Each year, many divers come to Panglao Island for diving near Balicasag, a small island off the coast of Panglao, Philippines. Balicasag is surrounded by a narrow reef that is home to a great variety of aquatic life. A few years ago, the area was declared a marine sanctuary to ensure coral and fish remain in such good condition. The dive sites are a haven for both divers and snorkelers and are visited by many tourists on a daily basis.
I got the chance to explore some of the Balicasag dive sites in 2017. In this post, I am going to share with you my top 3 dive sites around Balicasag and why you should include them on your next trip to the Philippines.
My Top 3 Dive Sites In Panglao:
1. Rudy´s Rock
Beginner – max. depth 35m
This is one of my personal favorites and a dive site off the beaten path! Rudy’s rock is located in the southwest of Balicasag and easily accessible by boat.
It features a colorful coral garden in a depth of 7m to 11m with a variety of sea stars, anemone fish, and nudibranch. At the edge of the field, you´ll find a coral wall that drops down to 35m. The wall is covered in sponges and crinoids. Just like many other dive sites around Balicasag, Rudy´s Rock is characterized by reef overhangs and small caverns, where you may be able to spot some lion fish, bat fish or moray eels. Near the wall´s edge, look out for banner fish, schools of reef fish, snappers, trevallies and, of course, turtles. In fact, large green sea turtles can often be seen at the dive sites around Balicasag. Now and then you may also spot barracudas or whitetip reef sharks.
2. Black Forest
Beginner – max. depth 30m
Black forest is one of the most popular dive sites in Balicasag.
The reef top starts at around 5m to 8m. The site then drops into a steep slope that reaches to a depth of over 40 meters. On the reef top and along the slope you will find all kinds of smaller reef fish, large schools of silver jacks and turtles. The dive site was named after rare black corals that you can find in a depth beyond 30m. Also look out for big groupers, barracudas, snappers, big eye jacks and blue fin trevallies.
3. Cathedral Wall
Advanced – max. depth 30m
Located in the southwest of Balicasag Island this dive site is a favorite among divers from near and far.
The reef top begins at around 3m to 5m and then drops almost vertically beyond 40m. The coral wall itself has many recesses great for exploration. However, you may want to bring a torch light to have a better view of the marine life inside the cracks in the wall. This dive site offers all kinds of different reef fish, soft and hard coral, sponges, schools of jack fish, midnight snappers, sweetlips and frog fish.
There are plenty of dive centers lining up Alona Beach, Panglao Island. Most of them are international dive shops and also offer pricey accommodation in addition to dive packages. However, take a look at different dive shops, compare prices and also make sure to check out the small ones towards the end of Alona Beach as they may offer moderate prices and more individual tours.
I can definitely recommend diving with Baywatch Dive Resort at the very end of Alona Beach. It´s a rather small Filipino-owned dive center that also offers accommodation. The dive shop has pretty good prices. The entire staff is very friendly and eager to make your dive experience a special one. When there are not too many people, you can even tell them which dive sites you would like to go to. With this dive operator diving off the beaten path is possible even in a touristy area like Panglao Island.