So here comes the third and final in my series of posts on the kinds of diving holidays I would suggest you avoid having. After Brunei last year, I honestly thought no trip could be a more complete and utter failure. But then, this time last week, I went on a quick trip to Cebu …
Disaster trip no. 3: Moalboal, July 2015
The plan: a four-day whirlwind diving mini-break with lots of training crammed in — two days at Moalboal to prepare for the AIDA 3 certificate followed by a couple of deco dives at Mactan with my instructor to keep my tec skills fresh.
What actually happened: This:
It was a whirlwind mini-break all right: not one, but TWO typhoons materialised in the south China Sea region! OK, so they weren’t particularly close to the Philippines but there was bad weather all across Cebu. Read: big swells, strong waves, howling winds and torrential rain — which conveniently began on the day I arrived. “We were having really good weather up until today”, people kept saying to me, apologetically …
On Day One, the waves were smashing against the steps of the Freediving Planet shop and it took a bit of negotiation to get in the water without any bruises or broken fins. We snorkelled over to the drop-off and as my instructor dropped the line, it bent like a bow in the current. After an hour of revisiting the AIDA 2 skills in between being buffeted around like flotsam on the surface, I surfaced after one dive and promptly vomited my breakfast. That was the end of that session!
The afternoon freediving session was better in that I managed not to be seasick, but worse in that the line, instead of going straight down, was sloping at a 70 degree angle due to the current, which had helpfully picked up a bit more. One of the instructors at the shop remarked that what we were doing was basically ‘deep dynamic’ — there was no relaxing floating back up to the surface in the top few metres, it was firm finning all the way in order to actually get anywhere! In the evening, I had an enjoyable dinner with the guys from the shop but the wind whipping through the seafront bar, blowing away the napkins and making the lamps jingle didn’t bode well for Day Two of freediving.
However Day Two of freediving didn’t happen because I was woken up at 2.30 am by my enjoyable dinner which had decided to return to the surface with full force. And it did so every hour subsequently until the early morning (although by then there was nothing left of it, but it kept trying). I was weak and dizzy and in no state for freediving the next day, even if the sea had been flat and turquoise rather than foaming and khaki: at this point both AIDA 3 and my Mactan tec diving plans flew straight out of the window (or rather, down the pan). I made an early retreat back to the Mactan hotel where my other half was staying and spent the rest of the trip unable to eat much and feeling a bit sorry for myself in bed with a book.
Worst part: flicking through facebook and seeing diving friends having wonderful conditions, hot weather and great visibility on their weekend dives back in Hong Kong. Damn wi-fi! Normally you can rely on it not to work in the Philippines …
The upside: I did manage to repeat my AIDA 2 20-metre constant weight freedive in far worse sea conditions than I originally did it in, using a lot more energy than I ideally would need to. This gives me confidence for my future training — in better conditions, I know I can go deeper! I also managed to “rescue an unconscious freediver” from a depth of 10 metres in a current, bring him up to the (squally) surface, turn him on his back, remove his mask and blow-tap-talk with torrential rain adding drama to the whole scenario. Nothing like adding a bit of realism to the exercise.
It could have been worse: The weather could have been glorious.
Lesson learned: a. Don’t travel to the Philippines during rainy season … I really should try to learn this lesson! b. When on holiday, avoid pizza with anchovies.
Final thoughts: Pizza aside, the common denominator of all three of my disastrous holidays was the weather. The success of any diving trip is strongly dependent on good weather and sea conditions. Although it is a factor that cannot be controlled during a diving holiday, you can still make an informed choice about when to travel to reduce your chances of having bad weather. In my case, I knew full well that the summer-autumn months are not the best time to travel to the Philippines, but I went anyway, and I paid for it!
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