Diving in the Philippines
The Philippines sit at the eastern edge of the bio-diverse coral triangle, supporting more than 500 types of coral, 3,000-plus species of fish, and more than twice that number of small and unique invertebrates. Counts continue to go up as new species are discovered almost weekly. The archipelago is composed of some 7,000 islands that offers a combined 22,500 miles of coastline. Obviously, there is no shortage of diving opportunity, and the challenge for visitors is often deciding which of many excellent regions to select. The primary hubs for diving center around Anilao and Puerto Galera to the north, along with Dumaguete, Cebu, Bohol, Palawan, and Coron in the central region of the Philippines. Diving in Anilao is primarily done in small open boats known as bancas, set up for groups of four to as many as 10 to 12. Because dives sites are usually just 15 to 30 minutes from resorts, daily schedules usually provide two dives in the morning, followed by a lunch back at the resort, with another 1 to 2 afternoon/night dives. Night dives in Anilao are highly recommended. Because there are shallow components to many sites, it's not uncommon for multi-level profiles to exceed 70 to 80 minutes. Having a Nitrox certification can be a big advantage. Some of Anilao’s top sites include Twin Rocks, Basura, Mainit Muck, Kirby's, and Bethlehem, all of which offer consistently target- rich environments for underwater macro photographers. Nearby Beatrice provides excellent wide-angle opportunities on slopes covered in soft corals and crinoids, with schooling anthias as thick as raindrops. Dumaguete is widely known for muck diving, but a 45-minute boat ride away is Apo Island, which offers a distinctly different venue with stunning coral gardens and prolific fish life. At sites like Chapel Point, Cogon and The Sanctuary the reef ends with a gorgeous steep mini-wall down to 100 feet with a healthy blend of hard and soft corals. In addition to a bevy of moray eels, reefs are thick with anthias, clownfish and shrimp gobies, and both hawksbill and green sea turtles are quite common. Across the Verde Island Passage from Anilao is Puerto Galera, which features some 30 dive centers and resorts along the north coast at Sabang Beach and White Beach. With shores washed by currents from the South China Sea, most dives are conducted as drifts, which carry divers along an underwater landscape covered with soft corals and sponges, and carved with small drop-offs and canyons. Divers can duck into one of these recesses to escape the currents and watch snapper, sweetlips, barracudas, jacks and an occasional white-tip shark cruise by. Among the long list of must-do dive sites in the area are Canyons, where a trio of deep clefts in the wall allow divers to drop out of the way of the current and discover sandy alcoves that are home to octopus, scorpionfish and sea snakes, then return to blue water frequented by manta rays, thresher sharks and hammerhead sharks. Moving south, Bocaray is known for drift dives along walls visited by white-tip and grey reef sharks, schools of tuna, manta rays and eagle rays. At the northern tip of Cebu the small island of Malapascua is famous for thresher sharks, but also delivers walls, spectacular soft coral growths and a diverse roster of marine life that includes batfish, flutemouth, barracuda, tuna, mantis shrimp, pipefish, scorpionfish, lionfish, Moorish idols, schooling bannerfish, unicorn fish, squid, octopus and various moray eels. Just off Cebu's eastern coast, Matcan Island is one of the most popular diving destinations in the Philippines, with short boat rides of sites along a deep channel. Best known is Marigondon Cave, which is a large tunnel in the side of the wall that is home to luminescent flashlight fish. Another favorite is Tingo Point where thresher sharks are sometimes joined by passing hammerheads. Across the channel, the southern coast of Bohol and Panglao Island are jumping off points from trips to the marine sanctuary at Balicasag. A dramatic walls starts at depths of 10 feet and plunges to more than 200, but even more impressive are the huge schools of jacks that blanket the wall in a living curtain, and the numerous grouper and large wrasse that congregate at cleaning stations. The sanctuary is also known for smaller finds such nudibranch, eels, frogfish, scorpionfish and leaf fish. Live-aboards provide seasonal access to the World Heritage Site of Tubbataha Marine Park. This remote reef is renowned for both the density and diversity of marine life. Here, walls and reefs are overgrown with forests of multi-hued soft corals, and frequented by pelagics such as mantas, sea turtles and sharks.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
All U.S. citizens are required to have a valid passport. Your passport must contain at least one blank page for entry stamp and proof of onward or return airline ticket may be required. Visas upon arrival are issued for 30 days for tourist stays. EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All persons leaving the Philippines pay a Government Departure Tax of approximately USD $17.
There are no required vaccines for entry into the Philippines, although you should always check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at
Culture and Customs
The Philippines are a blend of East and West. Centuries of Spanish and US influences mix with Asian cultural traditions and cuisines. Sophisticated urban centers such as Manila contrast with village life in small fishing communities and mountain settlements. Music is a common love that unites Philippine people of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, whether the performance takes the form of a spirited karaoke rendition of a pop favorite or a traditional rondalla. It is a culture where people are quick to sing, laugh easily, and place high values on family, friendships and hospitality. Clear waters and spectacular beaches attract vacationers to coastal resorts, while adventure-minded travelers have a wide range of activities to choose from. Nature lovers can trek, bike or bird in one of the world's most diverse biospheres, home to nearly 80 percent of the world’s plant and animal species. Though better known for it's beaches, the Philippines is also a land of towering mountains, with peaks rising to heights of more than 9,000 feet. In addition to trekking and climbing, the highlands provide thrilling whitewater rafting and paddles through underground rivers. Indigenous wellness traditions live on in healing arts such as Hilot touch therapy and Dagdagay foot massage, and in the traditional greeting of “Mabuhay,” which is a wish for good health, peace, and harmony.
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Electricity in the Philippines is 220 volts, 60 Hz, so an adapter will be needed for U.S. visitors. If your electronic device does not accept 220 V input, you may also need a step down transformer. The country code for the Philippines is 63. Check with your cell phone provider for International plans which may include text, data and voice. Many hotels offer WiFi.
The water is safe to drink at the larger chain hotel and in major cities, which offer purified water, but it is recommended to drink bottled water while in the Philippines.
Language & Currency
The Philippines is the 3rd largest English speaking country in the world. Tagalog (Filipino) is spoken by nearly 1/3 of the population as a first language and as a second language by the other 2/3 of the population. Filipino is the official language of education, but English is also an official language. The local currency is the Philippine Peso (PHP) but U.S. dollars are accepted in most places. Check the currency rate here.
The Philippines observe Philippines Time or PHT which is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+8 GMT). The Philippines does not observe daylight savings time.
Location, Size and Population
The Philippines are located in Southeast Asia, in the Western Pacific Ocean, east of Vietnam and northeast of Malaysia. The Philippines are made up of 7,107 island. The three main islands are Luzon in the north, Visayas in the Central Region and Mindanao in the South. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila. The islands take up approximately 115,830 square miles. The islands vary in size with Luzon being the largest at 42,458 square miles, it is also the 15th largest island in the world and the 4th most populated island in the world, to some of the smaller places like popular Dumaguete, which is only around 13 square miles and located in the Visayas.
The population of the Philippines is over 102 Million (2016).