Dive Log: Sabang, Puerto Galera

Puerto Galera sits at the base of a peninsula on the northern coast of Mindoro, about 80 miles south of Manila and an hour’s boat ride from Batangas. Once a sanctuary from rough seas for Spanish galleons, today Puerto Galera is a thriving watersports town, with a yacht club, cheap beach resorts, and coral reefs teeming with sea life.

Sabang Beach, Mindoro

We stayed at La Laguna Villas on Sabang Beach, north of Puerto Galera town proper. Sabang is something of a suburb, popular with European and Asian divers and lined with dive shops and restaurants. Lots of Germans there, so I loved the preponderance of steakhouses serving imported meats alongside German wheat beers like Paulaner, Erdinger, and Franziskaner.

This was my first time diving in a few years, but I made it up with this schedule: five diving days, two dives a day, two days with Mac’s Octopus and next three days with ABWonderDive.


Dive #91: Monkey Beach
Dive duration: 50 min
Max depth: 22m
Air consumption: 220-50 bar

Gentle slope with sandy bottom, dotted with coral. Water was a bit cloudy due to silt from a nearby river outlet but there was lots of sea life: coral, nudibranchs, mantis shrimp, and schooling fish. My diving mask, still fresh from the store, tended to fog up a lot.

Sabang Scuba Selfie
Nudibranch, Monkey Beach, Sabang, Puerto Galera
Mantis Shrimp, Monkey Beach, Puerto Galera

Dive #92: Sabang Wrecks
Dive duration: 50 min
Max depth: 20m
Air consumption: 220-50 bar

The wrecks sit in the shallow bay in front of Sabang Beach, three small boats (and two jeeps) sunk around a small area over the years to provide a base for coral to grow. Still had problems with mask lens fog, but outside of this, an excellent dive with lots of diverse sea life: a white-eyed moray eel, a large yellow sand eel, bat fish, leaf fish, stonefish, and a ghost pipefish (colorful spiny relation to seahorses and sea dragons).

Diver Statue, Sabang Wrecks, Puerto Galera
Moray Eel, Puerto Galera
Sand Eel, Puerto Galera
Ghost Pipefish with Crinoids, Sabang Wrecks, Puerto Galera


Dive #93: Escarceo/Hole in the Wall
Dive duration: 55 min
Max depth: 20m
Air consumption: 210-40 bar

Barely a cave, “Hole in the Wall” is a small tunnel through a short rise in the reef near Escarceo Point, just big enough for a diver with gear to swim through comfortably. On the other side of the hole the divemaster pointed out a thick school of trevally, and later as we drifted along with the current a small octopus, a sea snake, and a giant puffer fish peeked out from under some coral. Dive boat misplaced us before ascent, we ended up waiting for a bit in rough swell for pickup; that was mildly exciting.

Sea Snake, Puerto Galera
Barrel Sponge, Sabang Point, Puerto Galera
Escarceo Point, Puerto Galera

Dive #94: Sabang point
Dive duration: 47 min
Max depth: 28m
Air consumption: 210-50 bar

Dive site at east end of shallow cove formed by Sabang Beach, lots of coral and diverse sea life along a gentle slope in calm water. Large mantis shrimp hovered at the openings of their holes, while tiny glass shrimp hid in a nearby fan coral.

Mantis Shrimp, Sabang Point, Puerto Galera
Tiny Glass Shrimp on Coral, Sabang Point, Puerto Galera

I’m especially proud of this vivid macro shot of a tiny wire coral shrimp.

Wire Coral Shrimp, Puerto Galera


Dive #95: Canyons
Dive duration: 35 min
Max depth: 28m
Air consumption: 225-75 bar

Normally a challenging current dive, Canyons was at slack tide when we descended, and what weak current there was proved manageable. Multiple ridges there form three shallow canyons, all teeming with coral and fish. I spotted a lion fish, another huge puffer, schools of trivially, and a sweetlips fish getting its mouth cleaned out by remoras.

Lionfish, Escarceo Point, Puerto Galera
Spotted Sweetlips getting cleaned, Escarceo Point, Puerto Galera

Dive #96: Giant Clam
Dive duration: 50 min
Max depth: 16m
Air consumption: 210-90 bar

Probably our only dive away from Sabang proper on this trip, Giant Clam dive site is in a shallow cove further south along the Puerto Galera peninsula. Multiple giant clams, planted there by preservationists, give the site its name. No touching. A short swim from the clams, a sandy muck provides a home for soft corals, cuttlefish, sea cucumbers, sea horses, and a giant sea pen. Delightfully easy shallow dive with lots of life to see; also good for snorkeling.

Giant Clams, Puerto Galera
Giant Sea Pen, Puerto Galera
Seahorse, Puerto Galera
Tiny Sea Cucumber, Puerto Galera


Dive #97: Wreck of the Alma Jane
Dive duration: 30 min
Max depth: 32m
Air consumption: 220-100 bar

Old freighter sunk near Sabang in 2003, sits upright on the sand and is already thick with coral. Large groupers like to congregate near the aft keel at 33 meters, and the hold is easy and safe to enter and traverse. Stuck camera into smaller door at stern and blindly shot a flash photo, caught a grouper and some shrimp in the cabin beyond. Tall mast at bow makes for good photos, too.

Descent to the Wreck of the Alma Jane, Sabang, Puerto Galera
Wreck of the Alma Jane, Sabang, Puerto Galera
Wreck of the Alma Jane, Sabang, Puerto Galera
Spotted Grouper and Shrimp, blind shot in Alma Jane wreck

Dive #98: Ernie’s rock
Dive duration: 48 min
Max depth: 24m
Air consumption: 220-80 bar

So named for a huge grouper living in a small (non-enterable) cave, the site is an easy wall dive. Did see a large brown grouper, but unsure if that was actually Ernie himself or not. Also spotted a fish that strongly reminded me of the Stars and Stripes from a distance. Trumpetfish, clownfish, and another puffer also made an appearance.

Stars and Stripes Fish, Sabang, Puerto Galera
Trumpetfish, Sabang, Puerto Galera
Clownfish, Sabang, Puerto Galera
Pufferfish, Sabang, Puerto Galera


Dive #99: Hole in the Wall, Canyons
Dive duration: 50 min
Max depth: 27m
Air consumption: 210-50 bar

Returned for another passage through Hole in the Wall, and another smooth slack tide dive through the Canyons area. Lots of sea life — even more than usual — made for an excellent dive with much to see. More large sweetlips fish, another white eyed moray eel, and a large puffer.

Spotted Sweetlips, Sabang, Puerto Galera
White-Eyed Moray Eel, Sabang, Puerto Galera
Puffer, Sabang, Puerto Galera

Clear water also made for a nice moody reef landscape shot.

Moody Coral Landscape, Sabang, Puerto Galera

Dive #100: Sabang Wrecks
Dive duration: 45 min
Max depth: 33m
Air consumption: 210-50 bar

Last dive of 2014, and my 100th logged dive overall. Started with a descent at the Alma Jane wreck, but rather than enter the wreck, swam slowly to the smaller, shallower Sabang wrecks, viewing the reef along the way.

Wreck of the Alma Jane, Sabang, Puerto Galera
Sabang Wrecks, Sabang, Puerto Galera

Found a large octopus and a hermit crab.

Octopus, Sabang, Puerto Galera
Hermit Crab, Sabang, Puerto Galera

Most notably we found the mangled carcass of a dead sea turtle, entrails spewing from a wound torn violently in its shell. A sad yet fascinating sight. (Divemaster said later that Coast Guard and local preservationists would be notified, and the dead turtle would be moved to deeper water. The turtle was most likely struck by a boat as the waterways in the area are busy, but it’s possible it may have already been dead and floating when struck.)

Dead Sea Turtle, Sabang, Puerto Galera
Dead Sea Turtle, Sabang, Puerto Galera

Also found this fascinating green soft coral that looked almost woven, with polyps resembling sushi rolls. Nearby, a sea cucumber had its digestive extremities out to filter sand for food.

Coral Polyps, Sabang, Puerto Galera
Sea Cucumber, Sabang, Puerto Galera

We watched fireworks and ate Spanish salted meats for New Year’s Eve that night, and spent the next day, New Year’s Day 2015, returning to Manila.