The climate is tropical, with March to May (summer) being the hottest months. The rainy season starts in June and extends through October with strong typhoons possible. The coolest months are from November to February, with mid-January to end of February considered the best for cooler and dryer weather. Locations exposed directly to the Pacific Ocean have frequent rainfall all year. The average temperatures range from 25°C/78°F to 32°C/90°F and humidity is around 77 per cent.
PHILIPPINES | INTRODUCTION
Stunning drop-offs, wonderful coral, big beasts, weird critters and dramatic, historic wrecks. This is a diving paradise…
The Philippines forms the northern border of the Coral Triangle - the centre of marine biodiversity on the planet and one of the true wonders of the natural world. The Coral Triangle accounts for one per cent of the planet's surface yet contains 30 per cent of the world's coral reefs. Some 574 species of reef-building coral create the home for nearly 1,400 species of reef fish. Add to the mix a host of pelagic wonders such as whale sharks, threshers and mantas, more critters and marine beasties than we are ever likely to be able to count and some awesome concentrations of Second World War wrecks and you have the ultimate diving playground.
A total of 7,107 islands make up the Philippines which means a staggering array of diving possibilities. You can explore far-flung reefs in total seclusion on some world class liveaboards. You can island hop and experience a dizzying array of cultures, people and types of diving. If you are a wreck head the Japanese fleet in Coron Bay must be at the top of your wish list. If it's big beast action, this is one of the best parts of the world to get up close to whale sharks. Where else can you virtually guarantee seeing thresher sharks? For the underwater photographer, the Philippines has it all - weird macro critters beautiful reefs and impressive wrecks. And if you have only ever snorkelled, the Philippines are a first class place to learn to dive.
You can spend a lifetime visiting the Philippines and still have new and exciting places to dive. Plan your trip carefully. You will not be able to cram everything in and will have to make some difficult choices. And don't forget there are lots of other experiences not to miss.
Diving in the Philippines
The main diving areas of the Philippines are…
BATANGAS • ANILAO • SUBIC BAY
The south coast of Luzon has some of the country’s best diving. Anilao in Batangas is popular with divers from Manila - the world’s ‘nudibranch capital’ has good muck diving spots and lots of weird critters. Between Batangas and Mindoro lies Verde Island (you can reach it by day boat from both Batangas and Puerto Galera in Mindoro) which is fed by deep ocean currents and offers spectacular wall diving with more than 300 species of coral recorded.
Subic Bay to the west of Manila was an important naval base during the Second World War and is the resting place of countless wrecks. The volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 destroyed the remaining base and has left the viz in the bay down to a few metres - but it is still an amazing place to explore a vast range of wartime wrecks.
PUERTO GALERA • APO REEF • VERDE ISLAND
One of the Philippines larger islands, Mindoro is separated from Luzon by the Verde Island Passage one of the most biodiverse stretches of water on the planet. One of the first marine reserves in the Philippines was established here back in the 1930s - in 1973 it was elevated to a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve. A recent study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature established that the wealth of marine life is even greater than previously thought despite the impact of being next to a major shipping lane and the pressures of local fishing.
The bright and lively resort of Puerto Galera attracts throngs of tourists many from Manilla just two hours away by road and by boat. It is a popular spot to learn to dive and has a highly developed scuba sector. It has in recent years become a centre for technical diving.
Apo Reef is a world-class dive location with a rich variety of dives including some great micro sites bustling with weird and wonderful critters. The Alama Jane wreck on the edge of Sabang Bay is a purpose sunk old cargo boat that sits upright at 30m and is covered with life.
BOHOL • CEBU • NEGROS
Cebu is the entry point for diving this glorious and varied region. Just off the northern tip of the island of Cebu is Malapascua, a tiny, picturesque island you can walk around in less than an hour. This is one of the few places in the world where there are regular sightings of thresher sharks. Manta rays are most prevalent here in the rainy season, June to August, but may be spotted year round. Great macro diving as well, plus wrecks such as the the Donna Marilyn.
The island of Moalboal attracts large schools of sardines while Pescador Island is one of the best dive spots in the Philippines with steep drop-offs and dramatic caves and rock formations.
Situated on the south-eastern tip of the large island of Negros, Dumaguete has great diving plus lots of other activities. The main diving spot is Apo Island (not to be mixed up with Apo Reef). Apo is a tiny marine sanctuary that is teeming with fish and beautiful corals. There are ten dive sites around the island and each has something different to offer from exhilarating drift dives to gentle shallow dives over hard and soft corals often with vast schools of jacks.
Bohol is known for its steep walls with great diving at Alona Beach and the tiny islands of Panglao, Balicasag and Pamilacan. Impressive hard and soft coral gardens to explore and lots of stunning walls and drift dives mean something for divers of all experiences.
CORON • DIMAKAYA ISLAND • EL NIDO • BUSUANGA • TUBBATAHA REEFS
The wild west of the Philippines is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the Philippines, ranging from limestone cliffs, thermal lakes and underwater caves. Jacques Cousteau described this area of the archipelago as 'the most beautiful place I ever explored.' With more than 1,800 islands, pristine beaches, world-class diving and a diverse wildlife you will understand why.
Coron Bay offers some of the best Second World War wreck diving on the planet in the sheltered and shallow bay where the American airforce caught a Japanese support fleet napping. The constant flow of plankton and nutrient dripping waters may make the viz a tad murky, but this is more than compensated by the impact it has had on the wrecks themselves. They are festooned with life - corals and invertebrates clinging to every surface and this lush growth attracts hordes of fish. Highlights include the wrecks of the Kogyo Maru and the Taiei Maru.
Dimakya Island, on the northern tip of Palawan is where you can find a dugong, explore the Kyokuzan Maru, a 152m Japanese freighter wreck, and be amazed by the magnitude of the dramatic drop-offs and coral formations.
Out in the middle of the Sulu Sea is the star attractions of the wonderful Tubbataha National Marine Park. It is a 12-hour sail from Puerto Princesa out to Tubbatha but the dramatic walls that surround the oval reefs are well worth the effort. Three of the reefs - Jessie Beazley, North Reef and South Reef form a marine park which is designated a World Heritage site. Being so exposed in the middle of the Sulu Sea means they can only be dived in the late spring when the crossing isn't too extreme. Lots of pelagic action with white tip reef sharks, mantas and occasionally whale sharks.
NEED TO KNOW
Citizens of nearly all countries do not need a visa to enter the Philippines for stays of less than 30 days - you'll be given a 30-day visa on arrival in the country. However, you may well be asked for proof of an exit or onward ticket upon arrival in the country. For non-British passport holders, you may call the Philippine Consulate at 02074511821 if you need a visa to enter. For longer stays, before you travel, apply at The Philippine Embassy Consular Office for a three-month single-entry visa, which usually costs £22. Additional visa extension can be applied in the Philippines. Passports should be valid at least six months upon scheduled return to point of origin.
Phones AND INTERNET
Local SIM cards which can be bought on arrival can be used in most open line phones. Or you can buy a basic phone for about £10. Dial 0 before area codes when calling to and from a mobile or landline outside of that region. Important codes to remember: Country code is 63, Emergency number is 117, International dialling code 00 and International operator is 108 if using a landline.
The currency in the Philippines is the Peso (PhP), divided into 100 Centavos. Coins come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, and 25 centavos and P1, P5 and P10 pesos. Notes are in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1, 000 pesos. All commercial banks, most large hotels, and some malls are authorized to exchange foreign currency. American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa credit cards are widely accepted across the country. Travellers’ checks (preferably American Express) are accepted at hotels and large department stores. ATM machines are common in cities but rare in far flung islands (transaction charges apply for foreign debit/credit cards).
There are two distinct languages spoken in the Philippines: Tagalog and Bisaya. While Tagalog is the official language, it is only spoken in Luzon. In the other two major regional areas, Visayas and Mindanao, varying dialects of Bisaya are spoken in different islands. All signs are in English as it is widely spoken in the whole country but more fluently within urban areas.
You’ll only be asked to show health certificates of vaccination against smallpox, cholera, and yellow fever if you’re coming from known infected areas. Immunization against typhoid, polio, hepatitis A, and Japanese encephalitis may be wise, as well as precautions against malaria and dengue fever. Consult your doctor before travelling. Avoid the sand fly (known locally as the niknik), whose bite is much worse than the mosquito's. A regular and thorough application of locally produced 'Off' lotion on all exposed parts should keep them at bay.
Most visitors fly into the Philippines, arriving via Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila or Clark International Airport in Central Luzon, or through one of the Philippines' other smaller international gateways: Cebu and Kalibo in the Visayas, and Davao in Mindanao. Once within the Philippines, travellers have an almost confusing selection of transportation options: budget airlines, ships and buses link Philippine cities and provinces, while shorter distances can be traversed using jeepneys, buses, and tricycles.
Electricity supply: 220 volts a/c. An American-style adapter is needed to connect.