7 Ultimate Philippine Dive Sites That Will Blow Your Mind

The Philippines, an archipelago of over 7,000 islands, is a diver’s paradise. With its vibrant coral reefs, diverse marine life, and crystal-clear waters, it’s no wonder that diving in the Philippines is a bucket list experience for many.

Here, we explore seven of the most popular dive locations that are frequently searched by divers worldwide, and which one is my personal favourite!

  1. Tubbataha Reefs National Park
  2. Apo Reef
  3. Malapascua Island
  4. Coron Bay
  5. Anilao
  6. Puerto Galera
  7. Moalboal

Most of the dive sites listed in this article are found in Palawan. Often hailed as one of the most beautiful islands in the world, it offers some of the best scuba diving experiences in the Philippines.

Tubbataha Reefs National Park

underwater coral reef with fish and light blue water

Tubbataha Reefs, located in the Sulu Sea, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its stunning, and probably unrivalled, biodiversity. 

Diving here, you’ll encounter everything from massive schools of fish and colourful corals to large pelagics like whale sharks and manta rays. The best time to visit is from March to June when the seas are calm and visibility is at its peak.

Due to its remote location, you can only access this National Park by a liveaboard.

Apo Reef

small rocky island with clear water around it and dive boat

Apo Reef, the second-largest contiguous coral reef in the world, offers a thrilling diving experience. 

With its deep walls, diverse coral species, and abundant marine life, it’s a haven for underwater photographers and adventure seekers. Sharks, rays, and turtles are common sightings here, making every dive an exciting adventure.

Malapascua Island

shark with long tail underwater in deep blue

Malapascua Island, located off the northern tip of Cebu, is world-famous for its thresher sharks – my personal favourite!

These elusive creatures can be seen almost daily at Kimud Shoal, a cleaning station where the sharks come early in the morning.  Diving with these pelagic species is such a privilege. I spent a dreamy ten hours plus in their presence and it was like no other dive experience I have had.  

In addition to thresher sharks, Malapascua offers excellent macro diving with nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses, and other critters.

Find out what its like diving with Thresher sharks in Malapascua – this is one not to be missed!!

Coron Bay

rocky tropical islands with green blue water around

For wreck diving enthusiasts, Coron Bay is a must-visit destination. 

The bay is home to several Japanese shipwrecks from World War II, now teeming with marine life. Each wreck tells a story and offers a unique diving experience, with opportunities to explore the ship’s interiors and witness the fascinating transformation of these vessels into artificial reefs.

Anilao

clownfish and anemone close up

Anilao, just a few hours’ drive from Manila, is a hotspot for macro photographers.

Its dive sites are renowned for their rich variety of nudibranchs, frogfish, and other macro critters. The vibrant reefs and clear waters make it an ideal spot for both beginners and experienced divers looking to capture stunning underwater shots.

Puerto Galera

water with sand and trees either side

Puerto Galera, located on Mindoro Island, boasts some of the most accessible and diverse diving in the Philippines. 

With its beautiful coral gardens, abundant marine life, and exciting night dives, Puerto Galera offers something for every diver. The currents here also make it a great spot for drift diving.

Moalboal

school of sardines underwater

Moalboal, situated on Cebu’s southwest coast, is famous for its sardine run.

Diving alongside millions of sardines as they swirl in unison is an unforgettable experience. Nearby Pescador Island offers stunning wall dives, while Turtle Bay is a favourite for encountering friendly sea turtles.

What are the Diving Conditions Like?

Diving conditions in the Philippines are excellent. Water temperatures range from 26°C to 30°C, making it comfortable for diving year-round. 

Visibility can exceed 30 metres in many locations, particularly during the dry season from November to June. However, conditions can vary with the seasons. The wet season (July to October) brings more rain and potentially rougher seas, but it can also mean fewer crowds and more vibrant marine life due to nutrient-rich waters.

What is the Best Time to Dive in the Philippines?

The best time to dive in the Philippines is during the dry season, which runs from November to June

The peak diving months are from March to June when the seas are calm and visibility is excellent, often exceeding 30 metres. However, diving is possible year-round. 

Best Way to Travel Around the Philippines

man on boat approaching white sandy beach with clear turquoise waters and palm trees

Travelling around the Philippines can be an adventure in itself. 

Domestic flights are the quickest way to hop between islands, with major carriers like Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines offering frequent services. Ferries and fast crafts are popular for shorter distances, while local transportation options like jeepneys, tricycles, and buses provide an authentic travel experience.

What is Liveaboard Diving Like in the Philippines?

Liveaboard diving is an excellent way to explore the more remote dive sites in the Philippines. 

These trips often range from 5 to 14 days, allowing divers to reach places like Tubbataha Reefs and Apo Reef that are otherwise inaccessible. Liveaboards offer a unique diving experience, with multiple dives per day and the opportunity to immerse yourself fully in the underwater world.  

They provide a comfortable base for divers, often with all-inclusive packages covering meals, accommodations, and diving activities.

What Kind of Marine Life Can I Expect to See?

The Philippines is renowned for its rich marine biodiversity. Common sightings include thresher sharks, whale sharks, manta rays, and various species of turtles. 

Macro diving is also popular, with numerous nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses, and other critters. Pelagic species like tuna and barracuda can be seen in areas with strong currents. 

Wreck dives in places like Coron Bay offer a chance to see how marine life has transformed sunken ships into thriving artificial reefs.

Recommended Dive Operators

beach bar looking out to palm trees and sun beds on beach with ocean

Choosing a reputable dive operator is crucial for a safe and enjoyable experience. Look for operators with strong safety records, well-maintained equipment, and positive customer reviews. Some highly recommended operators include Dive In El Nido, Fun & Sun Dive & Travel, and Sea Explorers Philippines.

If you are heading over to Malapascua to see the Thresher sharks, I would only recommend diving with Evolution Diving.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of dive schools on the island that do not encourage eco-friendly practices, letting their divers stand all over the reef, touching coral and just general bad behaviour around the sharks. 

Evolution diving are one of the leading dive centres that ensure dive briefings have a comprehensive insight into best diving practices. They are also the only GreenFins certified centre on the island – a good sign that they have ocean conservation at the forefront of everything they do.

Conclusion

group of people on beach in matching shirts looking happy

Diving in the Philippines offers an incredible underwater adventure. Whether you’re exploring the remote reefs of Tubbataha, swimming with thresher sharks in Malapascua, or diving into history in Coron Bay, the Philippines has something for every diver. 

I loved diving in the Philippines and cannot wait to go back to explore more of the archipelago.

Each location provides a unique glimpse into the rich marine biodiversity that makes this archipelago a world-renowned diving destination. Pack your gear and Pesos and dive into the best that the Philippines has to offer!

Worlds Best Scuba Diving

There is always a new place to visit, a unique place to explore when it comes to scuba diving. Check out some of the other amazing diving locations below.

Written by Katy

Thank you for reading. I started KatyJaneDives.com to share my passion for diving. I am an environmental educator, scientist and now an MSDT diver.

This platform has been made to create, connect and share my knowledge in the world of diving.

AS SEEN in DiveIn, Columbia & Women In Ocean Science

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