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The homeland of Jeepneys, funny tarsier, and welcoming locals, the Philippines is the ultimate destination for exotic islands. With its warm smiling and hospitable inhabitants and 7000 islands, this beautiful country has a lot to offer to visitors.
White beaches, emerald sea, abundant vegetation, volcanoes, mountains, lakes, history, culture and art coexist in this tropical archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. But what attracts most tourists to the Philippines is that the country is one of the best destinations for diving in the world.
Are you fascinated by the idea of swimming with sharks or discovering shipwrecks at the bottom of the sea? Then, continue reading below to find the best-rated dives in the Philippines.
The waters surrounding the Philippines form part of the Coral Triangle, where one can find most of the coral reef species on the planet. The country has numerous enchanting diving spots, but the Tubbataha reef is probably the most impressive. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to a wide variety of sharks, turtles and manta skates. Tubbataha reef was also nominated as one of the New Seven Wonders of the Natural World thanks to the rich biodiversity.
It lies in the middle of Sulu Sea, 50 km southeast of Palawan. You can only reach it by boat, but first, you will have to fly from Manila to Puerto Princesa in Palawan, and then ride a boat for 10 hours. Although a long trip, Tubbataha reef will make up for all the hassle.
The diving season starts from mid-March until mid-June when the weather and sea conditions are ideal, and the visibility is between 32 to 114 feet (10-35m).
If swimming with sharks has been something you wanted to check off your bucket list for quite some time now, Monad Shoal is the perfect place. Υou can make the most of this thrilling experience with the guidance of the expert instructors at Evolution Diving Resorts. You are guaranteed a fun and safe diving adventure either this includes diving with the thresher sharks or going on a wreck dive. Evolution will also take care of your accommodation as it is a small and friendly owner-operated resort close to the pristine white sand beaches of the island. The resort is also home to one of the top-rated restaurants in Malapascua.
At 100 feet (30m) underwater, you have a great chance of seeing the thresher sharks up close. The highest chances of spotting these magnificent creatures of 20ft (6m) long that weigh over 1,100 ls (500 kilos) are from March to May. The best time to see the sharks is in the morning. Later, in the afternoon, you will probably see devil rays and giant oceanic manta ray. This underwater world is perfect for macro photography, like the breathtaking captions and footage you see on documentaries.
To get to Malapascua, you can either take a boat from Cebu or go to Maya by car or other private transfer and ride a boat for 25 - 30 minutes.
Palawan hosts the best wreck dives in the Philippines, the remainder of the turbulent World War II. The most popular is the Akitushima Wreck in Coron Bay. The Japanese Navy ship sank in 1944, and it is still possible today to visit the engine room as long as your instructor allows it.
The largest shipwreck in Coron is Okikawa Maru which is a 525-foot (160-meter) tanker wreck seeing many visitors every year. Another popular site is Tangat Gunboat, the 131ft (40m) long submarine hunter, where you can see an abundance of colourful tropical fish.
Although Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan, now has an international airport, there are currently very few flights to and from there. The best way is to fly to Manila and take a domestic flight to Palawan.
If you make it to Palawan, don't miss out El Nido! The Palawan archipelago was unknown until about 30 years ago when a small fishing boat was intercepted by tunas and forced to spend the night in the area. The next morning, the fishermen woke up to find themselves in a heaven on earth with abundant lush forests, white coral sand beaches, rock formations, caves and crystal clear emerald waters. It was El Nido Bay.
Balicasag is a small island southwest to Bohol hosting a beautiful coral reef with many dive sites. The most captivating of all is the Divers' Heaven, a wall dive of 30 - 130 ft (10 - 40 m). This spot is ideal for beginners with visibility of 39 - 82 ft (12 - 25 m) and light currents.
There you can see jackfish and barracudas, rare species, such as Gold Band Fusilier and Midnight Snapper, and corals like Brown Daisy and barrel sponges. When your diving session comes to an end, you can relax at the white sand beaches or continue exploring the nearby diving sites of the Black Forest and Royal Garden.
As the waters are warm all year round with an average temperature of 82 - 84F (28 - 29 ° C), you can go diving regardless of the season. Locals, however, suggest that the period from December to June offers the best diving conditions.
To get to Balicasag, you first need to make your way to Tagbilaran, the capital of Bohol. The transfer time from there to Panglao island is around 40 minutes, and you can get there by car. In Panglao, you will find many boat rentals available to take you to Balicasag.
Did you know that you can experience diving and swim along with the Sardine Run in Moalboal, which is estimated to count more than 7 million sardines? You might have seen pictures or videos of myriads of Sardines swimming so densely that you can't even tell they are actually fish.
In Cebu, you will also find the most popular dives in Pescador Island, the Talisay Wall and the Magic Point. Pescador Island, which is included in the top 50 dive sites in the world, is known for the rich marine life and hard corals. Talisay Wall hosts magnificent canyons and deep slopes, where you can observe batfish, mackerel, barracudas, and turtles. Magic Point is another diving site, where you will see both hard and soft corals and many fish species, such as frogfish and jackfish.
Moalboal is a three-hour-drive by bus from Cebu City. It's best to fly to Mactan - Cebu International Airport instead of flying first to another airport and heading to Cebu afterwards. Most dive resorts in Cebu offer airport transportation that takes 2 to 4 hours one-way.
These and more spectacular diving sites will entice you to book your ticket for the Philippines and rent your diving equipment today! Every corner of every island has something new to discover, something that will make you say that this is undoubtedly a journey of a lifetime.
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We are Jacob and Taylor. Travel is our passion and we love sharing our experiences here at The Travelling Souk. Our hope is that you would be inspired by this little blog to try something new, embrace an adventure, and live life to the fullest.