Best Scuba Diving in the Philippines
Can you imagine your scuba diving vacation in a tropical archipelago having 22,549 miles (36,289 kilometers) of coastline scattered over 7,641 islands that is situated in an area considered as the epicenter of marine biodiversity?
Yes, that’s the Philippines where it has been consistently listed in the Top 10 Best Diving Destination in the World.
Diving Conditions in the Philippines
The Philippines has a tropical climate and scuba diving is a year round activity. Infact, scuba diving is a big hit in the country where you can find a servicing dive shop anywhere you go.
But you have to remember that the Philippines has two pronounced monsoon seasons: the southwest monsoon and the northeast monsoon where it can greatly affect the water conditions of a dive site.
Areas located along the Pacific coast are prone to the effects of the northeast monsoon (that runs from November to February) while areas in the West Philippine Sea, formerly called as the South China Sea, are prone to the effects of southwest monsoon (that runs from June to October). This means that the best time to go scuba diving in the Philippines is from March to May where water parameters are its calmest and clearest.
Water temperature in the Philippines ranges from 26 °C - 28°C (78 - 82°F). During summer months, many divers opt not to wear a wetsuit. Instead, rashguard is the fad during summer and wetsuits are only worn during the cold months of December to February. Most of the dive sites in the Philippines have crystal clear waters where a 30 meter (100 feet) visibility is common.
So what are we waiting for. Let’s explore the underwater beauty of the Philippines where many have called it “Pearl of the Orient Seas”.
Best Dive Sites in Philippines
1. Tubbataha Reef
Location: 72 miles (177 kilometers) southeast offshore from Puerto Princesa, Palawan
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered as the prime spot for scuba diving in the Philippines where all specialty skills of scuba diving can be done in this pristine offshore area like deep, night, drift, nitrox, wreck and multi-level diving.
Scuba diving in this 100,000 hectare (247,105 acre) national marine park allows you to see 360 species of corals and 600 kinds of fish with a healthy population of sharks and dolphins.
Located in the northern atoll, Amos Rock is one of the popular dive sites of Tubbataha reef where you can go drift and wall diving following a vertical drop off filled with gorgonians and sea fans. You can see a lot of big-sized fish like napoleon wrasse, snappers, groupers, mackerels, whitetips and grey reef sharks as you cruise along mild to moderate current.
Another top spot in Tubbataha reef is the offshore reefs of Jessie Beazley where you can explore a perfect vertical wall filled with school of grunts.
For wreck divers, Tubbataha reef has 2 popular shipwrecks: the Malayan Wreck and the Delsan Wreck where the former allows you to see the remains of a steel freighter completely covered with corals while the latter is now a refuge for various encrusting marine inhabitants and often patrolled by grey reef sharks and tiger sharks.
Tip: Diving in Tubbataha reef is best experienced with a liveaboard and trips are only limited during the calm season from March to June.
Location: 533 miles (858 kilometers) south of Metro Manila
Coined as the Queen City of the South, Cebu is home to several world class dive sites and is considered your jump-off point to nearby island diving destination. Your nearest dive site is just a 5-minute taxi ride from the airport where the eastern shores of Mactan Island allows you to go wall, deep, reef and cave diving.
Aside from the busy district of Cebu, most divers go to far-flung areas within the province to explore pristine sites and experience wild marine encounters.
Located 9 miles (14.6 kilometers) north offshore from Daan Bantayan (the northernmost town of Cebu) is Malapascua Island where you can go diving with thresher sharks in Monad Shoal. The good thing with diving in Monad Shoal is that it is a combination of deep, drift and dawn diving where you need to be in the water as early as 5:30 in the morning where the thresher sharks rises from the deep.
The southern province of Cebu is also a magnet for scuba diving where you can visit Pescador Island in Moalboal and be surrounded with millions of fish in a natural event called the Sardine Run.
Location: 47 miles (75 kilometers) southwest of Cebu
Aside from visiting several tourist attraction like the Chocolate Hills, Tarsier Sanctuary and the Hinagdanan Cave, Bohol houses some of the sought after dive sites in the Philippines. Similar to the sharks patrolling in the Galapagos and Cocos Island, Bohol’s Cabilao Island has a healthy population of hammerhead sharks.
Your dive profile will usually involve exploring a vertical ledge that drops down to 30 meters (100 feet) deep and your shark interaction occurs at 20 meters (60 feet).
4. Balicasag Island
Balicasag Island is another favorite spot for scuba diving in Bohol. Instead of sharks in the hundreds, the highlight of your dive in Balicasag island involves interacting a torpedo school of jacks.
Thousands of this mid-sized fish are often seen swirling to form a spiral group near the reef that is filled black corals.
Since the Philippines has over 7,000 island, the list of scuba diving sites goes all the way. However, we would like to mention a few other sites that are often included in a scuba diver’s bucket list. Once a barren reef destroyed by dynamite fishing, Apo Island of Dumaguete is now a divers paradise where the reef was able to recover with a present vibrant marine ecosystem having an excellent coral cover.
Manta Bowl in Bicol is often the preferred site for experienced divers where you can go drift driving in moderate to strong current and swim along with manta rays and the world’s largest fish - the whaleshark.
And lastly, do not forget to visit Anilao in Batangas where it is your gateway in exploring the Center of the Center of Marine Biodiversity - Verde Passage.
At the end of the day, regardless of where you dive in the Philippines, you can just say one thing after the end of your dive: WOW Philippines.