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scuba diving

Open Water Diver Certification in Apo Island with Mario Pascobello 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.

Apo Island

Apo Island

Mario Pascobello
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).

Ending Thoughts
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.

--- TheLoneRider

Thank you Rene Abesamis for giving me the nudge and to Mario Pascobello for opening up a whole new world to me!

Malatapay wedding village_life fishcatch
bayanihan pascobello family crepe super mario pizza
stovetop_pizza dive_preparation dive_ready up fine arts
dive_gear scuba_diving marine_life turtle
snorkellers up_crew nightlife blue_monkey_grill

Apo Island FYI / Tips

  • Apo Island boasts of having the freshest fish on your plate - avail of it!
  • even though a marine sanctuary, fishing is still allowed in Apo Island, providing livelihood to the locals - but controlled fishing
  • electricity is only from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
  • internet is painfully slow and intermittent when on
  • public eating areas are hardly available except from resorts where guests are checked-in
  • drinking water is still sourced from the mainland

Apo Island Cost Index

(US$1 = Php 45.26 as of July 7, 2015)
  • $44 medium boat ride from Malatapay to Apo Island up to 4 people, roundtrip (Php 2000/boat)
  • $66 big boat ride from Malatapay to Apo Island up to 8 people, roundtrip (Php 3000/boat)
  • $22 open water dives (average, Php1000/dive)

How to get there from Dumaguete:

  • 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)

Apo Island Blogs:

The following people like this:

Maricel Montero
Maricel Montero


Reader Comments:

Soren Knudsen
(July 28, 2011) Nice write up mate - I look forward to going diving with you soon, now that you're certified. =)

Andreas AntenenAndreas Antenen
(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.

Rene AbesamisRene Abesamis
(May 20, 2011) Congrats...sounds like you had a religious experience.

Bianca EspinosBianca Espinos
(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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