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Diving the Philippines

A destination waiting for you to discover.....

Dive holidays are always great and it was an amazing opportunity that presented itself – to be taken and shown some of the epic diving to be had in the Philippines!  Ian of Allways Dive Expeditions, Australia invited us to join this trip with a number of dive shop owners from throughout NZ. Darrell couldnt make it so someone had to go - me. Heading off early May, just as things were cooling down back here in NZ, we flew direct from Auckland into 30 odd degree, sunny and humid temperatures in the Philippines.  A quick skip through Manila airport and it was off again to land just over an hour later on Cebu.

Cebu is home of one of the renowned spots to easily see Whale Sharks but we were destined for the very small island of Malapascua, off the northern tip of Cebu, for the rare opportunity to see Thresher Sharks.  And see them we did.

Thresher Sharks are a very deep-water species normally not found at a diveable depth.  But here, they come to within 25 metres of the surface along the edge of the Monad Shoal, to the cleaning stations for a wee tidy up.  And they do this at dawn, which on Malapascua in May means a 4.30am start.  So, it was in the dark with the sun just coming up that we headed out for the 40 min run to the dive site.  Dropping in and down to the top of the shoal at a depth of 18 metres.  Here we met our first Thresher – just lurking at the edge of the gloom and on the top of the shoal.  He disappeared quickly so, dropping over the edge of the shoal, we made our way along past the cleaning areas keeping a keen lookout.  Another Thresher was seen lurking at the bottom of the wall but for me, it wasn’t until we came back up to the top of the shoal as we were nearing the end of our dive, that we encountered a beautiful 3-4 metre Thresher just mooching about.  It was a thrilling and close encounter.

Malapascua offered a range of other dives including the beautiful sites at Gato Island where we dived through the 40 metre long passage under the island and came out into an area of interesting structure and a large variety of fish life.  This was a haven for macro photographers with such a huge range of nudibranchs.  Devil Rays and Mantas are other frequent visitors to Malapascua.  So all in all it would be very easy to spend a week here enjoying both the diving and the relaxing on the beautiful white sandy beach.  We really enjoyed a good level of accommodation at Evolution Dive Resort with their lovely and very affordable meals, the three-hour happy hour of cocktails and professional, helpful and welcoming staff.  Highly recommended.

From Malapascua we moved on via Cebu to fly to the northern Palawan region of the island of Coron in the Calamine Islands group.  This region has been highly rated for its incredibly beautiful natural seascapes and landscapes.  We were picked up by Andy, owner of Sangat Island and taken by boat to play Robinson Crusoe (well, it felt like it) at his beautifully positioned resort on a sandy beach on the island he owns. 

Sangat is an eco-resort.  Andy generates all his electricity by way of solar so there is no air-con or hot water.  But the positioning of the chalets under the palm trees and with plenty of fans made the temperatures bearable.  And you really didn’t feel the need at all for hot water.  The house reef was outstanding for an early morning snorkel (after you had dodged the family of monkeys scampering through the grounds and throwing berries at you as you made for the beach).  The meals here were delicious – our dinner was a rotisseried suckling pig with all the trimmings.  We headed out for two beautiful wreck dives in the morning – both only a few minutes run-time away.  The area is known for a fleet of Japanese supply vessels that were sunk by the Americans in a raid in 1944.  These wrecks are dripping sea life and I loved finding Crocodile fish, Lion fish, Bat fish and many, many more all hanging around the coral and fan encrusted wrecks.  The waters around Sangat are a marine protected area and as well as the many wrecks there are a variety of reef dives too.  Which unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore.  Apparently the island has its own geothermal springs to soak in too.  I could happily get lost here for a week.

We moved on from Sangat via the Carribean Tigress – a beautiful live-aboard vessel that operates out of Busuanga Bay back on the main island of Busuanga.  The scenery was stunning and the sea like glass as we headed to Busuanga Bay Lodge – with a wee stop to drop in on another wreck along the way.

Busuanga Bay Lodge is a 5-star lodge set on the edge of a bush clad harbour.  Beautifully set out on a hillside – with golf cart service to run you up and down the hill to the hilltop restaurant and stunning pool as required.  The following morning we headed to Black Island to dive another wreck of unknown origin and once again covered in an array of marine life.  With our flight home to NZ scheduled for the following day, we spent our “off-gas” afternoon on South Cay – a tiny atoll – where we enjoyed a beautiful BBQ lunch and cocktails for the afternoon.  We swam and snorkelled the afternoon away, feeling like we were a million miles from civilisation.

The Philippines proved to be a beautiful destination with an abundance of dive opportunities and plenty else of interest to explore if you make the time.  Bang for buck this destination is great value.  Sea temps in May were 30 degrees on the surface and dropped to 28 at depth.  Very nice! 

Dive Zone Whitianga will be taking a group dive trip to the Philippines probably June 2019.  Details are still being worked out.  If you want to register your interest in joining this trip then just drop Linda an email


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