Today we had one full day to enjoy the best diving that Anda had to offer and luckily for us since we were the only guests we had the boat and site choice all to ourselves. We had our breakfast of pancakes with bacon with the Dutch couple before they left before the short walk to the resort dive centre. Valiant who had been our guide for the countryside tour the day before was also our divemaster and so after some discussion about the other diving we had planned for the trip we decided to try out Anda’s famous muck diving scene. Muck diving focuses on looking for critters on sandy bottoms and at first can be quite a shock to the system for those used to pretty reef diving. However, once you give it a go it has always proved very fruitful for me.
Valiant had suggested for our first dive that we head out of Lamanok Island (the furthest away site from the centre at just over an hour). As we took the boat out you could immediately see the difference in topography as well as development around the town. Gone were the hundreds of hotels that are set along Alona Beach and instead we were faced with long white sandy beaches with little development backed by lush green mountains. It was incredibly beautiful and made our boat-ride out all the more pleasant. We arrived at some small broken-off islands and jumped right in. Although it was a muck focussed sight there was still a wall to float along as well as having the mucky sand bottom. We immediately started spotting all the macro life that makes the area so well-known such as harlequin crab, so many nudibranch, harlequin shrimp, porcelain crab and of course the famous seahorse. It was a great first dive of 64mins and spotting the seahorse definitely topped it off.
Our next site wasn’t far so we slowly cruised along to it while enjoying some drinks and fresh mango in the sun to make sure we got a nice long surface interval. J.Edens Place was the next site and yet again it did not disappoint. We spotted more seahorses, warty frogfish, many spotted sweetlips, a leopard flounder (which unfortunately looks nothing like its namesake from The Little Mermaid since it is a beige coloured flatfish that blends perfectly with the sandy bottom) and a wonderpuss. Another dive with some firsts for me which is always exciting and since it was just the three of us we were in no rush and so spent a lot of time photographing our wares even if 90% of the macro pictures didn’t turn out (for a gopro I was pretty happy with my shots).
It was back to the resort for lunch and some pool time after our first 2 dives. Since we were the only diners we tried to make it slightly easier for the staff by suggesting they just make something that was easy for them. Unfortunately the choice of fish and shrimp casserole turned out to be the single most expensive menu item and hugely over-seasoned. We had a few hours in between our dives and so decided to spend these chilling out by the gorgeous pool that we had all to ourselves. Bliss!
For our third dive Valiant was keen to show us the emblem of the Magic Ocean resort – the pygmy seahorse. So, we headed out to Pygmy House and jumped in hoping luck was on our side. These specific seahorses are tiny, smaller than a cm and so notoriously tricky to spot. They usually hang out on the huge sea fans where they blend in perfectly with the colouration and so you have to search for their windy tail. Our patience paid off and eventually we managed to spot one on one of the huge fans. The dive was not all about seahorses however, we also spotted a banded piefish, porcupinefish, zebra eel, a moray eel and a white eyed eel along with all the usual fishy suspects.
Since we had come out later in the day we did our surface interval as the sun was setting and so were ready to enter the water again for a night dive. Valiant chose Secret Place for this one and as with our other dives here we saw loads; warty frogfish, Spanish dancer, lots of nudibranchs, harlequin ghostpipe fish, a squid, juvenile devil fish and a peacock shrimp. I love night dives and the colours of the corals and fish really stand out against a stark background. Valiant’s torch ran out but rather than cutting the dive short I gave him mine and just used the light on my camera. It was an excellent decision as not long after the nightly anchovies came out in their millions and attracted to the lights you get attacked by them if you have a bright light. Carolyn had them in her ears and everything. My light was bright enough to see but not quite bright enough to bring them to me in such high numbers.
We made our way back to shore in the dark and arrived back to our resort to change and check-out. We were leaving the next morning at 7a.m with breakfast at 6.30 so we settled our bill and organised breakfast orders to ensure everything went smoothly. Interestingly our bill for food/drinks was the same as at Amorita which was a lot nicer and a much fancier place so it does go to show that you shouldn’t necessarily assume the high-end option will always work out more expensive. Unfortunately for dinner we were served the exact same as lunch and since we hadn’t loved it then we certainly didn’t now. Really disappointing as this was the worst food we had had so far and it wasn’t like the chef was busy. We got an early night before our epic 9 hour travelling day to Malapascua the next day.