool.
You just have to remember to equalize constantly as you descend and just breathe normally. The tank air you breathe feels really dry but just try swallowing normally every so often to clear it. While submerged, the only thing you hear is your own breathing and you’re completely surrounded in water. I can see why some people love diving since it really offers a pure escape.
Diving in Batok, Anilao
On Day 2, it was time to try out diving in the ocean. After breakfast, we donned the wetsuits and took a quick boat ride to Sombrero Island, dubbed “the Coral Garden of Anilao” and which offers an ideal dive spot for beginner divers and underwater photographers because of the shallow waters and good visibility.
Our introductory dive site was Batok, which is part of the Coral Triangle, a rich marine area located in the Pacific Ocean, often described as the “center of the center of marine biodiversity” on the planet. This is said to be the birthplace of scuba diving in the Philippines and is home to more than half of the country’s documented shore fish species and over 300 species of coral. It offered the perfect introduction to the wonders of scuba diving and the vast underwater world.
It took me a couple of false panicky descents before I was completely able to submerge underwater. I just had to remember to steady my breath the whole time, try not to hyperventilate, calm my nerves, and just enjoy the view.
Once you start breathing normally, then you can appreciate the amazing view.
Though the current was a bit strong, the visibility in Batok was just stunning. Even if you’re just snorkeling, you can see the underwater pretty clearly from the top. But by diving deeper below, you can get a closer look at the lush magical landscape. I’ve always thought of scuba diving as an extreme activity, but it actually felt very peaceful and serene.
There’s no falling or any type of speed involved here. You just float weightless surrounded by the most amazingly vibrant landscapes, corals and schools of fish swimming past you. I really think I’m more of a land/air type of person when it comes to adventures, but diving really opens up a whole new world. I mean, if this is what you can see in one just one area in Batangas, just imagine all the waters surrounding our islands waiting out there to be explored.
More than being able to tick diving off my bucketlist, I think this activity just reinforced my goal of just living in the moment. It reminded me to just stop worrying and over-planning and pursue what makes you happy. The sense of satisfaction of overcoming fears and coming out alive is always worth pursuing. Many thanks to FWD for making this #BucketlistMoment possible!
- Date: 26 January 2018
- Location: Batok, Anilao
- Objective: Discover Scuba Dive
- Maximum depth: 10m
- Visibility on bottom: 16 – 18m
- Water temperature: 28 degrees C
- Equipment used: air, full suit
- Dive time: 9:30 am
- Pressure: Start: 210 bar
- Buddy certification: Vince Martinez, PADI OWSI 382262
For those interested in learning to dive or want to go professional, you can get assistance from Casa Escondida’s in-house dive instructor, assistant dive instructor and dive master with their PADI certified courses:
- Open Water Scuba Diver
- Advanced Open Water Scuba Diver
- Emergency First Response (EFR)
- Rescue Diver
- Master Scuba Diver
- Divemaster and DM DSD Leader
- Assistant Insructor
- Enriched Air Diver
- Sidemount Diver
- Deep Diver
- Diver Propulsion Diver
- Night Diver
- Digital Underwater Photography Diver
- Peak Performance Buyoancy Diver
- Project Aware Diver
- Aware Coral Reef Conservation Diver
- Emergency Oxygen Provider
- Equipment Specialist
- EFR Instructor
Casa Escondida. Brgy. Ligaya, Anilao, Mabini, Batangas, Philippines.
- Contact number: +63 977 837 2272
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.casaescondidaanilao.com