The Flight to Caticlan airport is a short one at around 1 hour duration, no real biggie. Its a small airport too so landing and baggage collection is all done with minimal fuss. Right outside the airport you can get a trike to the port for about 50-100 peso depending on your bargaining skills. A cheap ferry across the island is I think about 100 PHP plus the port tax (every fucking where has this ridiculous scam going on where you pay a tax to use the port, air port etc).
Short ferry trip and your on the island, as described to me you arrive on the ass end of the island at the ferry terminal and its another trike ride at about 100 php this time (island rates now of course). We found a room for 1500 PHP which is about as cheap as it gets. The room had cable TV and Air con but was by no means special. It was clean ish and had a hot shower but for the same price in Thailand id expect a much better standard of accommodation. This is not Thailand though is it? The beach here is stunning, white sands and very large, all along the front of the beach are a multitude of bars, restaurants, resorts, mini stores, street vendors, massage parlours and of course touts. Its literally not possible to walk more than about 5 meters without some one attempting to sell you a boat trip, sunglasses, beads, a hat or a watch and it can quickly get tiring if your kind of person who feels you need to acknowledge each and every offer. Even the politest traveller will find there selves hardened and ignoring these guys by day 2. To add to the general chaos of a hundred thousand tourists walking down a narrow strip of land the bars and restaurants each have an attractive young lady employed to stand outside and invite customers in. I have never been called "sir" quite so many times in one week before "hello sir, happy hour". Happy hour tends to be several hours in most bars with offers of 2 for 1 coctkails or half price drinks. I was quite shocked to find all the dive schools here have formed some kind of price matching coalition and I was quoted the exact same price at every place I went too. It is possible to save a little money if you look around for a place that will include gear rental in the dive (gear rental was as much as 350 PH in some places which can quickly add up if you do multiple dives) also if you have an EANx certification and want to dive on a nitrox mix its possible to save a few Peso by shopping around for cheaper Nitrox fills. The cheapest I managed to find was victory divers, pleasingly located close to my rooms at 1600 PHP per dive including gear rental and 100 PHP for a nitrox tank. They also kindly volunteered to let my friend join us on the dive boat which settled it....
After the shopping around on the beach including the travel time to island it was now starting to get dark, time to hit up a bar and get some food. Again all the restaurants are clearly in cahoots and price matching each other. I imagine its the sheer volume of tourists and my friend said she was shocked that prices had risen as far as they had as quickly as they had. Boracay has apparently been voted the 4th best beach in the world and I expect this has fuelled its success. There was certainly a lot of traffic on the beach front and some truly enormous groups of koreans travelling around complete with obligatory tour guide and speaker headset (laughable really). Anyway food prices are pretty outrageous on this particular island. For an indian curry expect to pay 20 GBP, a T Bone steak 25 GBP hell even just a burger in a crappy fast food joint was 5GBP pizza aound a tenner a pop. This quick began to annoy me during my stay paticulary because given the high prices (in most cases as expensive if not more than the UK) the food was not actually all that great. Again I imagine largely due to high turnover in tourists but I was quickly forming an opinion of this island TOURIST TRAP! A victim of its own popularity I didn't really feel the ambience here.
So lets move on to the actual diving which I was led to believe is world class.....day 2 on the island I completed 2 dives neither of them on the top sites but I was keen to get back in the water after my week long break from diving. The choral is in pretty good shape and you can expect to see good examples of clown fish, pipe fish, file fish, frog fish, trigger fish (non aggressive at least at the time I was there). I couldn't really call it world class though but I did enjoy my dives. More worrying to me was the standard of the dive guides and instructors. Twice I witnessed novice divers coming up on 10-5 bar. Thats basically an empty tank ! and this was from 18 meter dives so a safety stop really needs to be completed. I didn't witness the divers volunteering there low air situation and the instructors did not seem to ask. Both poor practices especially given that these guys had been trained by this school and were fresh out of training novice open water certificates. Regardless I wash overly concerned for myself since the divers weren't paticuarly deep or challenging. The second dive was on a plane wreck which had been deliberately sunk. A small plane it did allow for some penetration but again was not really spectacular (I've dived on the SS thistlegorm which is probably one of the greatest wrecks in the world).
That evening we went out for a few cocktails and an over priced bite to eat. I don't know if it was the ice in the drinks or the fruit or the poor food but the following day I had a bout of travellers belly. I didn't recover from my internal acrobatics until around 7.30 PM at which point We again went out, careful to avoid cocktails and taking only a small amount of food I called it pretty early that night at around 10 PM and went to the room to watch a movie and sleep.
No diving yesterday due to my dodgy tummy, on day 4 I completed a further 2 dives one of which was on the a great site at crocodile island, again the novice divers coming up almost AOA but i really enjoyed this dive. We saw some great jackfish, lots of great choral, a sea snake and top of the list we saw cuttlefish laying edges into the choral. This is rarer than rocking horse shit since most animals aren't comfortable enough to let a bunch of guys blowing bubbles sit and watch them lay there eggs! We had a group of 4, all pleasantly relaxed in our presence going about the business of having children. It was amazing and I'm gutted I forgot my underwater camera on this dive. We knelt relaxed on the sandy bottom watching this spectacle unfold for around 20 minutes before we continued with our dive and left the creatures in peace. Back on the boat our guide commented that he had over 5000 dives logged and had never seen that behaviour before. It was magnificent and worth the entire trip by itself.
Another evening of overpriced poor quality food and a couple of happy hour beers lay ahead of me, this time my friend decided to drink alongside me, she doesn't normally drink and I was surprised and a little alarmed at how fast she knocking back her "sex on the beaches". Despite my advice to slow it down a little the poor lady became quite drunk and we had to return to the room and let her recover at about 11 PM
One thing Boracay does well is live music, many of the bars here have bands that cover all kinds of stuff, I had heard music ranging from ABBA and the Capenters to Metallica and Evenessence. Its certainly possible to have a good night out on the island and many of the bars on the beachfront are lively and good fun, not bad value either if you take advantage of the happy hour deals, you can get 2 cocktails for about 5 GBP and a beer for a little as 50 pence.
I had planned to only complete 1 dive on day 5 so as not to leave my friend sat on the boat bored for too long, and it was the last dive I really wanted to dive here. Yapak 2. a 37 meter deep dive with a strong current to drift on. Our dive brief advised us that our descent needed to ve as swift as possible else we chanced being washed over the wall by the current, from this point the dive would have to be aborted as the current is simply to strong to swim back to the wall. For this reason you must make sure your at 34 meters before the wall out of the direct current and able to take advantage of the remaining current to drift along the wall instead of straight over the top of it and off to fuck knows where land.
Our decent went fine and at 34 meters I was safely tucked up near to the wall and going with the current, visibility in my view was pretty poor and sadly we did not see any of the big fish you have a chance to spot there (sharks, whale sharks etc) there were some fairly large tuna and some large jacks but nothing outstanding really. Of more concern to me was that at 34 meters I had started to feel what I suspect was Nitrogen Narcosis. My vision became some what blurred and tunnel like and I had a certain sense of panic affecting me. I focused on my dive computer to try and alleviate the blurred vision which helped and despite feeling a little nervous I calmed my breathing and made every effort to ride the odd sensations out. Normally if you feel "narced" you would shallow up a few meters and expect the symptoms to clear but in this case that was not an option unless I wanted to say good bye to my dive group and sail off into the current, after perhaps 3 or 4 minutes I began to feel as if the Narcosis had cleared or at the very least i was dealing with it OK. Being such a deep dive and with most of our group diving on Air not Nitrox it was a short bottom time at around 20 minutes, during that brief time we had drifted a considerable distance. We completed a deep stop and a safety stop at 5 meters before surfacing with some 35 minutes total dive time. I had enjoyed the challenge of the rapid descent and deep drift but didn't really count the dive as great for what we actually saw.
Another night of live music, poor food and happy hours beers! No diving tomorrow since were flying the day after so need to avoid any compression. On our final day we went swimming, I had planned to show my friend how to snorkel like a boss but the dive school refused to lend me a mask and snorkel despite me spending well over a hundred quid in there the previous day settling my bill up. Fucking miserable bastards. So we went swimming and chilled on the beach a bit before going to check out the mall. I decided to party a bit harder that night despite my friend feeling it was better to avoid alcohol all together and after a number of beers found myself being approached by a lady boy for "blow job sex" we go your room? No my friend is in my room i said "ok we go my room" ermmm no thanks mate! we go to the beach then! make blow job sex! fuck no! your a dude! Light hearted entertainment i guess.
Well tomorrow its back to Manilla and hopefully the lovely thai people have granted me permission to visit there delightful country for a full 90 days!