Renowned for its diverse marine life, breath-taking landscapes, a unique cultural heritage and arguably the world’s friendliest people, the Philippines is fast becoming the ideal holiday destination for divers, sun worshippers and adrenaline junkies alike. It is no surprise that many of the Girls That Scuba community regularly seek advice about diving the Philippines so we’ve asked Adam Broadbent, co-founder of ZuBlu, to give some insight into its top diving destinations.
Forming the northern tip of the Coral Triangle, the Philippines is home to an amazing assortment of scuba diving destinations, offering encounters with ocean giants to the smallest of critters - and everything in between. Given everyone has their own diving preferences and the Philippines simply has so much to offer, it seems a little unfair to rank these different destinations. So instead we decided to offer up a little bit of inspiration - whether you are dreaming of big animals, would like a bit of everything, craving a critter fix or wish to escape from it all, then our selection of perfect Philippines dive destinations has something to inspire everyone.
Dream Big - Tubbataha Reef
Only accessible by liveaboard for a few months of the year, Tubbataha Reef Natural Park is an isolated 100,000 hectare World Heritage site in the middle of the Sulu Sea. With over 600 species of fish, 300 coral species as well as huge populations of barracuda, jacks and other schooling fish, Tubbataha could already claim to be the crowning glory of this island kingdom. However, it is the reliable encounters with whale sharks, manta rays, thresher sharks and hammerheads that take the diving here to another level. Liveaboards make the 14-hour journey from Puerto Princesa between March and early June when sea conditions are calm enough. Expect challenging but rewarding diving.
A bit of everything - Malapascua
Famed for the thresher sharks at Monad Shoal, Malapascua is high on the bucket list of most divers. Aside from the unique opportunity to see these stunning and elusive sharks at recreational diving depths, Malapascua has a lot more to offer for divers of all persuasions. The island itself is surrounded by some fantastic muck-diving with a mating mandarin fish night dive a particular highlight. Nearby Gato Island has some incredible reef structures as well as a tunnel running under the island that is home to whitetip sharks. Combined with some exceptional resorts and beautiful beaches, Malapascua is best described as an epic dive destination!
Puerto Galera is a series of modern day pirate coves, islets and beaches with a wealth of underwater ‘treasures’. Reefs in front of Sabang are great for muck-diving enthusiasts and the wrecks in deeper water are home to schooling batfish, giant frogfish and a host of other marine life. Critters such as flamboyant cuttlefish and mimic octopus are found on the sandy rubble around Paniquian and Media Islands, whilst to the east around Escarcio Point are some of the best diving sites – multiple pygmy seahorse on a single sea fan, swim-throughs and healthy fish life all waiting to be found. Day trips to Verde Island take you to some the best reef diving in the Philippines with remarkable topography, enormous sea fans, carpets of soft coral and thousands of anthias. Overall, Puerto Galera is an excellent dive destination with something to offer both the complete novice and the seasoned professional.
Alona Beach, Bohol
Alona Beach is a lively holiday resort on sun-kissed Panglao Island renowned for its nightlife, beautiful sandy beaches and great diving. Nearby Balicasag and Pamilacan Islands offer the best underwater experiences with exceptional reefs and abundant marine life but Alona is also an ideal base to explore the rest of Bohol - including nights safaris in search of endemic Tarsiers and visiting the spectacular Chocolate Hills. For divers looking for nightlife, a beach lifestyle and some great side trips, Alona is the perfect destination.
Critter Crush - Anilao, nr Manila
With its fantastic marine biodiversity, healthy reefs and exotic marine life, Anilao is regarded by many as one of the best dive destinations in SE Asia, particularly for macro-lovers and muck diving enthusiasts. Highlights include Rhinopias, hairy frogfish, hairy shrimp, blue-ringed and Wonderpus octopus, and the majority of resorts have been set up specifically to cater for photographers in search of these critters. With its easy access from Manila, divers can head down for a long-weekend or book an extended stay to fully appreciate the incredible critters that have made this destination so famous.
Located in the southern Visayas along the heel of Negros Island, the waters around Dauin and Dumaguete reliably provide some of southeast Asia’s best encounters for critter-loving enthusiasts. Its gently sloping sand plains, dotted with coral patches, are home to the rare, the bizarre and the ugly. From yawning frogfish to camouflaged ghostpipefish, mating flambuoyant cuttlefish and hunting coconut octopuses, Dauin is a dream location where visitors can start ticking off lots of ‘must sees’ from their diving wish list.
The little known Sogod Bay in the east of the Philippines is another remarkable muck-diving location. On the west side of the bay, flambuoyant cuttlefish, mimic octopus, pygmy seahorse and lots of other spectacular critters are commonly seen. Head over to the east side and you find stunning healthy reefs covered in soft coral and anthias around Napantao, as well as the resident whale sharks at different locations up and down the coastline of Panoan Island.
Pure escapism - Camiguin
With its imposing mountainous cones looming on the horizon, visitors to the beautiful island of Camiguin find it difficult to escape the island’s dramatic volcanic history. However, visitors today can explore a more peaceful landscape of natural springs, beautiful beaches and pristine sandbars, along with some interesting underwater landscapes and great muck diving sites. And yet for all these beautiful attractions and the great diving on offer, Camiguin remains one of the Philippine’s best-kept secrets - offering tranquil escapism for those seeking unique dives, stunning hikes and eco-friendly retreats.
Consisting of 1,780 islands, this stunning archipelago stretching from the tip of Borneo to Mindoro Island is often thought of as the last ecological frontier of the Philippines. World War II wrecks can be found around Coron Island, earning the islands its reputation as a mini Chuuk lagoon. Even with so much amazing diving on offer, it is the stunning limestone karst landscape sheltering private eco-retreats that will fill your soul and linger in the mind. You can snorkel in turtle sanctuaries, hike through forests filled with unique species, navigate an underground river in Puerto Princesa and kayak through cerulean lagoons.
Feeling inspired and would like to plan a trip to one of the Philippines extraordinary dive destinations? Then speak to the team at ZuBlu - with their intimate knowledge of each location and partnerships with a fantastic selection of eco-friendly resorts and dive operators they are very well placed to help you find that perfect Philippines diving escape.