The Philippines is the gateway to the Coral Triangle, the world’s center of marine biodiversity. The country’s 7,107 islands are a diverse mixture of Asian, European and American cultures.
El Nido in Palawan is a marine reserve park that is very popular among divers and snorkelers. Also in the province of Palawan is Coron Bay, the wreck-diving capital of the Philippines. It is a large sheltered body of water that was a perfect anchorage for Japanese World War II ships. Thanks to that shelter, diving is possible year-round.
Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental is a 45-minute flight from Manila. The Ducomi Pier has pilings covered in spectacular soft corals and inhabited by many critters. This site has a myriad of sandy sites featuring rare and fabulous critters, such as the flamboyant cuttlefish, red ghost pipefish, needle shrimp, frogfish, mandarinfish and seahorses.
Apo Island, the “model marine sanctuary to the world” and packed with a profusion of schools of fish, has pristine coral reefs.
Puerto Galera in Mindoro Island is a 70-mile drive and a 45-minute scenic boat ride from Manila. There are 35 dive sites around Sabang Beach where pygmy seahorses, frogfish, ghost pipefish, stargazers, nudibranchs and soft corals abound. Verde Island, with its great visibility and pelagics, is a must-dive. Schools of fish and walls of soft coral make Coral Canyons spectacular.
Anilao, a two-hour drive from Manila, is a “hotbed of evolution.” Walls explode with anthias, and every inch is covered in beautiful substrate. Mimic octopuses, ghost pipefish, flamboyant cuttlefish and more inhabit this area. There are four marine sanctuaries teeming with fish.
The Reefs of Tubbataha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offer high-voltage diving. Here you’ll encounter turtles, sharks, mantas, big schools of fish, whale sharks and perfect coral gardens. Visibility is often 200 feet. Tubbataha is accessible via live-aboard from March through May.
Donsol, near Legazpi City is the home of the perfectly cone-shaped Mayon Volcano and is likewise the whale shark capital of the world. Between November and April, the gentle giants can be seen in the waters of Donsol as they return to feed.
Accommodations: The Philippines offers a selection of accommodations ranging from on-the-beach rustic lodging to opulent dive resorts that will satisfy your every whim.