At the very heart of the Coral Triangle, the Philippines is one of the top destinations for diving in South East Asia. It's incredibly diverse, with wrecks, an incredible macro life, and some big pelagic action too!
Tubbataha is the best diving spot in the Philippines. It is remote and pristine, and it hosts one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on earth.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the middle of the Sulu Sea. Three of the reefs – Jessie Beazley, North Reef, and South Reef form the marine park.
In this incredible habitat, be prepared to see 600 species of fish, 360 species of corals, 13 species of dolphins and whales, 11 species of sharks (among which are whitetip sharks, reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, tiger sharks..), and countless macro life (ornate ghost pipefish, seahorses, frogfish, and nudibranch). Divers also frequently see some whale sharks, manta rays, big schools of tunas, barracudas, and some hawksbill and green sea turtles.
Only nine liveaboards have a permit to go to Tubbataha. As it is quite remote, the season is short, between the end of February and June. Available spots sell out quickly, so be prepared to book two or more seasons in advance. Check out our 6 nights liveaboard trip to Tubbataha Reefs (6 nights starting from ...)
Amos Rock: is the most famous dive site in Tubbataha, located on the North Atoll. You'll start the dive on a slope before reaching a beautiful gorgonian-covered wall, hosting a variety of soft corals. The currents are usually strong on this site. You'll see plenty of fish schools, and some reef sharks patrolling the reef.
Washing Machine: also located in the North Atoll, it is known for its unpredictable currents and its incredible visibility. It is home to grey reef sharks and plenty of colorful fish.
Malayan Wall: the best spot in Tubbataha to spot schooling hammerhead sharks. The Malayan is a small shipwreck you'll see at the beginning of the dive. Most of the dive is spent in the blue, to see big pelagic species. At the end of the dive, you'll spend some time on the wall to observe moray ells into the cracks, beautiful sea fans, and plenty of schools of fish too.
There are direct flights from Manila (MNL) to Puerto Princesa (PPS) with Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, or Philippines Airlines.
You can only access Tubbataha Reefs with a liveaboard, so check out our 6 nights liveaboard trip to Tubbataha Reefs (6 nights starting from ...)
It is a 12 hours sail from Puerto Princesa in Palawan
On 24 September 1944, a US Navy strike force of fighters and bombers attacked a Japanese supply fleet hiding in Coron Bay. The airforce only had 15 minutes to complete their mission without running out of fuel. The attack was short but successful.
Coron is a highlight of scuba diving in the Philippines, with a dramatic landscape, and plenty of almost intact wrecks a short boat ride away. The depth of the wrecks is accessible to most divers and is full of life. Coron gained the reputation of having the best wreck-diving in South East Asia. Okinawa Maru, Tangat Gunboat, Kogyo Maru, and the Taipei Maru are the most popular wrecks of the bay.
Near Coron, another unique area worth visiting is Barracuda Lake. A short climb among incredible landscapes will lead you to the lake.
Okinawa Maru: is a 160m (525ft) tanker, the largest one in the bay. Accessible to all levels as it starts at 10 meters (32 ft) depth. As in the other wrecks of the area, you might spot several scorpionfish, octopuses, stingrays, and some beautiful macro life.
Barracuda Lake: the view you'll get going there is half of the fun. The lake is a crater filled with clear blue waters, where you'll experience thermoclines.
Moalboal in Cebu is best known for its sardines bait balls you can see year-round. Up to 7 million sardines reside there. These massive bait balls are very close to the shore of Panagsama Beach, and both snorkelers and divers can enjoy the experience.
Pescador Island, accessible from Moalboal, has beautiful canyons and swim-throughs full of life.
Finally, a couple of hours from Moalboal is Oslob, known for its congregations of whale sharks... and its unregulated tourism. The marine conservation LAMAVE NGO
Panagsama Beach: the place where you can see the massive sardine bait balls. If you're lucky, you could witness some thresher sharks too chasing them.
Pescador Island: not to be missed, this island offers a dramatic wall with colorful soft corals teeming with life. You can also see some beautiful caves and scenic swim-throughs. You might see some schools of pelagic fish, some reef sharks, and some beautiful macro too with frogfish and nudibranchs.
There are direct flights from Manila (MNL) to Cebu (CEB) with Cebu Pacific. Expect a 2 to 4 hours ride from the airport to reach Moalboal.
An alternative with much easier logistics is to is to embark on a 7 nights liveaboard trip to Central Visayas (7 nights starting from ...)
Malapascua is a tiny island located at the northernmost tip of Cebu Island. You can walk around it in less than an hour. With clear waters and beautiful beaches, this is a great destination to add to your list of places to visit.
Monad Shoal is the most famous dive site in Malapascua. It is known to be the most consistent site in the world to see thresher sharks. It is a cleaning station where they usually come almost every day at dawn.
Located just 20 minutes down the coast from Dumaguete, the village of Dauin is an excellent base to do some muck diving and macro photography in the Philippines. You can see different types of frogfish, nudibranchs, dragonets, pipefish, blue-ring octopuses, mandarin fish, seahorses, cardinalfish, and more.
The area is also an excellent starting point to go diving on Apo Island, a small marine protected area with beautiful corals gardens, plenty of sea turtles, and some big schools of fish.
San Miguel North in Dauin: is shallow, so you can spend plenty of time searching for amazing critters on its sandy slope and seagrass: frogfish, cuttlefish, squid, nudibranchs, ghost pipefish, spiny devilfish, and many more!
Coconut Point at Apo island: offers a thrilling drift dive over a coral slope where you can see some red tooth triggerfish, snappers, trevallies, bumphead parrotfish, marbled groupers, and jacks to name a few
The village of Anilao is easy to reach as it is only a couple of hours' drive from Manila. Along with Dauin, Negros Oriental, it is one of the best areas in the Philippines for muck diving, blackwater diving, and macro photography. Expect to spot countless nudibranchs, frogfish, seahorses, cuttlefish, and pipefish to name a few.
North of the Verde Island passage, this area has dive sites with pinnacles, seamounts, and coral gardens, where you'll be able to see bigger marine life.
Secret Bay: the best site for muck diving, where you'll get to find pipefish, frogfish, mimic octopus, wonderpus, and a multitude of sea creatures. An excellent night dive too when everything is quieter.
The Pier, or Janao-Janao: a fantastic shallow dive site to encounter stargazers, Bobbit worms, crabs, shrimps, mollusks, octopus, eels, flounders, sea snails, and more.
Located across Anilao and the Verde Island Passage, Puerto Galera is one of the most popular areas to dive in the Philippines.
There are more than 30 dive sites to choose from, with an extensive range of marine life. Add to these beautiful beaches and plenty of restaurants to go to, and you'll get an idea of what it looks like.
Verde island passage, accessible from Puerto Galera is not to be missed, as it is one of the richest ecosystems of the Coral Triangle. You'll get to see on your dives some nudibranchs, frogfish, reef octopuses, large schools of barracudas, batfish, snappers, emperors, and trevally to name a few.
Canyons: expect strong currents bringing large schools of barracudas, snappers, and trevally. The three sunken boats of the Sabang Wrecks are covered with colorful corals and sponges.
Verde Island Passage: is among the richest areas in the Coral Triangle and one of the most productive ecosystems in the world!
The Philippines' largest atoll, Apo Reef, is located in the open ocean between Mindoro and Coron. It was declared a Natural Park in 1980 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2006.
Years of stress on the reef due to overfishing, destructive coral practices, chemical pollution, sedimentation, and climatic change have damaged the reef. There's now a Strictly Protected Zone to allow for some recovery.
With 385 fish species recorded, Apo Reef is often called the "little Tubbataha". Damsel fishes, wrasses, butterflyfish, groupers, gobies, jacks and trevallies, reef sharks, whitetips, blacktips, and hammerhead sharks are some species you can expect to see diving there. The list is endless.
As of April 2022, Apo Reef was closed to visitors. Contact SeaCrush if you'd like to be informed of its reopening!
When Apo Reef Natural Park reopens to visitors, you'll be able to visit the area with a liveaboard that usually goes to Coron wrecks on the same trip.
Some dive shops in Mindoro organize day trips to Apo Reef. The crossing is very long (2,5 to 3 hours one way), subject to weather, and having enough people interested.
We always recommend having your well-maintained dive gear as you'll be safer and more comfortable. Light and compact dive gear is particularly suited for travels.
Always have a surface marker buoy, and know how to use it. We also recommend you to have a Nautilus Lifeline, a GPS that could save your life if taken by currents.
Tubbataha and Apo Reefs are only for divers experienced in currents.
To dive on Coron Wrecks and Malapascua, you'll need at least an Advanced Open Water (or level 2) as these are deep dives. A Wreck specialty too is good for Coron, as local dive shops tend to penetrate wrecks even if the divers they take are not certified.
Finally, remember to take along a reef-safe sunscreen.