Asia Budget Diving Island Adventures

The Very Best Dive Sites In The Philippines In 2019

By
on
January 6, 2019

The Philippines are known for being a world-class dive destination with various dive regions offering spectacular reefs with an abundance of marine life. It is hard to say which of the 7107 islands is the best for scuba diving because they’re all very different from each other and have unique characteristics.

For this post, I asked a bunch of fellow travel writers about their favorite dive sites in the Philippines. I suggest checking out each of the following dive site recommendations while traveling around this unique country. From big swimmers to macro marine life – scuba diving in the Philippines will not disappoint you!

Dive Sites Philippines

The Philippines are home to numerous world-class reefs.

Barracuda Lake, Coron

By Jennifer & Tim from Luxe Adventure Traveler

The Philippines has a lot of gorgeous dive sites, many of which can be found around Coron in Palawan alone. One of the most unique is diving Barracuda Lake, one of two freshwater lakes that tourists can visit in Coron. While there’s no coral, shipwrecks or much of any sea life actually to be found in the lake, it’s unique because you’re essentially diving in a hot spring where temperatures can reach up to 38° C (100° F). The lake also has both layers of fresh water and salt water.

The allure to diving at Barracuda Lake is the massive underwater Avatar-like range of mountains with their ravines that you can swim through. The water visibility is incredibly good, and it’s an odd feeling to be surrounded by such high mountains underwater. There are a few lake creatures to keep an eye out for, like the shrimp that will happily come clean the silt off of you if you hold your hand out and stay still.

The dive is suitable for all levels of divers. You’ll need to organize a dive trip there as access to the lake is controlled.

Luxe-Adventure-Traveler-Things-to-do-in-Coron-Philippines-Barracuda-Lake

Barracuda Lake in Coron is probably one of the most unique sites you’ll ever dive.

Sunken Island, Siquijor

By Lena from Lena On The Move

Siquijor Island is home to incredible dive sites featuring all kinds of marine life from small reef fish to hundreds of turtles, rays and other occasional big swimmers. What I love most about diving in Siquijor is the fact that you get to see pretty much the same underwater highlights as in nearby Apo Island, though significantly fewer divers make their way to Siquijor.

Only accessible by boat and only if the sea’s not too rough, Sunken Island is one of my favorite dive sites in Siquijor and a real hidden gem when it comes to scuba diving in the Philippines.

This dive site is for experienced divers only. Currents can be strong, which is why you´ll have to descend very quickly in order not to be taken away from the site. The underwater island has its top at a depth of 10m and reaches down to 40m.

Sunken Island is characterized by soft and hard corals, whip corals and sponges that cover the island´s walls. It is home to all kinds of reef fish, jackfish, sea snakes, and turtles. In fact, I once encountered the biggest turtle of my life at this very dive site. If you´re lucky, you may also see a pelagic fish, a manta or devil ray or even a whale shark.

Sunken Island

Diving Siquijor’s hidden gem Sunken Island will surely be a highlight in your diving career.

Gato Island, Malapascua

By Ale from Universoviajerio

One of the best dive sites near Malapascua is located just off the coast of nearby Gato Island. To get there you must take a 45 minutes’ ride (or more in case of bad weather) by boat, so all the diving centers do this site as a day trip with at least two immersions.

Once in the water you will be amazed by the diversity of fishes, coral and the excellent macro that you can see – there is so much to enjoy! Gato Island is known mostly because of the sea snakes, sea horses and white tip reef sharks that are always hanging around. There are also impressive rock formations all around both above and underwater, creating caves and tunnels that serve as shelter for lots of sea life and more sharks that may be sleeping or just resting underneath the rocks where the water is much calmer.

Both advanced and beginner divers can enjoy this place, but going inside some of the caves is only for the ones with lots of diving experience. The max. depth is 24 meters and the average dive time goes around 30 and 40 minutes depending on the depth.

white tip reef shark

If you ever want to be up close with a white tip reef shark, Gato Island near Malapascua is the perfect spot.

Coconut Point, Apo Island

By Campbell and Alya from Stingy Nomads

The province of Negros Oriental in the Philippines has a fantastic variety of excellent dive sites on the Dumaguete coastline and nearby Apo Island. There is good muck diving along the Dauin coast, with frogfish, seahorse, ghost pipefish and more amazing creatures at dive sites close to the shore.

Coconut Point, a drift dive with many pelagic species close to Apo Island, is a dive site not to miss, about 1.5km of the coast here. The site is often referred to as ‘the washing machine’ because of the ever-prevailing current which ensures a high probability to see a variety of pelagic species.

With strong currents and a maximum depth of 24m, this site is only recommended for advanced divers. Drifting here it is amazing to be surrounded by a massive school of big eye trevally, large solitary giant trevally, schools of barracuda, midnight snappers and clouds of fusiliers, dogtooth tuna and Spanish mackerel are also often seen here. Divers often run into large green turtles and enormous bump head parrot fish on the reefs.

We enjoyed our day out with Harold’s dive center from Dumaguete, spending a day out on the boat doing 3 dives for a reasonable price with competent, professional dive leaders. I loved the variety of marine life in the Philippines, from snorkelling with whale sharks to amazing diving with tiny critters.

big-eye-trevally-Apo-Island

The dive sites around Apo Island are home to all kinds of marine life, both big swimmers and colorful reef fish.

Rudy’s Rock, Balicasag

By Lena from Lena On The Move

Rudy’s Rock is among my favorite dive sites around Balicasag Island and located in the southwest of the small island. It’s easily accessible by boat from nearby Panglao.

The dive site is home to a colorful coral garden in a depth of 7m to 11m with a variety of sea stars, anemone fish, and different kinds of nudibranch. At the edge of the field, you´ll find a coral wall that drops down to more than 30m. This dive site is suitable for both novices and advanced divers depending on how deep you want to go.

Just like many other dive sites around Balicasag, Rudy´s Rock is characterized by reef overhangs and small caverns, where you may often find lionfish, batfish or moray eels. Near the wall´s edge, look out for bannerfish, snappers, trevallies and, of course, sea turtles. In fact, large populations of the green sea turtle live in the reefs off Balicasag Island and can often be seen while diving there. Now and then you may also spot barracudas or whitetip reef sharks.

Turtle In Panglao

The reef off the coast of Balicasag Island is home to an abundance of green sea turtles.

Monad Shoal, Malapascua

By Rose from Where Goes Rose

The Philippines is renowned for being a snorkeling and diving paradise with numerous sites ranked world class. There’s one spot that stands out from all the rest: Malapascua! This gorgeous drop in the ocean remains relatively free from modern development, making it the perfect place to go.

What you’ll find there is well worth the six-hour journey from Cebu. One of the greatest dive sites is the Monad Shoal Site. A sunken plateau of coral doubles up as feeding and cleaning ground for Thresher Sharks. In fact, it’s the only dive site in the world where you can see them in action daily! The only stipulation is that an early morning dive is necessary – they’re usually gone by 7am, so you’ll need to be heading out for the dive by 5am.

Because Monad Shoal is 20m deep, you’ll need the Advanced Open Water Certificate. Don’t panic if you don’t have it – neither did I. Lots of dive schools, including Threshers Cove Resort and Dive Centre, offer the chance to take just the deep dive module of the advanced qualification prior to the dive. So all you need is an Open Water Certificate.

Thresher Shark

Get up close with a thresher shark at Monad Shoal in Malapascua Island. © Klaus “Pacificklaus” Stiefel


Have you done any diving in the Philippines? What was your favorite dive site? Let me know in the comments or shoot me a message on Facebook or via E-Mail if you think your dive site should also be included in this list!

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Planning To Travel Around The Philippines?

If you’re looking for travel inspiration, beautiful nature gems, awesome photo spots, stunning islands and colorful dive sites, these posts have got you covered:

>> 15 Travel Writers Reveal Top Bucket List Experiences In The Philippines In 2019
>> Get A Taste Of The Philippines In 14 Days – A Sample Itinerary
>> My Ultimate Top 5 Places To See In The Philippines

For more detailed travel tips and travel guides, check out the Philippines section and make sure to sign up for e-mail updates to receive a notification once I upload a new post!

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About Me

Hi there, I'm Lena! I love being on the move around the world - travelling, diving or taking pictures. I've recently started dealing with and writing about ways to make diving more affordable. I enjoy sharing my experiences and tips with y'all, fellow budget backpackers and budget divers! Read more

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