International biodiversity experts and marine biologists Kent Carpenter and Victor Springer have declared Puerto Galera’s 1.14-hectare sea area as the “center of the center” of the world’s marine shorefish biodiversity.
The Philippines is part of the famed Coral Triangle, which houses more than three-fourths of the world’s species of corals, and more than half of the world’s coral reef fish. The most fertile area of the triangle boasts of 2.3 million hectares of coral reefs, which the Philippines shares with Indonesia.
It is thus incumbent upon the Department of Tourism – Dive Philippines to proudly present to the world this treasure by mounting the second Objectif Atlantide (OA) Underwater Investigation, an underwater critter quest competition held in Puerto Galera. The competitors, 10 teams of French and Swiss scuba divers and free divers, were given a narrative that continues from last year’s premise and an initial set of clues to begin their undersea search for unique species.
The OA Underwater Investigation comes at an opportune time, as the Philippines has seen an impressive 14.84% growth in French tourist arrivals. DOT reports also show that in January and February 2019 alone, tourist arrivals from Europe were second largest in France, just behind the United Kingdom. Through OA, the DOT seeks to further grow this market with programs that not only promote our marine biodiversity, but also actively advocate for its protection and preservation.
“Participants follow the clues, and then our scientists analyze what they have done. Points are earned based on their findings. See, even if this is a game, it’s educational. They are able to learn about the kind of species here,” OA founder Daniel Meouchy says of the competition.
Award-winning French freedivers Alice Modolo, who holds numerous French national records, and five-time freediving world champion Arthur Guérin-Boëri, partnered up with OA Underwater Investigation this year.
Of their experience diving in Puerto Galera, Guérin-Boëri shares, “The temperature of the water is very warm here, it brings a lot of micronutrients, so there are a lot more fish. It’s perfect for exploring, especially when the water gets clearer.”
“Joining the Underwater Investigation was also a new way for me to enliven my passion, and since the water here—unlike in France at this time—is warm, it’s great for deep-dive training,” adds Modolo.
Bringing home the crown for the second year in a row are Team Scubaland Pauline Thomas and Aurelie Pineau. They won the Underwater Investigation last year held in Cabilao, Bohol.
First runners-up are Swiss Esprit de la plongée Team Karine Cheurfa and Sophie Comminges, while taking third place are Hervé Pages and Martine Bonnevay-Aillaud of Team Les Têtes Bullées.
“We’ll come back, absolutely! We need to keep our title,” says winners Thomas and Pineau. “And there’s good food and great holidays here.”
The 2nd Objectif Atlantide Underwater Investigation is mounted in partnership with Objectif Atlantide, El Galleon Dive Resort and Asia Divers, with participating sponsors Atlantis Dive Resorts and Liveaboards, Pier Uno Dive Resort, Resorts World Manila, and Belmont Hotels and Resorts.
The event is also supported by French media Plongeur.com, Subaqua Magazine, Chercheurs d’eau, PlongeeOnline.com, Plongee Infos, Plongez Magazine, Paradise-Plongee.com.