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10 Reasons to Scuba Dive the Philippines

This country offers a huge variety of experiences, many of which are prime for traveling divers.
By Terry Ward | Updated On July 23, 2018
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10 Reasons to Scuba Dive the Philippines

philippines diving
Stuart Hill

Finding paradise in a country of 7,000-plus islands isn’t difficult, but it helps a diver to know where to go.

1) Monad Shoal, Malapascua Island

Threshers, threshers and more threshers. This drop-off dive site near Malapascua Island, off the tip of Cebu Island, is the best place in the world for reliably spotting the sleek sharks with a scythe-like tail. The top of the reef is full of ­cleaning stations frequented by the animals, spotted here year-round.

2) The Cagayan de Oro River

It’s like a topside drift dive! Depending on your experience, you can opt to raft down class one and two or class three and four rapids. With a total of 21 rapids, the beautiful river on ­Mindanao is considered the premier whitewater-­rafting destination in the Philippines.

3) Olympia Maru, Coron Bay

The Philippines’ answer to Truk Lagoon, Coron Bay in Palawan has the best wreck diving in Southeast Asia. Clouds of fish swarm the cargo hold of the Olympia Maru, one of over a dozen wrecks to dive in the compact lagoon. The Japanese cargo ship was sunk by U.S. aircraft in 1944 and sits upright at about 90 feet.

4) Amos Rock, Tubbataha Reef

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is considered among the world’s most pristine coral reefs. Fin alongside the gorgonian-carpeted wall at Amos Rock while watching patrolling reef sharks and thousands of reef fish flitting like tossed confetti.

5) Apo 29, Apo Reef

Apo Reef Natural Park is the world’s second-largest contiguous coral reef ­after the Great Barrier Reef. And when the current is running at Apo 29, the stellar site attracts schooling barracuda, reef sharks, manta rays and even hammerheads.

Divers Guide

Average Water Temp: From 81 to 85 degrees F

What to Wear: 3 mm wetsuit or shorty

When to Go: Year-round; December through May best for weather

6) Puerto Princesa, Subterranean River

The island of Palawan is impressive in any direction you look, but there’s something fascinating about heading underground. At this national park, float through a subterranean river that flows into the South China Sea while ogling the bats and swiftlets careening through the air.

7) Secret Bay, Anilao

The density of bizarre critters — wonderpus octopuses, mantis shrimp, bobbit worms and ghost pipefish, to name a few — make this site a favorite with muck divers and photographers. You can see it all between depths of just 10 and 70 feet, making for long bottom times too.

8) Manta Bowl, Ticao

Use a reef hook to stay put while watching the manta action at this ­killer site off Ticao. An underwater shoal ­loaded with cleaning and feeding stations attracts the winged beauties and sometimes, if you get lucky, whale sharks too.

9) Manila’s Chinatown

Should you get waylaid in Manila on your way to your dive destination, it’s worth heading to Binondo, the city’s lively Chinatown district, for a fun foodie tour. Fill up on delicious specialties such as pork and leek dumplings, Chinese ­pancakes and pork floss.

10) Island hopping

The towering karst islands ­surrounding El Nido on Palawan are as ­Instagram-worthy as landscapes get. And the best way to explore the area’s crystal-clear lagoons and small islets is on multiday sailing expeditions that stop to let you snorkel, visit lost caves, and bliss out on lonely beaches.