Sunday, April 15, 2012


Serendipity allowed us to get this photo of a green sea turtle feeding at Tubbataha Reef this week..
When we travel, we don’t book things in advance. We let Serendipity be our guide. Throw caution to the wind. Let the open road decide, etc.

While it’s long been obvious to anyone not named Liz or Kip, last week was the first time we have realized this system of ours is rife with pitfalls.

When you arrive in the Philippines during Holy Week, with no reservations, things don't go well. You pay double for a flight that leaves three days too late. You haul your backpacks from hotel to hotel in 90-degree heat until finally you get that look from your wife and you realize you should have already ditched the “system,” sucked it up, and booked a decent room in advance. Like a month ago.

Serendipity, she’s a fickle lady. But finally, we seem to be back in her good graces.

We had long heard about the Philippines' world famous Tubbataha Reef. One of the planet's top dive spots, the UNESCO-recognized site lies hours and many miles from the nearest land mass. The only way to get there is on a live-aboard dive boat. Of course, those things book up months in advance. We knew this. But we believe in the system. 

The mother-in-law suite. So hard to be cool in here. 
Short story, after a bit of heckling and hand wringing, we ended up finding two spots on the Sakura dive charter, a 25m trimaran, already reserved by a group of nine others. The scuba company assured us, however, there was room for 2 more. If we didn't mind sleeping in the mother-in-law suite. Which we later learned was a windowless hotbox. Accessed only by a hatch in the deck. Just under the anchor. In the very front of the boat. Lovely.
A nudibranch. Look 'em up. They're stunning little gastropod mollusks. 
Turns out, Serendipity was with us the whole time. The diving was spectacular. The food was good, and there was lots of it. Best of all, we actually liked our boat impressive array of internationals, consisting of two ladies from the UK and an Aussie, all who work in a school in Thailand; an Iranian couple who live and work in Sydney; a dancer and scuba/yoga instructor from Switzerland; a Swedish couple, and a septuagenarian retired American who was never without a smart-ass remark. Obviously, he and Kip got along well.

Most nights, we downloaded photos from the day’s dives. Kip would flash a picture, and the group (sans us) would simultaneously shout the specific species. We learned more about fish identification those five days than in all our years diving. 

Names of fish are fascinating. Really. Things like sweet lips. Nudibranch. Clown Triggerfish.  And the not so fascinating…Varicose Wart Slug, which is actually quite stunning.

The many-spotted sweetlips (foreground) and the clown triggerfish (rear left) swimming with us in Tubbataha.
It was pretty awesome to geek out with people who were so into diving.  We aspire to be that knowledgeable someday.

Big thanks to the crew of the M/Y (motor yacht) Sakura, our dive master, Rene, and the great divers aboard for a very educational week. 
Sun setting over the M/Y Sakura and our last dive on the Tubbataha Reef National Park.
Liz cruising above the Malayan Wreck, a cargo ship crashed on the reef long ago.
Kip hovering over a massive coral while leisure diving (which was super cool for like two weeks in 2009).


  1. Awesome picture of the pawikan!!

    I had to look up the word 'septuagenarian'. Can't wait to call my dad one.

    I've tried to introduce Flyboy to Seredipity many times- He's never interested.

    Love and miss you both!

  2. I looked at a book of nudibranch photos once for a tidepool story I was writing. I described it as "mollusc porn" but that didn't make it into the story.

    1. Mollusc porn...that about sums it up.

      Geeking out with the "fish heads" last week reminded me of the birding trip we went on in the LA wetlands. I learned so much. I now enjoy diving (and birding) way more than before.


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