Islands that shimmer like green pearls in an perfect aquatic blue ocean with white beaches and palmtrees, the Philippines... Perhaps I should just use the word 'paradise' for that's what it looks like . In 3,5 weeks time I've been able to visit Manilla (the capital) and the islands Palawan, Bohol and Cebu. I had a fantastic and amazing holiday and I just loved the Philippines and it's people. In earlier posts I already wrote about my high expectations about scuba diving there as everyone claims how wonderful it is. So... is this true of are it al fairytales?! In the end it really depends on what you are looking for! I had some amazing dives, I just loved scuba diving here, but it all comes down to the island where you are diving!
I've been able to make 22 dives during my stay on the islands Bohol and Cebu and I loved every dive! The dive profile is actually the same on both islands. You have the coral reef (around 5 meters depth) which leads to the first drop off and after a small plateau towards a second drop off. Depths of the drop off's vary per dive site, but the profile is mostly the same. The main difference between the islands is in 'big' marine life.
The island Bohol is a dream for mud divers. I've seen so many different types of nudibranchs I lost count at a certain point. Not to mention the porcelain crabs, cleaner shrimps, sea hares, sea horses and all the small colourful fish living on the reef. However you won't find much 'big' marine life here. Despite the lack of bigger marine life the corals are among the most healthiest corals I've seen in a very long long time! Just seeing the huge sea fans and table corals and even whole coral gardens (real ones) was a beautiful sight. What I especially loved and which was on my wish list where the pygmee sea horses. Unfortunately they where to small for my current camera, I just couldn't photograph them. But I found it amazing to finally see them. Furthermore I loved to see and dive with sea snakes, several kind of seahorses and frogfish.
On the island Cebu we stayed in the more renowned MoalBoal province. This area is a 3,5 drive from Cebu city and is famous for it's scuba diving. You'll find much more 'bigger' marine life here than at Bohol. My favourite dive site was Pescador Island, which is a small uninhabited island in front of the Moalboal coastline. You can dive around the island and just enjoy the beautiful coral walls and all the marine life swimming alongside. At one point during a dive we encountered a small shoal of fish which where being hunted by several Tuna. We also encountered turtles on a daily basis and one time we saw 8 turtles during one dive! I just love turtles, I find them amazing creatures! Also I saw the mating ritual of the Mandarin fish. You can only see this at sun set and it's one of the more beautiful reef fish I've ever seen.
However what I'll will always remember from scuba diving at Cebu is diving with Whalesharks! These gentle giants are an awesome sight and it was just magical to be in the water beside them. I dived with them at Oslob which is a most discussed theme in the diving world. I went diving here because the owners of the diving resort assured me it was totally different and eco friendly. All though I still saw a lot of room for improvement I have to agree with them it was a totally different set up than what I had read about on the internet.
Another awesome dive was with an enormous school of Sardines that reached up in the hundreds of thousands. Just in front of the coast they are always on the same dive site and rare switch from location. They are actually quite damaging to the coral reef. Their excrements are really acidic and in such destroy the corals beneath them. Still it was amazing to see such a large school, which just blotted out the sun.
In the end I've been amazed by what the Philippines had to offer. I've seen everything on my wish list from the whale sharks and the school of Sardines to the two different kind of Pygmee seahorses. The country itself is beautiful and the people friendly. Below you find some amazing photos from my trip!