36 Reasons to go Scuba Diving in the Philippines

36 Reasons to go Scuba Diving in the Philippines

With over 7,000 islands, the Philippine archipelago is an absolute diving paradise. DIVEIN.com asked several dive centers and underwater photographers to share their photos and thoughts on the best scuba diving in the Philippines. 

This is their first-hand knowledge and plus an awe-inspiring photo gallery and a list of reasons that will convince you to pack your suitcase and explore the top-class dive sites of the Philippines.

Interested in diving in the Philippines? Check out some prices for popular liveaboards here and dive resorts here.

1. The Philippines is located at the apex of the Coral Triangle

Spend some time hunting for pygmy seahorses on coral fans like this one (Photo credit: Rich Carey)

The Coral Triangle — the global center of marine biodiversity — houses 75% of all known coral species and 40% of the world’s reef fish species. Apart from the Philippines, the region includes Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Timor Leste, and the Solomon Islands.

2. So you can indulge in 10,000 square miles of coral reef any time

Rich underwater coral reefs are the norm in the Philippines (Photo credit: Rich Carey)

Scuba divers can take the plunge all year round in the warm waters of this tropical country. It’s best to go diving in the Philippines during dry season, from December to May, because you’ll find the best visibility. However, just like other countries, note that the Philippines has been experiencing erratic weather conditions these past few years.

3. It’s easy to communicate with dive shops

Though extremely venomous, sea snakes are also extremely docile (Photo credit: Paul Cowell)

Filipinos speak different dialects, depending on the region you visit. However, with English as one of the official languages in the country, it’s easy for divers to communicate with dive shop staff and locals. Newspapers, forms, menus, road signs, and books are usually written in English, so traveling around the country is pretty convenient.

4. Experience riding a bangka

Diver below a waiting bangka (Photo credit: Paul Cowell)

Get to the dive site onboard a bangka, a local boat typically made of marine plywood. In most cases, it has two outriggers made of bamboo. Bangka boats are commonly used for fishing, public transportation, and recreational purposes such as island hopping, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

5. Nemo is easy to find

Say hi to Nemo, tucking itself into a carpet anemone for protection (Photo credit: J’nel)

Native to the warm Indian and Pacific Ocean waters, anemonefish, commonly known as clownfish, are easy to spot on sheltered reefs across the Philippines. You’ll see them hiding or swimming around sea anemones, where they live.

Although anemone tentacles sting other animals, clownfish enjoy a commensal relationship with the anemone, wherein they rid the anemone of parasites in return for a safe place to call home.

6. But you may have to play hide and seek with some beautiful seahorses

Can you spot the pygmy seahorse on this sea fan? (Photo credit: Pille)

Pygmy seahorses boast remarkable camouflage, based on the sea fans they call home. Found throughout the Coral Triangle, these tiny treasures come in a variety of colors, from yellow to pink. And they are small—really small—measuring less than 0.78 inches (2 cm) in height. Spotting them can be a challenge since they are well-camouflaged and tiny, so your best bet is to dive with a local guide who knows where to look.

7. Subic Bay offers a dozen U.S. and Japanese WWII wrecks

A flying gurnard in Subic Bay (Photo credit: Gary K. Andrews Jr. | Arizona Dive Shop)

Famous when it comes to the history of the Philippines and the U.S. military, Subic Bay offers a diversity of dive sites just a few hours away from Manila Bay. “We have over a dozen United States and Japanese WWII wrecks in Subic Bay and a few aircraft wrecks as well, says Gary K. Andrews Jr., PADI MSDT Instructor of Arizona Dive Shop. “We have a few nice coral dive sites and some of the best wreck diving anywhere in the world.”

8. Anilao has more than 800 different species of nudibranchs

Nudibranchs are the ocean’s tiny treasure (Photo credit: Jesus Ballesteros | BuceoAnilao)

Three hours south of Manila you can dive in Anilao and enjoy some of the world’s best muck diving, along with a huge diversity of sea animals. Martin Nussbaumer of Buceo Anilao Beach & Dive Resort said the area has more than 800 different species of nudibranchs. Get lost in the colors, patterns, and forms of these tiny yet stunning bottom-dwellers and create a critter list to keep track of what you see.

9. And is truly a paradise for macro photographers

A blue ribbon eel poses in Anilao (Photo credit: Karl Wozniak | Divenet Philippines)

Apart from nudibranchs, you can also find scorpionfish, frogfish, octopus, pipefish, seahorses, shrimps, and Bobbit worms in Anilao. With these marine animals and more ever-present at popular diving spots, an enormous number of macro photography opportunities await divers.

10. Puerto Galera has been designated as a marine reserve by UNESCO

A Technicolor nudibranch in Puerto Galera (Photo credit: Beth Watson | Asia Divers)

From Batangas City, you can take the ferry to another biodiversity hotspot — Puerto Galera. The town’s pocket beaches, marine life, and lively atmosphere have long drawn tourists from around the world. UNESCO designated Puerto Galera as a Man and the Biosphere Reserve in 1973, a guarantee that marine life in the area has been protected.

11. And nearby Verde Island Passage has been named “the center of the center of the world’s marine biodiversity”

A hermit crab relaxes at home in Puerto Galera (Photo credit: Henri Helminen | La Laguna Dive Center)

Jessica Atienza of La Laguna Beach Club and Dive Center thinks the sea surrounding Puerto Galera is ideal for swimming, sailing, surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. “The channel between Puerto Galera and Verde Island, known internationally as the Verde Island Passage, is “the center of the center of the world’s marine biodiversity” according to American scientists—making Puerto Galera’s underwater world a favorite amongst dive enthusiasts,” she adds.

12. You don’t have to go far to see thriving corals and healthy marine life

Frogfish come in an array of colors and sizes (Photo credit: Rosemarie Nilsen | La Laguna Dive Center)

“Within a kilometer of the coast, schools of Moorish idols, trumpetfish, frogfish, lionfish and leaffish weave in and out of thriving corals and sea anemones while species of starfish—from the speckled red-and-white to the neon-blue Pacific—rest on the sandy floor,” Atienza adds.

Here are the Top 5 Must-See Coral Reefs in the World

13. In Palawan, El Nido’s karst islands and dive spots will take your breath away

Schools of yellow fin snapper, South Miniloc Reef (Photo credit: Ludovic Amevor | Deep Blue Dive Seafari)

On the northern part of Palawan is El Nido, a town loved for its karst islands as well as its terrific dive spots. Diana Calzadilla, owner of Deep Blue Dive Seafari, thinks the diverse marine species, variety of dive sites, and water visibility make the town a terrific choice for diving. She added many dive sites in El Nido are friendly for beginners and students.

14. Sea animals tell you the season and month you are in

Frogfish: so ugly they’re cute (Photo credit: Jimmy Taieb | Aquanaut Dive Center)

Monica Gonzalez of Aquanaut Dive Center said that in January, when the waters get colder, lots of macro life appears, such as ornate ghost pipefish, robust pipefish, and various kinds of nudibranchs. Around March and April, you can see frogfish and seahorses. In October, whale sharks can be spotted. Commonly seen sea animals include Titan triggerfish, scrawled filefish, butterflyfish, mimic filefish, yellow spotted boxfish, common boxfish, leopard wrasse, bird wrasse, and a huge variety of groupers and anemonefish.

15. Coron’s wrecks will teach you about Japanese history in the Philippines

Coron Bay (Photo credit: Jannik Pedersen)

Coron offers a wide range of dive sites, but the major attractions are the World War II Japanese wrecks sunk in 1944. Many of the area’s wrecks are available to recreational divers, with Irako, a Japanese refrigeration ship, considered the best wreck dive in the country. Groupers, scorpionfish, tuna, barracudas, and other fish live on the wrecks.

Here are our picks for the Top 5 World’s Best Wrecks

16. You can escape from touristy dive areas

Another nudibranch, this one on Modessa Island (Photo credit: Richard Rumbelow)

If you want to escape from touristy Palawan, visit serene Modessa Island, formerly Coco Loco Island, about 45 minutes away from Roxas municipality by boat. PADI Instructor Richard Rumbelow said the island has two shallow protected coral house reefs, accessible right from the beach for easy, fun diving and learning how to dive.

17. And spend intimate time with unique creatures on a quiet reef

Ornate ghost pipefish on Modessa Island (Photo credit: Richard Rumbelow)

Among the marine animals divers can find on Modessa Island’s reef are large schools of jackfish and chevron barracuda, seahorses, hawksbill turtles, reef cuttlefish, and beautiful critters such as the spectacular ornate ghost pipefish.

18. Tubbataha Reef is a big-animal lover’s paradise

Whitetip sharks at the famed Shark Airport, Tubbataha (Photo credit: Chris Von Damm | World Wide Dive and Sail)

Only accessible via liveaboard, Tubbataha Reef Marine Park in the Sulu Sea should be atop every diver’s bucket list. Its remote location, status as a marine reserve, and accessibility only from March through June ensures that the reef remains in great condition.

Leticia Sanchis, Master Liveaboards marketing staff, summarizes what makes Tubbataha a first-rate diving destination. “Tubbataha is a big-animal lover’s paradise,” she says. Whitetip, gray reef, silvertip, leopard, whale, and hammerhead shark species are among the most common sharks, with the occasional guitar, tiger or bull shark putting in an appearance.

Expect to see huge schools of trevally, barracuda and snapper as well as many turtles and rays. Healthy coral life supports a vast array of colorful reef fish, crabs, shrimps, mollusks and echinoderms.”

19. As well as Donsol — the playground of whale sharks

Getting up close with the world’s largest shark is an absolutely unforgettable experience (Photo credit: Kjersti Joergensen)

Donsol Bay is a protected marine area where you can get up close and personal with whale sharks. These huge but gentle giants often come to the surface — much to snorkelers’ delight. Diving is not allowed in the bay but divers can still see the whale sharks underwater at nearby sites.

20. Tablas Island offers amazing wall diving

Crinoid on Padawan’s Pinnacle (Photo credit: Chloe Wessling)

Romblon is an archipelago province in central Philippines, and its largest island, Tablas, is a brand-new diving destination. PADI Instructor Chloe Wessling loves how crystal-clear the waters are and how amazingly abundant and healthy the coral life is. “There are many beautiful dives, with walls dropping vertically down to 165 feet (50 m) or more, with many caverns along the walls to explore,” she says. “If you are looking to escape the crowds and explore untouched waters then this is the place to dive.”

21. Dauin is a muck diver’s heaven

Nudibranch in Dauin (Photo credit: Joe Platko | Salaya Beach House)

Dauin, a coastal town about 20 minutes away from Dumaguete City by car, has become famous for muck diving. “Many photographers travel here to shoot much sought after tiny critters such as ornate ghost pipefish, velvet ghost pipefish, blue-ring octopus, flamboyant cuttlefish, pygmy seahorses, pygmy pipefish, frogfish, and harlequin shrimp,” says Hilary Heal, general manager of Salaya Beach Houses.

22. And Apo Island is a turtle’s haven

Divers watching a turtle at Apo Island Marine Sanctuary (Photo credit: Liquid Dive Dumaguete)

Scuba divers who visit Dauin for the muck diving should not miss Apo Island Marine Sanctuary located off the southeastern coast of the Negros Oriental mainland. Pristine coral reefs, an astounding variety of coral species, and abundant reef fish will please divers of all levels. And even snorkelers can easily spot the myriad green turtle resting in shallow areas.

23. You’ll see 1,000-year old corals in San Jose

Nudibranchs mating on Tropico House Reef (Photo credit: Tropico Scuba Diving Resort)

Another worthwhile dive area in Negros Oriental is San Jose. Centrally located between the Eastern shore of Negros and the Western shore of Cebu, this area houses a wide range of marine species. Divers can see 1,000-year old corals at a depth of 16 feet(5 m). Frogfish, nudibranchs, pipefish and other small species are perfect for macro photography.

24. Sipalay is ideal for beginners and experienced divers

Leaf scorpionfish at Eva’sPoint (Photo credit: Tom Heigl | Artistic Diving)

Angela Eder, manager and instructor at Artistic Diving, said the small city of Sipalay on the western part of Negros Island has more than 40 dive spots, all reachable within five to 30 minutes. This includes the two wrecks in Campomanes Bay.

25. See a different Disneyland on a magical night dive

Anemone shrimp at Sunken Island (Credit: Tom Heigl | Artistic Diving)

Beginners as well as experienced divers will find Sipalay a fascinating diving destination. Sipalay’s Disneyland dive site is quite popular for night diving, with plentiful nocturnal sea animals swimming around on healthy corals or above white sand.

26. Or say hello to fabulously cute creatures

Ianthina blue dragon nudibranch in Sipalay (Photo credit: Ludovic Galko-Rundgren)

Most dive sites in Sipalay fall within marine-protected areas, featuring beautiful, healthy coral gardens. In a dive spot called Bulata Pier, or Mad Max, you can find sea slugs, tiger cowries, starfish, and nudibranchs.

27. You can’t miss Malapascua, home of the thresher sharks

Thresher shark in Malapascua (Photo credit: Rafn Ingi Finnsson)

Spot pelagic thresher sharks on Monad Shoal in Malapascua nearly every day. Dive boats leave for the site right before dawn, and there’s no better way to start a day than spotting one of these majestic animals. But the thrill doesn’t stop there — Malapascua also offers reefs, wrecks, walls, macro life, and night dives.

Here’s our Shark Series: The Thresher Shark

28. And whitetip sharks, rays, critters, and wrecks

Eel bornela in Malapascua (Photo credit: nicolas.voisin44)

In Malapascua, you can also see huge animals such turtles and rays as well as the small ones like nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses, mandarinfish, and ornate ghost pipefish.

29. Get smitten by huge and tiny sea animals in Moalboal

Free-swimming salps in Pescador island, Moalboal (Photo credit: Klaus M. Stiefel | Savedra Dive Center)

Moalboal is another dive destination that belongs on your bucket list. Dr. Klaus M. Stiefel, underwater photographer of Savedra Dive Center, says “You like walls? You like macro? How about turtles the size of a dinner table? An uninhabited rocky island with pristine hard corals just minutes off shore? Then Moalboal is the diving spot for you.”

30. Or chase 100,000 sardines

Turtle and sardines (Photo credit: Jun Lao | Paparaz Sea)

“Something you will find in Moalboal but not in many other places is a giant school of sardines (my estimate is several 100,000 animals) right at the Savedra house reef,” Stiefel adds. “Watching the animals move in concert is mesmerizing and can keep divers hooked for the better part of a tank. Add to that a vibrant night life in a small and friendly Filipino and expat community, and you have a great destination for your diving holiday.”

31. Wait, did I say thousands?

Sardine run in Moalboal (Photo credit: Paul Cowell)

Do you know what it’s like to swim with sardines in Moalboal?

32. Dive in the clear waters around Badian Island

A turtle hovers above a coral garden (Photo credit: Badian Hotel)

About 12 miles (20 km) south of Moalboal, you can take a bus to Badian Island. Marlou Guillen, recreation manager of Badian Island Wellness Resort, said visibility is one of the chief reasons divers love the dive spots around the island. Further, since Badian locals do not practice dynamite fishing, the coral reefs have been well-preserved for the past 33 years. Divers who stay at their resort can also take the 20-minute boat ride to Pescador Island for more underwater exploration.

33. The pelagic fish, reef sharks, and wall dives of Bohol will steal your heart

Hawksbill turtle, Balicasag, Bohol (Photo credit: Ludovic Galko-Rundgren)

While many tourists visit Bohol for its old churches, white-sand beaches, tarsiers, and acres of chocolate hills, divers stay here for pelagic fish, reef sharks, and wall dives. The popular dive areas are Cabilao, Balicasag, Pamilacan, and Panglao. You can see turtles, barracudas, tunas, and jacks. If luck is on your side, hammerhead sharks may make a special appearance.

34. Once you go under, you’ll know that Boracay is not just pretty beaches

Thorny seahorse, Boracay (Photo credit: Rainier Jon delaCerna | Dive Gurus Boracay)

Famous for its long stretch of dreamy white beach, Boracay draws sand-lovers from all over the world. However, if you find the beach too crowded, you always have the option to dive and enjoy the serene underwater life.

35. You’ll also be impressed with its fish and wrecks

Turtle, Balinghai dive site (Photo credit: Calypso Diving Team)

Andrew Barrett, PADI Master Instructor and operations manager at Calypso Diving Center, said the island has a nice variety of dive sites with a mixture of wrecks, deep walls, sloping reefs, and coral gardens.  “The wrecks were purpose-sunk for diving. The Camia II wreck, an old Japanese fishing vessel, has been down 15 years. The Tri-Bird wreck, a small Russian passenger plane, has been underwater since 2012. Divers may see whitecap reef sharks, gray reef sharks, eagle rays, and marble rays at the deep walls  like Yapak 2 and Punta Bunga,” he adds.

36. And you’ll gaze at its small critters in awe

Nembrothakubaryana, Boracay (Photo credit: Yue Li “Wilson” | New Wave Divers)

Barrett also said the walls and sloping reefs at Balinghai, Diniwid, and Santos Place offer abundant reef life and small critters.

Convinced to dive in the Philippines …

Variable Hypselodoris sea slug, Polpocan reef (Photo credit: Ludovic Amevor | Deep Blue Dive Seafari)

…and be in this diver’s shoes (or fins)?

Diver surveying a healthy reef (Photo credit: Paul Cowell)

This seahorse can’t wait to see you!

Close-up shot of a thorny seahorse – Credit: scubaluna

If you’ve dived in the country…

Tube sponge on a reef wall (Photo credit: Richard Whitcombe)

Tell us your favorite site! 


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Yeah amazing dives. Really nice article. I usually go diving in Dauin coast because it is a paradise for underwater photographers. Thalatta House Reef is the best site i found on the coast so far…


Love the article! Thanks 🙂 I was already convinced before that diving in the Philippines is awesome but thanks to this list I just discovered some more places to visit here. It feels like you’ve never seen it all.

Cheers from Malapascua

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