When it comes to quality and quantity, the Philippines gives other world class dive destinations like the Maldives and Thailand a run for their money, touting its own loyal following of divers from all over the world that would swear by this archipelagic paradise.
However, with over 700 islands and even more incredible dive spots to choose from, it’s not always easy to know where to visit. If you are looking to plan the ultimate dive vacation to the Philippines, here are 5 diving activities in the Philippines you must experience.
Experience Thermocline in Barracuda Lake
Situated on the shore of Coron Island in the Philippines, Barracuda Lake offers one of the most unique diving experiences in the world. Occasionally referred to as Luluyuan Lake by locals, its crystal blue waters are framed by majestic rocky formations that would be a perfect addition to your social media feed. Despite its name, the Barracuda Lake isn’t actually big on barracudas and other wildlife. Instead, the lake is known for waters so clear that when you look through your mask down at your flippers, you will be overcome with the surreal feeling of floating in the air.
Starting out on the surface of the lake, divers, swimmers, and scuba enthusiasts can expect temperatures of around 28°C. However, as you descend into the depths of the lake, at around 45 to 50 feet down the temperature rises to just over 37°C. This strange increase in temperature is due to the unique mixture of salt and freshwater in the lake. The stunning limestone formations that rise up on all sides also extend below the surface of the lake which creates a unique underwater scenery.
When To Go
You can dive Barracuda Lake all year round.
Barracuda Lake is situated on the north shore of Coron island in Palawan, Philippines. It can be reached via an easy 20-minute boat ride from Coron town. If you are going with a dive operator, ask to dive at Barracuda Lake first as there are fewer tourists early in the morning and visibility is better.
Immerse Yourself in a Coral Wonderland in Apo Island
Apo Island, which translates to”grandson island” in the local dialect, is located off the south-western coast of Negros Oriental. The island is situated about 8 kilometers off the coast from the municipality of Dauin and about 17 kilometers south of Dumaguete City. Not to be confused with Apo Reef further north, Apo Island is known for its healthy coral gardens, schools of fish, sea turtles and sea snakes. For more than 39 years, the island has been a marine sanctuary for pristine coral reefs and a happy and healthy sea turtle population. So, if you fancy swimming amongst beautiful corals and a handful of sea turtles, Apo Island is the ideal destination for you. Currently, there are about 950 residents living in the area who subsist through traditional fishing in designated areas around the sanctuary. Apo Island is a must-see when it comes to diving and snorkeling activities in Dumaguete City.
When To Go
Apo Island can be reached by a one-hour boat ride from Dauin or Dumaguete City located on the southeastern coast of the island of Negros in the Visayas, Philippines. It is approximately a 20 minute trike or van ride to Dauin from neighboring Dumaguete City. Flights are the easiest, though more costly, way to get to Dumaguete City on Negros.
October to early June is the best diving season around Dumaguete and Dauin. Avoid July to September as it is monsoon season.
Make an Impact with the Sea Turtle Conservation Specialty Course
If you’re looking for a diving experience in the Visayas, Philippines, Sierra Madre Divers offers an authentic and meaningful sea turtle training course called AWARE Specialty Identification on Bohol. Here, you will learn all about sea turtles including how to identify the different species, causes of concern for their long-term survival, and what we could do about it.
Sea turtles are a keystone of the underwater ecosystem – they help to maintain productive coral reefs by transporting essential nutrients from the ocean to beaches and dunes. Further explore their role in the ocean’s ecosystem and contribute to the Large Marine Vertebrates Project’s (LAMAVE), an ongoing sea turtle identification and tagging program at Balicasag Island by helping to support the Philippines’ turtle conservation efforts. Click here for more information: https://dive-bohol.com/conservation/aware-sea-turtle-conservation-course/
When To Go
Bohol scuba diving is best between October and May
Balicasag Island is a small island located in the southern Bohol, which is a 25-minute boat ride from Panglao Island in the Visayas, Philippines.
Get Wrapped Up in the Mysterious Hinatuan Enchanted River
Located on the island of Mindanao and hidden in the Philippine jungle is a majestic river that seems to appear out of nowhere. This unusual saltwater river is surrounded by legends and stories and was called “enchanted” by a diplomat who described the river in a poem. Today, it is known as the Enchanted River or the Hinatuan Sacred River and it is situated on the east coast of the southernmost island of the Philippines. A meandering 648 meters between the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean at Barangay Talisay, Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, this river is so strikingly clear that its sapphire blue hues look like solid gemstones glinting in the sun.
When To Go
The best time to explore the Enchanted River is summer from December to April, especially in the months of March and April. Avoid rainy seasons in May to November.
Hinatuan Enchanted River is just outside the town of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur on the east side of Mindanao in the Philippines. If you are flying into the Butuan City Domestic Airport, you can take a van that goes straight to the town of Hinatuan. From there, it’s a bumpy motorcycle ride that passes through a dirt road and then a forested area leading to the river.
Go back in time by wreck diving in Coron, Palawan
Coron Bay boasts the best wreck dives in the Philippines. In addition to its breathtaking limestone cliffs and crystalline lagoons, the site offers exploration into the unique historical World War II shipwrecks of Coron, Palawan. There is nothing quite like the feeling of standing in the boat knowing that you are about to dive down and explore at least half a dozen war vessels lying on the sea floor. Each wreck has its own special characteristics and most of them are largely intact, within diving depths that are easily accessible to divers of all levels and full of amazing artefacts.
The harbor at Coron Bay was used by Japanese warships during the Second World War. A September 1944 air attack sank 11 of these ships. Today, Coron’s wrecks serve as reef systems, providing home to a variety of marine life. Scorpionfish, nudibranchs, cuttlefish, and octopuses are common residents of these wrecks. If you’re lucky, you might even see stingrays and reef sharks nearby.
When To Go
The best time to go wreck diving in Coron, Palawan is during the dry Season that runs from October to mid-June.
After flying to Manila, you have two options to get to Coron. One involves a 1-hour flight to Busuanga followed by a 45-minute van ride to Coron, while the other is a 13-14 hour ferry trip straight to Coron.