The Philippines is a popular destination for tourists of all kinds, but it’s especially great for those interested in scuba diving. Scuba diving in Philippines is considered to be some of the best in the world. Cebu is the Philippines’ 9th largest island, with Cebu City being the country’s first capital and oldest city. With white sand beaches, clear calm water and some 167 smaller surrounding islands to hop around Cebu has an abundance of amazing diving locations and underwater adventures.
Accommodations around Cebu were affordable and easy to find. I booked deals on Traveloka and other online booking sites with very little advanced notice and never had trouble finding something within my budget, but it’s always smart to plan ahead if you know your travel dates.
The Thresher Sharks of Malapascua
The island is found at the far Northern tip of Cebu, about 4 hour bus ride from the international airport and another 45 minutes boat ride across the water. It’s small and lacks giant resort developments, the white sand beaches are uncrowded.
Malapascua Island has become one of the top diving locations not only for Cebu but anywhere in the Philippines. This popularity comes from the abundance of thresher sharks. Malapascua is the only place in the world where thresher sharks are reliably spotted on a near daily basis. Each morning at sunrise the island’s dive operators head out to Monad Shoal, leading divers down to a rather baron ocean floor in wait of the threshers visit. Eagle rays are often seen also. I dove Malapascua during the off-season and although stormy weather made conditions less than ideal I saw 3 threshers on my second visit to Monad Shoal. Seeing these beautiful, graceful sharks in person was another incredible scuba experience I won’t soon forget!
In addition to the thresher sharks Malapascua has some incredible macro diving sites. I was advised by Evolution Diving to try out one of the night dives in hopes of seeing mating Mandarin fish. I have to admit I’m not super comfortable diving at night yet; but one of the greatest things about traveling (for me) is to constantly break away from your comfort zone and try new things. So I headed out on my second ever night dive. Not only did I witness the beautiful, brightly colored mandarin fish mating, I saw an octopus hunting, squid, seahorses and a myriad of other marine life I had never been able to see during daytime dives. I quickly forgot about my fears and had one of the most enjoyable dives yet!
The Bait Ball of Moalboal
Located 55 miles Southwest of Cebu City, Moalboal is about a 3 hour drive or bus ride away from the airport. Moalboal is a small town where a concentration of bars, restaurants, budget hotels and dive operations line up against Panagsama Beach. Nearly all of the tourists here come for the same reason – the amazing scuba diving. There are numerous dive sites in the area including some of the world’s best muck diving right along the beach. Nearby Pescador Island is also very popular for wall diving and snorkeling where divers commonly see whitetip reef sharks, frogfish, turtles and sea kraits.
Moalboal’s biggest attraction for divers is a chance to experience the huge school of sardines known as the ‘bait ball’ where millions of sardines gather into a tight formation that can block out the sunlight above. Diving in the bait ball was another memorable experience that I absolutely loved! I spent my days at Quo Vadis Dive Resort which offered a great combination of accommodation, dining and scuba diving all in one.
A Whale of a Time in Oslob
Not too long ago nobody had ever heard of Oslob. It was just another fishing village until one day it was discovered that whale sharks were hanging around. It’s now become world famous as a place where you can reliably and easily swim or dive with whale sharks. Having done so already in both Mexico and Belize I was curious to find out how Oslob measured up. While the whale sharks are much smaller in Oslob than the other places I’ve been it was by far the cheapest and most convenient option. The sharks are just a few meters from the shore in clear, calm water as opposed to the long searches and choppy, rough waters I’d dealt with in other places.
Oslob doesn’t come without controversy however. The fisherman turned opportunist tour operators feed the whale sharks to entice them from migrating on. The consequences of this altered behavior is unknown. But if the fisherman used to kill the whale sharks, this might be the better compromise and alternative. At the very least, they are still arguably free to do as they please. Read about the issue before deciding whether or not to participate.
In addition to Cebu, you can take a short ferry ride over to Dauin or Bohol. Dauin is world renowned for macro diving, and are tons of things to do in Bohol in addition to great scuba, like visiting the endangered tarsier sanctuary and looking out from the top of Chocolate Hills.