The month of July was spent in the Philippines with Coral Cay Conservation, who run diving expeditions using volunteers to gather data. I had previously been to one of their expeditions in Belize, several years previously, which had been a high spot of my life, and I was looking forward to an equally good time this time. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. Rapidly breeding beaurocracy was not a good sign- CCC had affiliated to the American dive organisation PADI since I last went with them, and American legal overkill went with the package. It also meant restricted freeedom on the expedition- you could hardly sneeze without permission from London, and driving the dive boats (one of the fun jobs in Belize) was totally out of the question. This would not have been too much of a problem if we had been able to dive all the time, but a week into the expedition, the (previously glorious) weather broke. Whilst most of Asia missed the monsoon due to El Nino, the Philippines had about 40 inches of rain over 8 days! Hillsides washed into the sea, covering and smothering the corals, and we were unable to visit more distant reefs as the locally made boats (bancas) could not cope with even the mildly rough seas the storm brought. Endless reading, games of scrabble, and 3 eagerly awaited meals a day were the only distractions.
On the plus side, I learnt a lot about pacific fish and corals (I ticked off 180 or so fish species in the fish guide book, and many more went unidentified), and logged nearly 40 dives, many of which were in the most fantastic dive sites I've ever visited. I also met some great people, especially the local staff, who were wonderfully friendly.