MANILA–The Philippines is a smorgasbord of world-class dive sites and a diver’s dream come true. The warm waters surrounding the country’s 7,101 islands present an underwater wildlife extravaganza, so spectacular that divers return for an average of 10 trips each.
Priding itself as Asia’s Dive Capital, the country lies in the center of the coral triangle which boasts of the most biodiversity and marine-rich waters on earth. It has often been said that the Philippines is to scuba divers, what Switzerland is to skiers, Hawaii to surfers, and Nepal to mountaineers. For those who like to snorkel or anyone seeking an underwater adventure, be a spectator to an aquatic symphony of over 2,000 species of marine fish, as well as more than 400 out of the 500 known coral species in the world.
Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is comprised of two distinct reef systems — the North Reef and the South Reef. The marine park lies in the middle of Sulu Sea, southeast of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan. It is a major nesting spot for endangered sea turtles as well as rare species of fish such as the unusual fox–faced rabbitfish.
Anilao is the closest weekend paradise for divers based in Manila. Located in the southeast tip of Batangas and nestled in the midst of the quiet town of Mabini, Anilao possesses no presence of powdery sand beaches but the ocean facing it promises a tantalizing life of sea water creatures in its 35 dive sites.
Balicasag Island in Bohol is surrounded by a coral reef that is good for both diving and snorkelling. There is a marine sanctuary on the southern side of the island where you will find soft and hard corals in the shallows, together with anemones, sponges, crinoids and feather stars as well as barracuda, jacks, groupers and batfish, among others.
Moalboal in Cebu is beautiful and picturesque. Pescador and Sunken Islands are favorites among underwater photographers and snorkelers. The house reef boasts of interesting marine life such as white tips, eagle rays, turtles, frogfish, moray eels, devil fish, etc.
Apo Reef is located off the west coast of the island of Mindoro. Apo Reef diving has some spectacular drop-offs and walls with some of the best visibility in the country. If you like big fish action, Apo Reef will not disappoint you, it is abundant with schools of trevally, tuna, barracuda, hammerheads, white and black tip reef sharks, manta, eagle and sting rays, and turtles.
Apo Island in Negros Oriental, the most populous and diverse aquatic ecosystem in the world, was recreated at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago on a 27,000 sq. ft. area costing million. This interactive state-of-the-art project called The Philippine Wild Reef Exhibit took almost 10 years to complete. But of course, why would you fly to Chicago to see the replica when you can see the real thing here.
Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro is blessed with one of the world’s most beautiful natural harbors. It is known as the Pearl of Mindoro and is world–famous for its splendid beaches, coral reefs, and exquisite dive sites. There are shallow coral gardens, interesting rock formations, and colorful species to watch, like crabs, shrimps, sea anemones, moray, and trumpet fishes.
Subic Bay in Olongapo is one of the best wreck diving sites in Asia. Subic’s World War II wrecks covered almost the entire war period. No less than 25 Japanese ships were reported sunk during the war years. Some of these may have been removed in the late 1950s as salvage operations were done to open up the bay for shipping.
Malapascua in Cebu was discovered for its wide white sandy beach and later, for its beautiful coral gardens and excellent dive spots. Malapascua offers the only daily thresher shark sightings in the world.
Coron Bay in Busuanga island, Palawan is the final resting place for nine sunken ships from World War II. Also found in waters surrounding the island are limestome walls which rise to heights of 22 meters offering a spectacular view above and below water. Because the area draws so much interest, dive centers are plentiful, as are boats and rental equipment to visit the site.
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