Located in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is an archipelago consisting of over 7,100 islands and is a popular tourist destination.
While natural landmarks such as the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, Mayon Volcano in Bicol, the Subterranean River in Palawan are a known attraction, the waters surrounding the Philippines presents a greater attraction to international tourists.
Due to the immense diversity of marine life the Philippine coral reefs hold, it’s become a world-class place to dive. Some of the sites we’ll list here are consistently listed in the Top 10 Best Dive Sites in the World.
Let’s dive right in!
Located 177 kilometers (110 miles) southeast offshore of Puerto Princesa City, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the premier dive site of the Philippines.
Its 239,766 acres perimeter has been protected since 1993 allowing marine life to flourish housing over a hundred species of corals, 500 fish species and over 10 species of dolphins and whales.
While it has over 15 dive sites scattered in 3 atolls, Amos Rock is one of the most frequently visited where it is popular for wall diving.
The vertical limestone ledge is completely encrusted with soft and hard corals with a high fish density such as napoleon wrasse, snappers,emperors, groupers and jacks that goes in school.
Take note that your underwater adventures in Tubbataha Reef will be maximized as you can only do this with a week-long liveaboard cruise.
Recognized as the wreck diving of the Philippines, Coron is a haven for wreck divers where you can explore 12 shipwrecks resting at various depths.
The wrecks in Coron comes from the Japanese Imperial Navy during the Second World War when the fleet was spotted and bombed by the US Navy.
The largest yet the shallowest shipwreck in Coron is the Okikawa Maru. This 168 meter (551 feet) long Japanese Oil Tanker lies in a perfect upright position and can be visited by newbie divers.
The upper deck is only at 10 meters (33 feet) deep while the hull is at 16 meters (52 feet) deep. For experienced divers, we recommend the Irako Maru.
The shallowest part of this Japanese Refrigeration Ship is the main deck at 34 meters (112 feet) deep while the deepest part is the hull at 45 meters (148 feet) deep.
Aside from being the nearest dive destination from the Capital City of Manila, Anilao in Batangas is also known as the muck diving capital of the Philippines.
Its reef floor has a healthy population of small marine critters dominated by nudibranch making macro-photography a highly popular sport. In fact, all the dive shops in Anilao has a special camera deck designed to cater to all types of camera equipment.
While Anilao has over 50 dive sites, the Cathedral is the most visited dive site where a cross deployed by a former president of the Philippines has become its main landmark.
This small reef patch where the cross was deployed houses a diversity of marine life where the reef is littered with nudibranch while surgeonfish, butterflyfish, damselfish and angelfish swims around the cross’ periphery.
Verde Island Passage
Accessed via Anilao, Verde Island Passage is not just known by scuba divers worldwide, but also by marine scientist as this stretch of narrow reef has been scientifically recognized as the epicenter of the world’s marine biodiversity.
This means that this is the place to see the most number of corals and fish per square meter.
But diving in Verde Island presents a great challenge and is recommended only for advanced divers since sweeping currents are predominantly existing. Washing Machine is the perfect site to represent Verde Island Passage.
You will go drift diving following a 4 knots (2 meters/second) water current while navigating over pristine coral reefs.
Located in Mindoro Island and accessed via Batangas, Apo Reef is the second largest coral reef system in the world. Declared as a natural park, Apo Reef has a unique shape since it is triangular in appearance with 2 lagoons.
Underwater, it has narrow reef platforms that usually leads to a vertical drop-off.
Known for sea turtle sightings, Apo Out is the most popular dive site in Apo reef where you can start diving in a pristine reef crest that ends in a limestone ledge that is filled with sea fans and barrel sponges.
If you wish to see the big boys of the deep, then we recommend Shark Airfield where its reef plateau has a healthy population of whitetip reef sharks.
Don’t be confused with Apo Island to Apo Reef as these sites are totally different and located far from each other. Accessed via Dumaguete City or in the Town of Dauin, Apo Island is a top diving site in the Visayan Region.
Massive schools of Jacks has been the signature species of Apo Island where 2 sites gives you a guarantee to see their massive population: Mamsa Point and Coconut Point. Aside from Jacks, Apo Island houses over 400 species of corals and 650 species of fish.
This is the direct effect after it has been declared a marine sanctuary. But mind you, Apo Island was once destroyed by massive blast fishing operations in the 70’s.
Thanks to the fishermen who initiated the rehabilitation efforts which was soon supported by schools, universities and government agencies.
Diving in Monad Shoal is a unique experience. Aside from interacting with Thresher Sharks, you need to wake up at dawn, hop on board and be on the water before the sun rises.
Located in the northern coast of Cebu in an Island called Malapascua, your dive boat will usually leave at 5am for a 30 minute boat ride going to Monad Shoal. You will descend towards an offshore coral mound and wait for the Thresher Sharks to rise from the deep.
Your shark interaction will only last for a couple of minutes as they are being cleaned by cleaner wrasse. Afterwards, they descend back to deep waters. Manta rays are an added attraction in Monad Shoal where you can encounter them after your shark interaction.
Bare and uninhabited on Land, the underwater habitat of Pescador Island presents a totally different scenario as the reef is highly populated with reef fish.
Located in the southwest coast of Cebu in a Town called Moalboal, Pescador Island was declared a marine sanctuary where it is known for high fish density.
The Sardine Run is the signature experience of Pescador Island where thousands of small pelagic fish converge in a synchronized swimming pattern.
Accessed via Donsol Sorsogon in the Bicol Region where the Majestic Mayon Volcano sits, Manta Bowl is an offshore reef known for the third largest fish in the world - manta rays.
You will go drift diving towards a 20 meter (66 feet) deep reef. Once at the bottom of the reef crest, you will use reef hooks to prevent from being swept away by strong currents.
Manta rays are often seen swimming against the current with their terminal mouth wide open allowing filter feeding of plankton and other microorganisms to occur.
The good thing with Manta Bowl is that, on your way back after the dive, you will never miss to go snorkeling in Donsol with the biggest fish in the world - the whalesharks.
Located in the island of Camiguin, Sunken Cemetery is a popular shore diving spot in Northern Mindanao. This former patch of land that was once a public cemetery has already been inundated and submerged underwater as a result from a nearby volcanic eruption.
A large cross has been constructed in the sea to mark this former graveyard. Today, you can no longer see tombstones underwater as it has been overgrown with corals.
The highlight of this dive is a large colony of table top corals surrounded with giant clams that measures over a meter in length.
What we just described above are just the best spots to go scuba diving in the Philippines. In case you want more diving, just remember this: the Philippines has over 7,100 islands and each of these islands has a dive spot.
On the assumption that you are allowed to do 3 dives in a day, then it will take you 6.5 years to fully explore the underwater beauty of the Philippines where each of these dive sites are unique and features a different experience.
This is the reason why many expats who are in scuba diving have decided to settle down in the Philippines.