Activities & Adventure

Scuba Diving in the Philippines

Written by Patrick

Travel Insurance

Aside from thousands of islands within its jurisdiction, the Philippines is also blessed with rich marine life therefore making scuba diving and snorkeling two of the most popular water activities in the country.  The interesting marine life, in addition to white sand beaches, attracts even foreign tourists to come and explore the country.

Seeing those paradisiacal places is not the only benefit one can gain from scuba diving.  The activity also benefits one’s physical and emotional well-being.  It improves blood circulation, concentration capacity, helps relieve stress, and increases muscle strength and flexibility.

Finding a diving school in the Philippines shouldn’t be a problem particularly in popular tourist spots like Boracay, Palawan, and Bohol.  These schools can teach beginners the basics and help with diving certification.  

Ready to experience underwater life in the Philippines? Here are the most popular diving destinations to consider.

Anilao, Batangas

Divers in Anilao

Caption:  Divers in Anilao

Recommended Level: Beginner

Not to be confused with Anilao in the town of Lipa in Batangas, Anilao is a generic term used to refer to the municipalities of Mabini, Tingloy, and Bauan, which are in coastal areas.  One of the few diving sites closest to Manila, Anilao attracts tourists throughout the year for a variety of underwater treasures.  Its coral gardens are composed of a variety of healthy soft and hard corals.  More than 500 species of nudibranch inhabit its waters along with a diversity of rare fishes including pygmy seahorse, rhinopias, hairy frogfish as well as barracudas and sand sharks.  Large schools of jacks, giant seahorses, moray eels, dolphins, and small whale sharks can be occasionally spotted, too.

Anilao is also known for muck diving.  Manit Muck, best explored at night, earned the international spotlight for being one of the best macrophotography sites in the world.

Apo Island, Negros Oriental

Apo Island

Caption:  Apo Island

Recommended Level: Advanced

Located off the southern tip of Negros Island, Apo Island is popular among divers for its interesting and challenging diving spots.  Its waters is home to over 650 documented species of fish and over 400 species of coral spread over 106 hectares of coral reef.  One of the best sites is the Coconut Point, a spectacular coral reef best done as a drift drive.  Its wall spans 150 meters and is home to home banded sea kraits, tuna, barracuda, Spanish mackerel, parrotfish, triggerfish, different species of frogfish, and sea turtles.

READ MORE:  Apo Island Visitors Guide

Apo Reef Natural Park, Mindoro

Marine Life in Apo Reef

Caption:  Marine Life in Apo Reef

Recommended Level: Advanced

Not to be confused with Apo Island in Negros Oriental, Apo Reef Natural Park is a gem in between the island of Mindoro and Coron, Palawan.  It’s the second largest continuous coral reef in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In the area thrives species of sharks including hammerheads, whale sharks, gray reefs, and white tips.  There are also jackfish, nudibranchs, sponges, and tunicates as well as stingrays, tuna, and snappers.

Don’t miss Apo 29, a challenging dive site considered the best in the area.  The large seamount rises to 25 m below sea level and where thresher sharks and manta rays can be spotted.

Balicasag Island, Bohol

Scuba Diver in Balicasag Island

Caption:  Scuba Diver in Balicasag Island

Recommended Level: Beginner

There’s more to Bohol than just Chocolate Hills, tarsiers, or Panglao Island.  It is blessed with prime diving and snorkeling spots in the name of Balicasag Island, particularly the Diver’s Heaven.  A favorite spot among divers, Diver’s Heaven is a wall dive between 30 to 40 meters that is inhabited by a variety of marine creatures including large schools of jackfish, reef fish and barracuda.  Sea turtles, sharks, and eels can be spotted in neighboring dive spots such as Black Forest, Balicasag Sanctuary, and Royal Garden.

Boracay, Aklan

Boracay Island

Caption:  Boracay Island

Recommended Level: Advanced

The abundance of dive centers in Boracay is an indication that there’s a trove of marine treasures around this world famous island.  There are several dive sites but the best and most challenging is Yapak which has a depth of between 32 to 70 meters.  Prepare to see  reef sharks, Napoleon wrasse, grouper, and trevally as well as nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses, and mola mola.  Other dive sites in Boracay are Camia II shipwreck, Laurel Island, Crocodile Island, Hinugtan, Angol Point, and Tulubhan reef.

READ MORE:  Boracay Island Visitors Guide

Coron, Palawan

Coron, Palawan

Caption:  Coron, Palawan

Recommended Level: Beginner to Advanced

For shipwrecks, there’s no other place in the Philippines that can compare with Coron.  Not only are they stunning, there’s several of them too – 11 to be exact.  These Japanese warships sunk following an air attack during World War II and now serve as reef systems home to a variety of marine life such as corals, cuttlefish, gorgonians, nudibranchs, octopuses, purple sea fans, and scorpionfish.  Reef sharks, stingrays, barracuda, yellowfin tuna, and groupers can be seen in the surrounding area too.  

Skeleton Wreck, East Tangat Wreck, and Okikawa Maru Wreck are great for beginners while Akitsushima Wreck, the most popular one, is best conquered by advanced divers with Nitrox certification.

READ MORE:  Coron Visitors Guide

Malapascua, Cebu

Scuba Diving in Malapascua

Caption:  Scuba Diving in Malapascua

Recommended Level: Advanced

Malapascua rose to fame as a great diving destination where daily sightings of thresher sharks are guaranteed.  Monad Shoal in particular is the best spot to see these shy and solitary creatures.  The best time to see them is in the morning but when you go diving in the afternoon, you are likely to spot devil rays, giant manta rays, octopuses, cuttlefish, seahorses, nudibranchs, mantis shrimp, and many more. 

READ MORE:  Malapascua Island Visitors Guide

Manta Bowl, Sorsogon

Scuba Diving in Manta Bowl

Caption:   Scuba Diving in Manta Bowl.

Recommended Level: Intermediate

Located between Burias Pass and Ticao Pass, Manta Bowl is an underwater shoal shaped like a bowl and is abundant with manta rays, hence the name.  The seven-hectare shoal has constantly flowing current therefore a great spot cleaning and feeding station of manta rays although other creatures such as barracuda, snappers, whale sharks, hammerheads, and tiger sharks can also be spotted in the area. 

Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro

Marine Life in Puerto Galera

Caption:  Marine Life in Puerto Galera

Recommended Level: Advanced

Puerto Galera is a great destination for divers and non-divers alike.  It is easily accessible from Manila and is blessed with white sand beaches with crystal clear waters.  There are several dive sites for diving enthusiasts to enjoy but the most popular spot is the Canyons where strong currents attract divers who want a good challenge.  It is covered in corals and sponges and features a rapid 40-meter descent.  Spotted in the area are barracudas, batfish, emperors, snappers, and trevally.

READ MORE:  Puerto Galera Visitors Guide

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Palawan

Marine Life in Tubbataha Reefs

Caption:  Marine Life in Tubbataha Reefs

Recommended Level: Intermediate

Located in the heart of Sulu Sea, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as one of the most diverse spots on earth.  It is also one of the most remote diving sites in the Philippines as it can only be reached by liveaboard between March and June.  It is blessed with more than 600 species of fish, 350 species of corals, 11 species of sharks, 13 species of dolphin and whales, and 2 species of sea turtles.

Amos Rock is considered the best dive spot in Tubbataha with dives conducted between 6 and 70 meters.  Its wall is covered with different species of corals, gorgonians, and purple sea fans and is inhabited by large reef sharks.  For grey reef sharks and tropical reef fish, the Washing Machine known for its best visibility is the spot to be.  Black Rock is popular for whitetip sharks, rays, groupers, and giant trevally.

READ MORE:  Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

Verde Island Passage, Batangas

Marine Life inVerde Island Passage

Caption:  Marine Life Verde Island Passage | Image Source

Recommended Level: Beginner to Advanced

Nestled between the islands of Luzon and Mindoro, Verde Island Passage became even more popular in 2006 as it’s been declared as part of Coral Triangle, a global center of marine biodiversity which includes the waters around Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste.  Verde Island Passage is the richest in the entire Coral Triangle and is even nicknamed Center of the Center of Marine Shorefish Biodiversity.  Endangered marine life including three species of sea turtles, humphead wrasses, giant groupers, and giant clams are present in Verde Island Passage.  

For challenging diving spots in the area, don’t miss The Pinnacle, a chimney-like column that starts 60 meters and narrows as it stretches to the surfaces.  Prepare to be greeted by anemonefish, butterfly fish, jacks, moray eels, red lionfish, sea snakes, and zebra turkey fish.

READ MORE:  Adventures & Activities in the Philippines

About the Author


Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.

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