Anilao is a little village in the municipality of Mabini, Batangas which lies only about a 3 hours drive from Manila. Divers do call the whole region „Anilao“ although for most the only dive close to Anilao village will be the night dive at „The Pier“.
What to see: Macro / muck diving heaven for underwater photographers with many rare critters including nudibranchs, shrimp, crab, pipefish, frogfish, rhinopias, cephalopods, seahorses, eels and other special fish. See more in the photojourney to Anilao.
Level: Best for advanced divers with interst in rare critters and underwater photography, it is possible for all levels, however most of the best sites are muck diving which is not recommendable for entry-level
How to get there: Bus from Manila to Batangas (Buendia terminal, PHP 150, 3 hours), jeepney to Mabini (PHP 50, 40 minutes) and from there a driver to the resort (around PHP 100, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on location of the resort) or transfer/taxi from Manila to the resort (around $100 per car, 3 hours).
Where to stay: A wide variety of dive resorts are available around Anilao. The ones I do get most recommendations for as they do have the best guides as well as reasonable prices are Club Ocellaris and Anilao Photo Hotel. Both resorts focus on underwater photographers. Other options are
Climate: Around 30°C in summer, down to 25°C in winter, rainy season June till September
Water temperature: 28-30°C in summer, 24-27°C in winter
Exposure protection: 3 mm or 5 mm, you will do very long slow dives
Visitbility: 10 to 15 m
Season: Diving is possible all year round, but strong rain is possible in summer, April/May are the busiest months
Diving rates: USD 165 per day with 4 dives at Club Ocellaris (also for single occupation), USD 150 per day (twin share, single is plus 50%) at the Photo Hotel, this is probably as affortable as it gets
Favorite dive sites: Secret Bay for the hairy frog fish, seahorses, nudibranchs / Coconuts for flamboyant cuttlefish, nudibranchs, skeleton shrimp / Mata Point for pygmy squid, frogfish, coleman shrimp, tiger crab / Murals and the Pier for nightdives. The critters at the muck sites change from season to season, ask your guide which site is good when you arrive in Anilao
My trip: We shared a transfer to Club Ocellaris where we booked a package with 4 dives per day for USD 165 per day. We did dive in groups of max. 5 divers, most of the time in a group of 3 with a very good spotter finding the critters for us. Two back to back (2 tanks) boat trips were offered every day, the first one leaving at 8.30 am, the second leaving at 4 pm. On the medium size banka (typical philippine boat) coffee, tee and water were available. All really delicious meals were served at the resort. The boat rides took from 10 minutes to 1 hour. I can fully recommend Club Ocellaris. Book early, it might take them a couple of weeks to respond.