Samar Cave Diving Expedition 2011

by Bruce Konefe, ANDI I.T.D. #15

Samar Philippines is located in the Eastern Visayas region is known for its serene living. The island has a beautiful coastline with a beautiful rainforest and a rugged limestone terrain. As you travel through Samar you will see many low level mountains with beautiful waterfalls and streams. The island of Samar does not have a distinct rainy or dry season but if you would like to go the months from April to July would be considered best.

This past August a group of underwater cave explorers arrived in Samar to explore new cave systems and a system that they had discovered the previous year. Team leader Bruce Konefe, William Hudson and Thomas Bodis met up with their local Philippino guide Joni Bonifacio owner of Trexplore in the capital city of Catbalogan Samar. Traveling 1 ½ hours by jeepney to a nearby Barangay Campo Uno Paransas the team of 4 would meet the owners of the three boats which would take them and their equipment up the Ulot river. The boat were probable about 4 meters long powered by a 10 hp Honda motor. The boats road so close to the water that you could stick your hand over the side and put your hand in the water. Quite amazed that you would be able fit a compressor, 18 dive tanks, 3 large dive equipment bags and a few other bags into the boats without sinking. The ride up the Ulot river was a beautiful and exciting ride which took 2 ½ hours before arriving at Salvation E. Samar.

The villagers had spoken to us about cave entrance that had run out of the mountains that was just up the stream 10 minutes. Upon arrival there was crack in the stone wall but once you descended down to about 24 meters it opened up wide enough to get through. The water was very cold (lucky some of us wore dry suites) and also had a very strong flow coming out. We had pulled ourselves down squeezing through the large lime stone rock. The visibility was quite good and the passage had opened up a lot however it was a good thing that the team had decided to use sidemount equipment to get through some of the smaller holes. We worked our way down to about 34 m when we hit our rule of thirds and turned the dive. At 34 m the cave had kept on getting deeper and the passageways were getting much larger. To explore the cave further we would have needed trimix and nitrox to do the dive safely. There was excellent visibility going in but when the three of us turned around the viz had decreased a lot. After a few meters of crawling our way out the viz had cleared up, the problem we had to concentrate on now was holding on the large boulders so we did not get blown out and miss the decompression we had built up on the dive. Once everybody was safe and sound back on the boat we headed back to the village were we would start planning the next day’s trip into the jungle. Samar is really just starting to expand in the cave diving activities. Finding dive tanks the team had to have the tanks sent by a minivan from the town of g1 which is 5 hours away from the local BFAR.

Brgy Salvation is located in a very remove area. The town only has electricity for about 4 hours an evening when there is enough fuel to run the generator. The people were wonderful to us by letting us stay in their house and fed us some fabulous tasting meals. On one special occasion they had served us carrabo which was the most tasteful meal of the trip. This village was a local place for a Philippine military post with a lot of guys with m16s and machine guns. They military personal were a great group of guys and helpful that even charged our primary light batteries for us in the evening. From the village our guide Joni had organized a group of 18 porters that would help carry all of our equipment into the jungle to Kan – Maanghit cave (which means bad smell from all of the bats). The journey to the cave would take us about 2 ½ hours of hiking through fields, steams and jungles. The group had come to the entrance of the cave, as we were walking through the waist deep water there were thousands of bats swarming around. It was not unusual for the bats to fly right into you as you were walking. Just as we reached the place where we would dive not everybody had arrived. As we were waiting for the rest of the porters there was a lot of screaming and you could see the porters running in all directions. The porters had come across a 4 meter long python snake. For the next 4 days we would be camped out here to explore Kan – Maanghit cave.

Our plan for this trip was to extend the line we had previously laid last year. From the very first dive nothing was going as we had planned. During the past year the water had risen so high that the people in the village had to move into the mountains. The flow of the water had strung the line all over the inside of the cave. On the way to the cave William and I made a small bet whether the line would still be in the cave or not. I bet that the line was still there but almost wish it would have been washed away. The line had actually become a hazard while we were in the cave and really complicated the dives. We decided to repair the line the best we could but then focus on exploring other parts of the cave. We decided to explore the other side and it turned out to be an awesome dive with a lot of stalactites and stalagmites. In one section we were able to surface and see how beautiful the dry chamber was, a site that would take your breath away.

As we were getting ready to pack up the gear and start heading to Barangay Salavation the porters decided we had too much gear and too heavy to carry out. We ended up having to hire a total of 28 porters, a water buffalo and a small boat to get all the equipment back to the village.

After getting back to Catbalogan and getting some work done to our equipment we headed off to Guiuan which is the south eastern part of the Philippines. We have then there before with a lot of luck finding caves. This trip we were going to go back and dive a cave we found a couple years ago. We had tried looking for this cave before but instead we found two other caves to dive on the same path in the jungle. Because of the difficulty locating the other cave we had brought pictures of the cave and the porters to show them what the cave looked in hope they could remember. In order to reach this cave we only needed 6 porters to carry the tanks and equipment. Once we had found the cave it was nothing but crystal clear water. Thomas and I spent an hour diving around the beautiful clear water. There were some other passageways we wanted to check out but our bottom time had come to an end.

The next adventures in Samar there are three virgin caves that we plan to explore. Each year we think it is our last but we always manage to find new places to explore. Cave exploring is a very expensive especially when you are looking to find what no others have explored before. A special thanks to John Griffith of Ocean management systems, ANDI American Nitrox Divers International and Cochran computers for their support in helping during our expedition.


AUGUST 23-30, 2011

CATBALOGAN CITY – BRGY CAMPO-UNO, PARANAS, SAMAR – BRGY SALVACION – CAN-AVID E. SAMAR

ULOT RIVER – LONGEST RIVER IN SAMAR ISLAND

3 BOAT
28 PORTERS
18 TANKS
1 COMPRESSOR
3 CAVE DIVERS
1 CAVE

THE CAVE SPRING:

1. KAN-MAAGHIT CAVE – ( GUANO “BAT SHIT” , THOUSAND OF BATS & SPRING UNDERGROUND RIVERS & UNDERWATER CAVES SYSTEMS)

THE CAVE DIVERS:

1. BRUCE KONEFE “AMERICAN”   –  THAILAND
2. WILLIAM HUDSON “AMERICAN”   –  THAILAND
3. THOMAS BODIS “GERMAN” –  GERMANY

GUEST:

1. GERALDINE ANTONIO “FILIPINO” LAS PINAS, MANILA

CAVE GUIDE / LOGISTIC COORDINATOR

1. JONI A. BONIFACIO “TREXPLORE” CATBALOGAN CITY, SAMAR

BOAT MAN:

1. FREDDIE OBLINO
2. JERMY OBLINO
3. BOTOY OBLINO
4. TEDDY OBLINO
5. LOWIE OBLINO
6. HALI ORAYE
7. ARMANDO OBLINO

PORTERS:

1. REMAT HERBOL – 1 TANK
2. AMBIE LADIK – WILLIAM CAVE DIVING BAG
3. MELVIN GUITORYA – 1 TANK
4. ROGER HERBOL – 1 TANK
5. ROLAND – LARIOSA – 1 TANK
6. JEFREY OBAN – GASOLIN
7. SAMUEL RIVERA – 1 TANK
8. JAWO LUSTA – 1 TANK
9. ABO ULIADO – THOMAS CAVE DIVING BAG
10. ARNEL LUSE – BRUCE CAVE DIVING BAG
11. PAQUITO DALINA – METAL BELT
12. DANSOY LUSTA – 1 TANK
13. MEDDY OBINA – JONI BAG
14. JR DALINA – 1 TANK
15. ROGER HERBOL – 1 TANK
16. ELMER OUSA – 1 TANK
17. GLENN HERBOL – 1 TANK
18. ALLAN DALINA – 1 TANK
19. GARY LUSTE – COMPRESSOR
20. JOJO OBENA – 1 TANK
21. ALVIN GUITORYA – 1 TANK
22. RENAN LADISLA – JONI BAG
23. JOBEL JULINDO – THOMAS BAG
24. BOLONGOY DALINA – 1 TANK
25. JR LUSTE – 1 TANK
26. ABIT HERBOL – WILLIAM BAG
27. RONALD PAQANAS – 1 TANK
28. JUVY OBINA – 1 TANK

CAMP PORTERS:

1. SAMUEL LUSTE
2. EDGAR LUSTE
3. RYAN RIVERA
4. JQUEL EBIAS

ITINERARY:

AUGUST 22, 2011 – ARRIVE CATBALOGAN CITY

AUGUST 23, 2011 – GET PERMIT, PUMP TANKS / PREPARING FOOD AND EQUIPMENTS

AUGUST 24, 2011 – 1 HOUR & 30 MINS JEEP CATBALOGAN CITY TO CAMPO-UNO / TORPEDO BOAT IN ULOT RIVER TO BRGY. SALVACION – DIVE BUCALAN SPRING IN ULOT RIVER

AUGUST 25, 2011 – 2 HOURS TREK TO KAN-MAAGHIT CAVE / CAVE DIVING KAN MAAGHIT CAVE

AUGUST 26, 2011 – CAVE DIVING KAN-MAAGHIT CAVE

AUGUST 27, 2011 – CAVE DIVING KAN-MAAGHIT CAVE, KAN-MAAGHIT CAMPSITE TREK TO BRGY. SALVACION

AUGUST 28, 2011 – CAVE DIVING SALVACION SPRING / DEPARTURE BRGY. SALVACION TO CAN-AVID E. SAMAR / 3 HOURS JEEP TO CATBALOGAN CITY

AUGUST 29, 2011 – BUY BAG, FIX LIGHT, FIX COMPRESSOR. BURN PICTURES.
AUGUST 30, 2011 – DEPARTURE CATBALOGAN CITY TO CALICOAN ISLAND GUIUAN E. SAMAR

THANKS TO:

SAMAR ISLAND NATURAL PARK – TENANI
MR. FREDDIE OBLINO – CAMPO- UNO
BRGY CAPT. JOSEPH OBIENA – BRGY. SALVACION
MR. SAMUEL LUSTE – KAN-MAAGHIT
PEOPLE BRGY. SALVACION