The Philippines – a photographer’s dream
Posted by Andrew Jenkins
The Philippines is a photographer’s dream. The astounding landscape both topside and underwater glistens with colour and is calling out to be explored.
Start your adventure by passing through Manila, Philippines manic capital, perhaps stopping to take a ride on a rainbow coloured Jeepney – a kitsch vehicle that is one of the most popular forms of transport in this busy city. Once out of the city hub the variety that exudes within this tropical archipelago is hard to look past.
A perfect destination for scuba divers of all experience levels, the Philippines is in the heart of the coral triangle and is world renowned for nutrient rich currents and consequently some of the world’s most fascinating marine life.
Below are some fantastic diving locations to visit when traveling the Philippines:
- Cebu: placed neatly in the centre of the Visayan Archipelago, Cebu is a great place to learn to dive. With the second largest airport in the Philippines, it is easy to access and has a great range of dive sites. It is not uncommon to spot green turtles, giant frogfish and banded sea krait.
- Bohol: growing increasingly popular with backpackers visiting Panglao Island, Bohol is about an hour plane ride from Manila and usually offers a divers the opportunity of spotting huge schools of jacks. Colourful coral of hard and soft varieties make diving off Bohol a rainbow adventure you’re sure to love. The topside is also well known for the Chocolate Hills and the tiny Tarsier monkeys.
- Malapascua: this is an island that cannot be missed. Malapascua is one of the only places in the world where you’re almost guaranteed daily sightings of the rare and fascinating Thresher shark.
- Boracay: it is here that you’re likely to see grey reef sharks, manta rays and a plethora of tropical fish that inhabit the large assortment of corals. This is the most popular holiday destination.
- Subic Bay: this world renowned wreck diving destination is home to a plethora of historical stories that even the most advanced divers are sure to be impressed by.
- Tubbataha Reef: Although this reef is only accessible for three months of the year (March- June), this World Heritage Marine Park is well worth the visit. Accessing this area by liveaboard is the only option but the pristine corals which are populated with intriguing macro life, turtles and a wealth of tropical fish make this location a real gem.
- Puerto Galera: Ideal for those interested in drift diving, these current rich waters are imbued with snapper, barracudas and smaller tropical fish. There is the opportunity to do a night dive and potentially see the gorgeous Mandarin fish. Puerto Galera is based at the Verde Strait, which has the some of the world’s greatest biodiversity.
- Dumaguete: here you can experience the magnificent beach dives that macro enthusiasts are sure to love. In the deeper waters, the strong current often brings large schools of big-eye trevally and Spanish mackerel.
- El Nido and Coron in Palawan: There is no denying that Palawan is a picturesque tropical paradise. The topside is decorated with the most magnificent lime stone cliffs, and below the crystal clear horizon is the awe-inspiring wrecks in Coron and a range of tropic fish off El Nido.
Question: What time of year can I dive the Philippines?
Answer: In terms of water temperature and visibility, any time of year is just great - the water temperature is around 28C. What you do need to be aware of is typhoon season which typically extends from August to December. The typhoon belt starts at 10 degree latitude which is more or less north of Cebu City. Thus choosing dive sites below Cebu City especially from August to December, you should be reasonably sure of avoiding lost diving time through typhoons.
Question: What type of wetsuit is appropriate.
Answer: A 3mm wetsuit should keep you warm enough. Some "thick skinned" divers are even comfortable with a 1mm skin. Shorties are fine but long westuits can be useful when there are jelly fish around. We often come across really small jellyfish which are hard to spot but still give a sting.
Question: What can I expect to see?
Answer: In general at good dive sites, you can expect to see a diveristy of hard and soft coral, a lot of macro critters, and a good mix of reef fish. Genrally fish polpulations and fish sizes are on the low size due to over fishing. Check out the dive books and dive forums to find out the special attarctions at each site. For example the major special attraction at Moalboal, Cebu are the "clouds" of sardines to be found at Pescador Island. These shoals of fish attract many predators such as jacks, barracuda, tuna and thresher sharks. This really is a site not to be missed.