27 – 31 March 2010

The province of Batangas has more than a 30-kilometer long coastline – Balayan Bay in the west and Batangas Bay in the east. To the north is the town of Bauan, and on the south is Maricaban Strait. Known to scuba divers as Anilao, the prime dive sites are found within the waters of Mabini and the island municipality of Tingloy just across it.

Diving can be done almost all year round except when occasional typhoons hit Mabini, Tingloy like the rest of the Philippines. Geographically located between Maricaban and Mindoro Straits called the Verde Island Passage, Anilao is a place of extraordinary marine life sometimes called the “Center of the Center of Marine Biodiversity”.

With strong current, bright yellow tubastrea coral polyps come out like flowers in full blossoms

With strong current, bright yellow orange tubastrea cup coral polyps come out like flowers in full blossoms

We used to live in Cavite, Manila in the Philippines before immigrating to Australia in 2003. Our house in Cavite was about one and a half hours by car from this incredible critter diving place Anilao, Mabini, Batangas and yet we hardly went there. Instead we traipsed around Asia and the Pacific until finally leaving Manila for Oz. But once upon a time, we fantasized about buying a house by the sea here . . .

In a 2006 survey, 73 dive resorts are found all around the Mabini coast of Balayan Bay fondly called Anilao by people in the know

In a 2006 survey, 73 dive resorts are found all around the Mabini coast of Balayan Bay fondly called Anilao by people in the know

Now we’ve come back and it was a glorious four days of diving. We surfaced every dive to a constant high. We had forgotten how good it was in Anilao. Other than so many nudibranchs, we encountered marine creatures and wonderful characters we thought we’d only see in Lembeh.

Black coral shrimp Tozuma armatum in 20 meter depth of what our dive master called the Secret Bay because they kept it a secret for 5 years before being discovered by other resorts divers . . .

Black coral shrimp Tozuma armatum in 20 meter depth in what our dive master called the Secret Bay because they kept it a secret for 5 years before being discovered by other resorts divers . . .

A not so easy to find tiger shrimp

A not so easy to find tiger shrimp

Very interesting episode of mating box crabs. They were together for more than 10 minutes and when all was over, wiggled and dug themselves back into the sand

Very interesting episode of mating box crabs. They were together for more than 10 minutes and when all was over, wiggled and dug themselves back into the sand

The bright colored crinoids or featherstars of yellows and greens and reds abound and investigating life within, we saw crinoid shrimps (Periclimenes amboinensis) mimicking the stripes and colors of their host.

Bright colored crinoids or featherstars of yellows and greens and reds abound in Anilao and investigating life within, we saw crinoid shrimps (Periclimenes amboinensis) mimicking the stripes and colors of their host.

And we found so many cephalopods (cuttlefish and octopus) – some of our favorite marine animals of all time . . .

Coconut

The great entertainer coconut octopus who just transfered to its new shell home

Human trash like this old coffee glass container in now home to this big coconut octopus. Unless a better looking house comes along, this glass is it as home

Human trash like this old coffee glass container is now home to this big coconut octopus. Until a better looking house comes along, this glass is it for the moment for this amazing creature

The first thing I saw upon reaching Kirby's Rock is this flamboyant cuttlefish hunting. See its harpoon sticking out for that split second?

The first thing I saw upon reaching Kirby’s Rock is this flamboyant cuttlefish hunting. See its harpoon sticking out for that split second?

A most elegant and regal presence in the reef - wonderpus octopus (Wunderpus photogenicus)

A most elegant and regal presence in the reef – wonderpus octopus (Wunderpus photogenicus).  In case you think this scientific name is a joke, it is not. Please check abstract linked below

Wunderpus photogenicus is a recently described species by  Drs. F.G. Hochberg, Mark D. Norman & Julian Finn.

Walking on its tentacles is this Poison ocellate octopus (Octopus mototi)

Walking on its tentacles is this Poison ocellate octopus (Octopus mototi)

But not to forget that other than muck diving, the coral reefs are beautiful in this marine protected area. Yogi insisted that our Anilao visit will not be complete without a dive in current prone Beatrice.

Thousands of Anthias or fairy basslets abound in Beatice, a dive site in the island of Sombrero.

Thousands of Anthias or fairy basslets abound in Beatice, a dive site around the island of Sombrero.

And some colorful and cryptic looking fish . . .

An extremely difficult animal to shoot, this flasher wrasse is worth the pursuit as the colors are simply gorgeous

An extremely difficult animal to shoot, this flasher wrasse is worth the pursuit as the colors are simply gorgeous

We finally see a real hairy frogfish. An beautifully weird looking critter that eluded us in our long stay in Lembeh we find in Anilao!

We finally see a real hairy frogfish. A beautifully weird looking critter that eluded us in our long stay in Lembeh we find in Anilao!

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