|Learning to scuba dive at the house reef of Punta Bilar Dive Center in Surigao City|
Over the past summer, my interest in the marine world has exponentially grown, having gone snorkeling in Coron, Boracay and Apo Island. So imagine my excitement when Punta Bilar Dive Center in Surigao City offered a Scuba Diving International (SDI) Open Water Scuba Diver course to support my underwater exploration of one of the world’s most important marine biodiversity hotspots! The Philippines is located within the Coral Triangle, the geographic centre of global marine biodiversity and an international priority for conservation. This region is home to 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs, 75 percent of coral species and almost 3,000 species of fish.
|Dinagat Islands, 90 minutes away from Surigao City by bangka, offers great wall diving|
Joined by students Nards and Carlo, both Surigao-based tour guides, I spent four days at the dive center to get certified. After studying our scuba diving manuals, we went straight to the house reef to learn basic scuba diving skills, then mastered them at Basilisa, Dinagat Islands, a pristine archipelagic province an hour and a half away from Surigao City. In between our dives, we enjoyed lunch at Babas Cove and hiked to Bababu Lake – my second visit to this mysterious marine lake connected to the sea by the country’s longest underwater cave. Our last certification dives were back at Punta Bilar House Reef and Mabua Oasis Rocks, a dive site fronting the Mabua Pebble Beach. Here we learned to ascend down a line. Upon reaching the bottom, we cruised around the eponymous boulders where we saw blue-spotted stingray and rare ornate ghost pipefish.
|Graduation ceremony with fellow students, tour guides Nards and Carlo, with dive instructor Jake Miranda.|
There are many places to get certified in the Philippines such as Anilao and Cebu, so why learn to scuba dive with Punta Bilar Dive Center in Surigao City?
Unlike popular and crowded dive centers or resorts, Punta Bilar offers low instructor-student ratio (max 1:8), so students get more one-on-one supervision. Compared to the more popular PADI or NAUI course, the SDI curriculum the dive center offers is also more streamlined and provides more instruction time in the water, rather than lectures. Given its origins in technical diving, SDI courses incorporates the use of modern diving technology, especially the personal dive computer (PDC).
|Damselfish color the house reef of Punta Bilar Dive Center in Surigao City.|
As for the local dive sites, the waters of Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Islands provide both easy and challenging environments (ie. strong currents, poor visibility) and, with expert supervision, will train you to be a more skillful diver. With his experience, dive instructor Jake Miranda also taught some advanced skills, not usually introduced to entry-level divers.
Lastly, when one travels around less-trodden tourist areas like Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Islands, money brought in by tourism gets spread out, reaching underprivileged local communities and industries.
|Punta Bilar Dive Center is the only scuba diving center in Surigao City, Surigao del Norte.|
For more information about scuba diving in Surigao City, visit Punta Bilar Dive Center at Brgy. Punta Bilar, Surigao City, Surigao del Norte, Philippines. Mobile number: +63 920 909 0999. A tricycle ride (20 minutes) from the city center to Punta Bilar Dive Center costs PHP 150. Website: www.divesurigao.com
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