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…
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.
An infrared snapshot of Ellidel in the rocky outcrop on the edge of the beach.
Coron is a well-known tourist spot of Palawan. It is known for its beaches, lakes and diving and snorkeling sites.
It hosts several diving sites with lots of fishes (some are really just snorkeling sites since the corals and fishes are in the shallow part of the sea/islands).
In photographing these fishes, I once again experienced the difficulty of underwater photography. We are merely a food or two below water (I still don’t know how to swim) and yet auto-ISOs are usually at 400 level, and that’s with a f2.0 or just slightly smaller aperture of the TG2. Also, today’s rugged compacts only produce jpeg, which makes difficult the correcting of white balance and color in general. This is especially since Olympus TG2’s default jpeg results in very saturated greens and blues (no option to decrease saturation) and usually darker exposure (I much prefer Panasonic’s underwater pics, though its line of tough cameras have much slower lenses). That’s why the introduction of Nikon AW1 with a larger sensor and raw shooting excites me (but it is expensive and I fear that the interchangeable lens option may result in leak). I much prefer a m4/3 or APS-C sized sensor with fixed lens.
Here are some of the pictures of the fishes that I took in Coron.
Siete Pecados is one of the diving sites very near the town of Coron. Siete Pecados means “seven sins” and where that came from, we don’t know. It is one of the coral reefs that have survived the onslaught of Yolanda (Haiyan) and the only spared reef we’ve been to. The other sites we visited are Bulog Island (just beside Two Season Hotel), and CYC Coral Garden, both of which were heavily devastated by the typhoon and would make a sea lover cry due to the damage to the corals.
This is my first time to photograph clown fish. I found out that they are very easy to photograph when they are near their anemone homes. Unlike other fish which would flee at the first sight of humans, clown fish would stand guard and try to scare off the big humans.
It was the first time I saw a fish that lives in an anemone that doesn’t look like the three-striped Nemo clown fish. I though it was a different kind of fish but upon googling, I found out that it is a variant of clown fish called yellow clown fish. Instead of three vertical white stripes, it has a long white stripe on its back (top).
Another thing I learned is that anemone fish (the orange Nemo type) changes colors. I knew before that they change sex as they age but not color. The picture above shows a regular bright orange fish with a much darker and larger fish living in the same anemone. It turns out that some clown fish grow darker as they grow older (probably as they change sex too).
Twin Lagoons is one of the stops of most tours of Coron. It is basically an enclosed lagoon connected by a small tunnel to a larger lagoon. At low tide, you can just float to the smaller inner lagoon but at high tide, you have to swim underwater or climb a ladder to get to the inner one. The strange thing about the two lagoons is that the water looks kinda like a mixture of oil and alcohol. When you swim, the water is cold but when you stay still, it becomes much warmer. According to our tour guide, this is due to the mixture of sea water and fresh water (from the island).
The above fish is another strange thing we saw. The fish are swimming still around the ladder (partly submerged). They are very still unless you make sudden moves (unlike other fishes which just swim away the moment they see you coming). It’s as if they are staring into the wood of the ladder and expecting something wonderful to emerge from it.
The last picture above is of the needle fish (so called because of their long and pointy “snout”). They are also found in Barracuda Lake and probably in the 11 other lakes in the island of Coron
(The town of Coron is situated in the much larger Busuanga Island but takes its name from the smaller Coron Island which is just in front of the town. Coron Island is said to be home to 13 lakes, only two of which are open to public – Kayangan and Barracuda. Our guide said that the others are closed as these are sacred to the Tagbanua people who inhabit the island. Included in the closed to public lakes is Cabugao Lake, which is the largest lake in the island, much larger than all of the other lakes combined. For me, this is a good thing to preserve the lake for the future.)
It is sad that Yolanda caused so much damage to the corals that they will definitely impact the number and variety of fishes. I just hope that they will remain abundant as the fishes and coral reefs make Coron a truly excited tourist spot to visit.
This photo was taken on our day 1 in Coron. After a tiring climb through the stairs of Tapyas Hill, we finally came to its top and there were these two Italians paragliding in the hill (they would would sail around and go down a few meters and climb up again).
What I like about this photo is the simplicity, only the paraglider, hill and sky (with some clouds) can be seen and for me evokes freedom – to do whatever you want to do. Tapyas Hill is not that high (we were tired from climbing as we’re probably out of shape and have not climbed a mountain for quite a long time) but these two guys seem to be having a blast.
Another of the Coron photos – Tiny’s back with the sea and limestone cliffs in the background. This is located in the lagoon where Lake Kayangan is most accessible.
One of my favorite photos from our Coron Trip. This is a fallen tree in Macapulya beach, shot with 590nm GX1 infrared camera with 14mm lens.
Have not posted in a while. Last weekend, my friends and I went to Coron for a 4-day trip.
Coron was the last landfall that Yolanda made before exiting the country (the very reason why our scheduled trip there was postponed). The people of Coron are slowly rising up and moving on with their everyday lives. The tourists are also starting to come back. On land, the damage to Coron is visible due to uprooted or de-leafed trees and destroyed houses (mostly the nipa hut houses).
On sea, the damage is much much worse. Most of the areas we went snorkeling are tear-inducing. Corals damaged! If you’ve seen the damage to Tacloban city, you’ll have a good idea of the damage on corals. Corals, the houses and food source of most fishes, are cracked, uprooted, felled and broken. To me this is the greater tragedy in Coron (after the loss of some lives). Trees will grow quickly, houses can be rebuilt with the right assistance but corals will take years to grow back. Such a tragedy!
Anyway, as a starter, here are my friends doing their best to spell CORON. More pictures to follow in coming blogposts.