I CAME HOME FROM WORK to find the April DIVER on my doormat. I’d been following the Photocall competition’s progress with some interest, especially since winning one of the monthly prizes.
I found the Photocall section and was struck by two things – a photograph of me and the words “Overall Winner”.
Stunned into silence, I stared open-mouthed at the magazine. My girlfriend Jennie had to
read me the rest of it, and even she was jumping up and down. I’ll never forget that moment.
Five months later, after having everything carefully planned out for us by Mark Koekemoer and Steve Warren from Ocean Optics, Jennie and I were on our way to the Philippines to
enjoy my prize.
We stayed at the Atlantis Resort in Puerto Galera on Oriental Mindoro, and in Dumaguete on the island of Negros. The former location is around four hours from Manila by taxi and ferry, and Dumaguete is an hour’s flight and a short taxi-ride from Manila.
Both resorts were exceptional. The lay-out and operation of the dive centres was easily the best we had ever seen, and everything we needed was catered for.
The Atlantis staff looked after us every step of the way, from the minute we arrived at Manila, and the service was very friendly.
Atlantis offers up to five dives a day – two morning, two afternoon and a night dive. We were on an unlimited diving package and went there to dive. We couldn’t quite manage five
a day for the whole trip, but I did manage to squeeze in 47 dives in two weeks!
All the local dives were reachable in minutes by the dive-boats, while day-trips meant an hour spent on a bigger boat. I would highly recommend the day-trip to Apo island from Dumaguete – its pristine reefs, school of jack, turtles and minimal current with great visibility made this day a highlight of our trip.
Groups were kept to a maximum of four divers, although we dived mainly with our own guide for most of the trip, as the resorts were not that busy at the time.
Not only was the diving side of the resort fantastic, but the food was excellent – breakfast, three-course lunch and three-course dinner for those who can manage it, with snacks and plenty of tea and coffee in between!
The diving from Puerto Galera was mainly rocky with patchy hard coral areas, some soft corals, lots of crinoids and, for those who don’t mind taking their time, a wealth of macro life! There were pygmy pipefish, squat lobsters, Zeno crabs, flamboyant cuttlefish, seahorses, frogfish and nudibranchs everywhere.
Night dives were incredible. Everywhere we shone a torch, something interesting was waiting to be found.
Dumaguete was more volcanic, with black sands sloping down to 30m-plus. Artificial reefs scattered all along the coast attract an astonishing amount of marine life, and again,
if you’re into macro and muck-diving this is the place to go.
As well as many species also found in Puerto Galera we saw poison oscillate octopus, pygmy squid and skeleton shrimps here, to name a few.
We did have a couple of dives with current, but generally the guides picked good spots to dive in calm waters.
Visibility was 5-10m throughout our stay except for the Apo trip and one afternoon in Dumaguete, where it opened up to at least 20m.
We thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip and would definitely go again.
All the shots were taken with a Canon S-95 in a Canon housing, with INON lens mount, tray and arm, single INON Z-240 flashgun, two INON UCL 165 macro lenses and an INON UWL H-100 lens with Dome II. My captions explain how my favourite shots from the trip were taken.

THE PRIZE-GIVERS
The online PhotoCall@Divernet competition ran for a year between 2009-2010, with DIVER readers posting their submissions at Divernet.com each month, based on themes set by underwater photography expert Mark Koekemoer.
Mark chose individual monthly prize-winners, who each received £300 INON UK vouchers, and ultimately he picked out the overall winner, John Hill.
John’s grand prize was a £2800 two-centre, two-week trip to the Philippines, including all flights, full-board accommodation and unlimited diving from Atlantis Dive Resorts. Full details of the two Atlantis centres can be found at www.atlantishotel.com