MAGALOG21 (2021)

staff happier than to see the smile on our faces, and I guess that’s why the Sea Explorers’ tagline is “Dive with a smile,” because we certainly did. Negros Island was our next stop, and we were beyond surprised when we arrived at PuraVida Homes. Fourteen luxurious two- bedroom villas each are handcrafted with rich hardwoods and have breathtaking views of the mountains and sea.The resort sits on a beauti- ful beach with three infinity pools, restaurant, gym, spa and a wedding chapel. Being that it was our 10th wedding anniver- sary, we could not resist the opportunity to renew our vows at sunrise.Owner Chris Heim was delighted to give me away. Biggs accepted as my maid of honor, and the local pastor presided, as his lovely daughter sang. I have no words for how special Sea Explorers made us feel throughout our trip.They treat everyone like family. There were mountain villages to explore, and infinite pristine reefs teeming with fish to dive, likeApo Island which provided endless views of colorful soft corals, punctuated with my favorite, turtles! We could have stayed a month and not been bored. Oslob to dive with whale sharks on our way to Bohol aboard our banca boat Dako, we were able to dive in 35 feet of warm, clear water while observing these gentle giants feed- ing on krill. I had only been diving with whale sharks in the Galapagos, and it was fabulous in these much warmer waters. Kids and families can snorkel or dive this any time during their stay.

me if I wanted to do some muck diving. I had read about this type of addictive diving, hunting for the tiniest of critters on the sandy bottom. I found tiger shrimp the size of rice, multicol- ored frogfish the size of a gumballs and pygmy seahorses all well camouflaged to the eyes of any would be predators. Cabilao Island, our next stop via the chocolate hills, hanging bridge and zip line, to stay at PuraVida Cabilao. Another spec- tacular Sea Explorer resort with 2O spacious oceanfront suites, more breathtaking views and completely surrounded by endless coral walls. The unlimited shore diving provided many opportunities to experience a plethora of tiny critters, turtles, rays, sharks and even schools of wild dolphin. This boutique island resort offers a personal closeness that is perfect for small groups and Kids Sea Camp.The dining offers a personalized touch with a menu prepared to please. All in all, we have given a good chunk of our hearts to the Philippines, as we found it to be one of the most welcoming, safe and smile- driven places we have encountered to date. If you’re ready to take a break from your virtual world, I invite you to taste experience to the utmost, to teach your children to reach out without fear to explore a world that will bring their imagination to life. Join us for an extraordinary journey to the Philippines. I encourage you to open your children’s eyes to a humbleness, a happiness and a new way of looking at life that they will remember forever.

Amun Ini is a small 16-room, five-star dive resort and the most luxurious little gem we found yet. Family-owned and family-run. Amun Ini means “This is mine,” and I can understand why as anyone would want to claim it for themselves. A beautiful, private white sand beach, infinity pool and large spacious rooms greeted us at this eco-friendly, holistic and organic scuba retreat. The owner’s daughter and her husband are the gourmet chefs, who create local dishes that will tantalize your taste buds and make you feel like you’re dining in one of the top 10 restaurants in the world. Did I mention its kid friendly?The chef’s two little girls, ages 3 and 5, joined us each day. I loved seeing the smiles on their faces when I told them about Kids Sea Camp and all the kids we would return with to play together in the ocean. Beyond diving, I must mention the things Tom thought were more than noteworthy. Everyone in the Philippines plays basketball, and they are really good at it too!Tom played a few games after diving with the dive team, and it was almost as good as the diving. In addition, there are sunset massages, culinary classes, yoga or kayaking.We also enjoyed the many hugs from some of the happiest children we encountered throughout our trip.These are a humble people who prize family and each other above all things. The diving had the most incrediblly healthy and vibrant reefs I have ever seen. Biggs asked 803-419-2556 email:

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