A p o I s l a n d
Can I just go right out and say that this was an absolute dream come true. I had no idea that a destination only an hour flight out of Manila held this kind of beauty. And you can swim with turtles. Guys. You can swim with turtles. These shots took two trips to Apo Island and collectively about 4 hours of non-stop swimming, paddling and air gasps. On the first day the wind, current and grey skies were not our friends. Hours of trying to gently catch up to turtles against a very angry current meant I was so tired I could only hold my breath for a few seconds at a time. I was also completely blind underwater, not wanting goggles in the shots. Enter photographer/mermaid/fish Pip Harwood. She is the scuba diver/photographer extraordinaire who treaded water for the hours we were out there, holding her gigantic camera and equipment and wearing weights around her waist (she reminded me a little of the guy on the right here but actually looked like a more feminine version of this).
The woman is incredible, she was able to snap these shots, unfazed by the looming conditions. At one point, we had become so preoccupied with swimming with the beautiful turtles we didn't realise we had ventured into deep waters (hence the dark blue colour of the water in some shots, reminiscent of Jaws according to my friend Nina). Praying that no big black shadows would appear beneath us, we continued to dance beneath the surface, thoroughly enjoying the ocean when we were under, and thoroughly gasping for air when we weren't. I did get a chance to snorkel with flippers on for a while and I can tell you, that even during the less than ideal weather, the world under the surface will astound you. I can also tell you that despite the hundreds and hundreds of shots we took, the reef cuts, scrapes and burning throats from the saltwater that it is an experience that all of you should try - wearing goggles of course.
Mara Hoffman Maillot, Topshop Bikini
Photos: Pip Harwood