El Nido is a municipality in the province of Palawan, Philippines, and a managed resource protected area known as the gateway to the picturesque Bacuit archipelago. It’s often ranked as one of the best beaches in the world and the best island destination in the country. Tourism is one of the main industries in El Nido, with scuba diving being a favorite activity in the area.
El Nido is a great diving destination because of the diversity of the dive sites and the fact that they are accessible to all kinds of divers. From deep dives and wall dives to shallow dives and fun drifts, there are many opportunities to enjoy. And with over 800 species of fish, more than 100 species of coral, and about 1,700 crustaceans and nudibranchs, the marine life at EL Nido is rich and varied too.
Exiting the Dilumacad Tunnel. Photo by David Spencer*
Diving in El Nido is possible all year round, but for the best diving conditions, it would be best to come between March and October.
The average water temperature in El Nido varies between 24° and 26° C from December through March and between 26° and 29° C from April through November.
Tidal changes may sometimes create strong currents in some areas of El Nido, but there are always plenty of unaffected dive sites to explore.
The best visibility in El Nido can be experienced outside the rainy season (June through September) when it can go up to more than 30 meters (100+ feet). However, visibility may be affected by the plankton bloom during the high season (December through April).
By far the most popular dive site in El Nido, South Miniloc is a beautiful reef located between the islands of Miniloc and Simizu. Thanks to the currents that carry fresh nutrients to the area, South Miniloc enjoys a variety of marine life, including schooling big-eye snappers, big barracudas, tuna, and mackerels.
This is a popular afternoon dive and night dive. This fringing reef is considered a must for critter lovers and underwater photographers. Seahorses, nudibranchs, hermit crabs, catsharks, Spanish dancers, and yellow-tail barracudas are just some of the common encounters here.
The place to go if you want to see pelagic life in El Nido, North Rock features a cleaning station where deep-sea fish come to get pampered by the cleaner wrasses. It has interesting topography, featuring a vast flat reef and a swim-through composed of large rocks. Divers can find healthy corals teeming with marine life of all sorts, including barracudas, pompano fish, big eye jacks, and golden jacks.
This 35-meter (115-foot) long tunnel is a unique dive site recommended for advanced divers. The entrance and exit are quite narrow but once inside, you have plenty of space to move and explore the surroundings in search of marine animals. Different crustaceans, pipefish, octopus, nudibranchs, lionfish, scorpionfish, angelfish, and pufferfish are some of the creatures you can expect to see here.