If you’re a diver, then the Philippines are probably on your list of dive destinations - if you haven’t crossed it out yet! If you’re not a diver and planning to travel to the Philippines, then don’t hesitate one second to discover scuba diving while you’re there. There are dive spots pretty much everywhere, and you’ll end up discovering a new world that’ll make you look differently at the one you already know, I promise!
When preparing our trip to the Philippines, diving was the main driver for picking among the 7,000 Filipino islands. Check out our Philippines travel guide to see where we ended up going and discover our recommended places. We went diving in Busuanga island (Coron) where we hoped - but failed - to see dugongs in the North of the island (the diving there was otherwise disappointing); in Malapascua, which deserves a visit for the amazzzzzing experience of diving with thresher sharks (and the rest is pretty cool too!); and in Sogod Bay.
We decided to come here for two reasons: we hoped to see whale sharks in a place where they are not fed like elsewhere in the Philippines (think Oslob), and for the nature that seemed to be both beautiful and unspoiled by tourism. We weren’t disappointed by either: although we did not see whale sharks, diving here was a truly amazing and off the beaten track.
Limasawa and Padre Burgos
There are several dive sites on the West side of the bay, the best of which are just next to Limasawa island: Adrian’s Cove and Zach’s Cove. These dive sites are named after the sons of Günter, who runs Southern Leyte Divers, and first discovered them in 1990. Adrian was there when we traveled to Sogod Bay, and was very kind, driving us around although we did not stay nor dived with the resort! Pretty cool to have a dive spot named after you, I’ll say…!
The water in Limasawa is super clear, and we were lucky to dive on a sunny day so visibility was just perfect. It is a wonderful drop-off with a huge diversity of corals, and of course many fishes and large turtles that swim out in the blue. We were the only boat around on that day, and that made for perfect dives.
It was raining and overcast when we dived in Padre Burgos, but, surprisingly, visibility was still pretty good under water. The dive sites are not as impressive as in Limasawa, but there is still a big diversity in corals (both hard and soft) and in fish species. Among others, we remember the coral shrimpfish, the blue-spotted rays, the big frogfish, and the tall-fin batfish, my favorites!
Dive sites: Limasawa: Adiran’s Cove (****) and Zach’s Cove (****); Padre Burgos: Medicare North (**) and Tangkaan Point (**)
Napantao and Panaon island
On the East side of the bay is where you’ll get a chance to see whale sharks, and where probably the best dive site of the area is, Napantao. They can be accessed by boat from one of the dive centers in Padre Burgos; alternatively you can decide to stay at the only dive center on Panaon island, Pintuyan Dive Resort: the facility is simple yet comfortable, it has good equipment, is run by experienced divers, and is therefore a good way to concentrate on your diving while having the opportunity to explore the countryside.
There are many dive sites off the shore of Panaon island, and they offer many opportunities to do specific dives. The PDR House Reef itself is quite nice with many fishes and nice coral protected by the marine area: big triggerfish and tuna, small shrimps, many rays chilling in the sand and taking off when you approach, moray eels, lionfish… It is clearly a sign of a healthy reef, and also that the efforts to promote Marine Protected Areas are working. Badiang is an astonishing dive site: coral on a sandy bottom from where air bubbles rise, giving this site an oneiric atmosphere. We loved this dive also because we saw 2 big turtles, 2 big frogfish, 1 large boxfish, lionfish and nudibranchs…and more importantly two things we had never seen before: pygmy seahorses and 2 beautiful mantis shrimps!
Clearly the highlight around here is Napantao: it was that good that we ended up diving at the same site twice! The dive starts along a large drop-off that seems bottomless, and finishes at low depth admiring the many fishes and corals. You see both pelagic and macro life and we were in awe with the number and diversity of fish: a gigantic aquarium! We saw 5 whitetip sharks, several large and very friendly turtles, 1 large cuttlefish, many above-average sized fishes (tunas, school of mackerel, sweetlips, pufferfish…) as well as armies of anthias around the corals. Unforgettable. If you dive here, pay a visit to Coral Cay Conservation in between dives, which we write about in our Philippines travel guide.
Dive sites: Panaon island: Napantao South (*****); Pintuyan: PDR House Reef (***) and Badiang (****)
Dive center: Pintuyan Dive Resort