Ever thought of going to a diving destination that is off the radar? Where the resorts, accommodations, food and beverages are a great value? Where the people are gracious, friendly, and polite? Where the reefs, the biodiversity, the visibility, the walls, the World War II wrecks, are world class?
In the heart of the tropics, the Philippines offer all of the above. This destination offers value and bang for the buck! Traveling to the Philippines is painless.
Philippine Airlines schedule their west coast departures about 9pm from San Francisco and Los Angeles. The journey is a long haul outbound, 16 hours with a pit stop in Guam to take on additional fuel.
The beauty of this schedule is that we chase the night, finally landing in Manila at about 5am two days later. The day we lose goes into the twilight zone. Upon landing, provided one had sufficient sleep during the flight, and with the dawn of a new day, adjustment is easy. The return is another evening departure landing on the west coast 4 hours sooner the same day!
The Philippine archipelago comprises of 7107 islands broken into several regions. The northern area is the main island of Luzon, with the capital city of Manila, a sprawling metropolis, home to twenty million people. Mindoro Island is just south of Manila and Luzon and has a variety of resorts that cater to divers, golfers and vacationers.
The central region is known as the Visayas consisting of about a dozen main islands. This region hosts the many popular diving destinations. Cebu Island, Negros Island, and Panglao Island have multiple dive resorts catered specifically for the diving enthusiast.
To the west, is Palawan, a long island chain with Busuanga Island at the northern end. This region is remote, picturesque and set back in time.
Getting to the Visayas diving areas requires flying from Manila to Cebu, Tagbileran, or Dumaguete. Transfers to local dive resorts are within half hour to an hour driving time.
Panglao Island, next to Tagbilran City has several dive resorts to chose from that are reasonably priced. Balicasag Island and Cabilao Island are two of many sites offering outstanding wall diving and 200 foot visibility.
The diving in this region was my favorite with excellent visibility, phenomenal walls, and a photographer’s paradise.
There are multitudes of dive operators on Panglao Island and all the diving is conducted from Banca boats.
Banca boats are an indigenous Philippine species. They are an evolution of the canoe. They vary in size from one man, to open ocean cruisers with all the sophisticated navigational gear. These vessels have dual outriggers, covered roofs, and diesel engine.
A two hour ferry ride from Tagbileran City to Dumaguete on Negros Island and a bus ride south to Dauin will place you in the middle of excellent diving with a variety of resorts to choose from.
Nearby Apo Island is a marine sanctuary situated several miles off Negros Island, exposed to the open seas, December through May are the recommended and the best months for diving. Being a marine sanctuary, the biodiversity of this island is phenomenal.
Another excellent destination is Club Paradise Resort on Dimakya Island off Busuanga in northern Palawan. Palawan is a string of long islands to the west of Luzon.
Getting there involves flying out of Manila to Busuanga airport, boarding a Jeepney (open air mini bus), driving over bumpy four wheel drive dirt roads, boarding another boat for the final leg to Dimakya Island, an all day affair.
Club Paradise Club is a private island developed twenty years ago for the sole purpose of providing snorkeling and scuba diving. The dive boats are top notch and they also have a sea going live-aboard for excursions to Apo Reef, three hours away.
The resort boasts numerous cottages, bar, open air restaurant, gift shop and full scale dive center where Nitrox (Oxygen enriched air) is available.
The top attraction is the wreck, Kyokusan Maru, a Japanese freighter converted to warship that was sunk in 1945 by Hellcat bombers.
Dimakya Island has plenty to see off the beach, not to mention a great place the beginning scuba diver. Most notable were frogfish, territorial clownfish pecking divers on their heads, turtles feeding and being hand fed, sun fish, jacks, puffers, scorpion fish and jeweled anemone crabs. All the night dives are conducted off the Island
Like all good things that come to an end, departure time at Club Paradise Club is ritualistically concluded with serenading musicians and by releasing turtle hatchlings on the beach and watching the cute little darlings scamper into the surf.
Atlantis Resorts, located in Dumaguete and Puerto Galera are all inclusive land based dive resorts that cater exclusively to divers. Not to mention beer, at 1970 prices!
I visited the facility in Dumaguete. They have comfortable rooms, a beach side bar, and rinse tanks for regulators, BC’s, camera equipment, plus drying areas, and a full service camera room where one can charge batteries and work one their camera gear.
Atlantis resorts also have their own live aboard that rotates to various regions with the archipelago with reasonable pricing and quality comparable to well known charters.
Finally, I found the diving, the biodiversity, and the colors, in the Philippines to be the best anywhere surpassing many warm water locations.
The Philippines is a must do destination that offers value and outstanding diving.