Our colleague Nigel Cass recently visited the Philippines – here is his report on what sounded like an amazing dive trip…
As part of an extended trip arranged by the Department of Tourism and Philippine Airlines I had the pleasure of staying at two stunning, but very different, dive centres: Atlantis Dumaguete and Atlantis Puerto Galera.
Only an hour's transfer from the charming and small Dumaguete airport, the Atlantis Dive Resort Dumaguete is a haven for diving and relaxation. Situated amongst lush vegetation the resort is perfect for divers who want to get away from it all. In addition to the wide range of room types, the resort boasts an impressive dive centre with training facilities and a purpose-built camera room, a small shop and reception, a wonderful pool and spa area with a number of treatments available, and a cosy open-plan restaurant and bar with stunning views across the bay towards Apo Island.
The dive centre offers up to five dives per day, plus special trips including dusk dives with the beautiful mandarin fish. Given the choice of a night dive or a dive with the mandarins on my first night, it was a no-brainer. Seeing mandarin fish has always been on my “dive wish list”, so I couldn’t put my fins on quick enough! I am delighted to say that the Atlantis Dive Guide did not disappoint, and I spent an hour on a shallow reef watching these beautiful creatures perform their mating dance.
Thanks to my body clock being properly confused by the 7 hour time difference, I was up early on day two to spend a peaceful couple of hours sat at the edge of the restaurant watching the world go by and gazing at Apo Island across the bay: our morning’s destination.
Apo Island is a flourishing marine reserve offering a combination of wall and reef diving featuring all of the usual reef critters, plus sea snakes and some of the largest turtles that I have ever seen.
Dumaguete is also renowned for its macro diving: it's just a short boat trip along the bay and divers are accompanied by eagle-eyed Dive Guides happy to show them all the delights of this macro-rich environment.
During my stay at Dumaguete I also managed brief visits to our other resorts Pura Vida Resort and Atmosphere Resort and Spa.
Chris - the owner of Sea Explorers - kindly met me and was my guide for Pura Vida. The resort is situated right on the beach and is set out amongst lush gardens and foliage. A well-equipped dive centre offers up to five dives a day and they can tailor their dive site visits according to the guest requests.
I was then taken to Atmosphere Resort and Spa - an award-winning resort - where I was shown around the beautiful grounds by Saila, the Sales Manager, before meeting owners Matt and Gabi Holder.
Facilities include a state of the art dive centre (PADI CDC rating), infinity pools, luxury spa and wellness retreat and a choice of dining options. The rooms are especially comfortable and the resort is set in attractive landscaped gardens.
Diving is in small groups with good house reef dives, excellent macro along the Dauin coastline and regular trips to Apo Island. Especially popular with photographers, the dive staff includes a resident Marine Biologist. The dive centre also has a dedicated camera room which is air conditioned and has all of the facilities required to keep underwater photographers in camera luxury heaven.
Their strength is as a luxury experience in beautiful setting, with a very friendly vibe. Lots of land-based activities are also available to keep non-diving guests entertained. Matt and Gabi have a passion for wine and often host wine tasting events. They also have a tree-house setting for special occasions and events.
Atlantis Puerto Galera
After only two nights in Dumaguete it was time to pack our bags and fly back to Manila where we would take an onward transfer to Puerto Galera for the next stop in our adventure.
From the airport, a 2.5 hour journey by private transfer took us to Batangas Port, where we were met by boat to take us on our final leg to Sabang, Puerto Galera.
The vibrant resort of Sabang is reached by a picturesque hour long boat trip. The resort has a succession of hotels, dive centres, bars and restaurants all built into the steep hillside.
Atlantis Dive Resort Puerto Galera is a short walk from the pier. Entering the hotel area, we were greeted by the sight of the '50 Bar' clientele sharing a beer after their day’s diving. This activity was accompanied by the sounds of the 70s and 80s, supplied by Ton-Ton – Senior Bartender, DJ and all-round good guy. It was a rare pleasure being handed a cold beer by this gent as I walked past the bar in my dive kit after that evening’s night dive.
Beyond 50 Bar is the well-equipped dive centre, purpose-built camera room, reception and Toko’s restaurant; serving some of the tastiest food that I ate on my travels. The restaurant leads to the training pool and spa, and finally to the guest rooms. The rooms are reached by a series of steps heading off in various directions from the main dining area.
The diving is a mixture of macro and reef diving, with an emphasis on the standard reef experience. It is worth noting that Puerto Galera is right in the middle of the Coral Triangle and boasts an abundance of stunning colours on the reefs.
One of our highlights of our far-too-short two night stay was a trip to Verde Island: one of the jewels in the crown of this area. Featuring an abundance of marine life and dramatic walls, a trip to this location should be an essential part of any diver’s stay with Atlantis.
Apart from Verde Island, Atlantis also has a superb house reef: we did a night dive here just after we arrived on our first night and were impressed by the colours of the soft coral and the abundant marine life, including giant frogfish and sea snakes.
Following a delicious last night meal with the rest of my group it was early to bed ready for the departure the following morning. However, we managed to squeeze in a cheeky early morning dive on a local wreck before finally heading back to Manila for our final night and the flight home.
Featuring an array of diving – from macro and stunning wall dives to WWII wrecks - the Philippines has something for every diver.
Two nights at each location was nowhere near long enough, so I am aiming to spend longer in the Philippines next year to more fully experience the outstanding variety of diving that the Philippines has to offer.
To find out more about diving in the Philippines, call our friendly team on 01353 659999, or visit: Diving in the Philippines