May 15-19, 2011
Open Water Diver Certification in Apo Island with Mario Pascobello
Open Water Diver (OWD) Certification for Internet Presence
With my love for skin diving and my stay in Dumaguete, I was only a few minutes from Dauin, home of the fabled coral reefs that make it to the cover of globally distributed diving magazines, I've always felt constipated not being able to go beyond the depth and duration of a single-breath. Seeing my scuba buddies disappear into the deep while I stay at the surface didn't help either. All that was about to change when PADI diving instructor Mario Pascobello agreed to certify me in exchange for internet presence for his scuba diving services and homestay facilities.
I was introduced to Mario during my last skin diving in Apo Island with marine-biologist Rene Abesamis. Visible and highly respected in the community on his advocacy for a healthy reef system, it was an honor and privilege to have him as my instructor. With over 365 days cummulative diving hours (imagine scuba diving continuously for over a year!), he has certified over 300 students to date. To top it all, I'll be getting my 4-day training and certification in one of the most coveted locations on the planet for scuba diving - the famed Apo Island. Woo-Hoo!
Even before the formal lessons, I read the entire PADI OWD book and made sure I understood everything - everything! Scuba diving is serious business for me. Unlike other sports, bad shit can result in carelessness or negligence - running out of air, nitrogen narcosis (you act like a drunk from nitrogen intoxication), decompression sickness (the dreaded bends), surfacing and not finding your boat, or perhaps being mauled by a shark (although unlikely), etc. I'd be more mindful about scuba diving than let's say mountain climbing (a sport I always undertake with an element of fear and respect, to begin with). All that studying paid-off after passing all the written tests.
The whole of Apo Island is practically one huge dive site offering different flavors - drift diving, wall diving, drop-off dive, etc. Every site is different with something unique to offer - a different grouping of marine life, different underwater terrain, different coral types, etc. But whichever site you take, the constant thing are turtles. There's always a few sprinkling, but going to Turtle Beach is tops. It's not uncommon to see 5 turtles feeding on a patch of sea grass at any one time during the morning high tide.
As expected for a newby, buoyancy is the major challenge. Ideally, I should be hovering at a constant depth using only my breathing. Sinking too low, you hit the corals, or worse, land on a bed of sea urchins (yes, it happened to me...4 punctures!). Rising uncontrolably can lead to decompression sickness. Again, guilty as I shot up (but not all the way to the surface) in panic when I saw a huge Titan Triggerfish (yes, I'd been attacked once, thus the phobia).
After doing only 3 dive sites - Chapel (the wall), Rock Point and Coconut, I began to appreciate what the big hoopla on Apo Island is all about. It's perhaps the closest thing to flying. Like a flying squirrel, I would open up my arms and legs and stay suspended, mesmerized by the teeming marine life with all its vibrant colors. Apo Island is so majestic, it makes me think there might actually be a god.
Thank you Rene Abesamis for giving me the nudge and to Mario Pascobello for opening up a whole new world to me!
- take a tricycle and ask to be dropped-off the jeep terminal going to Zamboanguita (the terminal is near Robinson's Plaza) - P8.
- at the terminal, board the next jeep for Zamboanguita. Just tell the driver to drop you off at the Malatapay Market. P20, 42 minutes.
- upon disembarking at Malatapay, walk towards the beach until you come upon the pier office. This is where you sign up for a boat ride. They're organized here with posted rates.
- get onboard the pumpboat and enjoy the boat ride. For 4 people, P2000 return. For 8 pax, P3000 return, 40 minutes. (rate as of Nov 2011)
Contact: Mario or Mila Pascobello
Mobile: 0906.361.7254 / 0915.819.3607
Dive Services: fun dive, PADI diving courses, advanced OWD, rescue, EFR, dive master
Homestay: rooms with private veranda, private toilet with shower
(July 28, 2011) Nice write up mate - I look forward to going diving with you soon, now that you're certified. =)
(May 30, 2011) It was a memorable experience to dive and stay at Mario's Scuba Dive and Homestay. In my room I felt like in my own home, and ate excellent food from the chef. It won't be my last time there for sure! Just a small paradise on earth with unforgettable lovely people.
(May 20, 2011) Congrats...sounds like you had a religious experience.
(May 19, 2011) Congrats! So, how does it feel to be a certified scuba diver? Didn't know you were doing class in Apo Island. That's a great idea actually. You have to see ugly reefs to really appreciate Apo Island more. That island is gem, trust me.
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