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Diver's Guide to the Philippines

 

Wall of Trevally in Anilao (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

At A Glance

Distance from the Equator: Dumaguete is 9o19' North

Diving Season: Year-round

Highlights: Threshers Sharks in Malapascua, macro critters in Anilao, Irako and Okikawa wrecks in Coron Bay, big fish at remote Tubbataha Reef!

 

Philippine Resorts >>>

Philippine Liveaboards >>>

Philippine Special Trips >>>

 

The Philippines comprises 7107 islands, that offer the knowledgeable diver some once in a lifetime experiences. For example, Malapascua Island is the only place in the world where one can reliably dive with beautiful Thresher Sharks, and Coron Bay is one of the top places for WWII wreck diving. Add to this two UNESCO world heritage sites, Apo Reef and Tubbataha Reef, and some macro diving at either Dumaguete or Anilao, and you can be sure you’ve experienced the best diving the Philippines has to offer!   

 

Thresher Shark at Malapascua Island (Jan van Lent - Courtesy of Exotic Island Resort)

 

Anilao

Anilao is undoubtedly the premier critter destination in the Philippines, yet it is the least visited by the international dive market. Traditionally a secret spot for underwater photographers, the news is now starting to get out and the resorts are responding accordingly. Whilst the standard of resorts in Anilao has previously been in question, there are now resorts who have stepped up to the mark and Anilao may indeed become less of a hideaway in the next few years. Visit now and you can have the critters to yourself!

 

We visited Anilao in February 2012 and after our first two dives it was apparent this was a truly unique dive location. Our divemaster had asked what we would like to see – this we had be asked in other critter destinations, but in Anilao our DM seemed confident he could show us everything on our list...before the day was out! He did not disappoint - dive 1 – lacy rhinopias and blue-ring octopus – tick, dive two - hairy frogfish and flamboyant cuttlefish (feeding) – tick, dive 3 - wunderpus and mimic octopus – tick...and that was just day 1! On day two we were promised a big school of trevally, so we put on our fisheye lenses and were treated to the biggest school of trevally I have ever seen in SE Asia – and Anilao is supposed to be all about critters! On one of our surface intervals we were also treated to an acrobatic display by a pod of Dolphins!

 

As the week continued we found ourselves studying books to think of new critters for the DM, and when our imagination failed us we would revisit our favourite sites to get even better images of our old friends! Anilao has been dubbed the ‘nudibranch capital of the world’ and whilst there is a bewildering array of nudis here, including beautiful Dragon nudis, Flabellina nudis, Janolus nudis and Phyllodesmium nudis, Anilao should really be dubbed the ‘critter capital of the world’!

 

So which were our favourite sites? Mainit Muck (Secret Bay) is probably the most famous site in Anilao and it doesn’t disappoint – we dived it 3 times and saw different critters on each dive. Twin Rocks, Kirby’s Rock, and Aphols were all amazing dives, and for a night dive we highly recommend the pier. We found beautiful bigfin reef squid here as well as lots of ornate ghost pipefish, bobtail squid, stargazer, coconut octopus, a baby Ambon scorpionfish and when the moon is right it’s a hotspot for bobbit worms.

 

To get seriously engaged with Anilao’s critters we recommend a resort. We work with the three best, Crystal Blue Resort – best for groups and photography clubs, and Acacia Resort and Aiyanar Resort best for singles, couples and for those wanting added luxury! The other option for diving Anilao is a liveaboard such as the Atlantis Azores or the Philippine Siren with whom you’ll get a great taste of Anilao and of course you can always extend your liveaboard with a resort stay!

   

Wunderpus (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Dumaguete

Dumaguete is a tranquil town lying on the coast of Negros Island. The area has long been famed for the Dauin Marine Sanctuary where the word on everyone’s tongue is critters. Dumaguete is also fortunate enough to be within a 45min to 1.5hr boat ride from many beautiful islands, including Apo Island, Siquijor, Balicasag and Sumilon. This means that the muck diving in Dumaguete can easily be combined with day trips to the wall dives at these islands.

 

In Dumaguete we work closely with Atlantis Dumaguete Resort. Atlantis is situated on the beach, in a great setting with sublime views to the ocean. The resort has an amazing reputation for its service and hospitality, and also has beautiful bedrooms, a huge camera room and one of the best dives sites as a house reef. During our time at Atlantis we saw a handful of their muck dive sites, including the house reef, Dauin North, Masaplod, Cars and San Miguel Tires and were impressed to find an assortment of critters, including Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Painted Frogfish (just beautiful), an assortment of ghost pipefish, bubble coral shrimp, orangutan crab, hairy squat lobster, mantis shrimp, lots of different nudibranchs, stargazer and our definite highlight - Marbled Shrimps! These beautiful shrimps were present throughout the corals on our Mandarin fish dive and for us stole the show. This dusk dive at a site named Bahura was our favourite during our stay.

 

For day tripping we found all of the nearby islands to be blessed with beautiful coral, many small fishes, Bluefin Trevally and the odd Turtle. At Sumilon Island we again found Marbled Shrimps.

 

Atlantis also have an excellent resort in Puerto Galera (with day trips to Verde Island) and the Atlantis Azores Liveaboard.

 

Unidentified Nudibranch in Anilao (Bonnie Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Coron Bay

In total 24 boats were sunk in the U.S. attack at Coron Bay and today 10 lie within diveable depths. Our favourite wrecks include the Okikawa Maru, the Akitsushima, the Olympia Maru, the Morazan, and the Irako - often called the deep, dark and dangerous wreck! Other interesting dives at Coron include Cathedral Cave and Barracuda lake.

 

If you want to maximise your time diving Coron's amazing wrecks we recommend a stay with Sangat Island Resort. Sangat Island is in the perfect location for diving Coron's wrecks and you'll be diving with guides who have intimate knowledge of where every corridor leads to within these beautiful ships. As an added bonus, Sangat Island is home to a beautiful house reef with great macro diving! We can arrange free unlimited house reef diving for you when you book a Sangat Island Resort dive package with us.

 

Alternatively, if you prefer a liveaboard adventure the SY Philippine Siren has an excellent 10 night itinerary that includes Coron Bay, Apo Reef and Anilao.

 

Anti-aircraft guns on the Akitsushima (Sangat Island Resort)

 

Apo Reef

Apo reef, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007, is a protected reef that covers an area of 34 square kilometres, made up of 2 reef atolls (Apo Menor and Apo Major) it is the second largest of the World's contiguous reef systems. 33km from the coast of Mindoro Occidental the reef teems with life. Rocky walls with huge seafans and barrel sponges attract schooling snappers, barracuda, Whitetip and Grey reef sharks, marble rays, turtles and are home to many crustaceans including spiny lobsters. Manta rays and eagle rays are also known visitors to the reefs for cleaning. Whales have also been known to cruise between the islands and can be seen as they break the surface to breathe.

 

Tubbataha Reef

Tubbataha consists of two atolls (North and South) and the Jessie Beazley reefs. At Tubbataha vertical walls and dramatic drop off provide for the Philippines best big fish diving! Expect to see large Napoleon wrasse, barracuda, schooling trevally, Dogtooth tuna, turtles, Grey reef sharks, the occasional Hammerhead, Thresher sharks, Whale sharks and plenty of Mantas! For sharks fans dive sites such as Shark Airport and Amos Rock are often highlights with frequent encounters with Tiger sharks, Silvertips and of course more Mantas! Tubbataha also has the Malayan and Delsan wrecks, plus some great macro diving at Seafan alley, including Longnose Hawkfish and Pygmy Seahorse.

 

We have a special trip going to Tubbataha Reef in May 2014 - more details >>>

 

Giant Manta in Malapascua (Scott "Gutsy" Tuason - Courtesy of Exotic Island Resort)

 

Southern Visayas

The Southern Visayas includes both the Bohol region (Siquijor Island, Panglao Island, Balicasag Island and Cabilao) and the Southern half of Cebu Island (Pescador Island, Sumilon Island and Moalboal). These islands are home to some great wall diving with beautiful corals, some nice macro, schooling fish and a healthy turtle population. Topside the Bohol region also scores top marks, with white sandy beaches and the world famous chocolate hills.

 

The Atlantis Azores Liveaboard has a Bohol itinerary that departs from Atlantis Dumaguete Resort, making it very easy to combine liveaboard diving in Bohol with land-based macro diving at the resort – a great option if you want a diving holiday with a little bit of everything! The Philippines Siren has an itinerary that covers the whole of the Southern Visayas region and also includes macro diving at Dumaguete.

 

Malapascua Island

We believe no one should leave the Philippines without meeting the graceful Thresher sharks and Giant Manta rays of Malapascua. These stunning fish are found at Monad Shoal and for shark lovers an encounter with a Thresher shark is a special moment. We work with the excellent Malapascua Exotic Island Resort, who run daily trips to visit the Threshers and Mantas. Whilst staying with Exotic Island Resort you can also do Hammerhead dives at Kemod Shoal, dusk dives with the resident Mandarin fish at Lighthouse Reef, visit Gato Island to dive with the Banded Sea snakes, or do some wreck diving on the Dona Marilyn - a 98 metre long passenger ferry sunk during Typhoon Ruby.

 

Diver on a beautiful Philippine reef (Atlantis Resorts)

 

Atlantis Azores Liveaboard

The Atlantis Azores Liveaboard visits Southern Leyte from January to February, the remote reefs of Tubbataha from March until June, the Bohol region from June until September and then Apo Reef and Anilao from November until January. In Southern Leyte there is a good chance of encountering a Whale shark or two at Sogod Bay, whilst the Anilao/Apo Reef itinerary combines great macro diving with high adrenaline reef diving!

 

SY Philippine Siren

The luxury liveaboard SY Philippine Siren visits Coron, Apo Reef and Anilao on 10 night trips from November to January. The Siren then moves to Southern Leyte in February, Tubbataha Reef March to May, and the Southern Visayas from June to October.

 

Philippine Resorts >>>

Philippine Liveaboards >>>

Philippine Special Trips >>>

 

To start arranging your Philippine diving holiday call us on 0161 442 7703 or email us at info@equatordiving.com

 

Stargazer (Bonnie Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Broadclub Cuttlefish (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Divers surfacing to their waiting Banca (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Rare Marbled Shrimp (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Poison Ocelate Octopus (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Yawning Hairy Frogfish (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Feeding Flamboyant Cuttlefish (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Mantis Shrimp (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Anna's Chromodoris nudibranch (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Undescribed Janolus nudibranch (Bonnie Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Bigfin reef squid (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Hairy Frogfish (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Magnificent Chromodoris nudibranchs (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Ceratosoma nudibranch (Ben Jackson - Equator Diving)

 

Mandarin fish (Atlantis Resorts)

 

Ribbon eel (Atlantis Resorts)

 

Frogfish (Atlantis Resorts)

 

Eagle Ray (Atlantis Resorts)

 

Chocolate Hills in Bohol (Paul Francis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call us: 0161 4427703

International: +44 161 442 7703

Email us:info@equatordiving.com

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