Anilao –  macro underwater photographers’ paradise and critter heaven! Almost every diver has heard of Anilao as awesome photographs of weird underwater creatures taken there can be found all over the internet. As a result this destination in the Philippines is at the top of the list for every diver who likes small critters and underwater photography. Is it guaranteed to always find the most amazing creatures there?

I had truly high expectations of Anilao as it is claimed to be the best macro diving besides Lembeh in Indonesia. However, on our first day besides finding some creatures including two rhinopias the dives were quite “slow”. It took a lot of searching to find the next good critter. My expectations were not met so far.anilao

It is easy to get to either by car from Manila in about 3 hours or by bus via Batangas. Read more in the guide to Anilao diving. The different resorts are lined up on the shoreline with new resorts popping up every year. Anilao is actually the name of a little village although divers call the whole region „Anilao“ – for most the only dive actually in Anilao will be a night dive at „The Pier“.

The sites are spread out mainly to the south and west from Anilao itself. Depending on the location of the resort, the dive site, the weather and the speed of the boat it may take up to 1 1/2 hours to reach the dive sites. We chose to stay at a resort which lies in the middle of the area and so it wouldn’t be too far to reach any dive site.

dive boat anilao

Club Ocellaris is amongst the most economic options around Anilao with some of the best guides in the area. The accommodation is basic but the rooms are clean and there are hot showers. The food is delicious and the staff very friendly and helpful. I had an awesome stay and can fully recommend this resort.

While there are many different dive sites around the area they also might change over the years and with the different seasons. Critters do move and sometimes they disappear for months and then reappear in the same or a different place, no one knowing really why. As a consequence, good guides are important who know at which site the critters can be found and are also good spotters to actually find them.

We did have a great guide. After our first “slow” dives it picked up, a lot. On some of the dives I didn’t even have time to search for critters myself as the guide had always discovered a new one even before I finished photographing the last one. There were loads of rare nudibranchs I haven’t seen before, shrimp, frogfish, cephalopods, just so much to see and photograph.

hairy frogfish

My favourite dive sites during a visit in February 2016 were “the pier” and “murals” for night dives. While at the pier a huge variety of different creatures could be found crawling out of their hiding places at night, murals was great for rare nudibranchs. During the day my favourite sites were “secret bay”, “coconuts” and “mata point” with high variety of different photogenic animals

I had a blast in Anilao; there were so many new things that I hadn’t seen before and a high density of critters which cannot be seen in too many areas. The trip of one week with four dives per day ended up in hundreds of pictures. Many divers keep on going back over and over again as there will be new stuff to explore every single time.

flamboyant cuttlefish

The only down side was the water temperature. It was 24 to 25°C in February which is too cold for me to comfortably do four 80 minute dives. Most dive operations offer no limits in dive time which is normally very much appreciated. In addition the weather wasn’t always particularly nice so I was even cold during the surface intervals on the boat and the boat rides. Next time I will choose a season with warmer waters.

So what did I see in Anilao?

See the best of my pictures in the photo journey.

Rare nudibranchs and other sea slugs
cyerce elegans



coleman shrimp



crab with nudibranchs


pipefish, pipehorses and seahorses

ghost pipefish and pipehorse






rhinopias yawning



coconut octopus with crab



snake eel


and other special fish

golden goby


free dive light

Have you ever had a chance to dive in Anilao? Let me know in the comments below which was your favorite critter