Adventurers Dive Log, Scuba Diving in the Philippines

Diving in the Philippines

by Paul Janosi

The Philippine archipelago embracing some 520,700 square miles of land and sea, lies on the western rim of the Pacific Ocean about 500 miles off the Southeast Coast of mainland Asia. The 7000 islands are in four major groups. Luzon on the North, the Visayas in the center of the archipelago, and Mindanao and the Sulu Sea to the South.

The climate is tropical with three distinct seasons. The season from June through October is the wet or typhoon season, from November through February the cool dry season and from March through May the hot dry season. Depending on the area, annual rainfall can vary from one to four meters. Temperatures range from 21-32 degrees Centigrade, April and May being the most uncomfortable.

Plains, narrow valleys, rolling hills and high mountains characterize the topography of the bigger islands. Most of the peaks are volcanic in origin and there are still 10 active volcanoes The national language is Filipino, but English the second national language is widely spoken and understood. Rice field occupies more than 40 % of the cultivated land and depending on the water supply, rice crops may be harvested up to three times a year. Filipino food is a mixture of traditional Malay, Spanish and Chinese dishes. Its basic ingredients are rice, fish and pork seasoned with local spices cooked with various vegetables and fruits. Crabs squid, oysters, grouper and milkfish figure prominently on the menu.

The undersea wonders of the Philippines have been considered one of the richest in the world. The Philippine archipelago is surrounded by approximately 34,000 square kilometers of coral reefs, which have remained virtually untouched by scuba divers. I would recommend a 1/8 inch wet suit year round both as protection from cuts and scrapes as well as for warmth during the typically long immersion at shallow depths.

Our first dive destination was on Panglao Island, where we stayed at Gie Garden Resort. The best diving in this area was in 60-100 feet. The most prominent marine life was red tree corals, giant sea fans and feather stars. The coloration of the crinoids or feather stars is numerous including bright reds, canary yellows, light greens, whites, browns, oranges, blacks and blues.

Our second diving destination was on Mactan Island, where we stayed at the luxurious Tambuli Beach resort. Amongst my most striking encounters were those with stone fish, lionfish and scorpionfish. All three fish are members of the scorpionfish family and all have venomous spines. The potency of the venom varies from species to species, the stonefish being the most venomous. It has 13 dorsal, 3 anal and 2 pelvic spines, all equipped with venom glands. The stonefish as its name implies looks like algae covered stone. They are usually found buried in sand or hiding under coral heads. The lionfish is the most colorful member of the family. Although most often found individually, the lionfish can sometime be found in-groups. The lionfish has distinctive body markings that advertise its dangerousness. They are quite aware of their armament and are not afraid of divers. When threatened by an approaching diver, the lionfish displays its venomous spines before retreating.

Our third destination was Mamburao, where we stayed at the Mamburao Beach resort. This Island paradise was my favorite resort. Since our diving gear was shipped by truck to Anilao, we did not get to dive here. However we did get to snorkel over the shallow reefs and based on what we saw, this location is a must for visiting divers. To get the feel of the land we traveled cross-country by Jeepney to Abra de Llog, where we transferred to a boat for our journey to Puerto Galara. The main transportation in the Philippines is by means of a "Jeepney" which is basically a remnant army jeep from World War II, extended in the rear to accommodate passengers, and highly decorated with souvenirs by the individual driver. This cross-country journey was the most memorable part of sight seeing and provided plenty of opportunities for photography. Anilao was our final and perhaps the best diving destination. The staffs at the Anilao Sea Sport Center were very knowledgeable and helpful. The colors and varieties of fish and corals dazzled the eyes of divers familiar with Caribbean reef communities. The common tropical fishes such as damselfish, butterfly fish and surgeon fish, all have coloration that is much more vivid than their Caribbean cousins. One of my favorite dive sites was at Cathedral Rock. Although it is at a depth of 60-80 feet, it had an incredible collection of marine life. Since fish feeding is a popular pass time here, it has an unlimited potential for underwater photography. For shallow water, wide-angle photography, Sombrero Island had the best reefs. I found the Philippines to be a delight with safe, well supervised diving with infinite variety of marine life, unbelievable photographic opportunities, comfortable accommodations friendly service and people. Speaking personally I can not wait to return.

The following photographs were submitted by Paul Janosi of Toronto Canada.

Philippine Photo 1
Philippine Photo 2
Philippine Photo 3
Philippine Photo 4

Adventurers Dive Log