- Published on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 00:06
- Written by editor
By Sandy Sondrol
I love the Philippines. I love diving there, I love the people, I love the culture, and I love the beauty of the Philippines Islands themselves.
I have made four dive trips to the Philippines, diving in three locations. three of the trips were land based, in Puerto Galera and Dumaguete. The fourth trip was aboard the Azores liveaboard. Each of the locations had something different to offer from the others, and there’s even more that I know about but have not yet visited. I plan to do so soon.
Flying from the United States requires that you fly into Manila, the nation’s capital and international airport. Depending upon where within the U. S. you depart, you may connect with a flight through some other airport, such as Tokyo. However, since I live near the West Coast, I have always flown out of Los Angeles with a direct flight into Manila. From LA, the flight time is around 14 hours going over and 12 hours returning.
Once you reach Manila, you will travel onward to your dive destination, either by a connecting flight or by van or bus, many times followed by a boat ride, to reach your final destination.
My first trip included a combination of two famous Philippines dive destinations; Puerto Galera and Dumaguete, all in one trip. The two places are very different, both in character and in diving opportunities.
Puerto Galera is a scuba diving town, pure and simple. It is located on the island of Mindoro, only a short boat ride over from Luzon, the island on which Manila is located. Most divers make the trip in local boats called “Bancas,” which are outriggers that are fast, stable and comfortable.
Once you arrive, you will find dive operators and dive hotels all along the beach. Each time that I have been to Puerto Galera, I stayed at the Atlantis Dive Resort and dived with them as well.
Diving in Puerto Galera tends to focus on smaller fish and critters, but for me, the soft corals are the attraction. Unlike the vivid colors found in other areas of the Western Pacific, the soft corals around Puerto Galera are pastel. Gentle purples, reds, pinks, oranges and even some pastel green soft corals blanket the underwater structure. I have never seen corals colored like this anywhere else in the world. They fascinate me and I love photographing them.
Near Puerto Galera is Verde Island, a national marine reserve. Diving is beautiful, with pastel corals similar to Puerto Galera, but with more walls, canyons and schools of larger fish. I dived Verde Island from the Azores Liveaboard, but it can also be done from land based resorts, either directly on Verde, or from Puerto Galera.
A flight of about 400 miles south from Manila takes you to Dumaguete, a city on the Island of Negros. There are several dive resorts located in the vicinity of the city of Dumaguete. The one that I stayed with and dived with was Atlantis Dumaguete.
The diving around Dumaguete is classic muck diving. There is not much coral near the resorts, but the black sand bottom is the home to many small fish and critters that will take your breath away: Mimic Octopus, Blue Ring Octopus, Stargazers, Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Nudibranchs, Frogfish and Emperor Angelfish to name literally only a few.
About an hour away from the main island, by fast Bancas boat lies Apo Island. A marine reserve, Apo is well known for over 650 species of fish and 400 species of corals.
Apo Island also has beautiful walls with nice slopes leading down to the crests and really great corals on the walls. During one of my dives, I saw one of the largest anemones that I have ever seen, anywhere. It was a pink/purple color with anemone fish. One of my better known photos is of another photographer shooting that anemone.
There are dive opportunities and dive resorts throughout the entire county of the Philippines. However, many of the truly remote locations are best dived by liveaboard. Several liveaboards advertise trips in the Philippines. The two that I am familiar with are Azores, which is part of the Atlantis Dive Resorts group and Philippines Siren, which is part of the World Wide Dive and Sail group. I have been on both of these boats, and both of them are top notch, in my opinion.
Liveaboards move around the country. They select the best areas throughout the year, so that they are in the best place for any given season. Both boats specifically dive in the more southern areas which include the Bohol area, Leyte and Tubbataha, which is probably the best known of the remote areas. Tubbataha is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is situated away from any significant land areas and can thus only be dived from a liveaboard. I have not yet been there, but it is on my list of must do dive areas. I hope to make it there within the next year of so.
The Southern Leyte area, located east of Dumaguete, is rapidly becoming one of the “best of the new” dive area discoveries. World class dive sites abound, and during January and February, whale sharks are frequent visitors and dive buddies, as well.
Since the Philippines lie north of the equator, they have the same general seasons as does the United States. The nation encompasses more than 1,000 miles from north to south and, therefore, temperatures will vary to some extent. Average Air temperatures in the area of Puerto Galera range from 75º F during the winter months to around 80º F in the summer. Water temperatures in that area run from the low 70s in the winter to the mid 80s during the summer.
Average air temperatures in the vicinity of Dumaguete are right about 80º F, year around. Water temperatures run from the mid 70s in the winter to the mid 80s during the summer months.
Regardless of the season, the Philippines are beautiful. Even Luzon, the island on which Manila is located, is mostly rural. The cities, especially Manila, are bustling. All of the cities and most of the smaller towns have busses known as “jeepneys.” They began as a use for military vehicles following World War 2 and have developed into a culture all of their own. Brightly decorated, they are endemic to the Philippines (I think) and are a lot of fun to both watch and ride in.
Everywhere that I have traveled in the Philippines, I have been greeted pleasantly and made to feel welcome. Travel throughout the entire country is pleasant. As I said at the beginning, I love diving there, I love the people, I love the culture, and I love the beauty of the Philippines Islands themselves. Make the trip and explore them yourself. I’m sure you’ll be glad that you did.
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