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The Best Diving in the Philippines

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The 7,641 islands of the Philippines scattered across 300,00 sq km of tropical ocean have a staggering array of world-class dive spots - here are five of the very best with great in-depth article on each… 

1) Anilao


Allen's nudibranch (Miamra alleni) - one of the largest found in the Philippines. Photo Douglas David Seifert

On the northern shore of the Verde Island Passage is the 13km Calumpang Peninsula, better known under the general name Anilao, geographically consisting of the villages of Anilao, Balingit and Mabini. Anilao is only 2.5 hours drive from Manila and has seen tremendous development over the past 40 years, with dozens of operators and resorts to choose from. The dive sites range from seamounts and pinnacles, to current-washed coral reefs, to shipwrecks, coral gardens, and soft-sediment, sea grass and sponge, coralline algae and coral-patch muck sites. Of all the locations of the Philippines, the 900,000 sq km Verde Island Passage is arguably the richest, most biodiverse region.

Read Douglas David Seifert's report Islands & Currents


2) Coron Bay

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A porthole on the wreck of the Irako. Photo John Nightingale

On 24 September 1944, a squadron of 24 US bombers burst out of the sky above Coron Bay on the northern tip of the island of Palawan, the most westerly of the Philippine islands, located the Japanese supply fleet hiding among the islands below, and proceeded to blow it apart. Today Coron Bay has the best wreck diving in Southeast Asia, all packed into one relatively small area. There is nothing quite like the feeling of standing on a jetty, knowing that you have at least half a dozen huge wartime vessels lying within a short boat ride. Each wreck has its own special characteristics, but on the whole, they are big, mostly intact, within reasonable diving depth and full of amazing artefacts.

Read John Nightingale's article The Wrecks of Coron Bay


3) Tubbataha

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Spectacular gorgonians adorn Tubbataha's steep walls. Photo Steve Jones

A generation ago the fabulous, isolated reefs of Tubbataha far out in the Sulu Sea were under serious threat from the development of industrial level fishing in the area. How this UNESCO World Heritage site has been protected and allowed to flourish is an amazing conservation success story and today a liveaboard trip out to these wild and very beautiful reefs is some of the best diving in the world.

Read Steve Jones' article How Tubbataha Was Saved


4) Malapascua

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Thresher sharks use their elongated tails to stun prey. Photo Douglas David Seifert

Early each morning some of the most beautiful and elusive sharks ascend from their normal deep habitat to be cleaned in the shallow waters of Monad Shoal,  located 8km from Malapascua, a 2.5km by 1km island on the northern tip of the island of Cebu, in the Visayas Sea of the Central Philippines. And lucky divers can observe thresher sharks in all their glory.

 Read Douglas David Seifert's report Wide-eyed and Whiptailed

5) Southern Leyte

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A brace of warty frogfish hanging out in the muck. Photo Shutterstock

Muck, glorious muck… For some divers (photographers mainly) there is nothing better than grubbing around in the substrate searching for weird and wonderful creatures. These are the marine equivalent of back streets and dark alleyways, where strange beasts lurk in the shadows in heavy disguise or are so venomous that no-one wants to mess with them. No accounting for taste.

Two such muck diving areas have been found in Southern Leyte, a province in the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines. One is a sandy area just offshore in Sogod Bay that has come to be known as Little Lembeh, after the black sands of the Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, and the second is just around the headland under a pier by a town called Padre Burgos. Both have world-class selections of some of the more peculiar animals you will ever find on a dive.

Read John Boyle's Down & Dirty in Southern Leyte


Check out DIVEs full guide to the Philippines



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