We awoke to the sun shining ready for yet another day of diving – what a life. Since we had been diving the day before all our stuff was prepped and so all we had to do was get dressed before hitting the breakfast buffet. It was again another feast – I started with congee, then had a freshly prepared omelette with meats, cheese, bacon and some siu mai just to keep in line with being in Asia. It was delicious and all washed down with mango juice and green tea. We were planning to go for 3 back to back dives at Balicasag Island again and so Sierra Madre had recommended we bring a packed lunch. There are bakeries and a supermarket along the beach but for easiness we asked the hotel to pack us a lunch before wandering along the beach in the sun to the dive centre.
We didn’t have long to wait before hopping onto the boat for the 30 minute ride over to Balicasag. Today we were diving with Roy (Jonathan was his real name) as Bernard and Mattia were off to map the wreck for Mattia’s Divemaster course. He was great and super chilled so we let everyone else get ready and get in before we jumped in after them. Our first site was a huge wall called Sanctuary and as the day before was absolutely stunning. We headed down to 30m before slowly making our way back up within the deco time limits. We were treated to some huge schools of mackerel and jackfish on this first dive which was really cool along-with some super colourful nudibranch (which are particularly difficult to photograph), a tiny baby eel and of course our good friends the turtles. This place is seriously amazing for diving, every single dive you just see so much life. After an hour we reluctantly surfaced and the countdown for our surface interval began.
After an hour in the sun it was time to jump back in, this time to Turtle Point. It was another wall with sandy area and so it meant despite our short time at depth due to deco limits we still got a full hour dive by maximising our time with the turtles. They tend to hang out on the sandy bottom on top of the walls munching away on seagrass and so you can gaze at them forever watching them as they swim past or have a feast. All of the turtles we saw were green although hawksbill can be found in the area as well. We saw a lot of pufferfish on this dive in a variety of sizes as well as a stonefish, and really large lionfish as well as the small baby varieties. One of the really cool things about the diving in the area is the amount of baby fish you come across. A lot of the reef acts as a sea nursery (very nemo-esque) and so you spot huge groups of tiny colourful baby fish hiding around coral formations.
After our second hour underwater it was definitely time for lunch. Hanging out with turtles all day certainly builds an appetite. We tucked into our packed lunch from Amorita which was rice, skewered chicken, Vietnamese spring rolls and fruit. It was delicious as always and the perfect amount of food. I was getting sleepy and so took a nap in the shade before our final dive of the day at Divers Heaven. It was true to its name and a great final dive at Balicasag Island for us. As well as the usual turtles we spotted a mantis shrimp which was scuttling around, some cool sandworms popping up and out of the sand until you got near enough causing them all to shoot back down again, a cool sea slug actually moving which was interesting using its round octopus-like tentacles and some pretty huge jackfish. Alona Beach gets some pretty mixed reviews amongst divers for its party atmosphere and the fact that the beach is pretty developed in comparison to other areas but I really loved the diving – both at Balicasag and Alona House Reef. There is so much marine life to see and you have turtles coming out of your ears. A huge thumbs up from me for our first diving spot of the trip.
Given it was our final dive with Sierra Madre we grabbed our kit and finalised our bill. This was the only location that diving had not been a part of the inclusive package and so it worked out at £230 for a specialty course including 2 dives, a night dive, 3 fun dives and marine park fees inclusive of kit hire. Pretty great value for the quality of the diving. We headed back to Amorita to relax by the pool in the sunshine for an hour before treating ourselves to a local Raja massage. It was an oil based treatment, with full body for an hour. The spa facilities at the hotel are completely dreamy. They started by washing our feet, then we were in a couples room for the treatment which was fabulous before getting towels and ginger tea. Absolute luxury.
For dinner we decided to venture out along the beach given it was our final night. The dive centre staff had given some recommendations and after checking with Tripadvisor we decided on Luna Rossa. It was on the main road rather than along the strip of beach but we hadn’t seen that area yet so thought it would be a good chance to explore before we departed the next again day. There were 2 ways to get there, along the main road or along the beach and cutting back to the road. We wanted to pick up some postcards and so headed out along the beach but found it quite difficult to find the particular cut through. We walked back and found what appeared to be one and so took that. However, it led us through a hotel and then around these dark, unlit back streets passing stray animals and over uneven paths with no light. Not ideal one might say. We finally managed to locate the restaurant after walking along the highway with cars, tricycles and jeepneys screeching past but it was closed! When we reached it the path back to the beach became apparent and so we used that for the way back passing a very drunk man and navigating some steep slippery steps in flip-flops and without a light. After all the adventure we just wanted to eat and finally decided after a moment of indecision on Trudis. The guys at the dive shop had said it was a good value option and it was really busy. I opted for the set menu of salad (it was leaves and vinegar), seafood curry (definitely a frozen mixed pack of seafood with a bland sauce) and a chocolate pancake (gritty sauce and shop bought pancake). I was slightly disappointed after all the amazing food we had eaten so far which even the sugary strong cocktails couldn’t make up for. Out of the places on the beach I would not recommend this one. We headed back to Amorita to sleep and had a slight issue with our transfer tour for the next day, but I will go into that one tomorrow. Alona Beach, you were wonderful. I was looking forward to a land-based tour the next day of Bohol and the countryside before heading to Anda, our next stop of the trip.