The Philippines is an island nation with over 7000 islands of all sizes. The diving is as diverse as the islands offering some of the worlds best macro diving as well as exciting big animal encounters.
A great way to explore the Philippines is on a liveaboard.
Subic Bay is located close to Manila and offers exciting wreck diving. Many of the wrecks sunk during WWII, but there is also a Spanish gunboat which sunk in 1898. The visibility might not be the best but due to the sheltered location the wrecks are in good condition.
The area around Donsol is more famous for whale shark encounters than for scuba diving. Be aware that there are not as many whale sharks around the area as there used to be. Plus there are too many boats trying to throw their people in with the sharks.
Ticao Island can be reached from Donsol. The best dive site there is “Manta Bowl” where you can see – right, Mantas.
The muck diving heaven Anilao is a paradise for underwater photographers. Anilao is macro life at its best. All kinds of special rare critters can be found around the bay like nudibranchs, frogfish, shrimp, crab, cephalopods, juvenile fish and much more.
Puerta Galera is a very popular destination not only for scuba divers but also for beach-goers. On the coral reef dives mostly smaller tropical fish can be observed while lucky divers might catch a glimpse of sharks, barracudas and turtles. The variety of nudibranchs in the area attracts macro enthusiasts and underwater photographers.
The Apo Reef is the largest atoll in the Philippines in the open ocean. It takes around 3 hours by boat from the coast of Mindoro to get there. Deep drop offs teeming with marine life make this reef a popular destination for scuba divers. White tip and grey reef sharks, turtles, bumphead parrotfish, tuna as well as schooling barracuda and jacks are common sights. Even sights of hammerheads and mantas have been reported.
Romblon became more famous among underwater photographers when the Melibe Colemani has been discovered in spring 2015. This is a very special type of nudibranch which is normally very difficult to find. Besides this special found the highlights of the area are all kinds of small critters like rare nudibranchs and sea slugs (especially the butterfly slug or Cyerce), shrimp and four types of pygmy seahorse. There is only two dive shops located on Romblon so there won’t be any other dive groups at the same dive site.
Two areas are frequented by scuba divers here; Coron and El Nido. Coron offers several world class wrecks, actually the best in whole Southeast Asia. Most even allow penetration for certified divers. Another fascinating site is the barracuda lake where the water is heated by thermal springs to around 37°C.
The two atolls of the Tubbataha National Marine Park are teeming with schooling fish including rainbow runners, snapper, barracuda and jacks. Larger animals like turtles, reef sharks and eagle rays are common sights. Sometimes even mantas, silver tips and whale sharks pass by.
Unfortunately, the reefs aren’t as healthy as they used to be. Some parts still offer colorful coral with many critters hiding in between. Usually frogfish, pygmy seahorses, octopi, longnose hawkfish, shrimp, crab and nudibranchs can be found.
Tubbataha can only be reached by liveaboard during a few month every spring.
One of the most visited places in the Philippines is Boracay. It is famous for white sandy beaches, amazing night life and getting crowded. For people who would like to combine beach and party holidays with diving this is a nice destination.
Some little known island off to the Northwest of Palay (Panagatan, Maniguin) offer amazing encounters with big pelagics like mantas, mola mola, whale sharks and other sharks. These are a bit harder to get to and might require camping or staying on a liveaboard.
The best place in Negros to go diving is Dauin close to Dumaguete. It offers some of the best muck diving in the Philippines with an incredible variety of rare critters.
In addition it is possible to visit Apo Island on a day trip. This island offers healthy soft and hard coral, schooling fish, turtles and some large pelagics.
Another dive destination in Negros is Sipalay with coral reefs, blocks, walls, canyons and some wrecks.
Around the island of Cebu the best diving can be found in Malapascua and Moalboal. The beautiful island of Malapascua offers almost guaranteed thresher shark sightings and a lot of amazing macro sites.
Diving with the massive school of sardines just in front of Moalboal is a truly unique experience. Underneath the huge cloud of fish it feels like someone just switched the light off. Sometimes larger pelagics can be observed hunting the school.
Around the colorful walls of Pescador Island it is not uncommon to see trevalli, tuna, schooling jacks and white tip reef sharks passing by in the blue.
Around Bohol most dive sites are located around Panglao, Balicasac and Cabilao. The slopes and walls around Panglao are covered in some special species of coral. Besides tropical fish the marine life includes some frogfish, sea snakes, moray eels as well as macro like nudibranchs, shrimp and crab. The walls and steep slopes of Balicasac are frequented by turtles, schools of barracuda and trevalli. Around Cabilao two areas are marine protected. Divers can expect to see reef sharks, barracudas, jacks, turtles and diverse macro life.
Siquijor offers beautiful coral walls and slopes. Marine life encounters include turtles, moray eels, frogfish, sea snakes, schooling fish and sometimes even mantas.
Sogod Bay in Southern Leyte offers some incredible macro life as well as whale sharks. The coral gardens, slopes and walls are teeming with tropical fish. The region is relatively little visited allowing to dive without the crowd.