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(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 that often ask me non-divers friends, a little scared by my logistics: no, I do not carry bottles of diving or sinkers with me!!! They are provided on the spot by the diving centers.)
Short. The heavy baggage but the light heart, so I (still) flew to Asia! Head to the Philippines, this time, with a new toy, which I was very excited to try: a 100mm "macro" lens (for "Macro photography"), more powerful and more quilted than my old 60mm ...
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 macrophotography! ????
Anilao and Romblon
To release 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.
Romblon is a small, peaceful island, located southeast of Anilao, about 8 hours by ferry, away from tourist routes. It is the capital of marble in the Philippines. It is also a dive spot still not very known, where underwater photographers addicted to the "super-macro" rave about rare species of translucent nudibranchs and hairy shrimp almost invisible to the naked eye!
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 diving".
In fact of vase, the term muck dives refers to dives on a background not really spectacular or very engaging at first glance. In Anilao and Romblon, it is most often a mixture of sand and dead coral debris, embellished here and there with some "groves" and coral potatoes.
We do observation dives, which require patience and passion. Because this substrate, which seems unattractive to novice eyes, is the habitat for many small crustaceans, molluscs and extraordinary 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 wriggle the usual underwater fauna of the tropical waters (not to be missed, the magnificent reef 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.
An "eye of lynx" guide
Obviously, the muck dive It is only interesting if we can see these little creatures hiding among all the debris of the substratum or in the recesses of the reefs. As they are often very endowed in camouflage and able to take surprising forms, the dives turn then into treasure hunts, with a suspense worthy of a safari, but for miniature animals. And when we immerse ourselves with a camera, in "hunting pictures" mode, it's very simple, we do not see the time pass ...
Very important detail: without an "eye of lynx" guide by your side, you risk missing many things. Some species are very small, others know very well how to blend in with their environment, and you have 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.
Planet Dive and Three P Divers
Ah, the guides! As they are precious, as I am grateful to them ...
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 Philippine boat with rockers), a service that is for me five stars, supreme luxury: the distribution of hot towels (yes, like those given by the hostesses on the plane) to warm these ladies refrigerated by 90 minutes Immersion (yes, I am refrigerated while diving in a sea at 26 ° C). A little hot water poured a thermos, a mini-cooler to keep everything at temperature, and voila!
In Three P Divers in RomblonI did not have an official guide, but I was surrounded by an enthusiastic and passionate German-Filipino team, who worked wonders ... During my stay, I was accompanied by the fantastic Joseph, aka "Erap", 50 kilos all wet and "find-all" of genius, who knows where live all the nudibranchs of the district (especially the very rare and the very young), as well as Philipp, Fabia and Kati, experts in marine biology, who know all the species and transform each dive into a captivating exploration worthy of National Geographic…
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 come back delighted by this small special macrophotography stay, which I would have liked to have extended for a week or two, to add the big beasts of the reef. Tubbataha. This will be the pretext for a future trip ... ????
Note that for once, I was not alone for the duration of the trip, a couple of Paris friends having joined me for a few days in Anilao (hello Lise and Thomas!). A big thank you also to Olivier du site Asiaqua.com (based right now in Anilao and I already had crossed in Thailand in 2009): at the time of stalling reservations, we opted for the ease my friend Lise and me, by delegating the organization (à la carte and small 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 ...