In March 2020 my dive club, St George Scuba Club, had a trip from Sydney to dive the Philippines. Our plan was to dive for one week at Ticao Island in the Luzon area in the mid-south of the country and then two more weeks at Puerto Galera. However, the COVID-19 crisis put an end to the second part of the trip and we had to evacuate home via a 41 hour boat, mini-bus and plane trip. Stuffed up a great holiday.
Anyway, the first part of the trip was completed, with all dives done and we had to stay one extra day to facilitate our trip home. The following information is about Ticao and a little bit about Donsol.
The main aim of this part of the trip was to dive with whale sharks. Over the period from November to June the whale sharks hang around Ticao Pass which is between Ticao Island and Luzon. You can dive or snorkel with the sharks from either Donsol, Ticao and perhaps one other place on Luzon.
We flew into Manila from Sydney on Qantas. The flight arrives in the evening so we had to stay the night. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines also from from Australia (specifically Sydney). After staying the night, we flew around mid-day to Legazpi. This was on Cebu Pacific and took 40 minutes. Cost was only $180 return or so with luggage.
From the airport we were picked up by private transport (min-buses) and taken to Donsol. Here were were transferred to one of the bancas (large traditional boat) run by Fun Dive Asia who run the diving at Ticao and also have an operation here. The bust trip was about two hours including waiting for luggage and stopping off to buy some drinks etc on the way. Note that there is transport for individuals on a ferry and bus, but you would have to wait till the next morning.
The boat is a brand new one on its first run. It takes two hours to take the 11 of us (and the crew) from Donsol to Ticao. We arrive at Ticao at 7:30 pm after a beautiful run under the rising light of the full moon. Note that our return trip with less people (we had to go on separate days) took under two hours.
TICAO ISLAND RESORT
This is located about two thirds of the way down Ticao Island (from the northern tip) in a small bay. The resort consists of eight small bungalows and a share accommodation. There is a dining/bar area, the dive shop and an office. The bungalows are right on the coconut tree lined beach.
|Ticao Island Resort is near bottom right of island. Most diving is done at top of island||A photo of the bungalows|
Each bungalow has (I think) two small double beds which can be used as twins or a very large double. There is ample room for bags, some hanging space and shelving, a toilet and shower (huge). There is air conditioning and a small balcony with two chairs and a hammock. Nothing flash, but very comfortable.
There are not many power points, so take a powerboard for your recharging needs. The power points are a mixture of the two types used in the Philipines, that is two vertical slots or two thin round prongs. Make sure you have both adapters.
As mentioned, the dive operation is Fun Dive Asia. They have access to many bancas. The resort was not overly crowded when we were there, only one or two other groups of individuals. Our group was split into two, with six on one boat and five on the other. Plenty of room on the boats and also dry areas, but bring dry bags.
|The beach in front of the resort||A typical large Filipino banca|
We elected to do three dives a day. In the end this consisted of two reef dives and one whale shark dives, although at first we did it the other way around. The boats are crewed by one divemaster and three boat crew. They will setup your gear, swap over tanks and help you into and out of your gear. Very good service.
Our divemaster was great, but the other group reckoned theirs was not good. Ours moved slowly, found heaps of things, while the other one moved too quick and found little.
The bar and dining area is the one building, open on three sides but has plastic shields to cover walls if it is windy or raining. Breakfast was a couple of cereals, some hot things cooked to order, toast, juice, tea and coffee. Quite good. Lunch on the boat was either sandwiches (huge) or Japanese style food box. In the end I removed half the bread from the three layered sandwich, moved the meat and cheese to the other side and threw one side of the bread away. Water bottles and extra water supplied each day on the boat.
|The resort from the water, dining room centre, bungalows to left and right ||The view from my bungalow|
Dinners consisted of a fish dish, a meat dish, rice, some vegetable dish, sometimes pasta and a sauce and also a soup. Meals ended with dessert, mostly ice cream. All meals were very tasty and heaps provided (self-service).
Beer, wine and soft drinks were available as was some cocktails and also spirits. It was no problem to use your own spirits if you wanted to. Beers were 100 pesos, or about AU$3.20 at the time. I drank the very nice San Miguel Pale Pilsen.
All in all, a very nice place, I really enjoyed it.