July 23: Off to Boracay! Get up for a 8:30am flight. (Best banana cake in the world is at the Manila airport by the way.) Arrive in Caticlan at 9:30 am and we've arranged transfer to our hotel which is great cause it's a bus-banca-bus trip and our bags are carried for us. Yay! We are welcomed at the Island Jewel hotel ($25 a night!) with an ice cold beer are our rooms are already ready. Super friendly front desk guy. I'm pleased with our rooms - A/C, fridge, hot water, balcony, comfy bed and down the end of the beach away from karaoke and outdoor discos. The fridge is always stocked with beer and water too.
We decide to explore and get some lunch. We need our extend our 21 day tourist visas so we start at the immigration office which is a desk in a restaurant but find out it's only open Monday and Tuesday. So we'll have to come back. Pretty much everything in Boracay is on the beach path so we go looking at dive shops. They all look OK then we find Calypso which has a pool, bar and restaurant. Super nice guys and we book dives for the next day. Almost next door is a Mexican place called Azzuro. We will wind up spending a LOT of time at these 2 places. After some burritos and taco salads we want beach time. The rest of the day is pretty lazy. We find a cheap dinner later while exploring Boracay food options. It's not super cheap here - not like Thailand or Malaysia where we could easily have dinner for under £10. We'll struggle all week to find meals under £20.
July 24: Boracay diving. As promised by our guide Borek, we see a big frogfish among other things. It's a good start to our diving with Calypso and I decide to do my advanced course with them. My next dive is a beach navigation dive which would be totally boring if not for a seahorse in the sand. The three of us do a beach night dive which was really good - feeding octopus and lionfish. Pete gets some great video of the octopus. Can't remember where we had lunch and dinner but you can bet that one or the other was burritos at Azzuro. We learn that Joseph can do his advanced course with me, he'll have to make up his navigation dive. Easy.
July 25: Remainder of advanced dives: wreck, deep and naturalist dives. The wreck is nice - a big, deliberately sunk boat where we see our first ghost pipefish. We've been doing so much diving that emperor angelfish and huge snappers are becoming boring. Funny. On the deep dive we see mappa pufferfish and porcupinefish. The 'naturalist' dive, which to me sounds like you should do it naked, is a beautiful fairly shallow reef called Fridays Rock. Once Joseph finishes his navigation dive tomorrow, we'll both be advanced qualified. Nice. Pete and I also decide to take our Nitrox qualification which is basically watching a video, skimming a book and taking a short test. We must really like Calypso cause we are spending a BOMB with them on courses and dives. Pete says he wants something BBQd for dinner and we find the perfect place called 'I love BBQ'. They have awesome pulled pork and pork belly with sweet syrupy smoky sauce. Yum!
July 26: A day off diving but not a lazy day. We start at the immigration 'office' - a table in a restaurant where we go through a very painless visa extension process of filling out a form, handing over 9090pesos and getting an extra stamp in our passports. I think this is the only friendly immigration person I've ever met in my travels and relocations! We do a little shopping around and find ourselves back at Azzuro for amazing mango pancakes. I've managed to create a tropical version of my favourite Templeton breakfast: a big fat pancake with streaky bacon all covered in maple syrup. Seriously filling and yum. For the rest of the week we split the pancakes cause they're so big. Pete and I head back to Calypso to sit our Nitrox test. Joseph and I hand in our (very easy) book work for our advanced qualification. The tropical downpour rain starts early today around 3pm so we retreat back to the hotel. Pete and joseph chill out reading/internetting/snoozing. I go for a massage at the hotel spa next door. Cheap and good!
July 27: Pete and I do our first nitrox dives. On the next dive, Joseph does his navigation and he's finished his advanced reqirement. We're all done our new diving qualifications. Sweet. It's an early dive day and the weather is nice so we have a beach afternoon. Later we go to Calypso for dinner and wish we had gone sooner. The food is really nice, not as expensive as we thought it might be and they have wine! (most places don't)
July 28: Our last dive day. Our second dive of the day is a fast drift dive. It's a blast and we cover over a mile in less than 30 minutes. It's super fast and there's really nothing to see so we just do spins and summersaults along the way. There's some great videos and pics. We do another night dive as well with octopus, lionfish and a stonefish! And another dinner at Calypso. All good.
July 29: Beach day! Finally. We go for mango pancakes late in the morning at Azzuro then head to the beach chairs for the afternoon. I pretty much read a whole book in a sitting . (The Jimmy Choo story - lucky bitch silver spoon mouthed girl does good with her family connections) Joseph hangs out in his room all day facebooking, playing games and watching movies on his iPhone. Back to Calypso for dinner and wine!
July 30: Another day off of diving since we fly tomorrow and we've done 11 dives this week. I take Joseph for a pedicure while Pete gets online to upload phots . The girls in the pedi shop think Joseph is hillarious...his feet barely fit in the foot bath and I'm pretty sure they have a giggle about his hairy legs. I get a mani and pedi, he gets a foot scrub and pedi and the whole thing comes to less than £10. And the funniest bit is that Joseph can't stop talking about how his feet are so soft. We do a bit of shopping and relax for the afternoon.
It's our wedding anniversary today and pete bought some Moet earlier in the week so we bring it to the BBQ place we found. Moet and 2 kilos of BBQ ribs. Nice!
July 31: Moving day. The rain is bucketing down. We get picked up on a trike and somehow manage to get 5 people + 3 bags on. The banca ride back to Caticlan is super funny cause we're on the boat with a school group who want a photo with Joseph cause they think he looks like Justin Beber. At Caticlan airport we get weighed with our carry-on bags. Here's a weird one: you're only allowed 10 kilos in checked bags but you can have any weight you can carry in carry-on. So we check exactly 30kg between us and we easily have another 15-20 in carry-on. Stupid rule. We're on a tiny turboprop and I get a mobil signal to update facebook from my phone. Naughty! We land in Cebu and our driver is there to take us to our hotel in Malapascua - our next dive spot.