Over the past years I have made so many trips to Southern Parts of the Philippines that I do not know where to begin. I have explored caves in Cebu, Samar and Bohol. I have made the most trips to Samar since there was always the option of new different caves to try.
I like to look for virgin caves. I do not care going to dive something that has been dove by a zillion people does not excite me that much. There is nothing better than being the first ones to explore a system. Two places that we go to the most would be Guiuan (pronounced G1) and Catbalogan. G1 is in the most southeast part of Samar and Catbalogan is on the northern west side of Samar.
Until recently there was not even a dive shop on the whole island. I did get in contact of a new shop that just opened up recently. Logistics is one of the hardest things to deal with. We did manage to get some diving tanks from G1 from the local fishery. In G1 we must have explored 15-20 different caves in the surrounding area.
Some of these caves we hiked back into the jungle from 1-3 hours just to reach the cave. We hired some of the local people to help us carry equipment and tanks to reach the caves.
The men of the villages would go out in the jungle to collect coconuts and they would come across these ponds. Sometimes we would have to repel down a ways to get to the water entrances.
There is one path that we followed and must have found 7 different caves. One are last trip we went to find some of the ponds we seen before. We could not find them but found a new one out ever trip and this was all off of the same path. Some of these caves were ok to dive and some not.
We did find a descent cave which I will be going to next month that was at a local fishery. We will teach some courses in these caves. This place was very easy to get to considering all the other ones we had looked for. This place you just backed up the truck, unloaded the equipment, set up your equipment in a gazebo and hoped in the water. I remember this cave bottomed out at around 40 meters depth.
Not far from there was a lake and the water was only waste deep at the most. The bottom was all coral/limestone and there were 5 large holes you could see from shore. 4 of the holes turned out to be nothing but then there is always one that is good. This was a very good dive. Instead of all stalactites there were soft corals that you would have to navigate yourself around.
One day we put all the tanks and equipment onto a sidecar motorcycle and ventured out for new caves
My friend Thomas Bodis
and I found this one cave, it did not have a big entrance but turned out to be an awesome dive considering. We started down one path and it walled out after about 20 m. On the way I did see a passageway and I put a clothes pin on the main line to mark the spot. On the way back we followed the passageway. We came to small entrance which we squeezed through. Once we got through the hole it opened up. We laid almost 2 reels of line before we decided to turn around. Just when we turned around all the silt from the ceiling fell and the viz went to zero. Besides the NO viz the primary line come loose and floated up into a line trap.
My buddy Thomas was ahead of me and was able to get out with no problems. I was back dealing with the line trap and no viz. First time I ever thought I was going to die. I knew if I panicked I would have. I managed to work my way out of it by penetrating back farther into the cave, pulling the line and go deeper to get out. While I was working my way out I felt an arm which turned out to be Thomas coming back to check on me. Went a short distance and the viz cleared right up and we headed out. Very next day we went to another location and come up to some real tight restrictions and low viz. I decided to sit this one out after what happened the day before.
We still have a couple more places to check out in G1 and also a couple sea caves in the area. G1 we always liked. They do have some descent hotels and internets to go to while you are there.
Catbalogan is another place we like to visit. There are no caves right in Catbalogan but a good place to start. This is where we meet up with our guide Joni Boniface of Trexplore.
Catbalogan is about a 5 hour minivan ride from G1. There was no place to get tanks so we had to bring tanks from the fishery and send them back when we were done. We could arrange all the logistics and head out from here. Again we had explored quite a few caves in this area. One cave that stuck in my mind was a dive for a water department.
At the base of a mountain that had a cement basin around it where you had to crawl through a cage and climb down.
The water was quite cold and crystal clear. Since this was our first dive here we did not know exactly which way to go. The first direction was real small and we had silted it out a bit. We headed back to the entrance and found another direction to go that was much nicer and bigger to get through. The biggest of all explored area was Calbiga cave.
We hired 12 porters, one guide plus the team of four of us.
We spent three days in the cave repelling down 70 m walls, walking through mud and bat shit plus going climbing up and down waterfalls.
We came up to where the Italians turned around in 1987. We went down the waterfall, through a water sump and come up in all new passageways that have never been explored.
This you will read about here shortly after we return from a week’s planned exploration in the cave. This next trip we will spend 7 days in the cave/ jungle exploring some of what we found some more plus a couple sumps we have been told about. Again we will have 4 team members, guide and 20-25 porters. We are hoping to get this whole expedition on film. I have been speaking with a TV station that is interested in working with on the trip. This will be an additional 5-7 more from the TV crew and also there porters.
In Samar there are plenty of good possibilities of finding new virgin caves.
I am usually planning another trip over there looking for more caves. Hopefully locating all of these new caves will help the growth of the cave diving Industry plus aid in having more caves to offer training.