2024 Philippines – Cagayan Safari – Trip Report

An amazing adventure – Remote Island Glamping & Diving

We are back on Aussie soil, caught up on sleep and sorting through images and footage from an amazing week in the Sulu Sea.

The plan was to take from Brisbane: 2 jet flights, a 4hr car ride, and finally a very small light aircraft 40minute ‘hop’ to Cagayan, a remote island in the Philippines on the same reef ridge as Tubbataha Marine Park.

An exciting week of diving awaited us facilitated by a traditional Bangka boat.

To complement the experience, we would be ‘glamping’ in permanent canvas huts with the Sulu Sea only meters from our beds (although a couple of us opted for some luxury and upgraded to air-conditioned rooms to soothe some sunburn!!)

So, our first flight with Philippine Airlines to Manila was easy and comfortable, and an overnight in Manila at the Belmont Hotel saw us sitting around the rooftop pool enjoying dinner and a few adult beverages, while new buddies met and old buddies caught up since their last outing.

Our next morning took a short flight to Dumaguete, where sadly a bag missed the flight, so some delay occurred to get that sorted.

A reminder here for all travellers:

1 – Take a photo of your luggage before flying for ID purposes.

2 – Use trackable air tags – these really saved the day!!

3 – Remember – luggage can be lost and may not find you for your entire holiday – so always pack medications, dive computers, dive mask and other vitals in your carry-on.

We then jumped aboard with our van drivers for a 4hr transit to stay overnight with Easy Divers Sipalay.

Repacking bags for our lightweight flight to Cagayancillo, and negotiating the many steep stairs, we enjoyed a great dinner onsite before waking early for our awesome low-level flight to the island.

The adventure begins.

The light planes took us on an amazing 40min scenic flight to our home for the week.  Not to be missed, the early morning was stunning in all ways.

Arriving and excited, we threw our home gear in the tents, our dive kit in baskets and embarked straightaway aboard GOYO for 2 afternoon dives to shake out the cobwebs, get weights, buoyancy and buddy systems sorted.

We had the best boat crew –

Jen – our Bosun – chief organiser of us all – drinks, snacks, lunch and keeping everyone in line. Celso – Goyos’ engineer and always ready with a big smile and to help us up the ladder. (And finding random tools when Di asked!!) Dexter – our safety entry guru – we will never Giant Stride again without thinking of: ‘CHECK-CHECK? ONE-TWO-THREE-GO!!” Cheffie Bunbun – How on earth Bunbun can serve up excellent Breakfasts and Lunches plus snacks – from such a tiny galley (kitchen) aboard Goyo is still a mystery – not to mention Bunbun would then cook us a huge dinner from a tiny hut on the island beach each night too! Skipper Mosing…. The very best welcomes every morning when we reach the Goyo with big waves and bigger hellos. Finding our dive sites with incredible accuracy – especially when we went searching for recent (2019) ferry shipwreck ‘Forever Lucky’ – that had not been dived in 2 years, and very very seldom since – basically – ‘It’s there – get in’ – look down in 20m – there she was. A GPS, a Compass and a Radio. Who needs more?

We made amazing connections with our dive guides Sammy, Sabrina and Davide, who we discovered completed his PADI Instructor Training with the same PADI Course Director as Diver Di – 21 years apart 4000klm away in North Queensland! It’s a small world!

Once we got the systems sorted, this became our regular schedule, with each day starting early – heading out to the Goyo for breakfast, snacks, lunch, relaxing surface intervals, stunning views and 3 excellent dives, and then heading back to shore to wash off the salt and settle into very comfortable beanbags on the beach together like a family gathering.

The laughs were many, the jokes overflowing, cheeky comments and sassy comebacks. The wonderful staff got involved and laughed along with us (beanbag backflips, Filipino hut entrances and keys lost in the sand to name a few…). Dinner is served, with more laughter, cheers, and eventually people nodding over the table so off to bed to be up and ready to board the ‘water taxi’ at 6 or 7am.

We made amazing connections with our dive guides Sammy, Sabrina and Davide, who we discovered completed his PADI Instructor Training with the same PADI Course Director as Diver Di – 21 years apart 4000klm away in North Queensland! It’s a small world!

So what else occurred in this incredible week?

Diving. Lots and lots of Diving.

Awesome diving. Great buddies. Water from 27 to 32 degrees. Stunning drop off walls. Undercuts and overhangs. Huge Gorgonia fans, Crinoids, Sea Whips and Soft Corals dripping from the walls. Huge Volcano Sponges defying gravity hanging from above and the side. Tiny weeny critters (Thanks Sammy – excellent spotting!!). So many species of Anemone and their fishes (Even the false clown species – [We found Nemo!’]. Turtles, Sea Snakes/Kraits, Leaf-fish, even stonefish, Robust Ghost Pipefish, Garden Eels, Rays, Mackerel, Trevally, Cuttlefish, Catfish. The biggest Nudibranch we’ve ever seen. Jorunna rubescens – about 23cm long!! (and lots of other nudibranchs!).

A casual Whale Shark cruising by… SQUEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

Schools of Butterflyfish, Pilchards, Fusiliers. A shipwreck that VERY few people have ever dived or will ever experience. (The ‘Forever Lucky’ passenger ferry has an interesting story…)

A new dive site that its likely no one has ever dived (Now named ‘Go Dive Drift’). Incredibly calm seas, rock cliffs next to underwater drop-offs, odd rock formations we started to name, and even seaweed farms (and yes, seaweed salad was sampled – rather tasty with a sharp vinaigrette!!

We even climbed to visit the ruins of a Spanish Fort built over 200 years starting in the 16th century. Cagayancillo Fort – high on the hill, build from Coralline blocks hauled up from the sea.

So, what didn’t quite go to plan?

You might remember China started making noises about military movement around mid-April. On our departure day – after some big noisy thunderstorms rolling around us from 4am, with some very large raindrops arriving here & there, we were all packed early morning, ready to load up the small planes after their arrival, to fly back to Sipalay.

However, the Philippine Government decided to run military procedures and at very short notice, grounded all flights in the Sulu Sea for 2 weeks —> all within 30min of our flight plans!

Our divers rolled with the changes, and we were organised to take our dive vessel, Goyo, to sail the 8-14hours across the Sulu Sea back to Sipalay. 3 divers would miss their connections, but it couldn’t be helped, Dive Adventures got to work rescheduling their plans.

Thunder still grumbling above, we quickly jumped aboard Goyo, somehow the crew magically loaded all our gear, enough food to feed us all for the transit along with drinks, fresh water and fuel for the trip. Thunder rolled, and as we depart the skies opened and the deluge began.

8am, Skipper Mosing navigated out of the lagoon and into the open sea, which were a tad bumpy, but nothing compared to what we expected for crossing the open sea.

9am – our flight ban was lifted to allow us to fly off island! We turn the boat around and head back to Cagayancillo.

But the thunder and rain continued – 945am – The pilots have no visibility – all flights are grounded again – we turn Goyo around again and head to sea – now totally committed – we are sailing to Sipalay!

But to be honest it was a truly lovely sea-going experience. The outriggers make the vessel super-stable and the narrow hull slices through the waves. For the last 2 hours of the crossing the sea was like glass. For that time most of us sat perched up at the bow seeing the mainland far ahead on the misty horizon grow larger. We felt sad that the journey was coming to an end.

We watched the flying fish skitter away from us as we flew over the water, arriving at Sipalay with the sun soon to set.

Rehydrated after many Kamikaze’s (coctail of the night made with local Calamansi), and full of a lovely dinner, we all stumbled up the stairs to repack and sleep before our early drive back to Dumaguete.

The staff at Easy Divers Sipalay were wonderful, ensuring we all got to the correct rooms in one piece! Despite a wobble with rebooking flights, we all got to our respective destinations. Most of us made good use of Manila airports lounge before our final flights back to Australia.

Lifelong buddy teams made and reinforced, friendships forged, and future plans made.

It was Go Dive Brisbane’s final international trip just after closing the doors for the final time – and it was the first Dive Adventures group trip to this location. It was memorable in so many ways, but mainly made incredible by the people involved.

The divers who attended, and the Easy Diving staff who looked after us so well we felt like family, not customers.

As any good trip should make you feel; I’m sad to be home…… I miss everyone.

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Our Aussie & Kiwi Mob
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Our epic Goyo Dive Team.

For more photos – head to the SubmersibleHuman Facebook page – Click Here

ScubaSafari – South Africa – Part 1

Hello from the magical depths of South Africa!

We are nearly two thirds our way through this epic adventure, and DO NOT WANT IT TO END!

WiFi connection can be a bit spotty, so uploading photos of a higher quality has been really difficult, so I apologise for not sharing more of the amazing experience here!

I have cobbled together a bit of a Blog for the trip, but there is so much more going on – so stay tuned!

We have been to Kruger National Park, (and only days before Gerard Butler, much to my dismay…..  The fact that Kruger National Park is bigger than the Demark…. and that I have no idea where in Kruger he was…..makes no difference….) But to make up for this on our various Game drives, dawn bushwalks and sunset tours, we have seen all the Big 5 African animals (Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Lion, Rhino and even Leopard) in the first 3 days. Our Lion experience was incredible with a courting pair taking over the road to the amusement of many game trucks and cars as they growled and glared at each other, ignoring our presence completely, and our first Elephant was a ‘traffic control officer’ meandering down the road with us quietly puttering along behind awaiting a passing bay! We stayed at the lovely Nkambeni Safari Camp, in rather swish accommodation: Air-conditioned canvas tents!

We have since, also visited another country – Swaziland, walking across the border, and staying at Ndlovu Camp in Hlane Royal National Park.

We had the most epic experience walking with Rhino’s – I completely lost the plot as I filmed an older female roll and mud-bathe with her daughters less than 10m from us as we walked through the bush. We also had a sensational drive with Lions getting us to move out of their way as 2 lions and 2 lionesses made their way to their ‘chillout’ position for the day.

We stayed at Ndlovu without electricity for 2 nights as the location is run on kerosene/gas and paraffin lamps, panicking us all with battery life draining from our cameras, but made up for with with the sounds of lions roaring in the darkness behind our huts, grunting hippos in the waterhole out the front, and of course the parade of the Rhino’s in the dawn light! What an amazing place.

On to St Lucia with another Game drive in South Africa’s oldest game park – Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve. In just one morning in this very open, wild place our guide Zamani had us sighting nearly everything you can think African animal-wise – viewing the everyday actions of Zebras and their foals, Giraffes drinking at waterholes and Warthogs (Everyone say PUMBA!) and their piglets just pumba-ing along.

The same evening we took a wetlands tour thinking we were off to see some birdlife, and had Hippo’s only 5m from the side of the boat, hanging out in social groups, grunting, snitching at each other, and keeping a watchful eye on us.

Wetlands tour with Lawrence – a great late afternoon experience!

Of course, this was only tempered with the sightings of Hippos’ ROAMING THE STREETS in St Lucia in the evening as they came ashore to feed. We were checking out the menu at the ‘Hippo Grill’ and realised what we thought was a fiberglass replica in the hotel grounds was actually breathing, mowing the lawn, and drinking from the swimming pool! No wonder the water was green! No it wasn’t a pet!

Later, the Key West Cocktail Bar had a few cheeky Aussies come a-visiting and sampling the local fare.

We left the Safari behind and headed to Scottburgh, with 2 nights in fabulous digs of Blue Marlin while we dived Aliwal Shoal. Our first drop in was to ‘The Cathedral’, where we spotted ‘Ragged-Tooth Sharks’ (Grey Nurse to us Aussie locals) – definitely a different behavior to what we experience at Shark Alley in Brisbane (Not as phased by divers, keep returning to their ‘spot’ in and around the rocks, instead of startling and racing off if a diver gets too close). 

Apparently the early birds also spotted a Tiger Shark almost as soon as they entered the water,… but the validity on this is suspect…………… ????

Our second dive, drifting along ridges spotting morays, crayfish, Harlequin nudibranchs,banded coral shrimp, leaf fish(Woohoo!)  

Our third dive was our first baited dive, drifting along with some sardines in a vented ball to attract the locals.

Trevally were a madhouse (here called Kingfish) and getting right amongst it were our first new sharks – the Oceanic Blacktip. Very sleek and swift, looking for a treat or two. The action was awesome, with two big Potato Cod also coming in to look for a nibble or two.

In the distance a Tiger Shark and a Hammerhead were spotted, although quite shy and not coming in for all to see. 

Our last dive was a gentle drift, with everyone exploring nooks and crannies, finding octopus, tropical fish, moray eels, loggerhead turtles and our first good sighting of a Tiger Shark. WooHoo!

We have now moved South, staying in the Margate Sands apartments, diving with the epic team at African Dive Adventures.

Yesterday we completed two dives, our first baited dive at Protea Banks, with so much action going on it was hard to know where to look. Our first sighting of a couple of Zambezi (we know them as Bull) Sharks playing shy in the distance.

Oceanic Black Tip Shark

Our drift dive was swift, exciting, and although the visibility popped in and out along with some temperature changes, we had a great dive spotting different rays, and then while drifting in the blue, we  found we were being inspected by another few Zambezis!

Blue Water safety stop with these guys cruising back and forth was a game of hide-and-seek in the gloom, and spotting crazy different species of comb jellies, salps and stingers drifting in the blue.

So currently Craig, Roland and I are mapping out the rules to tonight’s epic Snorkel-Giant-Chess-Playoff, so stay tuned for the results of this and more diving – hopefully tomorrow as we plan to try for some more baited dives and reef dives!

Toodlepip, Safe Diving and more to come soon!!

Diver Di

And thats a Wrap – Santo, 2019

Another week of awesome diving and experiences with fantastic people. You can catch up with all the antics on the link below for the trip report

Trip Report – Santo, Vanuatu – October 2019 (pending)

October 2020 is our next planned Santo trip (78th anniversary of sinking) if you would like to join me on the next amazing week away – check out all the next trips here – Upcoming Excursions

Seaway Dives – Winter has come!

Happy Diver Mugs!

A surprise today as we arrived at the seaway – lovely clear water greeted us, and a very quiet dive site – just the surfers braving the waters!


Not bad really…


Sand Pipe

At 22 degrees, I had my shivers on – but then – I am a sook – but the dives were well worth it with QLD Grouper, Lionfish, schools of Mullet – And even Cormorants(bird) trying to dive down and catch the mullet next to me! – Cheeky Fan-Bellied Leatherjackets, Nudibranchs, Moray Eels, and of course 5 separate cuttlefish – two of which didn’t mind putting on a romantic display while we watched! Such great critter spotting we are headed back tomorrow – this time with film to see if I can catch some more creature-feature on video!

Thankyou to my buddies Iain & Lorenzo for another great opportunity to dive!

Iain just riding the current…

Lorenzo Chilling with a cheeky local

QLD Grouper keeping an eye on us

Love a clearwater day….

Excuse me miss…..

Cuttle Smooch!

Good Buoyancy = Great Dives

I’ve had the pleasure to teach some great divers recently – Open Water, Advanced Open Water & Specialties, and can say I am really quite proud of the divers they has grown to become. I have also experienced some amazing dives as well, watching them experience the marine world more and more along the way.

However, something keeps cropping up with the divers coming to me for further training – overweighting.

21lbs of lead!!
Photo by Sascha Hofmann

The initial evaluation dive – prior to actual training dives – is a chance for the divers to get to know each other underwater (and me!) – so not just swimming around looking at creatures and features and skills – we also do a buoyancy, trim and streamlining session underwater.

Recently, on a first dive at the beautiful Flinders Reef, Moreton Bay – I removed 21 lbs(9.5kg) of lead from a buddy pair.  Trim and streamlining instantly changed, effort requirement dropped, and all of a sudden they looked far more comfortable in the water. With empty cylinders at the safety stop they needed to add some weight back to compensate, but the image of 7 x 3lb belt weights on the mooring block was an eye opener! This was a major change in the way they dived. Air consumption dropped, weary muscles did not cramp, big smiles making masks leak! And streamlining! Oh the streamlining!

Just hanging out – 21lbs lighter! 
Photo by Sascha Hofmann

So many divers are diving heavy. Much of this stems from our neoprene wetsuits having too much control in the shallows, and losing much of their positive buoyancy as we descend and the neoprene compresses. Other surface buoyancy comes from impatience when trying to descend, not exhaling when trying to descend, and of course moving your legs(fins) and arms in any way on that initial descent – as soon as those fins move you are propelled back to the waiting sunshine. So divers chuck on the lead, leading to head-up, hips-down poor streamlining, fins kicking up sand or belting coral, or just divers having to force their way through the water, instead of gliding.

Upside Down Miss Jane!
Photo by Sascha Hofmann


Keep on checking your buoyancy. Ditch as much as you can to still be able to hold a comfortable safety stop at 5m at the end of your dive without effort. We should all be doing at least 3 minutes at 5m – so use this time with your buddy to see how your buoyancy is affected with a tanks holding low air, and your wetsuit trying to take you to the surface. If you are heavy at the safety stop you would benefit from re-evaluating how much lead you carry!

Don’t forget also – a change in equipment will likely affect your buoyancy – Cylinders, BCDs, Wetsuits, and fins can all have different amounts of positive and negative buoyancy.

Most importantly, keep frustration at bay and resist duck diving to start the dive. Many undesirable things occur when a diver is trying to force themselves underwater when buoyant – from increased likelihood of ear/sinus damage, higher air consumption,… to your tank valve belting you in the back of the head!

Ask for help from a dive pro – that’s what they are there for, and don’t be shy about it. We have all been there – I promise.


Thank You to Sascha Hofmann for the use of his images of us at Flinders Reef – you can check out his photography here – Underwater Photography with Sascha Hofmann

‘Til next time –  Dive Safe.

Diver Di



Sunday Seaway Dive

9th June 2019

After the sad news that a juvenile dolphin was retrieved from the Southport Seaway earlier in the week, Jeanette, Damien, Andrew & I took the chilly plunge off the steps to check out some gear. Damien with his new reg, Jeanette test-diving before a dive trip, and I was rewetting a Nikon/Subal Photography system from a friend – a major new lesson in all aspects – shifting from film to still, micro-camera to DSLR and the monstrously heavy and unwieldy difference it makes!

Subal Housing & Nikon D100 DSLR

I did manage to take a few images, although my computer is not accepting the file type, so nothing to show from me today – however Jeanette got a  lovely image of a large Lionfish inside the sandpipe housing, along with a pair of what I thought were a triggerfish or leatherjacket species I’d not ever seen before – stunning almost rainbow colouration. Jeanette snapped a quick image to try and identify, and has discovered them to be Blackbar Filefish or RedTail Leatherjacket.

Common Lionfish – Photo by Jeanette Young


So much to see on a nice long dive – the school of mullet is hanging in the shallows, along with many different species of lionfish, moray eels and a slightly grumpy wobbegong shark, and more of my favourites – the banded coral shrimp and yellow boxfish. A great day!

Til next time –  Dive Safe.

Diver Di