One of my favorite past-times in the Philippines is scuba diving. Snorkeling is great fun, sure, but nothing beats scuba diving. I personally prefer the 5m-15m level of a reef. The light still gets through to keep it colourful and you have so much longer on a tank of air if you don’t go deeper.
One of my favorite dive places is Puerto Galera on Mindoro. Sabang Beach is the main resort area, just around the point from where the Spanish galleons used to weather storms when they came across from Mexico each year. It is a couple of hours south of Manila to Batangas, then a ferry or pump boat across to the resort town. If the sea is rough, take the bigger ferry but in good weather and if you miss the ferry, a ride on a pump boat is an experience. I rode one with some friends late one night after missing the ferry. A ‘special trip’ that had us wondering if the crew were pirates and planning to rob us mid-crossing.
We got there and after a pitched verbal row on the beach we managed to escape the demands for extra payment and find a great hotel. The next day we were diving the reefs and had forgotten all about the previous night’s fun. I have dived there several times and love the drift dive along the wall. There is one place where you drift one way at 20m then come up and drift the other direction at 5m.
The Hole in the Wall is another exciting dive where the current shoots you towards this hole in the reef. You have to decide if you are going for it or aborting, but don’t leave it too late! There is also the Fishbowl, if you stray away from the reef you can get sucked down and have to perform an emergency ascent. There are easy dives and then there are more technical ones for the more experienced diver, Puerto Galera has it all.
I’ve also dived Subic Bay, Bohol’s Panglao island, Moal Boal and of course, Malapascua with its awesome thresher sharks. Palawan has amazing wrecks and reefs around Coron and there are many other fantastic locations. The Philippines is often by-passed by the usual back-packer crowd. It’s off the beaten path of India, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia; all of which can be traversed overland and cheaply. To get to the Philippines you have to fly, or take the ferry from Sabah, if it’s running. You really need to want to go there, which is why you don’t see the hordes of young foreigners you rub elbows with in Thailand.
That is a good thing, though. It leaves the Filipinas with no choice but to chase us older, more experienced guys with ‘peso-nality’ and wider waistlines! Seriously though, it does mean the infrastructure isn’t what you find in Thailand for example, but the pay off is the diving is great, never over crowded and the après-dive activities are second to none.