365 Diving in the Philippines
If you’re craving an underwater adventure, take the plunge in the Philippines. These 7,107 islands in the Pacific Ocean are packed with an incredibly rich variety of marine life, and the warm waters are great for diving almost year-round.
Before you dive in, do your homework. Visit the U.S. Department of State for the latest info on travel alerts and warnings, and if a passport, visa, or other documentation is required.
If you’re not already scuba-certified, contact a reputable source, like PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, for training and certification. Many travel destinations also offer training on-site. Then gear up for one of these top dive spots in the Philippines:
1. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Palawan
More than 300 kinds of corals and almost 400 species of fish flourish in the waters around Tubbataha, in the Sulu Sea. March through June is the best time to spot manta rays, hammerhead sharks, scorpion fish, blue-spotted lagoon rays and blacktip reef sharks. This is the largest marine protected area (MPA) in the Philippines.
2. Verde Island and Puerto Galera, Mindoro
Puerto Galera is on Mindoro, the fourth largest of the Philippine islands. Some dive sites are good for beginners, while others require advanced skills. Expert divers can see corals, hollow barrel sponges and gorgonian sea fans at The Canyons or Escarceo Point, and drift dive in strong currents. Verde island, in the channel, is known for wall diving, where you’ll see star corals, jacks, tuna, sweetlips, batfishes, tangs and jacks.
3. Apo Reef, Mindoro Occidental
Apo Reef is the largest coral reef system in the Philippines and home to over 500 species of soft and hard corals. It’s a great place to spot gobies, snappers, morays, stingrays, blennies and mantas. At the North Wall and Shark Ridge, watch for turtles, sharks and devil rays. Some dive sites are accessible from the beach.
4. Anilao, Batangas
Underwater photographers, bring your cameras to shoot Cathedral Rock in Batangas, where coral-covered pinnacles frame schools of butterfly fish and other creatures. At the end of the Batangas peninsula, look out for hairy frogfish and mimic octopi.
5. Coron, Palawan
The remains of several World War II Japanese ships lie under the waters at Coron, Palawan, where manatees graze on sea grass beds just offshore. Morazan Maru is popular for wreck diving; many fish species, turtles and sea snakes weave in and out of its shattered hull.
6. Negros’ Dauin and Apo Island
Dauin, which has steep walls encrusted with hard corals, is a prime diving destination on Negros. Clownfish, shrimp gobies, and moray eels are usually seen here. Hop a boat to Apo Island, about an hour away, to look for blue ribbon eels, sea snakes and nudibranchs.
7. Malapascua, Moalboal, and Mactan Island, Cebu
Go wall diving off the east side of Mactan Island to see lionfish, rays and turtles. At Moalboal, on the southwest coast of Cebu, you can see ghost pipefish, damsels, shrimpfish and more. Malapascua, off Cebu’s north coast, is known for Monad Shoal, “The only place in the world where sightings of big-eye threshers are guaranteed,” says George Wegmann, PADI Instructor Development Consultant. Malapascua is good for “learn-to-dive sites” and new divers, he adds.
8. Balicasag Island Fish Sanctuary, Bohol
Green sea turtles and garden eels frequent the hard coral slope of Balicasag’s Black Forest. Currents bring in damselfish, wrasse and barracuda; you can swim with schools of passing jacks. “Balicasag offers spectacular diving for all levels of training or experience, from sunlit, shallow fringe reefs to depths of 60 meters and deeper for technical trimix divers,” says Wegmann. (Trimix refers to a mixture of oxygen, helium and nitrogen in a diver’s tanks.)
9. Yapak, Boracay
Divers need experience to handle the current at Yapak, where two coral-encrusted walls start about 100 feet down. Watch for passing tuna, eagle rays, whitetip and grey reef sharks and manta rays.
10. Cabilao Island, Bohol
The Three Coconuts, huge table corals, lie on the western side of Cabilao. This dive spot also teems with stargazers, whitetip sharks and other marine life. Watch for sponges, giant gorgonians, rare nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses and coral fish at the Gorgonian Wall.
11. Southern Leyte Province
Over 30 MPAs in Southern Leyte offer boat, shore, day and night dives. There’s a WWII barge wreck to explore, and blue ring octopi and long horned cowfish to encounter. Visit the Burgos Jetty to find pink cowries, soft coral crabs, lionfish and more. In the Napantao Dive Sanctuary, you’ll see parrotfish, drummers, midnight snappers, parrotfish and, occasionally, schools of whale sharks, whitetip sharks and dolphins.
12. USS New York, Subic Bay, Luzon
Swim around the huge propeller and guns of this sunken armored cruiser, which was scuttled in 1941 in Luzon. There’s too much silt, and the passageways are too narrow, for divers to enter the wreck but it’s a popular hangout for lionfish, barracuda, groupers, lobsters, sweetlips and divers.