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If This Isn’t Paradise, Then You Can See it From Here

Saturday June 25, 2016: Dumaguete We reverse our trip from Puerto Galera back to Manila: boat, then van, then arrive Manila Airport. Atlantis has made arrangements for our transfer to Dumaguete. We claim our luggage from the van, flow through security, and wait in line - for a few minutes. The Atlantis magicians arrange a group check-in for us, allowing us to simply go to the other side of the barrier where they delivered our boarding passes! Sweet! We have plenty of time to wander the airport, finding a Mary Grace Restaurant that we recognized from the Greenbelt Mall. After another slice of that delicious creamed cheese pound cake and a bowl of soup we’re ready for take-off. *Aside* Tom opted for a big bowl of seafood chowder. I admit I opted for a small bowl of curry squash soup and a small bowl of mushroom soup. It was a good choice: both were delicious with the squash soup only just barely edging out, ahead of the mushroom. Did I mention the creamed cheese pound cake? After a quick hour and half flight we land in Dumaguete. We only needed to point out our bags, then we are whisked off in a van to the resort. We stop in a non-descript parking lot, but walking down the stone path to the beach it gets better and better. We end at the beachfront restaurant, enjoy lunch, and then find our room: up the stairs and to the left. Rounding the corner we find our bags waiting for us on our beachfront deck complete with a hammock. Turning, we see the French doors that lead into our room. We can sit in bed and see the ocean. Wait! The bathroom window is ajar and we can HEAR THE SURF!! That $200 upgrade for ocean view room was definitely worth it! The only way this could get better is if it could last forever. Sunday June 26, 2016 First Diving day at Dumaguete We are offered 5 dives a day at Dumaguete, but you can easily skip one and do another. Rebecca and Tom both do the first two dives of the day together then Rebecca opted out of the two afternoon dives to rejoin the group for a night dive. *Aside* The night dive was interesting, but the current at the end of the dive nearly kicked Rebecca’s butt. It’s a good thing Tom is a strong , capable swimmer and was able to help her back to the boat, or you might not be reading this now. Included in our week at Dumaguete is a day of diving (three dives) at Apo Island. We can see Apo Island from the resort - about a 45 minute boat ride away. The day consists of two morning dives from the boat, lunch on the boat, an afternoon dive and then the return trip to Atlantis. Our group’s excursion to Apo Island is scheduled for the next day, Monday, but Rebecca asked it could be moved to Tuesday: no problem. *Aside* Tom takes a daily Malaria pill. Rebecca takes one once a week. Sometimes it gives her a headache on the day she takes it. Physical exertion on Malaria Pill Day is not really a good idea for Rebecca, as it could pitch her over the edge into a migraine. Rebecca is trying to avoid migraines in the Philippines. They aren’t fun in the US and who knows who you have to bribe and how much to get morphine in the Philippines.

Tuesday June 28th, 2016 - Apo Island To say the underwater landscape of Apo Island is breathtaking is an understatement. This reef makes the Caribbean looked like a study in black and white, while this is Technicolor. We find Nudibranchs at every turn. There is soft and hard coral on top of coral: huge pristine outcroppings that simply blow your mind, and huge schools of fish everywhere. One dive seemed like a turtle dive, seeing first one turtle, then another and another and another and yet another and there are two and there is one taking a nap with his head under the coral. These are large turtles with shells at least 2 feet across. We saw Nudibranch eggs which deify description other than to say they look like a rosette of hair ribbon. It literally looks like someone dropped a hair barrette on the coral. Whodathunk? At every turn I saw something that fascinated me. Things I’ve never seen before. The boat crew fixed us lunch: grilled fish, chicken, pork and steak with veggies, salad, and even dessert. The third dive of the day was over too soon, even though it lasted 71 minutes. Back on the boat we enjoyed a snack as we headed back to Dumaguete. Then the engine stopped. No worries, it started again. And stopped again, but started again, but now it smells like burning oil. That’s not so good. Several rounds of starting and stopping later, we are dead in the water, so to speak. Still no worries. They’ve radioed Dumaguete. They will call the other big boat back in from the reef to come and rescue us. Well, Dumaguete is about 45 minutes away and the boat has to come back in and off-load the divers it was carrying before it comes to us. Several hours later they tow us back to shore. *Aside* I actually had no problem with the boat breaking. As I told Tom: I know people who pay a lot of money to go out on the water and even pretend to fish so they can sit out in the sunny, balmy breezes and we got to do it for free. We even had shade over our heads. I think it’s all perspective, right? Wednesday June 29th, 2016 This is the last diving day in Dumaguete but Rebecca opted out. However Tom was up for the dive day completing four dives. *Aside* The creeping-crud-head-cold was starting for Rebecca. Diving and head congestion just don’t mix. It’s a sure invitation to an earache. Or a headache. Or worse. In his last dives Tom saw and photographed seven seahorses. Seven! Rebecca saw three one day. It’s a rare treat to see a seahorse in the Caribbean. Seven in one day is amazing. Thursday, June 30, 2016 Get-ready-to-leave-all-this-beauty day We take our time packing our bags because it’s really hard to want to leave. Our luggage needs to be on the deck at 5:30am for us to make our flight from Dumaguete to Manila at 10:30am tomorrow. Tonight is the ScubaBoard Closing Party with prizes for everyone!! The Atlantis kitchen staff go all out for us, creating an amazing buffet dinner, complete with a whole roasted pig and an underwater-themed layer cake to celebrate ScubaBoard’s Sweet Sixteenth Birthday. Tom was a winner with the puzzle game which gave him one $25 gift certificate. He also took home another $25 certificate from LeisurePro (Tom always needs more gear). Rebecca won (for Tom) a gift certificate for a Go Pro 4 Backsplatter filter. Thank you ScubaBoard and our sponsors!! ScubaBoard announces that next year they will be going to Anthony’s Key in Roatan. Tom and I look at each other to ask, “Will we want to go home by then for that?” WOW! We’re in a really different place in our lives now! Friday morning, July 1, 2016 Back to Manila We stood on our deck gazing across the bay at Apo Island and our slice of paradise for the last time. Well, the last time this trip. The two weeks at Atlantis Puerto Galera and Dumaguete were a gift on so many different levels. The idea of this trip started us thinking and dreaming. After we paid the deposit, we started planning. As we got closer and closer to the trip we started to realize all the possibilities that were opening up before us. We thought this would be a destination. Turns out, it’s just one episode at the beginning of an amazing adventure!

Today’s advice: Dream BIG my friends! And then dream BIGGER, so when you have that dream come true it will be spectacular!!

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