Anilao, Philippines - Crystal Blue Resort - April 2013

I have put off writing this report for five years, because it's difficult to share a negative perspective.
But I think it's important to document both the good and bad experiences.

Let me start by saying that the resort itself was very nice.  The rooms were sizable and had reasonable clothing and gear storage.  The view was lovely from our top-of-the-hill location.  That said, our top-of-the-hill room was 82 stone stairs from the dock; half that distance to the dining room; one-third that distance to the camera room.

Now that might not seem substantial at first glance.  But remember, we are 65 years old.  And remember how exertion plays into the risk of Decompression Sickness (DCS).   Navigating that many stairs many times a day to get to meals, the dining area water supply, the dock, the camera room, back to the room for a forgotten item constitutes exertion, in my opinion.

I am very vigilant about my water intake when diving, because dehydration plays a strong role in Decompression Sickness (DCS).  In our rooms, we were provided each day with two bottles of water per person.  We could refill these or get glasses of water in the dining room .... recall the number of stairs to get there.    The boats each had a small  container of water in a thermos-type jug.  The quantity, to be shared by all, was little more than I would normally drink during a two-dive excursion.  In addition, the water container was not easily accessible to the divers.  It was generally placed towards the back of the boat; the tanks were stacked between the divers and the water container. 

The dives that we did were enjoyable, easy, and filled with the ocean critters that we so enjoy spotting.  But we became frustrated by returning to the same sites multiple times rather than exploring new sites.  When the Resort Manager, a California native, joined the dives, his site wishes were prioritized, even if we had just been at that site the previous day.  It was a frustration that was shared by members of our group.

We also were frustrated by the lack of regard for the marine life.  Small critters were not just prodded with muck sticks into a prime location for a photo, they were actually moved from their habitat and placed elsewhere to create a better photo image.  One individual bragged about getting a photo of 5 nudibranchs on a precipice.  The guide had collected these critters from around the area and set them up for the photographer. 

Mid-week, I surfaced from a pleasant afternoon dive and all was well ... for awhile.  But when I attempted to reach for a towel on the boat, my brain processed the message, but my arm failed to move. This temporary paralysis lasted 10 minutes or so.  Our dives to date, had not been difficult or exceptional in terms of depth or duration, and my profiles were in line with those of my dive buddies.  But this was clearly a sign of a DCS hit.

When the boat returned to shore, I reported my symptoms to the Manager and asked to be put on 100% oxygen, the initial protocol when DCS symptoms are present.  The response that I received from the Manager was:
     a.  I was told that I couldn't have DCS, because I appeared to be physically fine.
     b.  The Resort did not have 100% oxygen.
     c.  The Resort did not have anyone certified to administer 100% oxygen.
     d.  No one offered to call DAN or provide transportation to a hospital for assessment.

I was beyond shocked to learn of the Manager's lack of knowledge about DCS symptoms, and the Resort's failure to provide those essential measures of safety.  I was also chagrined that my dive peers and I had failed to ask about safety protocols before we booked this trip or upon arrival. 

The next morning, I insisted on calling the Dive Alert Network (DAN), and the Medical Responder recommended an evaluation for DCS.   The Manager arranged a driver to take me to the hospital; however, he failed to tell the driver the reason for the 3+ hour trip.  Not having that information, the driver assumed that I was sick or had a non-dive injury and took me to a hospital that did not have a Recompression Chamber.  So, we continued traveling, finally arriving at the Batangas Hyperbaric and Would Healing Center at St. Patrick's Hospital Medical Center where I was diagnosed with DCS and hospitalized for 3 days with daily hyperbaric treatments.  The cost,  greater than $12,000, was gratefully covered by DAN Insurance.   But the 11 days of lost diving was a personal cost.  The next 11 days, while my friends dove the beautiful waters of the Philippines, I read dive magazines.     

Too many unacceptable safety shortcomings and negative practices.  This, clearly would be my last trip to Crystal Blue Dive Resort. 

April 2013

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