Cyerce nigra is a rare species of nudibranch, much sought after by underwater photographers and can be seen in Romblon. (Philippines, March 2017)
Cyerce nigra is a rare species of nudibranch, much sought after by underwater photographers and can be seen in Romblon. (Philippines, March 2017)

Diving into another world in the Philippines: Anilao and Romblon

  Philippines: Anilao + Romblon - March 2017

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 


Travelling light, I don't know what it is anymore! In March, I went diving in the Philippines in Anilao and Romblon. With, in my luggage, a bulky macro photography gear, to bring back images of the tiny fauna living underwater.

Immediate boarding

I spare you the tricks I had to deploy at the airport to give the impression that my cabin bag, containing all this precious photographic barda, weighed nothing at all ...

(This subject deserves a post all by itself, I'll come back to it, especially since for the first time in my life as a traveler-photographer-diver, I was grilled between two planes, at the stopover, in Dubai. , by a control unexpected balance establishing that my cabin bag weighed more than 7kg and it cost me the budget of several dives ... ????)

As for my diving equipment, no problem, he goes on hold in the big bag with wheels. (And here I answer the question often asked to me by non-diving friends, a little frightened by my logistics: no, I don't carry any diving tanks or weights with me !!! They are provided on site by the diving centers).

Anyway, anyway. Heavy luggage but light heart, so I flew (again) to Asia! This time, I headed for the Philippines, with a new toy I was very impatient to try: a 100mm "macro" lens (for "macro photography"), more powerful and more quilted than my old 60mm ...

The little bazaar that I steal on a trip to be able to take photos under water ... Right, my camera with its new lens 100mm macro. Only the most fragile elements, namely the camera and lenses, its box and portholes, remain in my cabin bag. I put everything else in the hold. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
The little bazaar that I steal on a trip to be able to take photos under water ... Right, my camera with its new lens 100mm macro. Only the most fragile elements, namely the camera and lenses, its box and portholes, remain in my cabin bag. I put everything else in the hold. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
There you go ! The device is ready to accompany me under the water! (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
There you go! It's ready to go underwater with me! (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
My toy, at the bottom of the boat. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
My toy, at the bottom of the boat. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)

Without going into technical details, this lens works much like a big magnifying glass and allows you to shoot tiny animals, from a few centimeters to a few millimeters. On land, insect buffs use it to immortalize bees or ants. I took him underwater and pointed at tiny shrimp, pygmy seahorses and nudibranchs (which also bear the less than sea slugs)

Welcome to the extraordinary world of underwater macro photography! 😍

A tiny shrimp on its coral branch. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
A tiny shrimp on its coral branch. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
A delicate pygmy seahorse bargibanti rose. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
A delicate pygmy seahorse bargibanti rose. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
Nudibranch Cuthona yamasui. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
Nudibranch Cuthona yamasui. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
My finger next to a tiny nudibranch ... It gives a better idea of the scale! (Romblon, Philippines, 2017)
My finger next to a tiny nudibranch... It gives a better idea of the size of some bugs! (Romblon, Philippines, 2017)

Anilao and Romblon

To begin this new objective, after many hesitations, I selected two specific spots in the Philippines: Anilao and Romblon.

Anilao is a village located on a peninsula southwest of Luzon Island, 3-4 hours drive south of Manila, the capital. This part of the coast has become popular among divers and the name of Anilao today designates all of this coastal region, rich in submarine microfauna and suitable for underwater macrophotography, where developed a number of hotels and resorts dedicated to this activity.

The terrace of the Planet Dive center, in Anilao. (Philippines, March 2017)
The terrace of the Planet Dive center, in Anilao. (Philippines, March 2017)
Herbert, my guide "lynx eye" at Planet Dive. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
Herbert, my "eagle eye" guide at Planet Dive. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
Very nice, the morning view of my terrace! (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
Very nice, the morning view of my terrace! (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
Every evening, the sky of Anilao blazes for sumptuous sunsets. (Philippines, March 2017)
Every evening, the sky of Anilao blazes for sumptuous sunsets. (Philippines, March 2017)

Romblon is a small, peaceful island, located southeast of Anilao, about 8 hours by ferry, away from the tourist circuit. It is the marble capital of the Philippines. It is also a diving spot still not very well known, where underwater photographers addicted to the "super-macro" rave about rare species of translucent nudibranchs and hairy shrimps almost invisible to the naked eye!

Welcome to Romblon, the marble capital. (Philippines, March 2017)
Welcome to Romblon, the marble capital. (Philippines, March 2017)
The azure waters of Romblon. (Philippines, March 2017)
The azure waters of Romblon. (Philippines, March 2017)
While touring the island, there are wild beaches, deserted. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
While touring the island, there are wild beaches, deserted. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
Return of the divers through the mangrove, at the end of the day. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
Return of the divers through the mangrove at low tide at the end of the day. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)

Muck-dive

Anilao and Romblon are therefore very particular spots. I am often asked for advice on dive sites in Asia, so I make it clear that these two will not be suitable for all divers and probably not at all for snorkelers (swimmers in fins-mask-snorkel). Because the specialty of the corner, as in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia, it is rather the "muck dive"...which could be translated as "muddy dive."

In fact of vase, the term muck dives refers to dives on a bottom that is not really spectacular or very engaging at first glance. In Anilao and Romblon, it is most often a mixture of sand and debris of dead corals, here and there decorated with a few "groves" and coral potatoes.

We make observation dives, which require patience and passion. For this substrate, which seems unattractive to novice eyes, is the habitat of many extraordinary small crustaceans, molluscs and fish. It's teeming with life! And in Anilao and Romblon, the diversity of species is remarkable. Scientists continue to discover new ones every year!

Note that there are still "normal" coral sites in Romblon and Anilao, where the usual underwater fauna of tropical waters (not to be missed, the magnificent reef, which is the only one of its kind in the world) is found. Beatrice, near Sombrero Island, off Anilao). But in general, we go there only once or twice during the stay, between two muck dives, to vary the pleasures ... The activity of the diving centers of the corner is mainly turned towards the observation of the microfauna and macro photography.

In the Philippines, the dives are made from bangkas, traditional boats with rockers. (Anilao, March 2017)
In the Philippines, the dives are made from bancas, these traditional boats with rockers. (Anilao, March 2017)
Near Sombrero Island, off Anilao, the Beatrice site offers an explosion of colors and coral life. (Philippines, March 2017)
Near Sombrero Island, off Anilao, the Beatrice site is an explosion of colors and coral life. (Philippines, March 2017)
The butterfly nudibranch Yerce elegans, with its translucent outgrowth, is one of the rarities coveted by underwater photographers. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
The butterfly nudibranch Cyerce elegans, with its translucent growths, is one of the rarities coveted by underwater photographers. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
In the same family, Cyerce nigra is a rare species of nudibranch, similarly much sought after by underwater photographers and can be seen in Romblon. (Philippines, March 2017)
In the same family, Cyerce nigra is a rare species of nudibranch, similarly much sought after by underwater photographers and can be seen in Romblon. (Philippines, March 2017)
This species of nudibranch is quite common, widespread in the area. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
This species of nudibranch is more common, widespread in the area. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
A small toad fish (antennal) clown. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
A small toad fish (antennal) clown. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
This nudibranch seems to carry a heart on his back. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
This nudibranch seems to carry a heart on his back. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
A flat worm straightens its "head" on a mound of grains of sand. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
A flatworm erects its "head" on a mound of sand grains. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
Only by displaying the image of this hippocampus Denise on the screen of my computer that I noticed the tiny skeletal shrimps around ... And a reader of the blog teaches me that these "skeleton shrimps" are a favorite dish of greedy pygmy seahorses! In short, my pretty Denise red and white pose in the middle of his pantry. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
It was only when I was displaying the picture of this Denise seahorse on my computer screen that I noticed the tiny skeleton shrimps all around... And a reader of the blog tells me that these "skeleton shrimps" are a very appreciated dish for pygmy seahorses! In short, my pretty red and white Denise is sitting in the middle of her pantry. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
This little pipefish or sea needle is part of the same family of fish as seahorses. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
This little pipefish or sea needle is part of the same family of fish as seahorses. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)

An eagle-eye guide

Obviously, the muck dive is only of interest if you can see those little creatures lurking among all the debris in the substrate or in the nooks and crannies of the reefs. As they are often very good at camouflage and capable of taking on surprising shapes, the dives then turn into treasure hunts, with a suspense worthy of a safari, but for miniature animals. And when you immerse yourself with a camera, in "image hunting" mode, it's quite simple, you don't see time passing...

Very important detail: without a "eagle eye" guide at your side, you may miss a lot. Some species are very small, others are very good at blending in with their environment, and you also need to know where to look.

All the success of diving is therefore often based on the guide and his talent for "spotter", his experience of the site, his knowledge of the environment and wildlife, his enthusiasm of course - as well as his ability to communicate well underwater, to draw your attention to a fascinating detail, that you would never have noticed without him.

Perched on a sea urchin, this crabmother protects her eggs. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
Perched on a sea urchin, this crabmother protects her eggs. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
This little monster is called "dragon shrimp". (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
This little monster calls himself "dragon shrimp". (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
Shot in night diving, this small octopus with blue cupping takes the pose in the gray sand. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
Shot in night diving, this small octopus with blue cupping takes the pose in the gray sand. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
This small, very photogenic fish (Oxycirrhites typus) is beautifully called woodcock or long-tailed hawk. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
This small, very photogenic fish (Oxycirrhites typus) is beautifully called woodcock or long-tailed hawk. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
By the time I took the picture, I did not even notice that this shrimp had painted nails! (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017
At the time I took the picture, I hadn't even noticed that this shrimp had painted nails! (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017
Without my guide Herbert, I would never have seen this beautiful rhinopias, a mauve yet bright on the gray background. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
Without my guide Herbert, I would never have seen this beautiful rhinopias, a mauve yet bright on the gray background. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
Nudibranch Aplysia parvula, family of "sea hares". (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
Nudibranch Aplysia parvula, from the "sea hare" family. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
Each grain of sand is like a big piece for this nudibranch. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
Each grain of sand is like a big stone for this nudibranch. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
Yes, that too is a nudibranch! (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
Yeah, that's a nudibranch, too! (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
A nudibranch more "classic", with its small gills at the back of the body. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
A more "classic" nudibranch, with its little gill rake at the back of the body. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
A small flaming cuttlefish presents me its best profile in the gray sand. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
A small flaming cuttlefish presents me its best profile in the gray sand. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)

Planet Dive and Three P Divers

Ah, the guides! How precious they are, how grateful I am...

In Planet Dive in AnilaoI had recourse to the services of the adorable Herbert, always calm and benevolent. Native of the region, father of three teenagers, owner of his boats, he is of an infinite patience with the whims of the photographers and very attentive with the chilly divers, who are treated in princesses (nod to my partner Lise) . In particular, he introduced aboard his banca (the traditional Filipino swing boat), a service that is for me a five-star, supreme luxury: the distribution of hot towels (yes, like those given by the stewardesses on the plane) to warm up these refrigerated ladies by 90 minutes of immersion (yes, I am refrigerated when diving in a 26°C sea). A little hot water poured from a thermos, a mini icebox to keep everything at temperature, and that's it!

With Herbert, my guide "eye of lynx". (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
With Herbert, my eagle-eye guide. (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
Princess Lise takes the pose ... (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
My friend and partner Lise takes her princess pose ... (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)

In Three P Divers in RomblonI didn't have a guide, but I was surrounded by an enthusiastic and passionate German-Philippine team, which works wonders... During my stay, the fantastic Joseph alias "Erap", 50 kilos all wet and "find everything" genius, followed one after the other, who knows where all the nudibranchs in the area live (especially the very rare and very small ones), as well as Philipp, Fabia and Kati, experts in marine biology, who know all the species and turn every dive into a captivating exploration worthy of the National Geographic

With Joseph "Erap", the king of nudibranchs in Romblon. (Philippines, March 2017)
With Joseph "Erap", the king of nudibranchs in Romblon. (Philippines, March 2017)
Philipp and his three layers of combi ... (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
Philipp (one of the three "P's" of the Three P Divers center, founded with his brothers Patrick and Peter) never dives without three layers of suit... (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)

In short, without them, I would not have had so much fun with my new toy. No wonder at every dive.

To say that was not returned to the Philippines, since my previous trip to Visayas in 2008 ! I'm coming back delighted from this special macro trip, which I would have liked to extend by a week or two, to add the big beasts of the reef of Tubbataha. This will be the pretext for a future trip ... ????

Note that for once, I was not alone for the whole duration of the trip, a couple of Parisian friends joined me for a few days in Anilao (cuckoo Lise and Thomas!). A big thank you also to Olivier from the website Asiaqua.com (based right now in Anilao and I already had crossed in Thailand in 2009): when we were making the reservations, my friend Lise and I decided to make it easy for us by delegating to her the organization (à la carte and onions) of our respective stays?

Here. I wanted to ask that in preamble to the other posts to come on this trip. For you to understand why, unlike my previous diving trip to Egypt, there will be almost only photos in macro mode, under water ... ????

The more I dive, the more I am fascinated by the extraordinary wealth of the underwater world, whether XXL or Lilliputian. The more I am aware of the fragility of this ecosystem, where everything is linked, interdependent. And the more I measure the chance that I have been able, for almost twenty years, to observe so many animals in their natural marine environment. Not sure it's still possible in twenty years ...

  Philippines: Anilao + Romblon - March 2017

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