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.
- Tubbataha Reef, Puerto Princesa
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.
- Anilao, Batangas
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.
- Dauin and Apo Island Dumaguete
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Coron Wreck Diving, Palawan
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
Diving with… Ana and Miguel, Siladen Resort & Spa, Indonesia
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…
Ana and Miguel
What is the name of your business?
Siladen Resort & Spa
What is your role within the business?
Co owners and General Managers
How long has the business operated for?
Almost 20 years.
How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?
Miguel has dived since 1993 and Ana has dived since 2002. We are both Open Water Scuba Instructors.
What is your favorite type of diving?
We love all dive types, especially wall diving for the wonderful corals and looking out into the blue wondering what other animals will come up next. But as an UW photographer and videographer we both love critter hunting in the sandy slopes. We are both very fond of night dives as we always find interesting animals and different behaviour.
If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?
We have a wonderful location in the heart of Bunaken National Park and we have an amazing team that provides the best service to each guest. We are a fun dive resort; we constantly strive to be as sustainable as possible and safety is our number one priority. If you like sea turtles and beautiful coral reefs you cannot miss this area for diving or snorkelling.
What is your favorite dive in your location and why?
If we have to choose one wall we would say Mandolin as it has beautiful and healthy corals with a wonderful and shallow reef top. We love to search for turtles in the overhangs, look for long nose hawkfish in the black coral bushes, admire the schooling snappers, and spend a long safety stop on the coral gardens on the top that are full of anthias. For critter hunting and night dives we both love Bolung. Here we can find frogfish, ghostpipefishes and nudibranchs, plus at night we often find decorator crabs, octopus and even stargazers on its white sandy slope.
What types of diving are available in your location?
There are very shallow coral reefs surrounding all five islands within Bunaken National Parkpark — beyond the shallow reef, the seabed drops away very quickly, forming the beautiful walls that Bunaken is famed for. Many of these walls are vertical with huge caverns and overhangs, however some are more gentle slopes that allow more reef building corals to form. On the North Sulawesi mainland there are black sand sites that allow amazing muck diving. Close by, we also have white sand sites, which offer some beautiful coral reefs and gentle slopes. There is even a fairly intact (entirely sponge encrusted) wreck within easy access of the resort.
What do you find most rewarding about your current role?
Working together in a dive resort that welcomes divers and snorkellers from around the world and sharing with them our passion for diving, snorkeling and uw photography and video is a great pleasure. Besides we have the privilege to dive and snorkel at world class sites every week.
What is your favorite underwater creature?
We both love cephalopods in general for their intelligence, capacity to camouflage, change colors and patterns…. We are fortunate enough to have many encounters with cephalopods in this area, from the tiny bobtail squid to the wonderful broadclub cuttlefish, the flamboyant cuttlefish, squids and Ana even filmed reef octopus mating. We could watch cephalopods for ever. And although we see them often, Ana has a soft spot for turtles.
As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?
The biggest problem we all face as divers and nature lovers is climate change and pollution. We need to work on these issues locally but even more importantly we need to address these issues worldwide.
Is your center involved in any environmental work?
Yes, we clean our beach daily and we organise very frequent island clean-ups. Not only do we clean this area, but we also separate the garbage trying to send as much as we possibly can to be recycled. We often have activities together with local school children to help bring awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution. We reduce our single plastic use as much as possible and all our vegetables and fruit peel leftovers are composted. We also protect the nests of turtles that hatch on our beach.
Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?
We are partnering with Coral Eye Resort in Bangka Island so that guests can have the best service in the best areas of North Sulawesi. We are getting one more boat; we want to make sure our boats are never crowded, besides we keep working to maintain and improve all our facilities.
How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?
The industry is doing well and I am happy to see that there are more and more avid snorkellers and not only scuba divers. We would like to see more ocean protection worldwide to ensure the future generations get to enjoy the beautiful reef corals and marine life around the world.
Finally, what would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?
We give you a chance to explore some of the best snorkelling and diving sites in the world while providing you with comfortable accommodation, wonderful food and the best service. Staying in Siladen Resort & Spa you can do up to four dives or snorkelling sessions every day with very experienced guides, while staying in a safe and comfortable resort that aims to provide the best service to each guest.
Where can our visitors find out more about your business?
Visit our website www.siladen.com, find us on Instagram and Facebook (Siladen Resort & Spa) and contact us:
WA +62 811 44300641
DAN and Indonesia Ministry of Tourism advance commitment to Safe Diving
Divers Alert Network and the Indonesia Ministry of Tourism are moving forward with their commitment to promoting dive safety in Indonesia. DAN President and CEO Bill Ziefle and COO Panchabi Vaithiyanathan met with Indonesia Minister of Tourism Dr. Sandiaga Uno on September 1 to further the two organizations’ Partnership to Promote Diving Safety.
The meeting took place in Jakarta amid the opening of Deep and Extreme Indonesia, Asia’s largest outdoor adventure, diving, and marine tourism show, and followed the signing of a memorandum of understanding earlier this year in which the organizations committed to working together to promote safe diving.
In the months ahead, DAN’s Indonesia team, led by Ronny Hertiadhi and Bayu Wardoyo, will be undertaking various initiatives including raising awareness for the new DAN Emergency Hotline in Indonesia (which is available in Bahasa Indonesia and English), training physicians through DAN’s Academies of Dive Medicine, conducting inspections and providing support for recompression chambers, training chamber operators, disseminating safety resources for divers (new and experienced), and supporting dive professionals and operators with free safety consultations, safety seminars, and risk mitigation measures.
“We are so pleased to be working with Minister Uno and his colleagues on this bold initiative,” Ziefle said. “Their enthusiasm — and the enthusiasm of the attendees at the DEEP show — was inspiring. The ministry has embraced the importance of safety in promoting Indonesia as a great place to dive, and we are excited to work alongside them to implement meaningful programs and strategies.”
While the effort is ongoing, the next major milestone in the collaboration will take place on September 13, when DAN Vice President, Risk Mitigation, Francois Burman and DAN Vice President, Medical Services, Matías Nochetto will travel to Indonesia to present a series of lectures and safety presentations to dive operators and medical professionals around the country.
Join the DAN community or learn more at DAN.org.