27 – 31 March 2010

Anilao Batangas was where I learned diving in 1997. I had been coming here camping on the rocks when I was still in college in the 80’s! Anilao was where Manila divers went for diving because it was closest to Manila and we all thought it was a pretty cool place with lots to see. Little did I know then that years on, this was where a lot of world class foreign underwater photographers went year after year to find their critters. They’ve all kept it quiet, for fear of a “big discovery” like Lembeh Strait, but you just can’t keep a good thing secret. Secrets are bound to leak. And I’m helping the leak keep on leaking.

We stayed in our dear friend Boy Venus’ dive resort Club Ocellaris. Boy was my open water NAUI dive instructor who later on became part of my underwater film crew. I had to learn diving to finish some underwater sequences on cyanide fishing for a video documentary I was doing for Lory Tan of Bookmark Publishing called Coral Reefs of the Philippines: Resource at Risk. So I had to learn diving to be able to give instructions underwater! The gall of this novice diver (me) ordering 5 super seasoned divers what to do with our squirt bottle full of coffee (ala cyanide look-alike) and our grouper model!

OK, sorry, back to Anilao. There are more than 600 nudibranch in Anilao (located within the area of Verde Island Passage) out of 800+ identified nudis out there in the world. Imagine that?! California Academy Curators Terry Gosliner and Gary Williams started diving Philippine coral reefs in 1992 to survey the diversity of nudibranchs (sea slugs) and corals. Their research supports the notion that Verde Island Passage in the northern Philippines holds the most diverse coral reefs in the world.

In our 4 days diving, we saw about 20 amazing nudibranchs – some we have never seen in our lives! An American couple Bob & Jayne who who have been diving all over the Coral Triangle for the past 20 years and were diving with us were nudibranch enthusiasts. Jayne could say the scientific names of each nudibranch we saw without batting an eyelash and so could our dive guide Alexis Principe!  Jayne said that in the 30 years she has been diving Alexis was the first dive guide she has had who could speak Latin! Well done Alexis!  Oh, before I forget, Anilao is a Marine protected Area and in this WWF Philippines link is a detailed case study on the area.

So here is a wonderful gallery of nudibranchs – a mere fraction of what’s out there in the amazing waters of Twin Rocks, the Pier, Kirby’s Rock, Mainit’s Secret Bay, and Bethlehem.

A nudi mimicking a Xenia soft coral - Phyllodesmium rudmani

A nudi mimicking a Xenia soft coral – Phyllodesmium rudmani. Isn’t that amazing???

A fluffy soft coral looking nidibranch - Marionia arborescens

A fluffy soft coral looking nidibranch – Marionia arborescens

Another soft coral mimic crawling over tunicates - Ceratosoma alleni

Another soft coral mimic crawling over tunicates – Ceratosoma alleni

Two beautiful orange brown nudibranchs - Berthella mertensis

Two beautiful orange brown nudibranchs – Berthella mertensi

A Roboastra gracilis nudibranch

A Roboastra gracilis nudibranch

Juvenile sea hare - Aplysia sp.

Juvenile sea hare – Aplysia sp.

An absolute beauty - Hypselodoris kaname

An absolute beauty – Hypselodoris kaname

Two blue green Nembrotha milleri feeding on a green tunicate. Wonder if that's where they get their color

Two blue green Nembrotha milleri feeding on a green tunicate. Wonder if that’s where they get their color

The meeting of two nudibranchs Hypselodoris emma

The meeting of two nudibranchs Hypselodoris emma

The Marilyn Monroe of the reefs. A nudibranch that lifts her skirts - Risbecia tryoni

The Marilyn Monroe of the reefs. A nudibranch that lifts her skirts – Risbecia tryoni

A big se slug Dendrodoris tuberculosa that has such wonderful detail

A big sea slug Dendrodoris tuberculosa that has such wonderful detail

Detail of the nudibranch above this image - Dendrodoris tuberculosa

Detail of the nudibranch above this image – Dendrodoris tuberculosa

A sea slug but not a nudibranch. This is a rarely seen Bubble shell - Hydatina physis

A sea slug but not a nudibranch. This is a rarely seen Bubble shell – Hydatina physis