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

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could gave been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:

  Philippines: Anilao + Romblon - March 2017

Traveling light, I do not know what it is! In March, I went diving in the Philippines. With, in my luggage, a cumbersome paraphernalia to photograph the tiny wildlife that lives under water.

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 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 ...

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 ! The device is ready to accompany me under the water! (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 macrophotography! 😍

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 critters! (Romblon, Philippines, 2017)

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.

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 guide "lynx eye" 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 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!

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 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.

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 flat worm straightens its "head" on a mound of grains of sand. (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)
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 enjoy the pygmy seahorses! In short, my pretty Denise red and white pose in the middle of his 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 "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.

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 is called "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
By the time I took the picture, I did not even notice 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, family of "sea hares". (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)
Yes, that too is a nudibranch! (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 small gills 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! 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!

With Herbert, my guide "eye of lynx". (Anilao, Philippines, March 2017)
With Herbert, my guide "eye of lynx". (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 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

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" of the Three P Divers center, founded with his brothers Patrick and Peter) never dive without three thicknesses of combi ... (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 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 ...

  Philippines: Anilao + Romblon - March 2017

  1. So here I say "Bravo", probably thanks to your new goal, but it's really frightening .... I am an addict to "nudi" I'm stunned. it continues to make me dream, at least "YOU" continue to make us dream. Thanks to you, again ...

    1. @ marcopolo8356: the lens helps to make beautiful images (and again, I am well below what are able to do crazy "super-macro") but it is these two spots, Anilao and Romblon, which are "staggering" »: Really the paradise of addicts to nudists !!! 😉

  2. Here is a beautiful harvest of photos. The 100 mm is in its element. Will remain more than add a lens ...
    I now have a hard time seeing a pygmy seahorse ...
    To avoid the problem of weight, I went to 4/3.
    What is your next destination, to keep dreaming?

    1. @Alain: yes, I could admire the equipment of other photographers sub, who add lenses to make the "super macro" ... It also implies for me to change porthole (mine does not allow external addition as it is ). As soon as we ship several objectives and several domes / portholes, it starts to become cumbersome ... The next destination will be (again) Indonesia. But I have not decided where ...

  3. Thank you for these beautiful macro images at the bottom of the water. Is it as nice as rolling in the grass to immortalize a butterfly or grasshopper?
    The Canon Macro 100 finally adapts to many situations.
    Continue to make us dream !

    1. @alaindici: for me, being under water is one of the most enjoyable things that is ... 😉 But immortalize the underwater animals with me made me want to try it also on earth!

    1. @Anne: oh there, what enthusiasm, I am very flattered ... ☺️ Thank you! (And I received the little message you sent me on Triton Bay, I'll answer you very soon ...)

  4. Wow .... Cyerca Nigra. You too 😉: I wanted to see one too and I made it an orgy, 10 days ago in Milne Bay / PNG.

    Very nice nudi, it made me as addict as Indo or Phils, problem now: how to return to PNG ... especially as I missed the lacy rhinopias.

    1. @Ludovic : Hey, hey, I saw that on your FlickR ... Beautiful !!! PNG? I'm pretty jealous ... Are very beautiful, too, ambient pictures at wide angle, it's really envy. You posted a CR somewhere (Scubaboard, Forum photo sub)? Very interested to know your experience and felt about PNG ... 😉

    2. Haha ... bin me I have not done Triton Bay yet, 😉 we must be a little emulation on the destinations. CR soon on the Forum photo sub .., if the small fish do not get eaten by procrastination (PS: how do you make CR so fast ??? you have anti-procrastinizing spray?). I'll let you know when it comes out.

    3. @Ludo: I think I'll go back to Triton Bay, known by me as "Pygmy Seahorses Bay" ... It's the end of the world, it's not cheap, the view is not always great, but the question of biodiversity ask a little there ... Feeling not to have enjoyed enough after this first stay ... And then there are the Moluccas where I'd like to go back a bit when I manage to clear me time in season. In short ... But I can not wait to learn more about PNG ... 🙂

      Question procrastination, uh, that's irony ??? 😀 (I want this magic spray ...) I have not finished telling Triton Bay (March 2016), I have not finished either to tell Komodo and Raja Ampat (July 2016), and there, the Philippines, It's going to be almost a month since I came back and I only publish now the very first article ... (Not able to publish anything live except for some pictures on FB.) And then I still have some stuff that I ' would like to publish on Mexico (July 2014), I believe ...

      In short, the more you go, the more I let myself get caught up in the job, and the less I find the time to sort the photos and quickly put online my little stories of bubbles and fish ...

      Okay, I'm going to watch the Sub Photo Forum, so ... 😉

    4. And bin went on the PF ... CR soap opera started in "dive in the pool without checking if there was water" mode. No idea when I'll finish ... so you have time for reading. 😉

    5. Thank you Corinne! But I'm afraid of having more trouble to continue, I just caught a violent access of procrastinia ... I had to be bitten by "the moment of gratification monkey" while I had forgotten the spray ... 😉
      Yet it remains the outer reefs and still the muck ..

  5. @Corinne: always a beautiful story to tell, and beautiful photos to share ... I am also very interested in the macro ... But I do not have the appropriate material yet. For the moment I am investing in "big" (400/600 mm) for the animal. Then it will be the macro.I noted that you wanted to try on "earth": am looking forward to seeing also what it will give. 🙂

    1. @Didier: the objectives of animal photographers are very impressive ... (And that must be, the bazaar, to carry on the plane!) Yes, for the macro lens, I thought that it would be interesting not to reduce it to use exclusively underwater ... There are also lots of fascinating little animals on earth ... To be continued! 😉

  6. Super Corinne, it's really good work! I know how difficult it is to photograph a pygmy seahorse without turning because of the light and the net with depth of field!
    Congratulations to you and thank you for making us discover this site.
    Kisses
    Christian (Waow)

  7. Hello Corinne,
    it just looks beautiful! Thank you for these photos !
    Small question: is it an interesting spot also snorkelling, having had a spontaneous pneumothorax diving is not for me ... unfortunately.

    Very good day,
    Laura

    1. I reread your article and I did not see the sentence ...
      I'm sorry for bothering you.

  8. Hello Corinne
    beautiful your photos of the Philippines, I am admiring!
    I am currently in WANGI WANGI WAKATOBI (cf my FB) but I do not do as well .... I need better lighting, it will come ... but I'm having fun with a 30mm macro + magnifier
    if you can give me information about your flashes I'm taking, and your new lens 100mm macro, it's not too hard to master?
    thank you in advance, friendly,
    Christine Neault

    1. @Christine: yes, underwater as on earth, photography is the art of mastering light ... I battle a lot to steer correctly my flashes (I have two recently, before I managed with one). This is the Ikelite DS161. You can find the details of my material on the following page (see the "Practical" tab in the menu):
      -> https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/materiel/
      As for the control of the 100mm macro, it comes little by little, it is the case to say it (and then I drive with my 60mm macro that I have since 2010). In fact, it is especially for the less tiny creatures (the rhinopias for example) that I have the most trouble getting good pictures, because I have to position myself at a good distance to get them into the frame (I I have to really go away), and suddenly it's more difficult to properly illuminate my subject (moving away, I also remove the light from the flash) ...
      But all this is a pleasure, a game ... in short I have fun under the water with this new toy! 😉

  9. This article is a dream, and especially if we loved Lembeh! I just have to take the tickets. Thank you for these beautiful images and for the information in the article.

  10. Everything is so tiny ... And this finger so huge! Thank you for this geat article. I wandered once again in the past (even on the old blog) and the present of your blog, in truth in search of our destination travel / snorkeling this summer. I do not know if we will manage not to return a third time in a row to Raja Ampat. Looking forward to seeing you or even meeting you at the bend of a reef. Boris

    1. @Monod: how's that, he's 'huge' my finger ???? 😀 Yes, Anilao and Romblon are not, I think, ideal for snorkeling. On the other hand, Raja Ampat ... Hard to resist! 😉

  11. Hello Corinne,
    I had planned to return to the Philippines in 3 days but unfortunately I was stolen my papers and suddenly I remain nailed in Paris. To escape, I say let's go see the small bubbles elsewhere and there I come across your last two articles on ... .the Philippines.
    Your photos are beautiful, and this article filled with good info.
    It gives me even more desire to go to the land of the smile.
    Enjoy your toy

    Mike

    1. @Mike: thank you so much ! I intend to bring also in the near future my new toy side of the Strait of Lembeh, Indonesia ... 😉 Good luck for the renewal of papers, sorry for you this trip canceled ... The kind of thing that makes us moan.

  12. Thank you for the beautiful photos and especially the article! There seems to be very little info on Romblon online. We visited Anilao for the first time this summer and we loved it. I'm content with modest stuff that limits me just to the macro but I like it like that. I was wondering how you found Romblon vs Anilao and the logistics of transferring. As much as we would like to visit many places, I admit that the Philippines has charmed us. Our previous trip to Bangka / Lembeh was great but I think Anilao is currently winning photos, comfort and especially simplicity for the Canadians we are. Thank you 🙂

    1. @Mathieu: I preferred Romblon to Anilao, I think, for the more authentic side of the island, and the fact that there are still very few divers tourists, hey, hey ... I have to continue my stories about this Filipino trip, I will tell my tour of the island, with my super tricycle driver, in a future post. All my articles on this March 2017 trip combining Anilao and Romblon are gathered here:
      https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/voyage-philippines-mars-2017/

      Regarding transfer logistics, I'm talking about it here:
      https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/2017/05/14/ferry-philippines/

      Returning, I made faster: transfer by boat from Romblon on the neighboring island of Tablas (1 hour crossing), then Tablas-Manila trip by plane, then night near the airport (not to have the nightmarish traffic jams) to board the next day for the return flight to France ...

  13. What a pleasure to watch your wonderful photos! I plan to leave in April in the Philippines, having done the Visayas I think to move towards Mindoro. What do you think ? Is it a good choice ? I come back two months ago from Gili Air and really super disappointed, everything is white, no coral a real disaster! Besides, I have practically no pictures.
    Quick question: Do you go to the diving show next January?

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