Scuba Diving Philippines
With more than 1200 marine life species, and more likely waiting to be discovered, the underwater ecosystem is the epicenter of marine biodiversity making it of one of the worlds top diving destinations.
With more than 7100 islands it is no wonder that the Philippines is one of the beach capitals of the world. The Philippines with its white sandy beaches, black sandy beaches, palm trees and deciduous forests, also offers a thriving nightlife and party scene, there are rice terraces, historic churches, absolutely charming and friendly people, deserted coves and islands and wonderful beach resorts, volcanoes and mountains, clear blue seas and skies, ridiculously cheap beers and local spirits, shaman and old tribal customs, multi-coloured transportation. The country’s 7,107 islands are a diverse mixture of Asian, European and American cultures.
English is widely spoken, jungle treks and hiking, historical landmarks, basketball, cock fighting, some of the best shopping in the world, fantastic food, immense grace, pristine coral reefs with diverse eco systems, jeepneys, bikes and noise, solitude and tranquillity, spas, thermal springs, sea journeys, adventures, kiteboarding and windsurfing, easy access, value for money, great high end restaurants and delicious street food, whale sharks, trikes, sunbathing, banca boats, lots of different visitors, a huge range of accommodation choices, surfing, golf and of course… Scuba Diving!
SCUBA DIVING PHILIPPINES
The Philippines is at the center of the center of the world’s marine biodiversity. And can legitimately be considered as having many of the best dives in the world and one of the world’s top diving destinations. The Coral Triangle is home to 76% of the world’s coral species, 6 of the world’s 7 marine turtle species and at least 2,228 reef fish species.. The central Philippines also has a particularly high number of species which are found nowhere else in the world.
A tropical climate, warm water, vast coral reefs and mind-blowingly beautiful flora and fauna make this country a true scuba diver’s paradise.
Among a few Philippine Diving highlights are the World Heritage site of Tubbatha, thresher sharks at Malapascua and big pelagics at Pantagatan, the critters and muck diving of Anilao and Dumaguette.
The Philippines also offers some of the most famous sites in the world for whale shark encounters. Everyone already knows about Donsol, to the north, but for a different kind of whale shark encounter head to Palawan’s Puerto Princesa.
The Philippines waters have about 40,000 square kilometers of coral reefs teeming with a wide variety of marine life. There are so many incredible places to experience the worlds best dive sites.
PHILIPPINE DIVE AREAS
The divisions of the Philippines are the three island groups of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Luzon and Mindanao are named after their main islands of the same names, while the Visayas (the Visayan Islands) is an archipelago.
LUZON – is the largest and most populous island in the Philippines. Located in the northernmost region of the archipelago, it is the economic and political center of the nation, being home to the country’s capital city, Manila.
The major Islands of Luzon are Luzon, Palawan, Mindoro, Coron Island and Masbate Island
Highlight Dive Areas:
- Puerto Galera and Verde Island Puerto Galera in Mindoro Island is a 70-mile drive and a 45-minute scenic boat ride from Manila. There are 35 dive sites around Sabang Beach where pygmy seahorses, frogfish, ghost pipefish, stargazers, nudibranchs and soft corals abound. Verde Island is a small island located between Batangas and Mindoro. Verde Island, with its great visibility and pelagic, is a must-dive. The reefs around Verde Island have a reputation for their great bio-diversity, and the dive sites are excellent for macro photographers. One of the best dive sites is the Verde Island drop-off.
- Anilao, a two-hour drive from Manila, is a “hotbed of evolution.” Walls explode with anthias, and every inch is covered in beautiful substrate. Mimic octopuses, ghost pipefish, flamboyant cuttlefish and more inhabit this area. There are four marine sanctuaries teeming with fish.
- Romblon is the perfect dive destination for fans of rare macro and super macro critters, underwater macro and super macro photographers but also divers, who enjoy scuba diving in untouched dive sites. Diving in Romblon are highly diverse, from hard coral formations, soft coral gardens, caves and cliffs with large Gorgonias to sand/muck and colorful shallow water dive sites.
- Subic Bay is an ideal get away from Manila as contains a number of interesting wrecks; predominantly from WWII, but also from the Spanish – American war. There are a number of hotels, restaurants and bars in Subic town and it can be accessed in under 3 hours from Manila.
- Palawan is the Philippines’s most Pristine Province, famous for its limestone cliffs and luxury resorts.
- El Nido area at the tip of the Palawan island, home to a cluster of high-end hotels, often nestled on their own private beach at teh foot of towering rock wall. El Nido Marine Park in Bacuit Bay is rich in marine life. You are likely to see an array of wildlife including dugong, turtles, manta rays and the occasional whale shark plus many corals, walls & tunnels. There are over 30 dive sites ranging in depth from six metres to 30 metres plus. There is almost something for everyone here, from the novice to the experienced diver.
- Coron Bay is home to the best wreck diving in the Philippines. With at least 12 Japanese WWII ships lying in nearby waters. Coron has become a world-class diving destination attracting wreck diving enthusiasts from around the globe. Even now, sunken ships are still being found to add to the Olympia Maru, the Tangat gunboat and the Tae Maru, or the Conception Wreck, just to name a few. Just off Coron is Busuanga Island, home to another handful of wrecks and also healthy population of dugongs or sea cows.
- Tubbataha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 180 kilometres out in the Sulu Sea, offer high-voltage diving. The reef are protected by their isolate and by rangers that has station there. Here you’ll encounter turtles, sharks, mantas, big schools of fish, whale sharks and perfect coral gardens. Visibility is often 200 feet. Tubbataha is accessible via live-aboard from March through May.
VISAYAS – The Visayas is one of the three principal geographical divisions of the Philippines, along with Mindanao and Luzon. It consists of several islands, primarily surrounding the Visayan Sea, are considered the northeast extremity of the entire Sulu Sea.
The major islands of the Visayas are Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, and Samar.
Highlight Dive Areas:
- Dumaguete and Apo Island in Negros Oriental is a 60-minutes flight from Manila. This area has a myriad of sandy sites featuring rare and fabulous critters, such as the flamboyant cuttlefish, red ghost pipefish, needle shrimp, frogfish, mandarinfish and seahorses. Apo Island Marine Park is a short boat ride from Dumaguete, of the many dives sites around the island Coconut is considered one of the very best. Often the spot with the best visibility the primary attraction is that it is here the huge schools of Jacks are often seen.
- Bohol is a destination that offers a range of incredible highlights including tropical jungles, idyllic towns as well as beautiful beaches and islands. There are three islands around Bohol that has great diving.
- Panglao Island is the main diving destination and it’s famous for its pristine beaches fringed with vibrant coral reefs.
- Balicasag Island is a short boat ride from Panglao Island, and here you will find various dive sites rich with marine life including an abundance of turtles and colorful fish species.
- Cabilao, just a quiet island off the west coast of Bohol is home to some of the most beautiful reefs in the Philippines. Cabilao could be considered a macro photographers dream with its vast array of underwater species.
- Malapascua, a world famous dive destination as Malapascua is one of the few places where thresher sharks can be seen on a regular basis. These pelagic fish grow up to 6 meters in length and attract divers to this small island from all over the world.
- Cebu is a popular diving hub as well as being a gateway destination for travelling around the Philippines. Most of the population lives on the coastal fringe and this is where you will find the amazing diving opportunities on offer.
- Moalboal, the southwest destination of Moalboal is renowned for its white sandy beaches and stunning reefs teeming with marine life including turtles and whale sharks.
- Pandan Island is a small and remote island west of Mindoro, and is only 3 hours away from the spectacular Apo Reef by boat. The island is also surrounded by a white sandy beach, ideal for those looking to get away from it all. Good diving and snorkeling can also be found in the shallow waters surrounding the island.
- Siquijor is a beautiful hilly island in the southern Visayas. The lush green interior and sandy beaches are quiet and unaffected by tourism and there is a real sense of serenity about the island. The focus here is centered on world class macro and night diving. Both in and out of water this is a photographer’s dream
- Mactan Island, near Cebu City, offers spectacular reef diving off the east coast of the island. During a dive here, you may have a chance encounter with turtles, lionfish and thresher sharks as they glide over the colorful reefs.
MINDANAO – is the second largest and southernmost major island in the Philippines. It is also the name of one of the three island groups in the country, consisting of the island of Mindanao and smaller outlying islands.
Highlight Dive Areas:
One of the underwater jewels of Mindanao is the diving spots in Northern Mindanao, specifically the waters surrounding the Agutayan Island known as Agutayan Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of Jasaan, Misamis Oriental. The island, virtually a sandbar is surrounded by green waters that is rich with marine life that houses the endangered giant clams. Also Lionfish of all sizes are everywhere, nudibranch, anemones, angel fish, trigger fish, groupers, hammerheads, gorgonians, pufferfish, porcupines and various colorful fishes roam underwater.
Other dive sites nearby are the Constansia Reef, Sipaka Point, Talisayan Shoal, the World War II wreck in Sta. Ines, Duka Bay in Medina and its underwater springs, Punta Diwata, and Manongul in Mantangale, Balingoan, all in Misamis Oriental.
In Camiguin Island, there is the Old Volcano, Sunken Cemetery, Jigdup and Burias Shoal, Cabuan Point and Mantigue Island.
The very popular Dakak Beach is most known for its beautifully shaped cove and powdery white sand, and as a diving mecca in Mindanao. Perfect blue waters, tremendous dive sites with an wealth of coral reefs, and a splendid sunset horizon distinguish this tropical Eden. Dakak dive sites in the beach resort provide a variety of environment from gradual slopes to coral thickets, vertical walls and caves. Marine life is assorted. Some spots are thick with soft coral growth and huge basket sponges, others with schools of jacks, surgeons, and small reef inhabitant.
In Dipolog which is about 2 hours by air from Manila, you will enjoy the beauty of Dakak where you can discover coral reefs while you scuba dive in astonishing clear waters. It also boasts of fine white sand and surrounded by glamorous flowers and coconut palms.
Sarangani Bay, Mindanao is the southernmost province in mainland Mindanao. Drift diving is the name of the game here. Tinoto Wall is part of the Kamanga Marine Eco-tourism Park and Sanctuary, established in 2006. Sadly, a coal-fired power plant being constructed close by threatens the marine protected area, which is also home to dugong, sea turtles, eagle rays and Napoleon wrasse.
DIVE SEASON: Diving in the Philippines is all year round but there are three distinct seasons that affect dive conditions. December through March is the northeast monsoon that can bring strong winds. April through June is usually dry with warm days and little wind. July through November is the southwest monsoon, which is wet but the water is warm. The wind swings from NE to SW for June, July, August and September and this opens up some places that are not so accessible for diving in the drier months.
VISIBILITY: Depending on the location and the weather, Visibility can vary tremendously and there are so many factors affecting it that it would be wrong to make definitive statements. Visibility can range from 5-45 metres/15-150 feet.
WATER TEMPERATURE: Nice warm water, varying between 23-30°C/73-86°F depending on the area and season.
FEATURED CREATURE: The Philippines is a great place to see scorpionfish, emperor, barracuda, Moorish idol, flute mouth, tuna, batfish and trevally. Some of the more unusual creatures spotted also include pygmy sea horses, parrotfish, lionfish, triggerfish, unicorn fish, trumpet fish, wrasse, mantis shrimp, squid, and octopus. Bigger animals also get into the picture with eagle rays, devil rays, manta rays and sharks, including thresher sharks and hammerhead sharks.
CLIMATE: There are two seasons in the country, the wet season and the dry season. The wet season will be from May to October which Typhoon can happen between July -October. Air temperatures average 25-32°C/78-90°F with high relative humidity.
LANGUAGE: Filipino (Tagalog) and English is widely Spoken.
ELECTRICITY: 220 Volts 60Hz with 2 round pins or flat 2-pin or 3-pin (two flat pins and rounded ground pin) Power sockets: type A/B/C
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: Philippines Peso. Major credit cards are widely accepted at major Stores, restaurant and hotels.
GRATUITIES: A tip of 10% of the total bill is the usual practice. But if the bill already includes a 10% service charge, tipping is optional.
PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: Country code +63. Check your carrier as cell service is widely available. Internet access is also widely available in most part of the Philippines.
VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: US Passport must be valid at least six months after your scheduled departure date from the Philippines. No visa required if stay less than 30 days.
GETTING THERE: There are four international airports in the Philippines: the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Clark International Airport in Angeles City, Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu and the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City
CUSTOMS: The following items are allowed duty-free: A reasonable quantity of personal clothes, jewelry, and toiletries. Two cartons of cigarettes or two tins of pipe tobacco and up to two (2) liters of alcohol.
DEPARTURE TAX: International departure fee is Php 750 per person, payable in local currency. Domestic Terminal around the country charge their own fee, so preparing Php 100-200 should cover it. Please note that fees may change without prior notice.
Topside Attractions – Sand, sun and fun are the focus on the beaches in the southern Philippines. Visit Taal Volcano, the smallest active volcano in the world. Check out the architecture of the many historic churches. Engage in other watersports, like sea kayaking or wind-surfing, or take a wildlife tour.
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