We had heard that the scuba diving in Bohol, in particular the diving off Balicasag Island, is supposed to be some of the best in the Philippines. So we were excited to dust off our underwater skills and make Balicasag our first dive spot in Asia.
We scoured Alona Beach for dive shops and spoke to people in about a half dozen shops. All offered essentially the same services for “fun dives” (one-day trips for certified divers) for about the same cost. Typically either 2 or 3 dives were offered, and all the Alona Beach dive shops that we spoke to went to Balicasag Island every day.
Kat and I assumed we would have to take turns diving, with one of us going one day and the other the next, so whoever was not diving could watch the kids. That’s what we did when we went diving in Rarotonga last year.
But two shops set themselves apart from the rest by offering babysitting services on the boat. Amazing!
We were really excited at the prospect of diving together for the first time in over 3 years. It would also be our first date since leaving on this adventure – just happened to be underwater!
We ultimately chose to dive with Go Scuba, located near the center of Alona Beach. Go Scuba had a really nice shop and friendly staff. We felt comfortable talking with them before we booked our trip so we planned on 2 dives.
When we showed up in the morning we saw the whiteboard with divers listed for the days’ trip. There we were: “Mom”, “Dad”, “w/Kids”.
The staff was great getting us set up with our gear and loading everything onto the boat. Before long we were climbing on board and after a quick trip across to Balicasag Island we were ready to dive in.
Or we thought we were.
Kat and I don’t dive a lot – about once a year on average until now – and typically we haven’t had to put together our own gear. So we didn’t even really think about it until other divers were getting into the water.
We had been so busy chatting with folks on the way over that we didn’t notice most other divers had put their gear together themselves while ours was still in pieces. Oops.
Luckily our awesome dive guide Craig was patient and helpful in making sure we got everything together properly. After a few minutes we were giving the kid hugs and making sure they were set with lots of crackers to feed to the fish while we were gone.
We waddled our way towards the edge of the boat deck ready for action.
Then I dropped my mask in the water. And it sank to the bottom. Seriously?!
So Craig, our still patient and still awesome dive guide, went down to retrieve it and I felt even more embarrassed!
From that point on, though, the rust fell off and Kat and I enjoyed some of the best diving we’ve ever experienced. The reefs off Balicasag Island are a diver’s dream with brilliant colors, steep walls dropping into the abyss, and loads of sea life.
We saw huge schools of jackfish, several graceful sea turtles, and all kinds of reef fish. We found Nemo several times which the kids were really excited to hear about too. Here’s a couple of short videos, one of a typical reef area with tons of colorful fish and another of a fun sea turtle.
We ended up doing three dives instead of the two we planned because the boat was sticking around and the shop offered a good discount on the per dive rate if we did three. The first two were spectacular so it really wasn’t hard to convince us to do another.
At the end of our last dive we saw this crazy floating and swimming creature that looked like a giant spider. We don’t know what it is called but it was pretty freaky to see underwater! Here’s a video.
Both Aurora and Jasper said they were having a great time with Esther, their babysitter, while we were diving. In between dives the kids jumped right in the water with us. The sea was calm so they could easily swim with their Puddle Jumpers and look for fish near the surface.
There was no food available on the boat so we brought tons of snacks that we bought at the small store just up the road from Alona Beach the night before.
Esther somehow procured a big grilled fish and some rice during one of our dives and generously shared with the kids who were more than happy to take her up on her offer of a hot meal.
Craig took some awesome photos of us while we were diving, as well as the sea life we saw. The photos were all posted on Facebook later on that evening which was amazing. Instant gratification!
To top it off we had a boat full of really friendly and interesting people. We loved talking with Aussies Aidan and Carol-Anne, veteran divers who were in our dive group along with guide Craig. We also met fellow travel bloggers and long term travelers Stefanie and Christoph of Join Our Journey. Their blog features some stellar travel photography so definitely take a few minutes to check it out.
We had a terrific Balicasag Island diving experience with Go Scuba and would happily dive with them again.
The cost for 2 dives was 2,200 pesos ($50) per person. We tacked on the 3rd dive for 600 pesos ($13.50) each and the babysitting was 300 pesos ($7) plus tip since Esther was so awesome with the kids. We also tipped Craig for his great photography and efforts at cleaning up our novice mishaps. The 600 pesos for the 3rd dive may have been a “friends and family” rate as our group included some folks who dive a lot with this shop.