A skip and a hop, or a bus and a boat ride, from the international airport in Cebu, you will find Malapascua Island. Small and with hardly any development, it is an idyllic place for a beach holiday, but it gets even better under the water. Monad Shoal is a sunken island and cleaning station for the graceful thresher sharks. Divers come to Malapascua specifically to watch the sharks’ daily appearance in the cleaning stations, and to see them herd and hunt their prey. While the threshers are the stars of the show, you will encounter a strong supporting cast of tunas, lionfish, nudibranchs and pygmy seahorses as well.
Easily accessible from Manila, Puerto Galera is a diving paradise with crystal clear waters, abundant marine life and a variety of diving environments. While there are several dive sites, the most sought after is Canyons where currents sweep divers through three gorgeous canyons covered in a variety of soft corals and sponges. Take your time inside these structures to find large schools of fish including barracudas, batfish, snappers, emperors and trevally.
Dauin and Apo Island
The Negros Island in the Visayas region is still one of the Philippines’ less-visited destinations. But those who do come usually come for the diving. Only 20 minutes from Dumaguete City, Dauin lures underwater photographers with its rare critters. About 20 dive sites and marine sanctuaries are within easy access just off the shore of Dauin. Apo Island, with its green turtles, schools of trevally and stunning hard coral fields, is a short boat ride away.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is the holy grail of dive sites in the Philippines. Situated smack in the middle of the Sulu Sea and the Coral Triangle, this national marine park sprawls over more than 1,300 square kilometers, including two jaw-dropping coral atolls and vast lagoons. Nearly half of all coral species found on the planet can be found in Tubbataha. But what divers really come for are the big, big fish such as black-tip and white-tip reef sharks, hammerheads, tiger sharks and whale sharks, among others. The only way to dive Tubbataha is on a liveaboard boat between the months of March and June.
On 24 September 1944, a squadron of 24 US bombers burst out of the sky above Coron Bay on the northern tip of the island of Palawan, the most westerly of the Philippine islands, located the Japanese supply fleet hiding among the islands below, and proceeded to blow it apart.
Today, Coron Bay has the best wreck diving in Southeast Asia, all packed into one relatively small area. There is nothing quite like the feeling of standing on a jetty, knowing that you have at least half a dozen huge wartime vessels lying within a short boat ride. Each wreck has its own special characteristics, but on the whole, they are big, mostly intact, within reasonable diving depth and full of amazing artefacts. The constant flow of plankton and nutrient-rich waters may make the viz a tad murky, but this is more than compensated by the impact it has had on the wrecks themselves. They are festooned with life - corals and invertebrates clinging to every surface and this lush growth attracts hordes of fish.