Danke Laia is a Diver's Paradise! (Travel Guide + Review)

By Anne Elizabeth Apolona Gumiran - 4:08 AM


For the past years that I have been traveling around the Philippines and mostly from an island to another, I have developed a deep connection with the ocean. My reunion with the natural waters always gives me the feeling comparable to catharsis. Its sight is but entirely a purging of emotions; thus, allowing me to feel brand new and be able to feel again in the next chapter. Chapter One is pure bliss, the here and now with the brine and all the life it envelopes. There is something about it that just sets things right for me. 

Falling in love deeper with it has led me to skin diving which made me more passionate about it upon seeing how great the ocean is several meters deep from the surface. This year, I decided to dive regularly and in a monthly basis. With that, I would always call on some diver friends and explore the different dive spots nearby.



I have been eyeing on Danke Laia ever since it was mentioned to me by a friend. I have also attempted several times to come and visit but for some reasons, the trip would always be canceled. Reviving my hopes up to dive in their reef, I have invited a good deal of people who pushed for it to happen. Since then, I have considered this as my favorite and the best dive spot in Batangas.

About Danke Laia's Reef


The reef that divers checking into Danke Laia enjoy is part of the Verde passage. This area, a vastness of 1.14 million hectares, is dubbed as the "Center of the Center of Marine Shorefish Biodiversity" and the "Center of the Marine Biodiversity of the World". The mainland Luzon and the island of Mindoro are known to be separated by this strait. It is also considered as among the busiest part of the seas as several vessels and ships traveling to and from Manila and Batangas to various parts of the Philippines pass by the area a couple of times daily.

Spotted! A Hawksbill turtle!
Another hawksbill in the house reef!

Verde Island, another divers' paradise situated in Batangas, is just across and can be seen in front of Danke Laia. These dive spots are a home to sought after yet threatened marine creatures.

Where Danke Laia got its name

Initially, I thought it was some kind of a foreign word which has something to do with diving or the ocean. But then, one of its managers, Ate Anj, told us during our stay that it was actually a combination of a syllable from the names of the four people who started this diving resort - Dan for Dan himself, Ke for Kevin, La for Angela and Ia for Hygeia; hence Danke Laia.


Activities

1. Snorkeling and Free diving

The reef can be best enjoyed through these activities. A swimmer or not, the vast ocean is free to be explored but of course with safety precautions. If you know that you can't swim, you can just ask a company of a swimmer and explore the shallow parts of the reef. If you can dive 5 meters and beyond, you may explore Dan's Hole, the area at the grotto, the cave and the sandy part. Remember: Never dive alone.

Gear rental rates:
1. Fins - Php 200.00
2. Mask and snorkel - Php 200.00
3. Foam Buoy - Php 100.00
4. Freedive buoy - Php 300.00


2. SCUBA diving

Since Danke Laia is situated at the Verde passage, it has also been a spot for the sighting of fascinating sea creatures like eagle rays and hawksbill turtles. There was also a time that they saw migrating dolphins passing by the area. Anyway, greater things are always found at the depths of the ocean. We may never know what other beautiful creatures can be found in there.


3. Night Dive with Bio-luminescent Phytoplanktons

I was never fascinated with night diving until we did it in Danke Laia. I mean, what could we see? It's cold and dark and that we don't have any SCUBA diving equipment to do some night diving photography. When we brought it up to Ate Anj, she told us that we could and should do it. We might not be able to do some night dive photography but we'll get a chance to be awe-stricken by the bioluminescent phytoplanktons. I have actually heard and seen it on television shows and it was indeed surreal making me curious about it and wanting to try it. At 10:00 PM, we all decided to go down for it. With a torch, Ate Anj brought us to a certain spot. We assured our head count and that everyone is within each other's reach. Then, she turned off the light. 

I swear it's one of the most magical night of my life. I felt like Moana (lol). In every sway of our arms and legs, the water would light up as if we were spreading pixie or fairy dusts. It was a faint yellowish glow that our camera would not be able to record. We just enjoyed the moment and kept it in our minds and hearts - it will always be one of my greatest experiences and stories I'll ever tell. We played like children swaying and waving our arms, making random movements at the waters for the phytoplanktons to light up and be amazed by it. The sky was clear with all the stars above us and the ocean with bioluminescent phytoplanktons - the moment couldn't be more perfect.

4. Astro-photography

On nights with clear skies and when the moon is out or in its wanning phase, astro-photography is one of the best things to do in the resort. Best spot is at the cross down at the beach.



We didn't have any application that would guide us where the milky way was and we didn't even have tripod with us but we still managed to take decent shots of the surreal galaxy. We saw with our naked eyes a congregation of clouds which looked like it and just decided to shoot it. Luckily, it was what we were looking for! We took shots of it at 3:00 AM to 4:00 AM.


5. Photoshoot

The place is perfect for shooting photos as it has several scenic spots especially at the ocean. There were pre-nuptial and maternity shoots done by Ate Anj herself at the resort and her photos were the bomb! We also did a fun shoot.



Rates: 
1. Daytrip - Php 900.00
Day tour includes lunch and use of facilities and amenities. Gear would still have to be rented therefore not included in this fee.

2. Overnight - Php 1,600.00
Overnight rate include four meals - two lunch, one breakfast and one dinner; tent sharing accommodation with army besd (no pillows and linens) and use of other facilities and amenities.
If you plan to stay further, an additional Php 1,300.00 is paid for every additional night. They also serve unlimited brewed coffee

3. Freedive 101 (Basics of Freediving) - Php 2,300.00 per person
This includes a three and a half-hour session of theory, open water exercises, fun dive and gear.
In our case, we did free diving and we brought our own diving gear and equipment. Ate Anj was very accommodating that she would dive with us and take us to the best spots to dive in Danke Laia.

4. Intro to SCUBA diving - Php 2,500.00 per person
This is inclusive of Dive Master fee, tank, weights and gear. If you want professional photos, you can add an additional Php 500.00 on top of this rate.

5. SCUBA Fun Dive - Php 1,100.00 per head/ per dive
This includes dive guide fee, tank and weights. Gear however, are not included. Gear can be rented for 24 hours and the rates are as follow:
BCD - Php 300.00
Regulator - Php 300.00
Mask - Php 200.00
Fins - Php 200.00

The barrel reefs of Danke are just ginormous and lovely!


How to get there

via Commute:
1. Take a bus in Pasay or Buendia bound for Batangas City Grand Terminal.
2. From there, take a jeep that will take you to Bayan. Sign would be "Ospital" or "Kapitolyo". Fare is at Php 9.00.
3. Tell the driver  to drop you off the point where you can take jeepneys to SM Batangas City. Fare is at Php 9.00.
4. From SM City, take the jeep going to Pagkilatan stationed at the parking. Fare is at Php 45.00 per person.
5. Tell the driver to drop you off the first gray gate on the right after Monte Maria. It doesn't have any sign at all but you'll see a board with words "Building permit" with buildings under construction inside. Just get in the first gate.

Via private car:
1. Take the South Luzon Expressway and drive through Calamba exit.
2. Take the STAR Tollway.
3. Stay at the National Highway leading to Batangas City.
4. Take a right turn at the diversion road and drive straight to SM City.
5. Stay driving at Batangas-Tabangao-Lobo Road.
6. Danke Laia is just five to eight minutes away from Monte Maria. Look after the first grey gate on the right after seeing Monte Maria.

Dive safe!
Never dive alone ;)

















Tips and Reminders

During the dive

1. If you may, wear a full suit to protect yourself from swarms of jellyfish.
2. Bring sunscreen but make sure that it is reef friendly.
3. Bring a buoy since there are boats passing by around the area.
4. Never dive alone.
5. Always check the weather, waves and currents a day before your dive.
6. Best spots to dive include the area around the grotto and the cave which would require you to swim a little farther. Be careful though as waves get rough around those areas and there are swarms of jellyfish along the way. Look for the biggest barrel reef and you'll find Dan's hole in there where you can pass through if you can dive beyond 7 to 8 meters (around 20 feet).
7. Do not leave your stuff at the shore. Carry them with you back to the resort. Danke Laia will not be liable for the loss. Also, if you rented and lost the gear, you have to pay for it.
8. If you aspire to be a diver, consider this: EVERY FUN DIVE IS A CLEAN UP DIVE!
Whether you're doing it for fun or whatever, please protect the ocean at all cost starting from the simple things like not touching and stepping on the corals, using reef-friendly sun screen and doing a clean up dive every time you go to the ocean. Bring a mesh bag with you where you can put all the trash that you'll see as you swim around and have it tied to your buoy or hand held. This may be a band aid solution to the growing plastic problems that pollute the ocean but at least you're preventing the sea creatures from digesting it or preventing the plastic itself to be stuck in the corals.

Danke Laia's tent accommodation

In your day tour or overnight stay

1. The resort does not offer air-conditioned rooms yet so don't expect one. It's cool at night at the tents at night anyway.
2. There are no pillows and linens available so you have to bring your own.
3. There are shower rooms with tap water but there are no toiletries so you have to bring your own.
4. Walk ins are not entertained. Make sure that you have contacted the management prior to your visit so they could arrange the necessary preparations (i.e. food) prior your visit.
5. Drinking is allowed. There are stores near the resort where you can buy booze.

In commuting

1. Jeepneys from SM City traveling to Pagkilatan leaves every hour - be it full or not.
2. Jeepneys traveling back to SM City Batangas from Pagkilatan are only up to 12:00 PM. If you are leaving the place later than that, you have to wait and take a tricycle that will take you to another barangay where there are jeepneys bound for SM. Fare starts at Php 50.00 for special trip.

The view from the diving resort. This is the best part to enjoy the coffee after a good dive!


Contact Details

Should you plan to explore the awesome and spectacular reef of Danke Laia, you may reach them at the following:

Facebook: Danke Laia
Instagram: @DankeLaia

They are very responsive to queries!

Before diving at Dan's Hole!
Bago din kami winalwal ng dagat lol


My Danke Dive Buddies! (From left to right) Paul Gacutan, Anj Panganiban, Marife Marinas, Guiller Ramos, Felix Marcelo, Leandro Mendoza, Jed Sazon

I love these people I was with during that fun dive in Danke Laia! They made this fun dive experience better and superb! Looking forward to diving with them again soon! Hugs to everyone!

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