Anilao has always been on my ‘must-visit’ list of dive destinations. Some say that Anilao is the birthplace of scuba diving in the Philippines and certainly the heaven for photographers who enjoy capturing images of small critters in uncanny forms and colours. Thanks to the Ocean Geographic photography prize, sponsored by Aiyanar Beach and Dive Resort, I spent a week exploring the coral reefs and sandy terrain of Anilao.
The trip introduced many new experiences for me, particularly, staying at a luxury dive resort. I’m accustomed to $25/ night no-frills (or hot water) accommodations, or dive trips living on a boat. The week nestled in Aiyanar Resort was like owning my first automatic transmission car; I’m not certain if I could go back to the stick after.
Upon check-in at Aiyanar, resort manager, Jason, greeted me like an old friend and welcomed me as if I was a resident who left not too long ago. Whereas the scuba diving at Anilao was the main draw, the team and crew at Aiyanar turned out to be the rock stars of my vacation. The team took care of my needs before I even realised I had them. The royal treatment had me pampered like an emperor shrimp.
I’m not sure if it was a stroke of luck or some special arrangements by Aiyanar, but Lavinia and I spent 16 dives in private with Vernie, the eagle-eyed dive guide with over 35,000 dives to his name. Vernie could point out a camouflaged critter under a concealment cloak and he is probably the world’s most boring person to play Where’s Wally with. Surface intervals were spent with Vernie talking about life, love and relationships. Vernie did most of the talking. And in the evening when the karaoke machine was plugged in, Vernie did most of the singing.
The week at Anilao went by really quickly. It was an overload of new experiences; from encountering new marine creatures, bonfire diving, trying new Philippine cuisine, to getting acquainted with a team of policemen from the San Diego Harbor PD. It really was a week to remember.
I would like to thank Aiyanar Resort for their warm and personal hospitality, the dive crew for making me feel like one of their own, and the kitchen crew for organising that extra serve of pork sisig. As Vernie put it, “just live life” and I faithfully look forward to the next time when I get to reconnect with all the wonderful people I met over a week at Aiyanar.