An underwater feast in the Philippines’ capital of marine conservation

Season: Year-round diving

Visibility: 25-50m/80-165ft

Water Temperature: 26-28°C/79-82°F

An anemone fish gazes up at Jeremy Cuff

Shore-based resort: Atlantis Dive Resorts Dumaguete

Liveaboards: Atlantis Azores (Atlantis Azores offers 7 nights cruises from June to September), Philippine Siren

Diving: Wrecks, Whale Sharks, critter diving, shore diving, boat diving, coral gardens, walls


Re-breather friendly


Decompression diving (Atlantis Resorts)

Willing to share option on liveaboards

Can be combined with Micronesia


The Philippines, with its glorious beaches and fabulous diving, is often overlooked by divers seeking to visit Asia, but for those wanting a really good value destination with lovely diving (including a truly fantastic selection of ‘macro critters’), outstanding diving service, and comfortable and friendly accommodations, it is a natural choice. This huge archipelago possesses many thousands of miles of beautiful coastline and beneath the waves lie many thousands of miles of coral reefs! From shallow reefs ideal for underwater photographers, critter-watchers or those beginning their diving career, to tall, sheer and dramatic walls with schools of ocean-loving fish, you are sure to find what you are looking for in the Philippines. Here also you will find palm-fringed beaches with the softest, silver-white sand, cascading waterfalls and seas that shades from the palest blue to the deepest sapphire.

The southern tip of the island of Negros, 500 kilometres from Manila and twenty minutes by road from Dumaguete airport, is where you will find Atlantis Resort Dumaguete. Negros is the sugar cane island of the Philippines. Now there is also a thriving farming industry in Black Tiger Prawns, a delicacy much enjoyed by the Japanese.

It is recommended that the House Reef at Atmosphere Resort and Spa be done at least twice in order to get the best out of what is quite a large area. House Reef North begins just in front of the resort at around 7 metres. Soft and hard corals drop down to around 20 metres. The reef is home to Peacock Mantis Shrimp and a variety of frogfish and nudibranchs. Pipefish lurk in the grassy patches. House Reef South attracts a colourful array of reef fish to soft corals and offers easy photographic opportunities. During the day there is some spectacular marine life to be seen, but at night the list grows longer and longer. Look out for a Leafy Dragonet cryptically camouflaged in the sand. Pretty yellow and black spotted pufferfish hover over the reef. Cuttlefish, hermit crabs, many species of shrimps and technicolour nudibranchs in shapes that could be alien sculptures all reveal themselves under the diver’s light.

Apo Island is within its own Marine Sanctuary and fishing is allowed for the islanders’ use only. There is usually an extra fee for visiting Apo Island, which is 3-dive day trip taking about 30 minutes to reach in the fast boat. The visibility is usually excellent around this small volcanic hump in the ocean. Due to its unique marine reserve, superb coral reefs and a good reef fish population have managed to survive. Here you will find a unique ‘clownfish city’, a rare phenomenon with literally hundreds of clownfish and their anemone hosts living side by side. Soft corals and hard corals are numerous. There can be some quite strong currents at some sites making for enjoyable drift dives. Apo Island has several different types of dive site, not all of which will be suitable for beginner or inexperienced divers. However there are easy dives where shallow sheltered slopes can be accessed which can be just as fascinating as the deep drift dives!

Bahura is dived at dusk because this is when those tiny technicolour Mandarinfish come out of their lettuce coral homes to play. Photographers should have a good amount of time to attempt ‘that shot’ as the reef is only about 7 metres deep. Dauin has both sandy areas and a ‘true’ reef and was declared a Marine Sanctuary in 2000. The reef is divided by sandy channels, which provide a habitat for a population of wavy Garden Eels, and here one can see some good reef life including schools of Bumphead Parrotfish noshing their way across the reefs like underwater bison (and dropping their ‘waste’ coral on you if you happen to be underneath them at the time!). Schools of Yellowtail Barracuda are often located here. Mimic and blue-ringed octopus can be found here along with robust and ornate ghost pipefish at a site teeming with incredible macro critters.

Another Marine Reserve protects the reef at Masaplot where a couple of schools of mackerel and snappers hover above the reef. The ‘action art’ starts when the two schools combine in a swirl of colour and silver flashes. Look out for Epaulette Sharks (a member of the Bamboo Shark group). These blotchy individuals rest on the bottom of reefs or hide amongst the staghorn coral. Also keep and eye out for Blue Spotted Stingrays. A small school of Bar Jacks often circle around.

Mainit, which means ‘hot’ in Filipino is a site at which divers can really ‘feel the heat’! The volcanic nature of the area means that the sandy bottom emits a heat which in places is hot enough to burn a divers hand. This site is almost always done as a drift dive so that divers can admire the scenery of the reef wall whilst trying not to be distracted by the schools of barracuda and fusiliers that ride the drifts.

COMBINATIONS: It is straightforward to combine a visit to Dumaguete with a stay at the Atlantis Resort at Puerto Galera on the island of Mindoro, or a visit to one of the Philippines’ other premier dive locations. Alternatively, when you are in The Philippines you are not too far from extraordinary Palau with its famous ‘Rock Islands’ and some of the most exciting diving on our planet. Yap with its famous Manta Rays and Truk with its renowned wreck-diving are not that much further. Talk to us about the possibilities.

The girl in the boat (Jeremy Cuff)



Warm water and colourful reefs! (Jeremy Cuff)

Schooling jacks (Steve Neff)

Pygmy Seahorse (Atlantis Resorts)

Frogfish portrait (Atlantis Resorts)

Caves can be such great opportunities for photographs (Jeremy Cuff)

Macro subjects abound in the Philippines (Jeremy Cuff)

Lionfish (Jeremy Cuff)

A small nursery attracts juvenile fish and supports soft coral growth (Jeremy Cuff)

Soft coral delights (Jeremy Cuff)

Photography opportunities abound in Philippino waters (Jeremy Cuff)

Overhangs and craggy topography make for varied photographic backgrounds.

Anemonefish (Jeremy Cuff)

A lionfish scatters the anthias (Jeremy Cuff)

Ornate ghost pipefish (Jeremy Cuff)

Elegant soft corals (Jeremy Cuff)

Mandarinfish (Jeremy Cuff)

Sunset at Dumaguete (Jeremy Cuff)

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