Bohol 2017

Bohol Island

We chose to return to Bohol mainly so Dora and JB could see the wonderful sea life that abounds this island. I visited the island 4 years ago - and so I was interested to see how things had changed/progressed.

Getting there

From Manila there is a direct flight via at least 2 airlines (Cebu Pacific and Air Asia) - we chose Cebu Pacific, who in the past were terrible (no planes, change of terminal, flights delayed, plane turned around in mid-air !), but this time they were excellent.

Exiting the airport in Tagbilaran city (there is a new airport under construction on Panglao island now) we grabbed a Tri-cycle and spent a slightly cramped 45 minutes until we reached Alona Beach area. We had not booked any accommodation, as there is an abundance of various room types. Dora did some reconnaissance, and soon we were sorted out.

Dive Shops

There are at least 10 large diving shops - some cater exclusivly for Korean, Japanese but most will "take anyone". I had dived with a Filipino owned and run operation last time called Island Adventure so I wanted to see how they were doing.

Island Adventure

A small shop about 90m past White-tip/Dive Supply, but with decent rental gear ($2/day) and excellent shore/boat/dive staff.

The office lady (July) was still there, as were 2 of the dive guides (Conrad and Juin) - hoping that things were still as good as before, we signed up for some diving for Dora and myself. JB was booked into his PADI Advanced course with a new instructor Oliver.

Diving

Most of the diving here was done around Balicasad Island, which is a marine sanctuary about 30 minutes by boat away. The diving there is generally easy, however exercise extra care when ascending due to boat traffic.

Dives and Videos

Dive No Location Main Topic
1 Balicasad Jacks and Turtles
2&3 Balicasad Turtles
4&5 Balicasad Frog Fish, Devil Scorpion
6&7 Napoli Sardine Ball
8&9 Balicasad Turtles and Jacks
10&11 Balicasad Turtles
12&13 Napoli Sardine Ball


Island Adventure was the company we used, and in 10 days of diving I saw no reason to change that.

A Day exploring on a scooter

With a flight coming up, and the fatigue of 13 dives on the trot starting to make us all more tired than normal, we rented a pair of scooters and went to see 2 of Bohol's most famous tourists attractions.

Riding motorbikes is fun - however dangerous! Filipino roads are not like EU/US roads, they are generally a poor surface, with occasional large holes in them. Coupled with this there is a wide variety of traffic... Proceed with caution.

Tashir

A Tashir is the worlds smallest primate. It lives (quietly) on the Island of Bohol. After leaving our accommodation at 0800, and buying 2 litres of petrol (that is all that would fit into our monster scooters) we arrived at the Tasir reserve at 0910. The ride had been pleasant, with a little rain.

The entry fee is 60 php/head (aprox $1) - and we got a private guide - everyone gets a private guide.... and here is why.

The Tashir only are active during the night, so finding them is impossible. Apparently every morning a ranger goes and finds the animals - and they re-arrange the mini maze they have there, so you can be guided to the animals.

The Tashir is incredibly small - 2/3'rds the size of a soft-drink can. But with large round eyes. It was a great experience, and one which was run very professionally.

Chocolate Hills

The Bohol Chocolate Hills are world famous, and so another hours "biking" and a petrol stop and we had arrived. There was a walkway up of 250 steps, which was a little tiring, but nice to stretch our legs after the bike trip.

The view of the hills was wonderful. They are amazing to look at - of course this was a busy place so arrive very early if you want to have some tranquillity.

Subic Bay Wreck Diving

Subic Bay

After some slight delays due to airplane tickets, Juliet and I eventually set off for Subic - this was my first ever time driving in the PI, I was quite surprised how pleasant the experience was !! Despite it looking like chaos on the roads, it is slow speed chaos - unlike Oman!!.

As we pulled into Olongopo - one of the biggest dive shops Arizona Dive Shop was still open, so in the hope that they could supply a replacement dive computer we stopped.

Arizona Dive Shop

The dive shop is Australian owned, and also has UK and PI dive staff. James one of the resident instructors agreed with my requirements that a Zoop was pretty much what I needed. However they had none in stock !! With the promise that the computer would be here in the morning - we went ahead.

Arizona had impressed me, so instead of going to my usual dive shop (Johans) we chose to try diving with Arizona in the morning.

Diving

Subic bay - offers lots of opportunities for wreck diving enthusiasts. With depths ranging from 10-60+ meters.

Beer Barrels !

This was a new "wreck" for me - close to Grande Island. In a depth of 30m - it was described as looking like a bridge, with a bend in it, inside the structure are many large cylinders. Hence it's nickname of "Beer Barrels".

To get better bottom time, and less Deco - we used a typical Nitrox blend 32%.

The wreck is really some form of structure - somewhat similar in size of that of a Bailey Bridge. However the shape has a definite curve in it. The Cylinders appear to be large approx 6m long and approx 2m in diameter. I think in total there are 13 of them.

So what is it ? On hearing that there may be another one close by, and I already know that there are some barges close to this, I personally suspect it is some small Dry Dock, or submarine support structure. Which would have been connected for material access using a line of barges.

Go and have a look for yourself ! and form your own opinion.

Here is the Video for this dive

Arizona Diving

I found them to be a very good and well setup dive organisation. With some very knowledgeable and experienced staff. I shall return to continue diving with them in the hopefully near future.

Anilou diving

After a very long break of more than 15 months, we are back in the water. Having just attended a very memorable wedding in Manila where Juliet and I were honoured to be 'Ninog' and 'Ninang' (Godfather + Godmother) - but it is a wedding ok. Ok things are sometimes different than back at home - but that's ok - the day was a splendid success, with the Bride and Groom looking very happy and relaxed.

After civic duty #1 accomplished, we decided that a reward of some quality "us" time was in order - and as Juliet's sister and husband are over from the US; We picked a spot we have already been to - in the hope it would be magical again.

Anilou

Anilou is one of the best places in the world for quality, relaxed and easy access diving. It is especially well know in the macro-photography world for the wide range of simply weird critters that generally crawl around the coral reefs here.

Despite a rather muddled start to the day - we enjoyed a fine lunch before Dora and myself headed underwater.

Dive 1

A basic check out dive - nothing too stressful. We again seem to have an issue with keeping Dora underwater - I had packed a spare weight so we did not have to come back to shore.

Once all our ears were clear - we headed out into the Aquarium - spectacular as ever, and then proceeded down the reef and out to sea. Whilst there was nothing outstanding - the fish, coral and general quality was as good as the last time (well done the Marine Sanctuary)

Max Depth 22.5M dive time 42 mins.

Here is the Video for this dive

Dive 2

As we were not too "loaded" with N2 after the first dive - we warmed ourselves with a coffee and a fresh banana fritter. The objective this time was again to get a little depth - but also to try and find the giant clams. It makes a change knowing that your target is immobile - the only issue now is the underwater navigation !!

We were successful in finding the clams and achieving our depth. Dora seemed to be breathing more heavily than normal - maybe a combination of the cold (25C) and the shock of two dives in under 3 hours.

Here is the Video for this dive

Enter the Snorkellers

Jocelyn Lamship who along with her husband Remmy were also on the small island, and with our backup GoPro - Jocelyn tried her hand at underwater video. The results are quite stunning.

Here is the Video for this dive

The following day Jocelyn also took some video - which is equally impressive.

Here is the Video for this dive

Final Dives

With over 7 dives in 2 days - we feel like we had convered most of the attractions of the Dive n Trek shore dive sites. Alas our time on the island was curtailed by our presence being required back in Manila - where we attended our 2nd Wedding of the trip.

Here is the Video for this dive

Titanic Museum

Belfast and the Titanic

A degree of uncertainty and doubt about the weather, caused us to doubt our Rathlin Island trip - and instead we headed to Belfast where we could go and see the highly recommended Titanic Exhibition.

Driving from the Antrim Coast into Belfast went smoothly - but then our in-phone routing system started getting a little crazy. Several laps of Belfast City centre and the Crumlin road area later - we were parked and checked into the hotel.

After a quick web-site update - we were off again for a nibble and a glass (or two) of the local brew.

Titanic exhibition

The dock area in Belfast has been very nicely upgraded and cleaned up. Standing just in front of where Titanic was originally built in the slips - close to the Iconic Harland and Wolf crane is the Titanic Exhibition centre.

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The outside of the building I think is already iconic - Dora just wanted to add her seal of approval to it.

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We arrived just as it opened - yet already there were people ahead of us. The cost of a ticket was rather a shock at £17/per person, and there was an additional £8/pp for a tour of the surrounding area. Alas the "extra" tour was already fully booked.

Exhibition

WOW I think sums the exhibition. It has some of the best A/V, interactive displays - combined with nice staff and a layout that is world class. Top Marks.

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Antrim Coast

Antrim Coast

The morning drive to Coleraine, went smoothly as I passed some of my past play-grounds. It was interesting to see what had changed - and what hadn't. Overall Northern Ireland seemed to have advanced much more than the North of England.

With dull administration taken care of - we headed off to see some of the great sights - I am not sure if Dora realized with had done 2 laps of the amazing North West 200 bike circuit - alas in a 1.3 Vauxhall it is hardly the same thing as being on a decent motorbike.

Dunluce Castle

Just out from PortRush are the ruins of an old castle. Which was sacked by the local Irish peasants in 1690. Just how they were able to accomplish this I rather wonder about - as it is pretty difficult to get access too.

Dora at the entrance

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The castle as it looks today

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Dora the Ulster Explorer

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Fantastic Location

The castle is literally perched on top of some rocks by the sea.

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The Giants Causeway

A few kms past the small town of Bushmills (which should be more famous for it's distillery than some rocks) - is the National Trust site of "The Giants Causeway". Now I know it had been 30 years since I last went there - but in those days - you could drive down in your own car. Today the NT have a car park bigger than a large ASDA/Tecso - and change you very handsomely to go to the site. They additionally omit to tell you that there is a long long walk (but a bus ride where they can extract extract $$$'s from you) - being mean - and liking the walk we opted for the walk, and were thoroughly glad we had done so.

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This is what all the fuss is about !!

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Dora enjoying the view.

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There are more images including these in the photo gallery

HMS Trincomalee

Hartlepool - (once the monkey hanging capital of the British Empire), alas is not overly well stocked with National Treasures however over the past 10 or so years there has been much investment and development of the marina/dock facilities. Once of the success stories has been the Royal Navy Museum, Hartlepool.

With this being the last day of 2016, we decided to go and see what the deal was for ourselves.

Hartlepool Museum

Free - take note York Minster !! An excellent collection of things relating to old and modern Hartlepool, with more focus on ships and on the Wars that took a very heavy toll on their shipping.

HMS Trincomalee

Floating, and yet surrounded by an 19th century houses sits HMS Trincomalee, which was build on the island of Sri Lanka. Restored in Hartlepool and has been exhibited here for a few years.

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Main Deck

Crewed by 240 men, when you first walk onto the top deck - you think there will be enough space. It is only as you descend into the ship - that the feeling of closeness starts building upon you.

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The masts with their myriad of stays, were howling in the wind as a decent north east breeze whilstled by.

Dora tried her hand at steering - only then to find out that up to 5 men were deployed in this task for real !!

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View from the bow - looking astern. fn

Gun Deck

As we dropped down a deck - we entered the main gun-deck. This deck was the main fighing deck - and would have been amazingly busy in a battle. After about 2 minutes I was reminded about a vow I made several years ago when sailing to India - never sail on a yacht I can not stand up fully in!!. The gun deck had pockets that were 193 cm tall - but most of the time I am walking bend double.

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Captains cabin

In stark contrast as to how the enlisted men were treated - the captain had a splended cabin.

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The high tech cot for the captain.

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Lower deck

With modern lighting this deck did not seem to worrying - but I then tried to imagine how dark it would have been in reality - with few lights - or candles - simply navigating your way around here would have been very difficult.

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Orloop Deck

The final deck - where you could clearly see the keel - and the lead ballast. Interestingly was the steel water tank for the fresh water - which seemed a very sensible idea for the time.

Here and there were small access hatches - which no doubt all had a role to play on a warship such as this.

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The Headland

After leaving behind the oldest floating warship in the world, we indulged in some fish and chips before having a very bracing walk along the breakwater.

The North East winds were really blowing - and for the first time on the trip, Juliet felt cold to the core.

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Andy Capp

I am not just sure which paper the cartoon used to appear in - but Andy Capp was alledgedly a monkey hanger - so it was great to see his statue overlooking the mouth of hartlepool harbour. Juliet joined in the pose as you can see.

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Gallery

There are some more photos including these in the gallery.

York

York

With the days starting to tick away on this short break, we continued to explore the North of the UK - this time heading towards the city of York.

York turned out to be better than we had thought - and we had a great time there.

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Olde World Charm ?

York has some of the finest collection of old streets and buildings in the UK. I am not 100% sure that they always have the best quality items inside them - but that is a subject for another day.

Here were a few slight oddities that you do not see everyday in general old part of the city.

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Tudor Buildings

There seemed no-end of Tudor looking buildings, Some even caught the attention of Dora !!

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York Minster

Having visited a few big religious buildings such as The Vatican and Notre Damme - I thought that Dora may like to appreciate some English stonework and culture. The other two places were free - but here in the UK - £10/per person !!! So we got to look at the Minster from the outside. More in protest rather than being mean .... on second thoughts it was mainly becuase I was mean....

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There were lots of very fine looking church buildings around the Minster grounds- no doubt those £10 pound entrance fees for the minster being spent well.

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Again Tudor buildings abounded - opposite this is a very interesting looking sundail. The wrong lense stopped me from attempting to take a picture of it.

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This doorway is the enterance to a school.

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Post Box

A wonderfully well kept british post box.

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Jorvic Centre

We visited one of the Jorvic centre's exhibitions in the town - and the only really interesting thing is this is (alledgedly) how you spell Dora using Runes.

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The Abbey of St Mary

Found in the York Museum garden, is a ruined Benedictine abbey. It is a Grade 1 listed building - and makes for a lovely walk around in the afternoon sun.

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Dora enjoying the ruins.

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Whitby for a birthday treat

With my dad not being just 100%, we combined a treat for him with a trip for me and Juliet - and headed off to the coast, to the well known town of Whitby.

Whitby has lots of attractions

  • Abbey
  • Sea side
  • Surrounding countryside
  • Dracula (Uk Landing point, in some books)
  • Fish 'n Chips

Those planning on their first visit should be aware that the local seagull population are food stealing specalists. No please do not feed the seagulls.

SandsEnd

Easy to get to - go to Whitby and walk North on the beach. When then sand stops, you have reached the village of SandsEnd - I suspect it was some local joke name at one point, the joke name rather stuck.

Very pretty - but seriously cold with the North Sea breeze coming gently ashore. There were people in the water Surfing, and Paddle Boarding !!

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1920's Shelter

Perched on the cliff tops overlooking the harbour entrance, is a wonderful Victorian style wind break - which in the mornings sun-light looked simply wonderful.

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The famout Whale Bone is aprox 200m south of this point.

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View south looking down to the narror harbour entrance.

A working port

It sometimes difficult to remmeber that Whitby still is a working port - and whilst I am sure it is nothing comapred to the fishing industry that once existed here - there still are quite a few boats that are based from the town.

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A walk to the end of the pier

The piers in Whitby have great pedestrian access, until the final 1/3rd - and then as you have to walk along planks people who need to use a walking stick I think would have a difficulties.

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Here we saw a small crabber head out to check their pots.

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Dora the Whitby explorer

In case you are wondering where she is .... yes she was there.

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RSPB Saltholme

RSPB Salthome

It came as quite a surprise to find out that there is an RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) sanctuary sitting in the middle of Teeside/Tees-Port.

Why ?

The whole area looks like some evil scientists chemical lab - with countless towers belching steam/smoke - pipes litter the scenary - plus the Nuclear power-station some 5 kms down the road. Hardly the place to go wildlife spotting eh ?

Well - you would be very wrong. So Dora the Bird watching Explorer and I headed there this morning - so see what was going on.

Who was here ?

I do not condone vandalism, but this morning I made a slight exception.

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It was rather chilly to say the least.

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The Walks

There are at least 6 seperate walks which depending upon the time of year would yield a different set of birds. Never having been there, and despite the bracing weather we did more of a walk with some bird-watching.

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You must be Quackers

With some excellent hides it was really easy to get close to some of the birds life. In fact this brace of duck were doing a good comedy act of showing how to walk on ice.

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Countless other birds were there - but as I had not packed "the big lense" - some were too far away to see.

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An excellent day out - highly recommended.

Dora goes Mountain walking

Dora does Mountain Walking.

With some Sun !! and no wind, we took the opportunity to get out and about and go and explore the North Yorkshire Moors - which lie aprox 4 kms south from my parents village.

Dora was happy to try something new - not fully realising how cold and much hard work this would be. I also forgot how much mud we would possible have to walk through.

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Up up and more up !

The walk up to the summit is quite hardwork - But the fresh air and the wind provided much needed at times encouragement.

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Grand Views

At the top we were treated to wonderful views -stretching across to Captain Cook's Monument to the industrial development in Teeside.

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The Wainstones

A local feature - these rather strange rock outcrops attract walkers, climbers as well as photographers.

There always seems to be something new when you visit this place - which for me was over 30 years ago.

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If you go down to the woods today ....

The way back to the car - was supposed to be easy - quick and better than staying up on the top of the hills. Err.... instead is rather became mud infested obstacle course. Apologies

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View towards Hemsley

As we neared the end of the walk, there was a very pleasant view looking towards Helsley/York. The sun was rapidly becoming weaker and the wind rising - so we were glad to have had a Walk in the Woods. fn