The Philippines is one of the largest archipelago nations in the world, consisting of more than 7,000 islands. The islands are classified into three areas – Luzon, Mindanao, and Visayas. The country was a former Spanish colony, and the Latino vibe still persists in the local culture. With much of its economy based on tourism, it’s not only known as an excellent beach destination but also as a world-class scuba diving location.
The Philippines are part of the Coral Triangle, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. It goes without saying that the waters surrounding the islands offer incredible sightings of stunning coral reefs and a large variety of marine animals. With so many islands, it comes as no surprise that the Philippines offers hundreds and hundreds of dive sites to explore. They are spread out across all regions, with most of them being located in Luzon and Visayas.
A white-tip shark swimming at the Tubbataha Reef. Photo by q phia
Scuba diving in the Philippines is possible year-round. However, some seasons can affect diving conditions, and they usually hit the country at different times of the year. Do contact the dive centers in the area of you plan on visiting to learn about the best time to travel to the region. Generally, November through April offers the best diving conditions throughout the country.
The water temperature in the Philippines ranges from 23° to 30° C/73-86° F depending on the season.
The intensity of the currents differ from dive site to dive site and can be very strong.
Depending on the location and the time of the year, the visibility in the Philippines ranges from 5 to 45 meters (15-150 feet).
Tubbataha Reef is a protected area in the middle of the Sulu Sea, part of the Province of Palawan. It’s one of the finest diving destinations in the Philippines, with over 600 species of marine animals and 300 species of coral. The reef attracts large fauna like whale sharks, gray reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, tiger sharks, and manta rays. The huge populations of schooling barracudas and jacks are among the biggest attractions here as well. Tubbataha Reef is only accessible by liveaboard between March and June when the sea is calmer.
Thresher shark swimming in the waters of Malapascua Island. Photo by Petter Lindgren
Located on the northernmost tip of Cebu Island, tiny Malapascua is famous for being the only destination to see thresher sharks all year round. They are typically seen early in the morning at the cleaning station at Monad Shoal. Reef sharks, barracudas, trevallies, jacks, and tunas are also common encounters here. But Malapascua island is also great for macro diving and night diving. Pygmy seahorses, frogfish, blue-ringed octopus, and ghost pipefish are all wonderful subjects for underwater photographers.
Moalboal is a municipality in the province of Cebu, Philippines. Moalboal is famous for an extraordinary marine life phenomenon: the vast shoal of sardines - thousands and thousands of sardines that move together as one. Apart from schooling sardines, there are also many interesting things to see. Reef sharks, barracudas, sea turtles, jacks, snappers can be spotted here, but you may also see a passing thresher shark or even a whale shark if you’re lucky. On one of the most popular dive sites in the area, divers can also see the wreck of a small airplane.
Anilao is considered the birthplace of scuba diving in the Philippines. The area has gained a reputation for muck and macro diving. In fact, underwater photography competitions and workshops are organized here every year. It has fantastic marine biodiversity, with highlights including hairy frogfish, hairy shrimp, Rhinopias, and blue-ringed octopus, among other critters. Anilao is a 3-hour drive south of Manila, so it’s easily accessible for those landing in the capital city.