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Diving with… Allison Manis, El Galleon Resort/Asia Divers, Puerto Galera, Philippines

Asia DTA Team

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In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…


What is your name?

Allison Manis

What is the name of your business?

El Galleon Resort/Asia Divers

What is your role within the business?

Marketing Manager/PADI Instructor

How long has the business operated for?

Over 33 years

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

Over 33 years. PADI IDC Staff Instructor. I have done training for Tech and Rebreather as well.

What is your favorite type of diving?

I enjoy all kinds of diving but I really do get a thrill out of a good drift dive. Also recently I’ve become very interested in Blackwater diving.

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?

Wow…I can tell you so much about our business as I’ve worked here for more than 20 years! I think the main thing to know is that Puerto Galera has amazing biodiversity.  Puerto Galera is one of the leading scuba diving locations in the Philippines, offering some of the best diving in Asia. We are located in “The Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor” (VIP) which is known as “the center of the center of marine biodiversity”, the heart of the Coral Triangle. There is no better place to experience this than our spacious dive centre and beachfront resort.

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

After more than 25 years and 11,000 dives in Puerto Galera  I would have to say that out of all the amazing dive sites here I am truly enthralled by The Canyons. This is Puerto Galera’s signature dive site and divers come here from all over the world to get that big “WOW” moment diving it. The Canyons is well known because it’s quite often an exciting heart-pumping drift dive that brings out all the bigger schools of bigger fishes and you can really get that feeling of flying.

What types of diving are available in your location?

We’re so lucky in Puerto Galera to have so many different types of diving including amazing drifts, gorgeous reefs, wreck, fantastic macro and of course one of the most spectacular dive sites in the world, Verde Island. Our Blackwater diving is getting more popular as well. We have had many world class underwater photographers coming here because of the biodiversity and variety of diving offered.  Asia Divers is a PADI Career Development centre and is well known for its high standard of teaching across all PADI courses, from Bubblemakers for kids to Divemaster and Instructor level courses. We keep new divers happy on easier dives but we also have more challenging dives for experienced divers. For those who like to go a step further, we have a technical diving operation, Tech Asia.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

I love to meet people from all over the world and I’m very proud to introduce them to the underwater beauty of Puerto Galera.

What is your favorite underwater creature?

Ha ha….I love so many creatures and critters, but lately I’ve become fascinated by salps. I come from an art and design background and I’m always searching for colours, shapes and textures in the ocean.

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

With the “new normal”, our guest’s well-being and comfort is our priority at El Galleon Resort and Asia Divers. All considerations for health, safety and enjoyment are already in place throughout the resort.

Luckily being located right on the ocean and not in a busy area, we have lots of space and room for everyone to enjoy their stay and dive in a relaxing and safe way. It’s very easy to practice social distancing in our resort and dive center. El Galleon has implemented a 3-step room sanitizing process, with disinfectant fogging as one of the steps and many other steps to ensure everyone’s safety.

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

COVID -19 has affected the whole world and tourism took a major hit here.  Right now of course it’s getting tourism back to the Philippines, safely. We have everything in place; we just need the government to lift travel bans and to allow people to travel here.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

Asia Divers has been actively involved in the Project Aware International Clean up day and conduct underwater clean-up dives at least once a month as we are involved in Project AWARE Adopt a dive site. All candidates who are in training to become instructors at Asia Divers learn how to organise Project AWARE Dive Against Debris and use the data to change habits. We also report our data is great detail so it can be used for policy development. Throughout the years we have been working along with local schools for environmental education conducting beach clean-ups along with presentations about environmental awareness.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?

We’re lucky here that not only can people go scuba diving, but it’s also fantastic for snorkelling.  Freediving is gaining allot more interest and I can see that this is an area which will grow in the coming years.  Puerto Galera has pristine corals and lots of fish to keep everyone interested in the aquatic world.

What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

El Galleon Dive Resort and its dive centre, Asia Divers, have everything you need to experience the best of Puerto Galera.  Located on a serene and quaint beachfront fronting Small Lalaguna Beach the resort has 30 air-conditioned rooms that have been constructed in the tropical hillside with stunning views of Sabang Bay and Small Lalaguna Beach.  The restaurant extends to the water’s edge, offering a great value in international  cuisine.  Puerto Galera is one of the leading scuba diving locations in the Philippines, offering some of the best diving in Asia and there is no better place to experience this than at our spacious dive centre.  We are the only dive center in Puerto Galera with a private pier and diving platform and of course you’ll get spoiled by our friendly and outgoing team!

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

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Update from Magic Resorts in the Philippines

Asia DTA Team

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As you may already have seen, on December 16, the Philippines was hit by a super typhoon category 5 with wind speeds up to 280km/h – 175miles/hour. The centre of the typhoon went over Cebu and Bohol and caused massive havoc and many casualties. Following on from two already difficult years due to the Covid pandemic, the typhoon damage has been devastating to local communities.

We contacted our friends at Magic Resorts (Magic Island Dive Resort in Moalboal, Cebu and Magic Oceans Dive Resort in Anda, Bohol) for an update:

“It’s 3 weeks since the typhoon hit and a lot has been done already (especially road clearing) but unfortunately the whole of Bohol is still without electricity and also more than half of Cebu is without electricity (incl. Moalboal). Telecommunications are still barely available, so it’s hard to communicate with the rest of the world. Expectations are that we will have electricity again in February. For Bohol there is a chance it could take longer.

Everybody is working hard and we see some positive developments, but the damage is severe and it will take a long before things are up and running again cross the area.

Nevertheless, the resorts and the staff are luckily OK, but most of the staff lost (part of) their homes. After 2 years struggling with COVID, they dont have any money to rebuild, so we decided to help them with crowdfunding.

We are so happy and grateful that we have already received so much love and financial support from everyone all over the world so that we are able to help our staff and their families get through these devastating times. Any help is much appreciated!”

Magic Resorts has 80 Filipino employees and all funds raised will go directly to them to help rebuild and repair their homes, their lives and their country.

Thank you for your help. You can donate here: https://gofund.me/50b9bd13

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These 8 Dive Spots in the Philippines are known to be the best in Asia

Asia DTA Team

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The Philippines has, once again, been declared as Asia’s Leading Dive Destination by the 28th World Travel Awards. This is now the third consecutive year that the country won this title. It has undeniably some of the best diving spots in Asia, with adventures that await beginners and professional divers who want to experience the thrill of roller-coaster drift dives. Underwater photography enthusiasts will enjoy documenting the diverse marine life that thrives in the clear tropical waters.

The archipelagic state is part of the heart of the Coral Triangle, the world’s center of marine biodiversity. It has the third-largest area of coral reef in the world at 25,060 km2 that is home to 75% of the world’s coral species and an abundant biodiversity that includes 3,000 species of fish. The government, environmental organizations, and local residents are working together to protect this rich marine biodiversity.

“We are very happy that the country’s mesmerizing dive spots remain the best among Asia in the recent 2021 World Travel Awards. On behalf of the Philippines Department of Tourism and our tourism workers and stakeholders, we thank everyone who voted for the Philippines. We will continue to protect and preserve our seas and marine wildlife so that more people can witness our rich and mesmerizing underwater resources,” said Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.

The Philippines is a vibrant, colorful country and this extends to the marine life that is thriving under its seas. More Fun Awaits in the Philippines as the Philippines Department of Tourism is preparing its popular diving sites and at the same time developing its new dive attractions and circuits that promote sustainable tourism. Health protocols are also being put into place at each destination for the safety of travelers while showcasing the breathtaking beauty of the Philippine seas.

In fact, The Department of Tourism (DOT) has announced the vaccination of more than 95% of tourism workers employed in accredited dive establishments across the Philippines, signalling the readiness of this niche market to the eventual reopening of the country to foreign visitors.

Get ready to dive into these amazing underwater spots waiting for your visit when international travel resumes.

  1. Tubbataha Reef, Puerto Princesa

Copyright: Wowie Wong

The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is said to be one of the country’s oldest ecosystems. It covers 96,828 hectares of underwater adventures. This atoll reef has a very high density of marine biodiversity, with more than 700 fish species, over 360 coral species, 11 shark species, and 13 dolphin and whale species already been recorded, and its North Islet serving as a nesting site both for birds and two species of endangered marine turtles – the green turtles and hawksbill turtles. The site has a spectacular 100-m perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons and two coral islands, with exciting pelagic action involving white tip reef sharks, manta rays, and whale sharks.

  1. Anilao, Batangas

Copyright: Dennis Corpuz

Anilao, in the Municipality of Mabini, is located just a short drive away from the Philippines’ capital of Manila. This has made it a haven for weekend diving enthusiasts from the city, especially those who are into underwater photography. It is located along the Verde Island Passage between Batangas and Mindoro, which is considered as the center of marine shore fish biodiversity with 319 species swimming in its blue waters that coral taxonomist Douglas Fenner says is home to 74 genera of hard corals. Anilao is a destination for both macro and muck diving enthusiasts, with rare critters like rhinopias, and colorful nudibranchs. It is also a perfect place to perfect blackwater and bonfire diving skills in macrophotography.

  1. Dauin and Apo Island Dumaguete

Copyright: Wowie Wong

The Municipality of Dauin has many dive spots for different levels of enthusiasts. These spots are protected marine sanctuaries that look after the sea’s biodiversity. Dauin is a big draw for those who are into muck diving, owing to the fascinating tiny creatures that dwell camouflaged along the corals, sea grass, and rock formations. Exciting sightings can start close to the shoreline, and these include different kinds of pipefishes, razorfish, frogfishes, sea horses, wasp fishes, snake eels, sea moths, dragonettes, flounders, snappers, stargazers, and crabs and turtles.

A scenic 30-minute boat ride from Dumaguete brings divers to Apo Island, a marine sanctuary organized by its local community. It offers myriad opportunities to explore on the ground with its volcanic rock formations, and undersea where 400 coral species where over 650 species of fish reside. There is a community of sea turtles that don’t mind swimming serenely alongside divers and having these awesome moments captured on camera. For a feeling of exclusivity, book a stop at the Marine Sanctuary found southeast off of Apo Island, where only 100 divers are allowed per day to preserve its ecological balance.

  1. Apo Reef Natural Park, Occidental Mindoro

Apo Reef is the largest atoll-like coral reef in the Philippines. Covering an area of 34 square kilometers, it is the second largest connecting coral reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. The pristine waters of the 30-meter deep channel are teeming with 385 species of fish have been identified in the area, including angel fishes, parrot fishes, jacks, and trevallies. Divers can also encounter reef sharks, moray, giant squid and giant clams. It has a mangrove forest which serves as source of food, spawning ground, and sanctuary of several marine and bird species.

Among that activities available for travelers are scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, lagoon rafting, and watching the birds, dolphins and turtles that abound in the area.

  1. Puerto Galera, Mindoro and Verde Island

The name Puerto Galera is Spanish for Port of the Galleons for the trading vessels that would anchor off its shores of this place. Today, it is popular for its numerous diving spots as part of the Verde Island Passage of the Coral Triangle of Asia. Its clear waters allow for high visibility that is perfect for diving among the hard and soft varieties of corals that house about 60 percent of the world’s shore fish. Puerto Galera is part of the Dive and Drive tourism circuit that has been developed by the Department of Tourism that includes important dive sites like Ticao Island in Masbate and Anilao in Batangas.

If the Coral Triangle is considered as the underwater Amazon Forest, Verde Island is at the center of its heart. The Verde Island Wall –two rocks jutting out southeast of the island is considered as the best dive sites in the Philippines, with excellent visibility and lot so nooks and crannies to explore. Colorful corals are home and playground to white tips and other sharks, mantas, tuna and jacks with pelagics like parrotfish, unicorn fish, and Napoleons adding even more color to the visual impact of clouds of anthias. For a spinning good time, head out to the Washing Machine, so-called for its wild current that is popular with divers who are looking to enjoy a unique thrill.

  1. Cebu (Malapascua, Moalboal)

Located at the Northern part of Cebu, Malapascua Island is a must-visit for divers to enjoy the rare and thrilling experience of swimming with thresher sharks. The pristine waters of this tropical island paradise offers more unforgettable adventures. After a 5 a.m. thresher shark dive, enthusiasts can also go on shipwreck explorations, deep and tek dives, dusk mandarin fish spotting, and night dives to observe rare nocturnal creatures. Another dive attraction is the underwater tunnel that runs through the length of nearby Gato Island, a home to white tip sharks. Here, divers can explore undercuts and small caves to discover the secret lives of marine animals such as cuttlefish, banded sea snakes, crabs, anthas, and lionfish. The beach life is just as grand, where you can walk anywhere in flip-flops to enjoy the charming, relaxed life on the island.

Moalboal in the local dialect means bubbling waters, owing to its freshwater springs. Its dive sites offer an array of exciting experiences, with Copton Point already offering two – the Copton Deep that has an aircraft wreck to explore and Copton Shallow that has table corals and shallow corals through which dart a wide variety of fish. Likened to the effects of stained-glass windows at church, Pescador Cathedral is a magnificent cave that captures shafts of light at midday to bathe the surroundings with a heavenly glow.

  1. Bohol (Anda, Balicasag, and Cabilao)

Beautiful Bohol, with its breathtaking natural wonders such as the Chocolate Hills and Man-Made Mahogany Forest, along with historic sites such as its centuries-old churches is also a haven for divers. The warm sands of Bohol’s AIona Beach is the jump-off point for dive safaris to Anda, Balicasag, and Cabilao.

Anda is a relatively new dive destination and it is being developed with sustainable tourism in mind. Conservation efforts are supported by the friendly community, with guides who expertly help divers find the best spots. Coral-covered shallow flat reefs are home to a host of creatures such as hawkfish, fire urchins, and Coleman shrimp. Schoolers such as snappers, groupers, puffers and turtles like to converge in these clear waters. Cabilao has the small island charm. It has only five barangays or communities, but 20 dive sites. Underwater life ranges from small soft corals to large gorgonian sea fans. The Lighthouse 1 and 2 are popular dive photography sites. Balicasag is a protected area because it is a sea turtle meeting, breeding, and feeding area. There is a site that is literally named Diver’s Heaven, because here, each dive is a good dive.

  1. Coron Wreck Diving, Palawan

Copyright: Dugong Dive Center

Coron has been described as one of the best spots in the World for wreck diving. There are 24 Japanese ships that were sunk in the area by an American air raid during World War II and the 12 wrecks that have been discovered are now home to corals and other forms of aquatic life. The shipwrecks are very well preserved and are all located in quite shallow water starting at 6 to 10 meters which is perfect for recreational diving. For enthusiasts, there are also dive courses which may be booked through Dugong Dive Center.

Safe and Protected

The Philippines is proactive in protecting its marine resources, not only through government mandates but also through community engagement. The locals of the areas understand the importance of caring for the environment as their source of livelihood and as their legacy to the next generations. The Philippine Department of Tourism works closely with the local government units of the popular dive sites and new circuits in order to ensure that the marine biodiversity is allowed to thrive through responsible and sustainable tourism efforts.

Aside from showcasing these underwater attractions to the world, the DOT is preparing for the return of dive enthusiasts with standardized health and hygiene protocols for a safe journey throughout the country.  In addition, this fascinating destination has received the Safe Travels stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) which selects destinations that meet international health and safety standards to travel without worries.

To know the latest updates and travel advisories about the Philippine, visit www.itsmorefuninthephilippines.co.uk or download the Travel Philippines app at the Google Play and Apple Store.

Header Image: Robert Yin

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