History of How Diving Started in Puerto Galera

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Diving in and around Puerto Galera started back in early 1981 when Brian Homan, an Australian from Maitland NSW, started Capt’n Gregg’s Dive Center on Big Lalaguna Beach in a small space underneath the Hobbit House Bar and Restaurant managed by Ray and Rosita Ramos.

Snake, a fellow Australian, teamed up with Brian around July 1981 and together they started exploring the area, looking for dive sites and wrecks.

The Hobbit House was destroyed by a typhoon on Boxing Day 1981 but luckily, the dive shop being underneath, survived. Most of the hobbits then returned to Manila and Ray and Rosita rebuilt the establishment and called it Rosita’s Inn. The Hobbit House is now a well known music club located in Ermita, Manila where the hobbits are the waiters and they also own and operate the business.

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The early days of diving in Puerto Galera

Life on the beach was very basic then with no electricity or phones to communicate with the outside world. The dive shop had only three sets of gear for customers with no BCD’s or wet suits and of course there were no dive computers then so all dives were planned on the PADI (U.S. Navy) Tables. They also had a hookah compressor system which they used to take people diving in front of the beach where the coral was pristine.

In 1982 Jim Wilson from Sydney joined in and most of the dive sites in the area were found by the Capt’n Gregg’s team including wreck sites such as the WWII Jap Wreck near Markoe Cove in 1981, the Spanish Galleon Nuestra Senora de la Vida on Verde Island in 1982 and a 15th Century Balanghai carrying Ming Dynasty Chinese pottery and porcelain in the Manila Channel in August 1983.

Notifying the National Museum of the finds and making contact with the director, Father Gabriel Casal, an excavation team was put together consisting of Brian, Snake, Jim and several divers from the Museum’s Underwater Archaeology Team.

Earlier 1983 Capt’n Gregg’s had transferred to Sabang Beach after Brian married a local girl from Sabang and a new dive shop and restaurant was built in Sabang.

After many weeks of diving and around the clock security, the cargo was brought to the surface and taken to Manila for treatment and documentation. In the early stages some pieces were stolen by local divers at night before security could be placed on the site.

Several pieces and photos are on display in both, the Excavation Museum in the Puerto Galera Church grounds and Capt’n Gregg’s restaurant which is still alive today on Sabang Beach. Others are in Brian Homan’s Museum at Vasco’s Resort in Subic Bay and The National Museum in Manila.

In early 1984 Snake and Jim decided it was time to run a dive center on their own and to break away from Captain Gregg’s, so with mutual understanding, Brian kept the building and the name, Snake and Jim kept the equipment and the boats. Snake and Jim then decided to go back to Big Lalaguna Beach with a Swiss National and Instructor, Willi Tobler, opened Reef Raider’s Dive Center next door to Rosita’s Inn.

One of the early customers of Capt’n Gregg’s, a somewhat relaxed English individual by the name of Dave Penman, who was also an Instructor, joined in as a freelancer and became the instruction force behind Reef Raiders.

By 1985 Reef Raiders was well established and dominating the diving in Puerto Galera. It was indeed an outpost at best but it seemed to attract some very special characters, people from the oil industry in particular had heard of Reef Raiders and Puerto Galera and were using it for their time off. It was a special time for this sleepy town, but it was slowly transforming into what it is today.

Reef Raiders Willy, Jim, Allan (1)

Reef Raiders; Willy, Jim, Allan

It attracted people like Sky & Mark (South Sea Divers), Frank Doyle (Lalaguna Beach Club), and Arnie Isberg. Sky and Mark worked out of their spare bedroom and took people out diving.

It was back in late 1985 that Allan Nash arrived on the beach and decided that this was the place to be. After a short time Allan was doing his Divemasters course with Reef Raiders and Sky and Mark from South Sea’s decided to join in. Well, with Mark and Sky’s laid back attitude, Allan finished his Divemaster and then Instructors course well before Sky and Mark finished their Divemasters. Nevertheless the lads finished their courses and carried on taking people diving professionally.

Yes life was good, easy, almost no responsibility and lots of fun until early March 1987 when a fire broke out in Reef Raiders Dive Center, spreading and taking out the entire center of the beach. It was impressive the way people all joined forces to put the fire out, Jim and the boys running into the burning shop taking out as much gear as they could, trying to save whatever they could, before the fire engulfed the building. All of the artifacts from the Jap Wreck, Verde Island and Manila Channel sites, plates, dragon jars and other treasures all went up in the fire, not to forget one of the best shell collections I have ever seen, Snake the curator was speechless to hear about this. The next morning, Jim and Willi were gutted as was Snake, who was in Australia at the time, on receiving the news. Willi simply put his hands in the air and said that’s it I’m out of here but Jim and Snake, on his return, temporarily moved to Small Lalaguna Beach but they never really recovered from the disaster.  Snake left in 1988, Jim rebuilt on the original site and became an Instructor in 1989 and sold out to Frank Doyle 1994.

Allan, who had become a part of the Reef Raiders Instructional Team as a freelancer along with Dave, neither one wanting to leave, suggested to Dave, let’s start our own dive center and with that Allan took over Willi’s house on Small Lalaguna Beach and Dave moved into a nice nipa hut that looked more like a tree house than anything else.

Fortunately, during the night of the fire, Sky and Mark had rented ten tanks to do a night dive. The equipment saved was some masks, a few damaged regulators, some fins and wetsuits, all with small scorch marks and holes, but after some TLC could be restored and made workable, this was due to the work of Allan and Dave. Within less than a week they had six sets of workable dive equipment, but no compressor so Allan borrowed a thousand dollars off a friend and purchased an old but workable 2.5 cfm compressor, this was the start of Asia Divers! Working out of Allan’s spare room as an equipment room, his kitchen as a classroom and his living room as a bar, the operation was underway.

Asia Divers 1994

Asia Divers 1994

It was not long after that before Sky and Mark moved from their bedroom and took a spot on the beach at Sabang. Then dive shops started popping up everywhere and now today we have over fifty dive centers between Sabang and White Beach. And it’s no surprise as the diving here is world class and PADI has dominated the scene since the beginning. For a diver, it has a lot to offer from wrecks to some of the smallest of critters found only here in Puerto Galera.

Resorts and hotels from all levels are found here. El Galleon Resort nestled among the trees to Atlantis and its European white concrete design to Infinity and its exquisite architectural design. Puerto Galera resorts and hotels have everything for you to enjoy a truly wonderful beachfront and diving holiday.

Asia Divers/El Galleon Resort: www.asiadivers.com email: [email protected]

April 24, 2016 |

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