This is our liveaboard dive boat - the Philippine Siren. It's a great boat - excellent food, spacious cabins, efficient dive operation, and fantastic crew! I'll be returning...again and again...in the years ahead!
These were all of the possible dives. I only did about 2/3 of them, in part because I was sick with a cold for several days. Highlights were the beautiful hard corals of Apo Island, muck diving at Dauin, and beautiful soft corals the last two dives (Cabilao).
Beautiful coral fans and soft corals (and even a green hard coral) on Gorgonian Wall (Cabilao). We dove many walls jammed with healthy corals in every shape and color. You'll see them scattered throughout this trip gallery.
1-2 inch anthias and multicolored crinoids (aka "feather stars") share life on this patch of coral. Crinoids come in all sorts of colors, and move around the reef to try to position themselves for maximum current (and plankton carried by), since anything that touches them sticks to their feathery arms.
A butterflyfish (4-inches long) peeks out from its hiding place in a large barrel sponge to see what all the racket (me blowing bubbles) is about. As soon as he saw me (and got his photo taken), he dropped back down into the safety of the sponge. Note the spot near the rear/top of his body? That is designed to fool predators into thinking that's his eye/head, whereas his real eye is camouflaged. If a predator bites the fake eye, that likely isn't fatal (the victim can grow that part of their fin back).
A football-sized cuttlefish (relative of squid) contorts her tentacles and body surface to look as fierce and scary as possible to frighten me (a big predator-looking dude) away, since she was protecting her nearby eggs.
Acres of hard corals as far as the eye could see, around Apo Island (note the divers at top right for scale). For us divers, such a healthy reef is a heart-warming sight, since it is sadly increasingly rare in the world today. Apo has the healthiest hard coral reef I've ever seen.
Hard corals are home to scores of small fish, including these colorful (gold and orange) anthias. Purple hard corals like the one in the foreground are unusual, and thought to be due to particular algae that live on them.
Hiding in plain sight. Many fish and other sea creatures survive through camouflage. This section of a grassy sea floor contains not only small tunicates (aka "sea-squirts") and sea grass, live and decaying, but one other little creature - a relative of the seahorse. Can you find him?
These 1-2-inch long "Nemo" fish are clownfishes - or more accurately "clown anemonefishes," and they live in an anemone with a beautiful purple underside. They are just one of many anemonefishes, so called because of their symbiotic relationship with host anemones. They come in almost as many different colors as do anemones, and I've taken thousands of photos of them, yet I can't seem to pass them without taking a few more, as you'll see)...
A pair of tomato clownfish (the smaller orange one is the male) live in an unusual, beautiful fuscia-colored anemone. Anemonefishes have a coating on their bodies that makes them immune to the sting of anemones, whereas most fish (and other predators) avoid anemones because of their sting. For their part, anemonefish help their host anemone by keeping it clean (by swishing water through it with their tails) and even bringing it bits of food (its mouth is in the center of the tentacles). The female fish is ~5-inches long, whereas the male is 3-4 inches.
A mated pair of Maroon or "Spine-cheek" anemefishes, so named for the large female's color and the fact that they both have a small spine on their cheeks (you can see it crossing the white circle around the orange male's face). Female is 5 inches long, male is 3-4 inches.
This Pink Anemonefish (2-3 inches) lives in an anemone with an interesting green underside. Her mate (and several offspring) remain hidden safely in the anemone's tendrils. Note that the anemone's "foot" is attached to the dead coral on the left. Anemones seldom move, but they can certainly do so (they're animals, not plants), slowly "walking" to a better location (e.g., with better water flow, etc.).
A different pair of Pink Anemonefishes (2-3 inches) live in an anemone with a lavendar underside. Note that this anemone has almost completely closed up, with only a small portion of its tentacles still visible. Anemones often close up at night (with their fish safely inside), but you sometimes see them do so during the day (like this), too. If you look closely, you can see several translucent-and-blue ghost shrimp living among the anemone's tentacles.
Apo Island and several other places we dove are protected area, and are therefore also home to healthy sea turtle populations. Notice this green sea-turtle's rounded bottom shell...a sign of a constantly full tummy!
Healthy coral reefs also teem with small creatures. This 2-inch urchin clingfish lives amond the long, sharp spines of spiny urchins. When threatened, they often straighten themselves parallel to the urchin spines, apparently attempting to "blend".
Two moorish idols swim among crinoids (aka "feather stars") and yellow cup corals (note how most polyps are closed, but some towards the bottom are open and the yellow polyps are out "feeding," i.e., filtering plankton from the water as it moves by.
Here are some crinoids that are NOT feeding (most likely because there's little or no current). Note their claw-like feet, with which they crawl over the reef looking for the best spots to feed (where there's lots of current and/or plankton in the water).