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Philippines Scuba Diving

PADI Scuba Diving in the Philippines

Boracay Island Courtesy of PCSSD Philippine Commission of Sports Scuba Diving

Destination Overview
 
With 7107 islands and nearly twice as much coastline as the United States, the Philippines can legitimately be called Asia’s beach capital. A tropical climate, warm water, long white sandy beaches, nearly 40,000 square kilometres/15,444 square miles of coral reefs and mind-blowingly beautiful flora and fauna make the area a true diver’s paradise.
 
The Philippines offers something for divers of all experience levels. At some resorts, shore diving on the house reef is popular, but divers can also hop on a day boat or live-aboard to access the sheer reef walls and atolls offshore. The country has three main island groups – Luzon in the north, Visayas in the middle and Mindanao – the largest island – in the south. Manila, the capital, is on Luzon. 
 
Clown Frogfish Courtesy of Rolf Muehlemann
Home to an estimated 97 million people, the Philippines has a rich history with Asian, European and American influences. Filipinos warmly embrace visitors and are generally very friendly and relaxed. You’ll often hear the cheerful salutation “Mabuhay” meaning welcome.

Dive Sites

 
With 4.0 kilometres/2.5 miles of sugary white sand and azure waters, Boracay Island is touted as having some of the finest beaches in the world. Because it is generally calm and offers easy access to most dive sites, Boracay is ideal for novice divers. If you have the experience and are looking for thrills, Yapak is your dive site. At Yapak, the top of the wall starts at 30 metres/98 feet then plunges straight down. Prepare for surprises as patrolling whitetip and grey reef sharks, schools of tuna, manta rays and eagle rays have all been known to make an appearance. This is all in addition to a vibrant wall encrusted with corals of every description.
 
 
Malapascua Thresher Shark, photo courtesy of Rolf Muehlemann
 
Malapascua Island is fast becoming a hotspot known for thresher and whitetip sharks, manta rays and devil rays. From December to February, hammerhead sharks also pass by. Monad Shoal, a thresher shark viewing spot, also has batfish, flute mouth, barracuda, tuna, mantis shrimp, pipefish, scorpion fish, lionfish, Moorish idols, schooling bannerfish, unicorn fish, squid, octopus and various moray eels, it’s a great dive even without the toothy critters. Depths range from 5-35 metres/16-115 feet.
 
 
 
Known as the Pearl of Mindoro, Puerto Galera is approximately 160 kilometres/99 miles from Manila on Mindoro Island and offers at least 40 prime dive sites. Mindoro Island is separated from Luzon by the Verde Island Passage, which is flushed by the current from the South China Sea. The resulting strong current (up to six knots) makes this a prime drift dive. 
 
The marine life here is spectacular. Drift dive along the breathtaking walls, flirt with swim-through or just marvel at the schools of snapper, emperors, eagle rays, barracudas, turtles, tuna and the occasional shark. The most famous dive site is The Canyons, but with depths ranging from 5-40 metres/16-130 feet, there is something for every diver - from novice to advanced.
 
 
Famous dive site The Canyons in Puerto Galera _Image courtesy of Gunther Deichmann

 

Bohol

Bohol is a destination that offers a range of incredible highlights including tropical jungles, idyllic towns as well as beautiful beaches and islands. It is here, on these beaches and islands, that the true beauty of Bohol can be found. 

Panglao Island is the main diving destination and it’s famous for its pristine beaches fringed with vibrant coral reefs. Balicasag Island is a short boat ride from Panglao Island, and here you will find various dive sites rich with marine life including an abundance of turtles and colorful fish species.  

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cebu Cebu

Cebu is a popular diving hub as well as being a gateway destination for travelling around the Philippines. Most of the population lives on the coastal fringe and this is where you will find the amazing diving opportunities on offer. 

Mactan Island, near Cebu City, offers spectacular reef diving off the east coast of the island. During a dive here, you may have a chance encounter with turtles, lionfish and thresher sharks as they glide over the colorful reefs. The southwest destination of Moalboal is renowned for its white sandy beaches and stunning reefs teeming with marine life including turtles and whale sharks. 

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Palawan Island Courtesy of PCSSD Philippine Commission of Sports Scuba Diving

Palawan

Palawan, an exquisite destination in the southwest part of the Philippine archipelago, is almost inconceivably exotic and tropical. It’s a region of jagged limestone islands, underground rivers, rocky coves, virgin rainforest and, of course, fine white sand beaches.

The Calamian Islands group is located at the northern end of the Palawan province and the island of Busuanga is home to Coron, the group’s largest city. Coron Bay – just off of the city – is fast becoming one of the world’s premier dive destinations. It has a wide range of sites to suit nearly all tastes and experience levels, including a geothermal hot lake, coral reefs, walls and advanced wreck diving. Palawan, the main island in the province, is the gateway to El Nido, a stunning destination with limestone walls and fantastic coral diving. You can also reach this growing municipality on the northern tip of Palawan by boat from Coron.

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Clown Fish Dauin Dumaguete photo courtesy of Rolf Muehlemann

Dumaguete

Dumaguete, on Negros Island, with its spectacular variety of dive sites, is making waves among divers in the know. Divers will find awesome walls, stunning coral gardens and prolific fish life, much of which is accessible from the beach. Just 30 minutes from Dumaguete is Apo Island, popular for its vibrant marine life. 

Dumaguete is also known for muck diving, where you can discover unusual and juvenile creatures like tiny transparent shrimps, neon nudibranchs and huge basket sponges adorned with hundreds of colorful crinoids. Divers who want to see it all are in luck because some dive centers offer island hopper cruises to allow multiple dives on different islands.

 
 
Subic Bay, on Luzon Island, was once the largest United States Naval facility in the Philippines. Today it offers abundant wartime wrecks and easy reef dives with a variety of sharks, dolphins, and turtles. The USS New York is the most famous wreck in the area. With its intact cannons and prolific barracuda, lionfish, spotted sweetlips, grouper, lobster and spotted rays, this advanced wreck dive is perfect for underwater photography. Diving in Subic Bay ranges from 5-40 metres/16-130 feet.
 
 
 
Dive Summary
 
Depths: 5-40 metres/16-130 feet. Depths greater than 40 metres/130 feet are possible (and some dive centers offer tec diving services).

 

Visibility: 5-45 metres/16-148 feet with strong seasonal and local variability.

Currents: Mostly mild, but some current is often present due to the tidal flow between the islands. In some areas, currents can be very strong.

Schooling Jackfish, courtesy of Rolf Muehlemann

Water Temperature: 23-30°C/73-86°F depending on the season.

Dive Season: You can dive year-round in the Philippines but the dry season from November to June brings the warmest water and the best visibility.

Weather: There are three distinct seasons in the Philippines: December-March is the northeast monsoon (called Amihan). There are strong winds during this time. April-June are the summer months with dry, warm days and little wind. July-November is the southwest monsoon (called Habagat). It is wet and rainy but the water is warm. Air temperatures average 25-32°C/78-90°F with high relative humidity.

Access: With relatively few shore dive sites, boat diving is the norm in the Philippines. Most dive sites are within an hour of the dive shops although a number of multiday and live-aboard trips are also on offer.

Skill Level: With conservative depths, warm, clear water and good visibility, diving in the Philippines is suited to divers of all skill levels.

Scuba Gear: The usual tropical equipment. 3mm suits adequate during the warmer months and 5mm preferable during the cool. While equipment is available for hire, it’s advisable to bring as much of your personal gear as possible.

Recommended Length of Stay: At least two weeks, as this will allow time to travel the islands.

Language: Filipino. English is also widely spoken.

Featured Creatures: As part of the Coral Triangle (considered to be the epicenter of world marine biodiversity), the Philippines is a great place to see scorpion fish, emperor, barracuda, Moorish idol, flute mouth, tuna, batfish and trevally. Some of the more unusual creatures spotted also include pygmy sea horses, parrotfish, lionfish, triggerfish, unicorn fish, trumpet fish, wrasse, mantis shrimp, squid, and octopus. Bigger animals also get into the picture with eagle rays, devil rays, manta rays and sharks, including thresher sharks and hammerhead sharks, all making an appearance. From March to May, you also have the chance to encounter an occasional whale shark. But it isn't just the big critters that draw divers - the Philippines is world renowned for its macro life.

Tipping: Tipping is frequently expected. The standard practice is 10 percent of the total bill but this is optional if it already includes a 10 percent service charge. Credit cards are not widely accepted, so you might want to carry small bills and change for porter tips and sundry fees such as port fees, airport terminal fees, etc.Currency: Philippine Peso (PHP).

The North Islet of Tubbataha Reef is a nesting site for marine turtles

Transportation: There are numerous ways to get around in the Philippines. You can travel by air, sea, land, rail or taxi, to name a few. Regardless of how you travel, you’ll want to check transport schedules in advance because some destinations are serviced intermittently and extreme weather can disrupt plans.

Major Airports: There are four international airports in the Philippines: the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila (MNL), Clark International Airport in Angeles City (CRK), Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City (CEB), Cebu and the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City (DVO). Philippine Airlines links Manila with several international destinations. Major cruise lines also visit Manila.

Religion: Primarily Roman Catholic.

Electricity: 220 volt, Types A and B.

Airport Entry/Exit fees: Visas and valid passports are required. Travellers from many countries can take advantage of a visa waiver program.

Helpful links:

Department of Tourism Philippines

Fast Facts about the Philippines

PhilippineAtmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA)

Want to know more? Visit scubaearth.com for further information on thousands of dive sites, marine species, destination essentials and more.  

Want to dive in the Philippines? Locate a PADI Dive Shop.

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