I have just come back from an amazing five weeks at CCC. I enjoyed it so much that I cancelled
the few days travel I had planned at the end of the trip and stayed on base until the very last minute!
I arrived as a dive trainee and so underwent a week of training to get me to Advanced Open Water diver. The instructors were great and we all felt really comfortable training with them and the fact that we were learning to dive on House Reef, just a few steps from our accommodation and some of the best diving in the world, according to the diving veterans amongst the group, just made it even better.
After learning to dive was two weeks of science training where we learnt the different subtrates (corals, sponges etc), invertebrates, and fish, and surveying techniques. Science training was tougher than I expected but it is necessary- if you aren't sure about what you are seeing on the reef then you are not going to be able to perform accurate surveys. Once I had learnt it all, surveying became fun, and diving is way more interesting when you can recognise what is going on beneath the surface!
Once surveying started, we would spend our days on the Nudihunter, CCC's dive boat. We would travel to the site, do the first survey dive, then eat lunch, hang out and snorkel etc as we waited for the next dive, then we would do the second survey dive and travel back around the bay to base. It was always fun to be on the boat because the scenery was amazing and once we even saw a whale breaching!
The base is basic as you might expect for this part of the world so be ready for no running water, shared rooms etc However, everyone works together to keep the place spotlessly clean and you soon get used to not having luxuries like working taps (and there is an outdoor shower so washing is easy enough)! The base is quite big and with a large area outside so there are lots of places to chill out in between dives and science training so you can have as much or little space as you want. The base is located within the village of Napantao and further beyond we could travel to Liloan to stock up on any toiletries etc we needed.
The other volunteers were of a mixture of ages (ranging from 18-51 when I was there) with most of us around early twenties to mid thirties, and a range of nationalities and backgrounds (some were scientists, others like me didn't work in anything related to this but were just interested in science and conservation). Everyone was lovely and there was a relaxed, social vibe at base. Everyone has an interest in diving, conservation, and adventurous travel in common so friendships grow easily here! In the evenings we would chill out together on the porch- sometimes there would be guitar playing, salsa lessons, movie nights, and impromptu spanish lessons!
Saturday nights were "party night" and we would celebrate with a few options- a trip into Napantao to the karaoke bar, a beach fire, and a trip across the bay for a night dive at the Sogod Bay Dive Resort. On Sundays we would have the day off and we would either spend those days snorkelling on the reef or else exploring Leyte. In the time that I was there we visited some hot springs, hiked to a waterfall, and climbed a volcano.
Most people were staying for four weeks and I stayed for five which barely seemed long enough. If you are learning to dive as well, then you aren't going to get much time to actually survey by the time you finish training so if you can stay for longer then I would definitely recommend it. I really hope to return one day and then I will definitely make sure I have a couple of months to spend there.
To sum up, this was probably the best trip of my life (and I have done a lot of travelling) and it was great to be doing something worthwhile and for such a great cause. I am already planning ways I can take two months off work and return!