If there’s a single dive destination that should be heading up the wish list of every diver, but has been largely overlooked, it’s the Philippines. With more than 7000 islands, several different dive regions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site reef system - all directly in the middle of the world's most bio-diverse dive region in the Coral Triangle - the Philippines have several lifetimes of dive adventures. The Philippines saw major action during WWII and host a legion of incredible wreck dives. In addition, the Tubbataha Reef system harbors more than 1300 species of marine life and is where you can encounter such rarities as thresher sharks and dugongs with notable frequency. Plus, the islands in the dive regions all seem to have just the right amount of soft sand and palm trees to fuel exotic island dreams and bring them to life. If you’re looking for an impressive, overwhelming and inspiring location, you won't be disappointed by the Philippines. It's hardly just a destination. It's more of a lifetime achievement award.
HOT DIVE SITES:
Simply put, you can't see everything the Philippines has to offer underwater, because there is too much. From dugongs and whale shark dives, to coral atolls, to shark cleaning stations and WWII wrecks, it’s a complete undersea adventure land.
- Tubbataha, Palawan — This jaw-dropping UNESCO World Heritage Site, which also happens to be a marine park, will throw a gauntlet of marine life at you. From sea turtles and sharks to sea horses and ghost pipefish, this healthy reef system is just about bursting at the seams with life. You'll want to book early, because Tubbataha live-aboards fill up fast and the high season is from March to June.
Find a Dive Center or Resort in Puerto Galera, Philippines
- Malapascua — Off the north coast of Cebu, this island has developed a singular reputation for thresher shark encounters. It's the only place in the world where this happens with any kind of regularity.
Find a Dive Center or Resort in Malapascua, Philippines
- Leyte — Get in on the ground floor as Leyte’s reputation for whale sharks sightings is just now gaining notoriety.
Find a Dive Center or Resort in Cebu, Philippines
- Apo Reef — Commonly regarded as a close second to Tubbataha, Apo encompasses the world’s second largest coral reef. Take just a few dives in this mind-boggling area and you'll fill your logbook with the hundreds of species you'll see.
Find a Dive Center or Resort in Coron, Philippines
- Coron — A great launch point for wreck divers, Coron sets the bar high with the 168-metre/550-foot former oil tanker Taiei Maru. Divers with appropriate experience can penetrate the large hold, while divers who stay outside will encounter lionfish, an array of nudibranchs, approximately zillions of fusiliers and soft coral-covered decks.
Find a Dive Center or Resort in Coron, Philippines
- Balicasag Island — Near Bohol, this double reef system will have you dividing your time between the wall and the fish-crowded coral gardens with a vertical view.
Find a Dive Center or Resort in Bohol, Philippines
- Crocodile Island - A Boracay favorite, this is the place to look for macro subjects. It's a deep dive site suitable only for experienced divers but it is absolutely fantastic.
Find a Dive Center or Resort in Boracay, Philippines
Depth: Diving can range from the surface to beyond 40 metres/140 feet. There’s wall, (even) deeper dives and wreck penetration diving available.
Visibility: Based on the area and time of year, visibility can vary from 20 - 30 metres/65- 120 feet. But, you can count on visibility consistently being greater than 21 metres/70-feet.
Currents: Can range from gentle to strong, especially in places like Tubbataha.
Water Temperature: From May to July the water temperature is about 28° C/83° F while from December to March it is much cooler at of 23° C/74° F.
Dive Season: Diving is available all year, but the prime season in Tubbataha is from March to June - especially because that's when whale sharks are the most abundant. Also, sea snakes appear by the hundreds in June and July on Tubbataha reefs.
Weather: Air temperature ranges from 23-32° C/73-97° F but sea breezes manage to keep the worst of the humidity at bay. The dry season is from December to February while the rainy season runs from June to November. Typhoon season is from September to December and you'll find the hottest time of the year is between March and May.
Access: The Philippines is well serviced by international airports.
Skill Level: From novice to advanced, there are abundant opportunities for almost every kind of diving and diver - including tec divers. The Philippines is considered the technical diving hub of Asia.
Scuba Gear: Most dive centers and resorts offer full equipment hire.
Length of Stay: Seven nights will let you sample a single area but there are dozens to explore. Longer itineraries will expose you to a larger variety of diving.
Featured Creatures: Dugongs, thresher sharks, whale sharks, manta rays, hammerhead sharks, trevally, Napoleon wrasse, clownfish and much more.
Language: Filipino and English.
Currency: Philippine Peso (PHP)
Tipping: Definitely tip your divemasters and live-aboard boat crews. Tipping is expected for many services such as restaurants, hotels and for any guides you hire. According to the Department of Tourism, the standard amount is 10 percent of the total bill. Check to make sure that it hasn't already been included as a service charge on your bill.
Transportation: Varies by island, but you can take inter-island flights, ferries or go via rail or car. You can find a summary on the Philippines Department of Tourism page.
Major Airports: Most airlines service Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL), which is generally considered the gateway to the Philippines. There are several other international airports through the Philippines, including Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB), Subic Bay International Airport (SFS) and Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (CRK), which is also called Clark International Airport.
Religion: Roman Catholic.
Electricity: 220V/60Hz. Plug types A, B and C
Airport Entry/Exit fees: Residents of many countries can enter the Philippines for 21 Days without a Tourist Visa. You can find a list of these countries and complete visa guidelines at the Department of Foreign Affairs page. The international departure tax is 750 PHP and is paid at the airport. For more information, visit the Philippines Department of Tourism website.
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