1. The management are NOT costumer oriented, they are greedy, and even outright liers.
2. Having dived throughout the Philippines, Apo reef does not live up to the hype, and is NOT worth the money.
3. Divecal is (at best) a mediocre dive operation, as the low prices imply. Unless you feel safe underwater I wouldn't recommend this budget option. Oh - and you can bargain - we got a 9000 peso discount on the Apo reef trip (Still it's not worth the money).
My review will be split in two - the first part will be an (as) objective (as possible) account of our experience with them. The second will be a message to the manager (who'll probably respond to this review), enumerating all the wrongs they've done, in our eyes, and how it should've went down. Hope someone finds this useful.
We arrived a day ahead of time, paid for the safari, as agreed, and were shown the contract terms and conditions. The manager specifically stated that the minimum is 10 dives, and sometimes they make 11 dives.
Since we had a day we went out for a day of diving around Coron. During that day I dropped a mask, and told the manager that we'll sort it out when I get back.
The safari boat is VERY basic - the ship hull is filled with 8 bunk beds, and the ship is small overall. When we got to the boat we checked our gear. And a mask was missing in my partner's box. We told the DM and he said he'll bring one in the morning, which he did. We (2+2+1 divers) spent the night on the boat, excited for the trip. In the morning the weather was horrible. Once we had clearance, the captain decided to go ahead and try to sail to Apo reef (it was obvious that chances were poor). After about two hours of sailing the captain decided to go back to Coron. On our way into the port, we were asked if we want to dive in the bay. The weather was really bad so it was not really an option for any of us. We reached the port at noon.
When we arrived, the DM onboard told us that we need to wait and see about the weather tomorrow. We asked if it will be possible to go for the three days safari the next day, weather permitting. In response, he said that he has to talk to the boss, and they need to contact the coast guard, and he'll update us in the afternoon. We waited on the boat in Coron for roughly 8 hours, with no news, when finally someone arrived. It was another diver, who boarded the boat under the impression he's going for two days in Apo reef. At this point we went to the dive shop, hoping to get the manager to agree to a three day safari, for which we paid. When we arrived and asked whether it was possible to still go for three days, the first response was that it's not possible since there's another safari booked immediately after ours, and the boat must be back in time. Besides, as the contract dictates, in case of bad weather the company will try its best, but has no obligation for a refund or anything else - "we offered you dives in the bay today, which is the best we can do". At this point we (all 5 divers) suggested to pay some extra money, together with the dive center, to cover losses, in the hopes to make everyone happy, and still go on the three day safari. After some consideration, they offered us to split the payment for the lost day. One of our group would only agree to pay 25% of what we were asked, and the manager said he'll consider it and let us know. As it was late we got back to the boat and awaited news, which did not arrive.
In the morning, having asked the DM, he told us we were going for three days, the boat crew brought more food, and the weather was much improved, so we were hoping for the best. After ~2 hours of sailing, when cell signal was becoming scarce, a text message from the dive shop stated that the boat was to return on the original date since the it was needed. We tried to tell the manager that we can pay what he asked for (we convinced the guy to pay a little more), but then he said there's not enough food. At this point, and since the signal was really bad, we gave up, and tried to make the best of our 2 days in Apo reef.
The food on the boat was basic Filipino food, so keep your hopes down. Most of the diving is beautiful, but not better than Balicasag, Cabilao, Puerto Galera, and other places we've visited in the Philippines.
When we got back to the diveshop, all 5 of us expected some kind of compensation. Indeed, one of the staff who was there asked us how was the trip, and since none of us was happy with the very expensive two day trip, we let her know that. In response she reluctantly informed us that they decided to give us 2 extra dives in the bay, to complete the count to the minimum 9 dives promised in the contract. I mentioned that the manager said the minimum is 10, and she said they'll let us know in the morning.
In the morning, before we went to dive, they called me and my spouse and asked us to pay for the two masks we've lost. I assured them that I'll pay for the mask I dropped, but that we lost no other mask - it was simply not in the box on the boat. After some argument, they demanded payment for the one mask before the diving. We paid and went diving (2 dives).
Now to our issues with the above experience, in order of importance:
1. DO NOT LIE to your costumers - telling us that the boat is occupied, only to forget you said that once we offer to pay a little extra money is LYING. Similarly, letting us know in the morning that we're going for 3 days, only to call later when we cannot respond and say that there's not enough food is also LYING.
2. If things go wrong - keep your costumers in the loop. We waited 8 hours for any news regarding our very expensive trip, which never arrived - we had to go and demand attention to understand what's going on. Nobody thought to consult with us or even update us. After our conversation we awaited your decision, which again never arrived, until we asked what's going on in the morning.
3. Give your costumers the benefit of the doubt - nobody asked us if we lost the second mask, indeed we didn't know it was lost until you demanded money. Ask your costumers for their account before assuming you got the whole picture.
4. Don't be greedy - when our trip falls to shambles because of the weather - don't bring another costumer on board, and actually make MORE money out of our plight, without recompensing us at all. You realize that we saw our dream trip ruined, you were making more money, and did not even stop to think if you can relieve some of our distress. You immediately flaunted the contract between us, instead of genuinely trying to make the best out of the situation, even if it means less profit to you. After doing the calculations with the basic prices you provided (which are no doubt inflated) - we paid together a whopping ~125000 peso, and the trip cost no more 80000. Even if you gave us the extra day you would still be earning ~25%, which is a very nice profit. In short - you were very greedy. Now, you'll probably argue that our numbers are wrong but I assure anyone who's reading this - the man had no trouble taking his profit without giving us a second thought. After all our complaints and reproaches, we got the 2 dives in the bay, which is the bare minimum, and this is the only reason you're getting 2 stars rather than 1 from us. Oh, and charging costumers who spent more than a 1000$ in your shop for a lost mask worth 20$ is pettiness at best, but I think it's downright rude.
5. Take responsibility - the attempt to go to Apo reef in the first day, which was doomed, was not our decision, but the captain's. When you asked to share the losses of this day, you should've taken the fuel and all these wasted crew hours on you, and not ask us to pay for them.