By now your passport must be loaded with stamps from the Caribbean and Central America, but our next stop is a little more far east.
This time though, we’ve got two stops on our trip! Betcha didn’t see that one coming. Our trip to the Philippines includes a visit to the scuba diving favorites Dumaguete and Puerto Galera.
Both destinations are known for their incredibly friendly locals, amazing beaches, delectable food and magnificent colorful diving. Reef, wall, drift, moored and muck diving are common to both areas. Divers can encounter critters from pygmy seahorses to whale sharks and you don’t want to miss the magical mating dance of the mandarin fish.
So before you wet your fins, let us whet your appetite for awesome dives and attractions in our virtual tour of the Philippines.
Dumaguete City is the capital of Negros Oriental province, and has everything from a local market to lush tropical wildlife, natural pools and waterfalls. The city itself has a reputation for its friendly and hospitable locals and is surrounded by tons of activities (which we’ll get back to later, we know what you really want to read about).
There are a number of dive sites at Dumaguete some appealing to beginners or the more experienced diver looking for a bit of a challenge. These dive sites may overwhelm you with their fish diversity, colorful coral and invertebrates.
But hey, that’s just what we like!
Dauin North at Dumaguete: One of Atlantis‘ most popular dives (we’ll get into them in a bit). Once you’ve experienced it, you’ll know exactly why. At this dive site you’ll encounter a healthy reef teeming with a variety of fish and invertebrates including some Hairy Squat Lobsters, frogfish and ghost pipefish. You can also spot yellowtail barracudas, damselfish, sea turtles, scorpionfish and occasionally, a blue-ringed octopus likes to drop by.
Mainit at Dumaguete: This one’s for our more advanced divers. ‘Mainit’ means hot in the local language and hot is just what you’ll feel on this drift dive. When you come across yellow patches of sand that are hot to the touch thanks to the nearby thermal hot springs.
On this dive you can expect to see schools of barracudas, surgeonfish, dogtooth tuna, yellow snappers, and fusiliers.
There are more dives to experience than we can mention but some other noteworthy dive sites are: Coconut Point off the famous Apo Island offers prolific sea life including big eye trevally, sea turtles and banded sea kraits. While the San Miquel Tires dive site is a must for macro enthusiasts for pygmy squid, nudibranchs, crabs, bumblebee shrimp, flamboyant cuttlefish and nocturnal stargazers.
You’re going to want to stay a few days, and not just for the dives! The Philippines is FULL of rich culture and land. Waterfalls, lagoons, local markets, gardens, and museums – the list seriously goes on. So, we’re going to sum up a few but feel free to explore some more!
Malatapay Market: Just 20 minutes south from Atlantis is Malatapay, home of the only open-air market in Negros. There you can experience the traditional Philippine “barter” system. Locals gather from Apo Island and the surrounding mountains eagerly trade livestock, fish, exotic fruits, strange vegetables and household items. Sample some lechon baboy (roast pork) and a cold San Miguel beer while sitting on the beach.
Dolphin Watch: One of the most popular attractions of Negros Oriental, Bais City is home of the premier attraction for dolphin and whale watching. The trip is about 45 minutes away but it’s well worth it.
Resembling a postcard or cover from a travel magazine, Puerto Galera is considered one of the most beautiful beach resort areas in the Philippines (and the world). Its crystal clear waters and gorgeous beaches are what make Puerto Galera an ideal spot for sailing, swimming, surfing, and you guessed it – diving!
Diving Puerto Galera
Coral Cove at Puerto Galera: Macro lovers rejoice! This is a wonderful dive for you and beginner divers alike. Here, you’ll find countless nudibranchs, whip coral, sea fans, puffer fish and even cuttle fish. The wall and its overhangs are home to some unusual critters – blue and black ribbon eels, juvenile emperor fish, urangutan crabs hiding in bubble coral, and pipefish, just to name a few. Banded sea snakes are common here, as are blue spotted stingrays on the adjacent sandy bottom. Venture a little deeper and you might find thorny sea horses hiding in the rubble as well.
Canyons at Puerto Galera: This world-class drift dive is a must-do for experienced divers. Here the canyons all have sheltering walls and sandy bottoms, where you can kneel down, rest – and watch the big fish fighting in the current above your head. Inside the canyons you’ll find octopus, scorpionfish, sea snakes and other reef fish. This is the one dive site where even bigger animals are sometimes spotted: Manta rays, thresher sharks and hammerhead sharks have all been seen here.
If you’re looking for high voltage diving then the Verde Island Washing Machine during strong current tide changes is your kinda speed. This site is done over a series of 7 shallow gullies where you can watch fish spin and it’s an easy dive during slack tides. The Coral Garden dive site features large coral heads comprised of many types of corals, barrel sponges and colorful reef fish a beautiful site to check out!
Puerto Galera is infamous for its beaches and crystal clear waters so we definitely suggest spending some time snorkeling, kayaking, beach hopping, and of course diving! But there are also a lot of great things to do here that you don’t want to miss. From a local village to a hidden paradise, here are a few topside activities to check out.
Tamaraw Falls: Located just 14 km from Puerto Galera and near the village of Villaflor is Tamaraw Falls. Taste the sweet natural spring water as you enjoy the outstanding scenery, the old growth forest, and beautiful rock formations below the waterfall. Bathe in the pools, bask in the sun, and just relax. Perfect for nature lovers!
Tukuran ‘Hidden Paradise’: A 45-minute jeepney ride from the town of Puerto Galera will take you to the four rivers, where you can continue by foot or ox-cart to get to the some glorious falls. These waterfalls have had thousands of years to carve and shape the surrounding rocky landscape into pools and small falls. A definite must-go!
Dumaguete and Puerto Galera
We got so excited about sharing the dives and topside attractions; we almost failed to mention that there are full service Dive Resorts, which operate in both Dumaguete and Puerto Galera.
Many are first class facilities with many amenities such as free WiFi, spa massages and experienced dive operations offering up to 5 dives daily, Nitrox, fluro night dives, day trips, kid diving, underwater photography services, and tons more.
We also love the involvement of resorts with the local communities. Since 2006, they started the Atlantis Education Foundation to improve children’s education with supplies, finances and school visits with staff and guests.
Oh! You can’t leave without trying some of the delicious local food including adobo (braised chicken or pork in spices), kaldereta (meat in tomato sauce stew) and torta (omelette) but save room for the mango cheesecake – it’s delicious!
There are many destinations for exciting diving in the Philippines and Puerto Galera and Dumaguete should be among your top choices.