The Philippines is situated in the center of the coral triangle. Habitat to 70% of the world’s coral species and over 2000 species of fish. That’s why almost every island or beach location you’ll visit will have a few diving centers to offer their services. Attempting to dive in all of them will leave you out of time and bankrupt so it’s better to plan your diving trip in the Philippines ahead, and following our guide is a great way to do so.
Best Dive Sites in the Philippines for Corals and Fish
The sheer number of marine sanctuaries makes the Philippines one of the places with the most beautiful corals in the world. But even within the Philippines, some destinations are clearly better than others. Even though we’re sure that there are more spots with spectacular coral formations and reef fish we’ll give you our best picks:
Bohol is one of the best diving destinations in the Philippines
Scuba diving made Bohol famous, with Panglao in particular. Panglao is a small island connected to Bohol by a short bridge and you will find spectacular dive sites all around it. There’s a wall 20-30 meters deep all around it, abundant with soft and hard corals and plenty of fish.
The most notable spots are Alona Beach, Danao Wall, Doljo Point, and Napaling. The last one is a bit more special as the dive site is just a few steps away from the shore, and then it plunges down a 20-meter deep wall. And as if it can’t get any better, the ever-present sardine run is a dazzling site for beginner and novice divers alike.
Other unique diving spots in Bohol are Anda and Cabilao. Both require a bit of a trip, but these two destinations will reward you with virgin dive sites that you’ll feel like you’re the first one to discover. Bohol is definitely a divers’ haven.
Diving in Balicasag and Pamilacan Islands
You will find two special diving destinations almost a stone’s throw distance from Panglao Island. Pamilacan and Balicasag are home to hundreds of green turtles, barracudas, jackfish, and much more. Balicasag is considered an easier dive; therefore, hundreds of divers dive in Cathedral daily, its most famous dive site.
Pamilacan is similar to Balicasag but “suffers” from faster currents. For the experienced diver, that also means opportunities! Dive with fewer divers around you, enjoy cool drift dives, and get to see bigger animals if you’re lucky. People usually report spotting eagle rays, manta rays, and even whale sharks! You can dive there from Panglao, or even stay on Pamilacan for a few days while diving there.
Apo Island – the best diving spot in the Philippines to See Turtles
Apo Island is an offshoot of Dauin, located in the southern tip of Negros Island, the 4th largest island in the Philippines. In Apo you’ll find the friendliest bale of turtles in the world! The turtles there have been protected for so long that they have lost any fear of humans.
The marine sanctuary is impeccable and provides all the turtles need. On top of that, it also provides the diver with amazing underwater sites of beautiful corals and fish. Also, did we mention that night dives here are out of this world?
The Best Diving Spots in the Philippines to See Big Fish
Due to the heavy fishing industry in the Philippines, it’s harder to find big fish as it once used to be. Sharks and rays were omnipresent in the Philippines’ seas, but their numbers have unfortunately decreased. That being said, there are still a few remaining bastions of sites to spot bigger fish.
Diving with Sharks in Malapascua
Malapascua, though still off the beaten track, is one of the most popular destinations for divers visiting the Philippines. The main selling point of the island, which is on the northmost tip of Cebu Island, is its thresher sharks. Everyday at 4:00AM, the flickering lights of diving boats can be seen from far. These are the lights of boats traveling to Monad Shoal, a deep dive site where you’re almost guaranteed to see thresher sharks, a medium long tailed shark that lives in the deep. Monad Shoal is a cleaning station for these sharks, so you can expect to see them there every day.
From Monad Shoal, the boats sail to Gato Island, where three more dive sites await the enthusiast diver. You’ll dive through caves and try to find more sharks, but this time it will be white tip reef sharks, mantas and rays. Malapascua is also home to a very unique site for night dives. Diving in front of the island’s lighthouse, you’ll be able to find mating mandarin fish! Just follow your divemaster’s instructions, and you’ll get to catch these beautiful, colorful fish in action.
Tubbataha Reef – The pinnacle of diving spots in the Philippines!
Tubbataha reef is a marine sanctuary made of two huge atolls. Even though we put it under big fish dive sites, this place has it all, and a lot of it! It’s technically a part of Puerto Princesa in Palawan. Still, it’s almost a night sale away, so Tubbataha is only accessible through a liveaboard safari of 5-6 days.
It’s only open for 4-5 months a year, and you’ll need to book tickets in advance to reserve your spot. It’s by no means a place for beginner divers, and you’ll need to have at least an Open Water certification to dive there safely, and we think that you’ll also need at least another 10 logged dives to really enjoy and appreciate it. You’ll be able to spot whale sharks, mantas and rays, sharks, and all sorts of pelagic fish, along with the healthiest corals you’ve ever seen in your life!
The Best Wreck Dives in the Philippines
The history of the Philippines is full of wars and battles of conquest, and being one of the main battlefields of WW2 in the Pacific, its waters are filled with wrecked warships. There’s nothing more exciting for an avid wreck diver than an impressive, well preserved battleship, and there are many around. However, you’ll find the best wrecks in two destinations in the Philippines.
Wreck Diving in Coron Island
Coron island is home, or graveyard, to two of the most spectacular wrecks in the country – the Irako and the Akitsushima. Many of the Coron wrecks are supply ships as a supply fleet was sunk there, and the Irako is the most spectacular one. A 147 meter long refrigeration ship that weighs almost 10,000 tonnes and still intact with the option to explore its hulls and cabin. Experienced divers can go through the wheelhouse all the way to the engine room.
The Akitsushima is the only combat ship that was sunk in Coron Bay and the second most popular wreck. Beside the existing gun placements which are always exciting, it was a seaplane tender, lowering seaplanes into the water with its crane, and they would take off from there. The massive damage that sank this boat in its rear now functions as an entry point to its cabins. Many details are still intact and in good condition, making Akitsushima very interesting to explore.
USS New York Wreck in Subic Bay
Subic bay functioned as a naval base for many armies – Spanish, Japanese and American (and now Filipino). Though there are many wrecks there from different decades, the most famous one is the USS New York. It’s a relatively shallow wreck, 20-27 meters in depth.
It’s 117 meters long, served in two world wars, and found its fate in the waters of Subic Bay when it was sunk by the US Navy so it won’t fall into Japanese hands. Divers can now explore the ship in its entirety as well as penetrate it. It’s a very impressive battleship that’s now home to an abundance of fish, including eagle rays and barracudas.
Other Amazing Diving Spots in The Philippines
These are our top 7 diving spots in the Philippines. However there are more diving sites in this country than you can possibly count! There are new sites discovered everyday, and of course, it’s a matter of personal preference. We’re always on the lookout for the new best diving sites around.
We’d love you to help us in finding the next best site. Did you dive in unique destinations in the Philippines we didn’t mention and found them to be spectacular? Do you think we should feature it in our blog? Please contact us and tell us all about it.