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17 Jun 2015, Jane H

philippines

The Philippines archipelago numbers 7,107 islands and over 850,000 square miles of Coral Triangle waters: a veritable ‘Amazon of the Seas’ which is considered the global centre of marine biodiversity. The Coral Triangle is home to literally thousands of fish and coral species. Add to this an equally diverse range of diving attractions including historic wrecks, plentiful macro life, sharks and whalesharks, plus an amazing array of above water charms… and the only surprise is that it’s taken so long for this Southeast Asian paradise to be discovered as a top dive destination by UK divers.

Where to go

With so much to see in the Philippines, this is one destination that really does cater for all levels of diver experience and interest. Here’s a taste of some of the dive highlights:

Malapascua Island

This tiny picturesque island is just off the northern tip of Cebu Island, the starting point for most Philippines holidays.  Divers rise early in the morning to encounter the elusive thresher sharks that frequent Monad Shoals and have made Malapascua famous. Manta rays are also prevalent here, mostly in the rainy season (June to August).  Nearby Gato Island is popular with macro lovers.  Beautiful fan corals camouflage pygmy seahorses, pipefish and an assortment of nudibranchs against a backdrop of pretty swim throughs. Be sure to pack in a night dive to discover mandarin fish, and schedule a visit to the wreck of the Doña Marilyn.

Dumaguete and Dauin

Southwest of Cebu and at the southern tip of Negros Island are some of the finest macro locations in the world. The small bay at Dauin offers enough to keep critter fans entertained for a week with mimic octopus, ghost pipe fish, frog fish, seahorses and all manner of tiny creatures to find. Dumaguete is also home to the marine sanctuary of Apo Island, one of the most celebrated Philippine dive spots. The island may be just 3km across but its waters are teeming with fish, stunning corals and green turtles. Each of the ten dive sites has something different to offer, from exhilarating drift dives out in the blue to shallow pristine coral gardens.

Bohol

The region of Bohol is known for its steep wall dives and home to the great diving areas of Alona Beach and the islands of Panglao, Balicasag and Pamilacan. Impressive hard and soft coral gardens flourish in current-rich waters and combine with steep walls and drift dives to offer something for all divers. The fast currents mean a good chance of spotting mantas, and a whale shark if you are lucky (usual season November to April). There’s also a lot to see above water here including the picturesque Chocolate Hills and encounters with the world's smallest species of primate, the Tarsier.

Palawan

Southwest of the Philippines lies an archipelago of almost 1,800 islands and islets which Jacques Cousteau considered ‘the most beautiful place I ever explored’. Palawan offers spectacular scenery above and below water and some of Philippines diving finest treasures. Tucked away in the north, Busuanga and tiny Dimakya offer a fantastic variety of nearby dive sites including the wreck of the Kyokuzan Maru, and the amazing Apo Reef, which is located further north in Mindoro but accessible by day trip. The latter is famed for its dramatic drop offs and sightings of turtles, mantas, barracudas and sharks.

Most divers come to this area to dive the famous Coron wrecks. So far, a dozen remains from the WWII Japanese supply fleet have been discovered here and metal fans consider the diving here to be second only to Micronesia’s Truk Lagoon. Further south, Palawan is the gateway to the incredible World Heritage site and marine park of Tubbataha: one of the world’s finest and most isolated diving regions which can only be reached via liveaboard.

How to go

The geography and diversity of the Philippines makes this destination perfect for island hopping. Most Regaldive guests choose to combine two or three different diving locations to make the most of their Philippine holiday. Our travel team have considerable experience in planning tailor-made trips to this region and can put together a personalised itinerary for a week, 10 – 14 days or more.

If you want to focus on the diving and nothing else, then a liveaboard offers the chance to discover more of the Philippines underwater. Regaldive offers a wide choice of itineraries aboard the luxurious SY Philippine Siren and Atlantis Azores vessels which feature most of the areas listed above including Tubbataha, as well as the chance to see whale sharks at Sogod Bay in Southern Leyte. A Visayas itinerary takes in many of the central islands and can be considered an ideal introduction to Philippines diving.  Adventurous souls can also consider combining the Philippines and Palau in a unique liveaboard holiday that bridges two continents.

When to go

Diving is good all year round in the Philippines with average air temperatures of 30°C and water temperatures between 26-30°C. There are two distinct seasons: the dry season (December to May) offers the highest temperatures, but many regular visitors consider the best time to visit is the wet season (June to November). The heaviest rainfall is usually expected in July / August but with few rivers on the islands, and therefore low run-off, visibility is not generally affected.

Your choice of liveaboard itinerary is more likely to be influenced by weather and the time of year. Due to its far-flung location in the middle of the Sulu Sea, Tubbataha is generally off limits outside of the short February to May season, whilst whalesharks come to feast on plankton in Southern Leyte around the same period.

Above water attractions

Despite the fact there is so much to discover underwater it would be a pity to miss out on experiencing the beauty of the Philippines topside. These islands are home to spectacular tropical scenery, world-class white sand beaches, emerald rice fields, lively cities and vibrant festivals. Combined with the renowned Filipino hospitality and warmth in a true melting pot of cultures, when you visit the Philippines an unforgettable dive holiday awaits.

Experience the Philippines

Whatever your wish list, the Regaldive Team will help you plan the perfect Philippines holiday. Our tailor-made packages offer the ultimate in flexibility to meet your personal requirements and your budget. We feature a wide range of accommodation and flight options, as well as the option to combine two or more resorts, liveaboard options and city extensions in one, wonderful holiday.

Contact the specialist Regaldive team today on 01353 659999 to find out more – your Philippines dive adventure awaits!

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