Palawan

Palawan beach Among the beauteous sights and abundant natural environment of Palawan, Coron Bay is considered the best wreck diving destination in the region. Here, the wrecks are massive and may require several dives to explore thoroughly. The most impressive site of all is“Akitisushima”, a 200m flying boat, lying on its side in 26-38m of water. The wreck itself has ample varieties of inhabitants ranging from snappers, sweetlips, batfish and lapu-lapu and, school of barracuda sometimes hangs around the fringe of the site. Another interesting wreck is called the Iraku, a refrigeration ship. Unlike Akitisushima, this massive 200m wreck is straightly intact on the seabed. Big garoupa, school of tuna and yellowfins are its common residents. The most known wreck in the shallower water is the Tae Maru, a 10,000 oil tanker that has main decks carpeted with anemones and corals. Though it may appear safe, it is still not advisable to penetrate the wrecks as there are tendencies for the hanging rusty metals to fall off. If you really like to try penetration dive, Olympia Maru is the safest site.It has open holds and engine rooms accessible to pass through and there are plenty of fascinating passage and compartments to explore.

Apart from the rich bay of Coron, discovering the lakes of the island is a commendable dive activity. The most interesting is the mysterious freshwater Barracuda Lake located in between towering limestones and with a halocline at around 14m that can be only accessed by hiking with all your gears for 5-10mins along tricky limestone path. Its name came from a solitary toothy barracuda that can be encountered during a dive, greeting divers with a friendly company. During the dive you may come across some crayfish, rabbit fish, garoupa and catfish that are presumably finding their way into this unusual lagoon from having been drawn in from the adjoining ocean through cracks in the lake’s wall. Dugong or sea cow can be seen occasionally, nibbling the sea grass on murky water close to the sea. Its presence is common throughout the Calamian Group but the famous Club Paradise is reputed to be the probable area where to encounter this good-natured mammal.

El Nido
El Nido is another excellent destination for diving. Its main pride is the magnificent array of limestone islands scattered around the bay of Bacuit. Beneath those towering limestones are colorful assembly of superb walls, coral gardens and sea creatures. These walls possessing a wide assortment of marine life are the Banayan Point on the southwest point of Matinloc Island, and Inbogal Point. Sheltered from all the worst of seasonal storms and is blessed with calm and clear water, El Nido is accessible anytime of the year.

Another interesting diving destination is Port Barton. It is located further down the west coast of Palawan Island from El Nido. The area comprises 12 sites that are mainly coral reefs and sunken islands. Sharks are occasionally seen around Shark Point, a large rock pierced with little caves and garlanded with all kinds of corals.

Pandan Island and Apo Reef

Mindoro’s west side diving attraction is Pandan Island, which aside from having dive sites of its own and a humble but very cozy resort, is also the gateway to Apo Reef- a 30 km reef southwest of Pandan Island. It has sets of islets that can be easily reached from west of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro and from northeast of Calamian group of islands in Palawan.Pandan Island

Under a government proclamation, Apo Reef is a designated marine reserve for its unique geographical features and natural wealth. Underwater, it is inhabited by numerous marine creatures and on its earth surface, it is home to lush variation of plant life and peculiar animals. The reef is physically a large coral isle. It is a sunken lagoon system with two shallow wrecks; an old steamer and a small fishing boat. The area possesses interesting undersea terrains such as coral walls, caves and drop off; and a presence of shipwrecks which are mainly admired by dive enthusiasts.

Wall diving in the areas covered with fun corals and Gorgonians, and the presence of thousands of reef creatures including Napoleon wrasse and species of parrotfish fleeting in and out of its crevices, catches most attentions of the divers. Mantas and sharks as well are occasionally seen around the appropriately named shark ridge on the east side of the reef.

This reef is regularly visited by numerous pelagic species. So it is always essential to dive with a diver familiar of the area.

Despite the unsightly view caused by dynamite fishing on the top area of the reef, dive walls maintained its thousands of sea creatures and underwater terrains. Due to its thriving popularity, the reef attracts more and more visitors mainly liveaboard divers on transition runs from Puerto Galera and day trippers from Pandan Island.

To be able to witness its perfect beauty, visit Apo between March and June. This time water is calmer and visibility is higher.

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Donsol, Sorsogon

Since the discovery of hundreds of whale sharks congregating in the muddy but plankton-rich waters of Donsol, this unknown little town of Sorsogon became a word of mouth passed on to every tourist exploring the Philippines. Their presence became a major income generator, as thousands arrive each season to swim and witness the friendly behavior of these giant fish, bringing high revenue to an economy initially reliant to fishing and cottage industry alone.

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These gentle giants arrive from as early as November but the official season starts from February and runs until end of May, where the sea of Donsol is at its clearest and calmest. Local tourism officials and professional divers have established guidelines on proper whale shark watching intended to maintain safety and to defend the creatures from over exploitation. The technique is simple: hire a boat, a spotter, find a shark and slip in the water along side the creature. Scuba gears and flash photography are not allowed so be sure you have your snorkeling gears and no flash cameras before going.

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Anilao

Situated in the west coast of Calumpan Peninsula in Batangas Province, this coastal village is frequented by divers coming from Manila and neighboring towns. Without the fuss of long hour boat trips and weather disturbances, Anilao is a three hour drive and can be easily accessed anytime of the year. It is not only close, Anilao’s plentiful gathering of marine species and coral-covered undersea terrains made it an exceptional site for underwater photography. Some of these incredible sites are walls and drop off coral gardens and even hot springs coming from undersea volcanic outlets. Rare fishes can be seen at some of the sites and, despite of the devastating illegal fishing practices by the locals, resident divers of different nationalities have organized monitoring and conservation programs to continously stop this damaging habit.

Most visitors of Anilao are Manila based dive operators and diving students, who use the clear waters of Balayaan Bay for open water sessions and, for students to take their first underwater experience.

There is nothing to expect in Anilao unless you come for diving alone. There is not really “strips” of beaches to explore. Resorts are located in the deepest part of Anilao and mostly isolated from each other. If you don’t have a car, coming to this place can be complex. And if you plan to do activities other than diving, having your own vehicle is highly advised.

Among the famous dive sites around Anilao include the Sombrero and Maricaban islands. Sombrero, a hat shaped island, is uninhabited but has a couple of spectacular dive sites. Here, many pelagic creatures such as tuna, rainbow runners and some species of rays are frequently seen. There is a small white-sand beach in the island if planning to stay for a day picnic.

Maricaban Island has shallow grassy coral gardens, astounding walls and drop-offs, ship wrecks and waves mostly showing a reality of Philippines best underwater assets. Maricaban walls fall from 18 m and drop off to more than 60 m. Several species of rays and white tip sharks have recorded fleeting around this area. The current here is strong so be guided accordingly.

There are more exciting dive sites around Anilao. Cathedral Rock, a site for fish-feeding, Arthur’s Rock- a shallow coral dive, Nelson’s Rock, Kirby’s Pinnacle, Devils’ Point and the Maricaban Wreck are best recreational diving parks that made Anilao the closest diving paradise from Manila.