Great Dive Locations in the Philippines: Cebu Island and Tubbataha Reef
Between the Indian Ocean and the vast Pacific Ocean lie the Philippines archipelago of islands. The islands are part of the “belt of fire.” So called because of the volcanic rim that stretches from the Antarctic to Antarctica. Because of the Philippine island's geographical location, west of the Mariana Trench at 36,150 feet deep, the area has the worlds most diverse seabed’s. There are over 500 hundred species of coral and over 3,000 species of fish, 30 percent of which can only be found in the Philippines archipelago.
With such diversity of marine life and vegetation, good visibility, warm waters and so many great dive locations to choose from, many of which are still undiscovered, its little wonder that the Philippines islands are a Mecca for all levels of scuba divers and snorkelers.
Pescador Island, Cebu, the Philippines.
The island of Cebu in the Strait of Tanon has some of the Philippines most popular dive locations, especially in the area of Moalboal. Just off the southern tip of Cebu lie a tiny volcanic island, regularly visited by fisherman, appropriately named Pescador Island. At the south side of the island there is a buoy which marks the best and shallowest dive location at about 15 feet deep. The current is weak so the location is perfect for novice scuba divers. It is also possible to circle the island and return to the boat with one tank of air, providing you don’t get too distracted.
The underwater south side wall slopes gently as compared to the east side which is a sheer drop to a depth of 90 feet at the seabed. The vegetation is spectacular with many types of colorful soft corals, such as elkhorn coral and sponges. One of the most populace fish around the reef are the frogfish which are camouflaged amongst the sponges, but easy for a diver to spot. Other tropical fish to look out for are mandarinfish, butterflyfish, pufferfish, Napoleon wrasses, morays, jacks and barracudas.
Above; a view of Pescador Island from Cebu and below, the mandarinfish.
Tubbataha Reef, the Philippines
For the more experienced scuba diver there are two atolls in the center of the Sulu Sea, know as Tabbataha Reef, which offer the Philippines most spectacular dive sites. The remote atolls are separated by shallow lagoons and form part of a protected national park, which was listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1993. As such it is little visited by fisherman and tourists. The only residents of the atolls are the park rangers stationed on a sandy island at the north atoll. The best time to visit the reef, located 100 miles southeast of Palawan Island, is from March to June as this is when conditions are more favorable.
The water around the reef is crystal clear, although divers should be aware that the currents can be strong. Marine vegetation is abundant with various hard and soft corals, gorgonians and sponges. Reef fish to be seen include squirrelfish, unicorn fish, emperor fish, tropical umbrines and garibaldis. There are also sea turtles, dolphins and sharks in near by deeper water.
Above; a view of the rangers station at Tubbataha Reef and below a large sea turtle at Tubbataha.
All images from commons.wikimedia and flickr.com with creative commons licence.