Traveller, Photographer, Mountaineer, Human

Freediving

Freediving in Moalboal

It has been several months since my last post here in my blog.  As a return, I feature our latest underwater adventure in Moalboal,Cebu.  Moalboal is one of the towns in the province (and island) of Cebu.  It is very famous for its underwater marine life treasures.  Lots of our people (particularly foreigners) come here to dive (freedive and scuba).

Bea and her bubble ring.

This was our second time in Moalboal.  The first time we went there, only Elaine knew how to freedive.  The rest of us were either wearing lifevests or are just floating on the surface.  This time, fortunately, most of us know how to float and freedive.

(Elaine) Reaching for nothing

Moalboal is really filled with beautiful underwater treasures.  There is a huge group of sardines just swimming a few steps from the shore.  There is a cliff drop just a few steps from the shore and perhaps from this feature allows nutrients from the bottom to rise providing food to the school of sardines.

There is also a marine turtle sanctuary.  It is a place where sighting of sea turtles is almost always a guarantee.  In both of our trips there, we were able to see several turtles swimming and sleeping and feeding.  The turtle sanctuary also features a drop off.  The top part (about 5-6 meters in most of the area) is filled with hard corals and lots of reef fishes.  After this comes a cliff dropping off to probably 30 meters of more. The side of this cliff is also filled with marine wildlife.

(Oyet) Rising from the depths

Another diving destination in the town is Pescador Island.  One side of the island has a small strip of shallow coral reefs (about 3-5 meters).  After this is another cliff drop much deeper than that in marine turtle sanctuary.  Most of the pictures here were taken from this side.  The other side (we went there last time but not on this trip) is a much larger area of corals on shallow waters.  The current, however, is much stronger, and people on lifevests are easy prey to being dragged with the current.

Another area for diving is Zaragosa Island but this is probably mostly for open-water scuba divers.  We have not been to this place yet.  The dive maps of Moalboal indicates that there are whale sharks, thresher sharks, manta rays and other sea creatures here.

(Eman) Floating in empty space. This reminds me of the scenes from the film Gravity.

The group includes myself, Eman, Oyet, Elaine, Myra and her sister Maji.  Elaine’s friend, Bea, joined us there.  Except for Myra and Maji, all of us are already comfortable in the sea and can make do without lifevests, just a mask, snorkel and fins.  On our third and last day, Myra was finally able to snorkel without vests.  A few more sea trips and she’ll be under the surface with us.

A big school of sardines, literally a few steps from the shores (about 20 steps from the main shore).

Moalboal is really a beautiful place and we were very very happy that we decided to come back here when we were able to appreciate more the things that the sea offers below its surface.

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Editing Underwater Photos

Underwater photos are nice to look at but there are problems with color.  In most cases, either the water is too blue or too green or a combination of both.  This can be corrected by using colored filters on lenses (like magenta or red) such as the Polar Pro for GoPro.  I don’t have a GoPro and I don’t have these filters either.  Back then I used a Panasonic TS3 (lost the charger), then the Olympus TG2 (battery door opened and seawater flooded inside) then the Panasonic TS3 again (after buying a compatible charger).  Unfortunately, the Panasonic stopped functioning so I’m now underwater cameraless.

Anyway, my point is that I didn’t use a colored filter nor do these camera record RAW files.  But… the color can still be corrected using Lightroom (or Photoshop or other photo editing applications).  Below is one of my pictures where a change in white balance and some other Lightroom sliders hugely improved the picture.

Other people look at some of my underwater photos and say that my camera is nice (really irksome but I’m getting desensitized) as it can take clear underwater pictures.  Well, it’s not the camera, it’s also the photographer and in many cases, the post-processing too.


Elaine, the Freediver (in El Nido, Palawan)

Last weekend and up to Tuesday, we went again to Palawan!  This time, in El Nido.  El Nido is one of the three tourism areas of Palawan (the others being Coron, where we’ve been before, and Puerto Princesa, the capital city).

Anyway, I’d like to show you photos of a good friend and the the one who introduced us all to the joy of freediving, Elaine.

While we were all clinging to lifevest (several months back), Elaine was already enjoying the freedom of not using them and being able to go to depths and look at fishes and corals from a closer view.  She was then an applicant for ISDA (probably an acronym for International Skin Divers Association or something and is also the Tagalog/Filipino term for fish).  Now that we are on a level that she was several months ago, she’s levelled up to deeper depths, diving in stronger currents and breathholding for longer.

The next few pictures were taken in Small Lagoon, a stop on tour A in El Nido (tours being coded as A, B, C or D).  As a snorkeling/freediving site, it really isn’t much.  It is surrounded by limestone cliffs cutting out most of the light from reaching the bottom, hence, the lack of visibility down under compared to the other (probably deeper) sites.  However, one good thing about this location is the rays of the sun filtering through the cliffs and the vegetation provides beautiful rays of light in the water.  We went there first in the morning (arrived there around 10am) and the light streaking through the water was just awesome for taking these photographs.

This first picture was for me, the most beautiful of the lot.  The light was wonderful, no distracting people in the background, just Elaine, her happy yellow fins and the water.  Unfortunately though, her head is not seen as she arched her back to look down below.
Second one, more about her happy yellow fins (the one the camera chose to focus).  She’s on her descent here.

Third one is where she’s making a turn from going down to ascending.  Her body position seems awkward but I like the effect of here centered in all the blueness of the sea.
And this is her on her ascent.  As taught by freedivers (and I guess for scuba as well), you need to raise one of your arms when ascending so that when you accidentally hit a boat (or worse a propeller), you’ll just hurt (or cut) your hand, not your head.

And finally, we see her face!

On our second to last dive site for the day (another area), I loaned her my long fins.  Since my feet are much bigger than hers, she wore it with her booties and with the fin grip to prevent accidental slippage of the fins.

Yes freediving long fins are reeeeaaallly long. Probably as long as her leg and thighs…


…but she uses them more efficiently and gracefully than I could. (My flutter kick involves too much knee bending).

These final two pictures aren’t the strongest of the lot (they are in fact, the least best pics of her) but they show the true joys of recreational freediving.

Being able to see sea creatures up close (this one’s a hawksbill turtle).
And enjoying freedom from heavy scuba gear and the joy and relaxation of moving effortlessly (more or less) through water.

That’s it for now, I’ll be posting more pictures from our El Nido trip (including the wonderful sea creatures underneath the surface of the water).  In case you’re wondering how she looks when out of water, here’s her picture.