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Sabuy-sabuy Sabang 12 Jul 2007

Posted by cat64fish in Tales from the N2 bar.
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Our latest “adventure” – Sabang Philippines.

A few firsts on this trip – first time to Sabang, first time at the Budget Terminal, first time on a budget airline and, as a result of that, for the first time having to contemplate what not to bring for the trip because of its weight!

So, with our gear in tow, we made out way to the Budget Terminal, only to find out that our midnight flight had been delayed of two hours! *grumble*

If you haven’t been to the Budget Terminal before, it’s by no means a hub of activity. A small cafe by the corner (with overpriced food and drinks) was all we had to entertain us while we waited. The tiny seats of the aircraft convinced me not to take a budget airline again, unless I had no other choice. For someone as tall as me, it was no fun to be cramped between two seats for the 5-hour flight.

So it was, sleep deprived and hungry, we arrived in Manila, wolfing down breakfast at a Mac’s along the way to our boat, which would take us directly to Sabang.At least, with the uncomfortable flight behind me, I could take in the sights.

The “waiting lounge” before boarding the boat

Me at my reserved seat (age before beauty and all that 🙂 )

Sabang, like most sea-side towns in Asia, was situated within a sheltered bay, and in almost typical Filipino fashion, is a hodge-podge of building types – restaurants, hotels, businesses, and residential houses all strung together. Only a short ribbon of beach is left from all the development, which makes it pretty convenient to off load gear and people in front of the dive shops, during high tide, at least.

Sabang Bay, from the perspective of the dive shop

With a dive shop almost every other doorway you pass, travelers here will be spoilt for choice as to which outfit to choose from. Our choice was South Sea Divers, who put us up at Angelyne’s Resort, just a hop-skip-step and jump away from the shop.

Angelyne’s Resort

Anticipation was high at the prospect of diving in clear blue waters … but our initial impression of the dive sites was that they were a bit disappointing in terms of marine life and their condition. Talking to the dive operators revealed that Sabang had a bad year, being hit by typhoons during Christmas, which basically ripped up the reefs. Indeed, this was evident at some of the dive sites, where large overturned corals were common.

Another problem they had was the increasing algae-fication of the bay. [Dive shop owner] lamented that there seemed to be more algae in the bay, and in the surrounding reefs. My first thought, that most of the buildings in the town had no proper sewerage facilities, was confirmed by the dive shop owner, who had been here more than 10 years, back when the reefs were “pristine”.

The diving got better towards the end of the trip, as we targeted, from the 30-plus dive sites, our favourites, which were (quite coincidently) Alma Jane Wreck, Sabang Wreck, Sabang Point and Sabang Reef – all within a stones throw of each other!

The dive sites …. there is another sign board which we didn’t get a photo of.

As usual, each of us in the group had target, “must-see” critters … in our case, the multi-coloured frogfish was high on our list.

Multi-coloured frogfish
The “multi-coloured” frogfish

Along the way, we saw loads of other stuff … some, in apparently lifeless places (sandy flat in front of the town), others in wrecks, and a few in very inaccessible places.

Knobbly seastars congregating in very shallow water in Sabang bay

A “jawfish”-full of jawfish eggs!

A very nice photo of a pygmy seahorse, on a seafan at 27m (taken by Eunice) … a good photo of these small critters continues to elude me.

We saw a lot of different types of nudibranchs – a sampling shown here:

A pair of Hypselodoris (formerly Chromodoris) bullockii engaging in some fore-play (Thanks Zippy for pointing this out)

Nembrotha chamberlaini feeding on tunicates

A pair of Chromodoris kuniei, the fondly nick-named “Marilyn Monroe” nudi ….

… which, every 5 seconds or so, does a skirt flip!!

The food, as with normal Filipino fare, was nothing to shout about – not much chilli or curry is used in their cooking. But they sure know how to cook a mean pork-belly strip, and do a good BBQ.

The “evening snack stall” run by the dive shop .. pork-belly … yum!!

The BBQ spread!! (Photo by Eunice)

The diving gang – all SQ crew except me and Sheldon, consisted of ….

… the guys (photo by Eunice)- from left: Sheldon, Teng, Andrew, KC, Ryan, Howe and myself; front seated: Paul and Sky (dive operators) and ….

… the gals (photo by Eunice) – from left: Adeline, Eunice, Nicole, Sharon, Vienna and Amy

All too soon, it seemed, our stay in this idyllic seaside town was at an end. With final goodbyes waved from the boat, we made our long journey back to Singapore, and the seemingly endless hassles that budget airline travelers face – baggage issues and dive knives in the checked in bags!! ….

… but that is a story for another time!

More photos in Mermate’s Flickr, Andy’s Flickr and mine.

Cheers, Jeff