Destination Fact File
The problem will be where to choose to visit, there are so many outstanding possibilities
The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands, 2,000 of which are inhabited. This beautiful land is covered with tropical stunning rainforests, caves, waterfalls, gorgeous beaches, pristine reefs and a diverse marine eco system. The Philippines is the second-largest archipelago in the world and one of the greatest treasures of Southeast Asia. The archipelago is a string of coral-fringed islands divided into three groups, Luzon to the north, the Visayas in the centre and the islands of Mindanao to the south strewing across a vast expanse of the western Pacific. The best diving areas are found in Luzon and the Visayas where below sea level, the waters boast some of the world's best diving and snorkeling at the very heart of the “Coral Triangle”.
Dive sites in the Philippines are exciting and varied. In these waters you will find the best of the very best of the world’s biodiversity and discover animals of all shapes and sizes. The reefs have the widest variety of fish and corals in the world and you can also dive UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the outstanding Tubbataha Reefs with great pelagic action.
Philippines’s Top Dive Sites:
The Canyons in Puerto Galera is the most famous dive site, a must visit for all experienced and technical divers. It is here that the currents encourage the abundance of marine life in the area making a massive impact. When currents are strong, the marine life is plentiful and varied. Burly surges along the wall which means divers and fish alike have to seek shelter in one of the three distinct canyons. You will find yourself having a short rest in each canyon surrounded by schools of snappers, jacks, sweetlips, emperor angelfish and barracuda. Recently, there have been sightings of pelagics including mantas, thresher and hammerhead sharks. Resting at the end of this site is a coral encrusted anchor, all that remains of a Spanish Galleon. The Canyons is best dived on nitrox to give you more bottom time to take in all the sights. This is truly a world-class dive that should not be missed.
MV Alma Jane in Puerto Galera is a cargo vessel that was scuttled right in the middle of Sabang Bay in 2005 in an effort to create an artificial reef. Today it lies upright in 30 metres of water and is home to inquisitive schools of batfish, yellowtail fusiliers and drummers around the wreck. The hull is still intact and you can swim into it taking care of sharp edges and lurking lionfish waiting in the shadows for a meal to swim by. There is plenty to explore and you may also come across some smaller critters such as mantis shrimp and morays; stingrays can also be found in the sand around the wreck.
Apo Island in Dumaguete has a few fantastic dives; amongst the best of them all is “Coconut”. This site offers excellent visibility and a fair current giving divers a good chance of seeing large schools of jacks. Turtles and sea snakes are also found here. The strong currents and the depth normally limit this site to advanced divers with experience in such conditions.
Monad Shoal in Malapascua is a world famous dive site. This sunken coral plateau at around 20 metres is a well-known cleaning station for thresher sharks. These rare and graceful creatures can grow up to 6 meters in length and can be seen during the early hours of the morning. If you are lucky you might end up seeing threshers and manta rays on the same dive. It is also a great location for underwater macro photography and for critter lovers! The conditions are generally pretty good with 15 metres visibility, however with a maximum depth of 24 metres and occasionally quite strong currents, advanced divers will fully enjoy this magnificent dive. It takes 30 minutes by boat to reach Monad Shoal from Malapascua Island and this site is best dived at dawn when you have more chances of seeing the threshers.
Pescador Island in Moalboal is situated about 2km off the coast. It is a tiny island that you can get around in one shallow dive and offers the most diverse marine life of any site in Moalboal. There are superb drop-offs and overhangs all around. In actual fact, the whole circumference of the island is a wall dive. In the shallower areas coral formations are impressive and colourful. Further down, between 20 and 30 metres, soft coral is prolific. Look out for the “Cathedral”, a funnel shaped structure at 25 metres. When the sunlight hits this area, it is spectacular! Marine life includes snappers, groupers, lionfish and scorpion fish everywhere. At deeper depths you may encounter white-tip and hammerhead sharks. Very occasionally, tiger and thresher sharks also make an appearance. The island is also a fabulous night dive and an amazing encounter with massive sardine balls.
Palawan & Tubbataha Reefs
Taiei Maru in Coron also known as “Okikawa Maru”, is an oil tanker resting upright in 27 metres of water. Largely in one piece it is over 180 metres long with the upper decks just 10 to 15 metres deep, a depth that allows you to spend a long time exploring the wreck, especially if you are diving with nitrox. Sometimes the wreck is paid a visit by very strong currents but this attracts large amounts of marine life. The wreck is home to schools of huge batfish as well as fusiliers, snappers and surgeonfish. Blue-finned jacks and mackeral often dart around hunting for food and on rare occasions you may even come across eagle rays and turtles. The decks are covered in hard and soft corals and for photographers there are scorpion fish, lionfish and nudibranchs everywhere.
Shark Airport in Tubbataha is found on the north atoll and is one of the best places for spotting a variety of marine life including endangered sea turtles, white and black tip reef sharks and plenty of different corals.
Tagbao Island in El Nido to the northwest point of Miniloc is a tiny island also known locally as the “Tres Marias” in reference to the three reefs that lie between the two islands. The reefs are shallow allowing for good snorkeling and beginner divers can expect to see lots of reef fish, colourful corals and painted crayfish.