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Dive Dry with Dr. Bill

#532: Dr. Bill, P.I.

No, not like Magnum, P.I.. I haven't changed careers this late in the game. About the time you read this, I'll be heading off to the Philippine Islands (PI) for several weeks of work diving and filming the critters of that amazing archipelago. I've been threatening to go for about five years, and have met a number of wonderful folks from there thanks to ScubaBoard and Facebook. Some have visited me here on our island, but thanks to the work I did for Japan Underwater Films on our giant sea bass documentary for Japan's public TV station NHK last fall, I can finally afford to go. We have a mere eight islands here off southern California but they have 7,107 of them. Heck, I could spend the rest of my life diving there and not hit them all!

Why the Philippines? One of my bucket list goals is to dive all seven continents, so I've been looking toward Africa and South America as high priorities. I'll save Antarctica for last in case I literally freeze my buttocks off. I did promise Susan Long of DUI I'd consider a dry suit when I go there even though one of my Harvard professors dove Antarctica in a wetsuit (a VERY thick wetsuit) back in 1957. But I also need more video footage of tropical critters for my future TV shows... and the water is warm (82 F reported as I write this column). Now my Nitek Trio dive computer reported 82 F in our waters last year, but that was because it was not functioning properly. The real temperature was a mere 72 F. Quite tolerable but still a bit chilly for many divers.

I've dived Asia and the South Pacific before. I spent nearly a month in Thailand diving the Gulf and Andaman Sea and spent another month in Australia followed by a week each in Fiji and Tahiti. The marine life in the tropical Pacific puts the Caribbean to shame. In fact, the Philippines Islands are located in the Golden Triangle, a region where biodiversity is considered the highest in all the oceans of the world. This is not to be confused with the other golden triangle in SE Asia where opium production is centered. I don't "go there."

In preparation for this trip, I combed E-Bay, Amazon.com and Bookfinders to secure three of the best field guides to the marine life of the tropical Pacific. The incredible diversity is quite evident in looking at the "billions and billions" of different species to be found in that region. Field guides to our waters are like short novellas compared to the epic tomes required to cover everything I may encounter in the PI. Once I get back and begin editing all the video I shoot, I'll have these guides to... well, guide me!

Tropical climates are generally known for high species diversity compared to that of temperate and polar regions. As the song says, "the living is easy" there. Warm water to bask in and the high productivity of coral reefs are attractive to many species (including humans). The far greater number of species in these environments is a major reason why there are so many brightly colored critters. Imagine if all these species were dressed in the dull colors of corporate America back in the 1950s, say the dress code for IBM back then. Everyone would look the same and it would be hard to locate those of your type (not that there were many women at IBM in that era). Bright coloration and a tremendous diversity of patterns allow easier recognition of a potential mate.

Not only are tropical environments full of a bazillion different species, each species generally has fewer individuals than you might find in cooler waters. You don't see schools of thousands of blacksmith like you do here in our kelp forests. Fewer potential mates makes it even more important to be able to identify the proper ones easily so you don't waste time courting the wrong girl! Of course I like mine dressed in black... neoprene! The unique coloration and patterns of each species are important in bringing the boys and girls together for the ultimate purpose of any species... continuing the species.

I spent time researching potential destinations within the PI, and heeded the advice of my friends who live there. I'd heard about the great "muck diving" in Anilao and learned that one of my Filipina friends, Evie Go, would be staying there at Club Ocellaris so I booked space and will be rooming with Erik, a friend of hers from Switzerland. Club Ocellaris was named for the clown anemone fish (Amphiprion ocellaris) which we know better as Nemo. It is a relative of our own garibaldi. Wish me luck in finding Nemo. SoCal friends Kevin, Phil and Merry are there right now and have been giving me reports on water temperatures and visibility. I plan to do 40 dives over the 11 days I'm in Anilao, then travel up to Puerto Galera where I'll be diving with Action Divers. If I can, I'll post reports directly from there.. but most certainly once I get back.

The natural beauty of the Philippines is my primary draw, but there are other forms of beauty to be appreciated. My friend Evie is organizing a party in my honor in Manila and I hope to meet up with other female friends while I'm there like Mia, Janine and Gail. Now, I don't plan on coming back with a beautiful bride (several of those ladies are married), but I do intend to enjoy the sights both underwater and topside on the beaches. After all, it is bikini season 365 days a year in the PI, and I'm a red blooded American boy... er, geezer.

© 2013 Dr. Bill Bushing. Watch the "Dive Dry with Dr. Bill" underwater videos on Catalina Cable TV channel 29, 10:00 AM weekdays and on Charter Communications Cable channel 33 at 7:30 PM on Tuesdays in the Riverside/Norco area. You can also watch these episodes in iPod format on YouTube through my channel there (drbillbushing). Please help me climb out of self-imposed poverty... buy my DVD's (see this link). Yes, take Dr. Bill home with you... we'll both be glad you did!

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Map showing location of the Philippines (arrow), red lionfish which I'll film in its native habitat;
colorful mantis shrimp and hint of other beauty in the PI, and the
clown anemone fish (image courtesy of Nick Hobgood).

This document maintained by Dr. Bill Bushing.
Material and images © 2013 Star Thrower Educational Multimedia