Christmas Vacation

Trip Start Jun 22, 2008
Trip End Jul 04, 2013

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Where I stayed
Club Paradise

Flag of Philippines  , Palawan,
Saturday, December 26, 2009

We arrived at the airport on the island of Busuanga via Philippine Airlines.  We then boarded a jeepney with others heading to Club Paradise and set off on a dusty, dirt road to the coast.  First adventure - a flat tire along the way.  But it didn't slow us down much.  The tire was changed quickly and soon we were at a dock boarding the boat that would take us to Dimakya Island and Club Paradise.  We already felt like we were so far from Manila.  It's amazing how a 50 minute flight can take you from a crowded dirty city to a place where you are surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature.  Club Paradise is the only thing on the island other than some very large fruit bats, monitor lizards and birds.  It was so nice to wake up to the sound of birds chirping in the morning and watching the bats fly at night.  The bats hang in the trees during the day and come to life at dusk.  They screech and squeal and swoop through the sky but they are rather harmless and nobody gives them a thought. 

We arrived on Christmas Eve and the resort had special holiday festivities planned.  Prior to a poolside dinner and show we had a candle lighting ceremony to the song Silent Night.  Dinner was a very nice buffet.  All the meals at the resort were excellent and you really had to restrain yourself from eating too much.  Because they have a lot of visitors from Europe as well as Asia there is always a wide variety of foods.  Russ was happy there were always potatos on the menu and there were regularly items like lamb and even prime rib.  These are things we normally don't eat a lot of over here so it was a special treat even though the Asian foods were also really good.  Once dinner was done the staff put on a Christmas show.  At the end was a reenactment of the navity complete with Mary riding in on a donkey.  Not a real donkey.  This was one of those costumes where someone is the head end and some unlucky person is the butt end.  There were also a couple of the staff on all fours in lame sheep costumes.  Even though it was a little hokey it was a nice ending to the evening before going to bed and waiting for Santa Claus.

For Christmas Day we decided to go diving.  We had come to the resort with low expectations regarding the diving.  We had heard that the reef was ok but not something that would warrant multiple dives.  I guess its good to keep your expectations low because we were pleasantly surprised.  The reefs themselves aren't in the greatest condition but we saw a lot of things that kept us coming back for more dives. And the dives are easy because you can do them right from the beach.  Club Paradise does its part to help the Hawksbill Turtle population grow and thrive.  As a result there are a number of turtles on the reefs and one very large and very friendly turtle that likes his back scratched.  His shell probably measured close to 30".  He's so domesticated that he doesn't flinch in the presence of divers. We also saw a group of  seven cuttlefish and watched them mating and depositing their eggs in a large formation of coral.  We'd never seen a cuttlefish (except on a dinner plate) and never expected to see so many in one place.  They didn't seem to be concerned that we were there and we were able to get very close.  What strange creatures.  Like so many others critters on the reefs here they appear to be an alien life form.  Another unexpected underwater encounter happened when we weren't even diving.  We were snorkeling from the beach and a Manta Ray appeared out of the deep blue and flew by us.  We were told this isn't a normal occurance so we were just in the right place at the right time.

We did take the boat to do one dive on the Kyokuzan Maru which is Japanese army supply ship that was sunk by the US in 1944. The ship sunk upright and is 450 feet in length with the deck at 85-95 feet under water.  It is encrusted with all types of sea life including lots of large scallops and clams that kept opening and closing as they felt our presence.  Many were several inches wide with what appeared to be toothy grins. As they opened and closed they reminded us of wind up false teeth.  It also brought to mind the Pirates of the Caribbean movie where the Davey Jones crew sprang to life from out of the crusty wreck.  It looked like that was ready to happen at any moment.  We swam into the cargo hold where there are still remnants of vehicles that the Japanese were transporting.  There's not much left on board since over the years its been stipped of anything of value including the on-deck machine gun. But it was a good dive and would be worthy of another trip with some proper lights to get a good look at what lies within the wreck.

We never did see a dugong (manatee) which is another creature that inhabits the waters around Dimakya Island. But that's ok.  There were enough other things to hold our interest.  It was interesting to see how the varieties of fish and creatures like nudibranchs differ from those we normally see in Anilao or Sabang. We were told that we would be able to dive on our own because of our experience but we actually were glad that we had a divemaster accompany us.  Omar was very helpful at locating hiding stingrays and pointing out the tiny critters that we would probably have missed on our own.  Unfortunately, there were also critters that found us before we saw them.  Tiny jellyfish were in the water near the surface and even though they were hard to see, they did sting and leave welts on our hands.  When Jane's started to swell and inch she paid a visit to the resort clinic where she was given a compress soaked in vinegar.  A simple remedy and much better than the other natural remedy which would have involved having the doctor pee on her hand.

Many nights there was a special dinner and entertainment at the resort.  Other that the Christmas Eve show they also had a jungle themed dinner on the beach.  The entertainment that evening was a fire dance with flaming batons.  The last evening was another poolside dinner and a cultural show with performances of traditional dances from various regions of the Philippines.  The last dance was the bamboo dance where the dancers jump between long bamboo poles as they are clacked together by the people holding them on each end.  Russ was able to show that his dancing skills go beyond twirling on the dance floor.  When they asked for volunteers from the audience he stepped up to the plate and sucessfully hopped between the bamboos without disgracing the Dempsey name.

Club Paradise must advertise heavily in certain parts of the world because there were a large number of people from Germany, France, Switzerland and Japan at the resort.  For a while I think we were the token Americans but because of our Manila residency we are really locals.  People assumed we traveled a long way to get there but no.  It's only a short plane ride.   It makes it easier to leave a place like that knowing you can easily come back when life in the city gets to be too much and you need an island escape.

A link to our pictures is below and should open in a new window.  Click on the first picture to enlarge it and you can either scroll through each picture or click "slideshow" (you may get a message to disable pop-up blocker for the slideshow and will need to do it to view the slideshow). 
Here's the site that has our pictures -

And let us know what you think about the photo site since we're using it for the first time.
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