Visayan Dive Sites Philippines
The Visayan dive area covers Malapascua, Apo Island, Bohol and many of the favourite Philippine islands dive destinations.
The Visayan dive sites include the islands in the central Philippines. They are Cebu, Negros, Leyte, Bohol and Siquijor. Some of the nation’s best diversity of coral, sponges and marine life can be found here.
Several of the liveaboard cruises include the famous Malapascua Island known for thresher shark appearances. As is the diverse and protected Apo Island and the walls of southern Leyte with predictable whale shark appearances. Cabilao of the south of Bohol has pygmy seahorses among the various critter findings.
Macro life in the Philippines is amazing, with unusual nudibranchs and a host of frogfish, seahorses and other minute critters.
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The Visayas offer some of the best diving in the Philippines due to the waters being filled with nutrients that support a diverse ecosystem of marine life. The main areas for diving in the Visayas are Apo, Bohol, Malapascua and southern Leyte.
Apo Island Dive Site Highlights
Apo Island is located off south of Negros and is a marine protected area with healthy coral macro and muck diving.
Chapel point is named after the church on the island that overlooks the site which is coral blocks sat in the sand that lead to a slope and then a 30m wall with caverns and overhangs.
Tube and finger sponges, gorgonian seasons, and leather corals cover the sub straight where different varieties of lionfish, lobster, eels and nudibranchs reside.
Snappers and the occasional thresher shark can be seen in the blue water.
Coconut Point is sometimes called the washing machine due to the fast currents and drifts that occur along the wall.
Giant trevally, marble groupers, humphead parrotfish and snappers are regularly seen with green turtles and banded sea kraits.
There is a sand channel between two rock cliffs that provide some natural shelter from the strong current an spot reef sharks, manta rays and the occasional whale shark.
On this dive site, there is an east and west side that can be dived close to the warden’s office.
Rock Point East is a finger reef open to currents which results in a significant amount and variety of marine life and larger pelagic species. Giant and bluefin trivially, sea snakes, fusiliers along with turtles, reef sharks and the occasional manta ray.
The west side is a steep slope that leads to a plateau covered in hard corals and sponges along with soft corals in the shallow area.
Longnose emperor, giant frogfish, nudibranchs, flatworms and turtles are common sightings.
Known for the macro life with nudibranchs, flatworms, frogfish, ribbon eels hiding in the coral blocks Largahan is a macro divers heaven. The coral bommies are separated by black volcanic sand which shows the evidence of the origin of the island, and geothermal activity is still present with bubbles forming continuous streams from the sand.
This wall covered with soft corals shows volcanic action evident by the stream of bubbles coming from the sand. With strong current this is a site for experienced divers, the wall ends at 20m in the black sand with coral blocks that are home to anemones and clownfish, turtles and sea snakes.
Mamsa Point, named after the local name of the trevally found here in numbers, they school in hundreds close to the reef. Other pelagic species like tuna, mackerel and rainbow runners are also close by. The topography is a sloping reef leading to a wall covered in beautiful corals.
Large barrel sponges, tubes and anemones are home to the usual reef life in the Apo area.
Bohol Island Dive Site Highlights
Bohol dive sites include the destinations of Balicasag Island and Cabilao Island. Balicasag is a marine sanctuary with beautiful corals in shallow and deep waters.
Lighthouse on Cabilao Island that is a drift dive along a wall that ends in a shallow sandy plateau.
Green and hawksbill turtles are common here and along the wall, there are giant frogfish hiding in the elephant ear sponges.
In the coral garden at the end of the dive, there are ghost pipefish, nudibranchs, squat shrimp and cuttlefish.
The sea fans here are a place to search for the pygmy seahorses.
View Point is a plateau at 25-30m that is full of soft corals and sea fans where the pygmy seahorses can be found. It is also a place for white tip reef sharks, barracuda and jackfish. Frogfish and thorny seahorses along with nudibranchs and ghost pipefish are also on the site.
Black Forest is one of the most popular dive sites on the island, a steep sandy slope defending to 40m+. In the deep water, there are abundant Black corals that give the site its name. Jacks, barracuda, groupers, Napoleon wrasse and snappers are found here.
As the site becomes shallower, look for leaf fish, moray eels and batfish. During safety stops, turtles are common in the seagrass.
Divers Heaven is a wall from 4m to 40m+, the site usually has currents running along it, and there are caves and overhangs with tube sponges and both hard and soft coral coverage.
Mackerel, jackfish and barracuda school here and on the reef look for ribbon eels, frogfish, mantis shrimps, leaf fish, moray eels, butterflyfish and bannerfish.
Malapascua Island Dive Site Highlights
Malapascua is a small sand island off the northern tip of Cebu famous for thresher shark sightings. Malapascua diving offers some of the best diving in the Visayan region.
This seamount with steep drop-off down to 200m+ has two dive sites, Shark Wall and Shark Point that are best dived early morning. Monad Shoal is thought to be the only place in the world that these usually deep water Thresher shark can be seen daily.
The shoal is a seamount that has a flat top at around 25m that has a cleaning station for not only the thresher sharks but also manta and devil rays, the sides drop down steeply into the blue to 200m+.
Divers have to wait patiently for the sharks to appear and circle the area, the site also has a good macro life with pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, pipefish and octopus too.
The sharks tend to corral the fish and squid when hunting and can return several times in one dive.
Hammerhead sharks have also been seen here between January and April.
Gato Island offers excellent biodiversity and is both a marine reserve and a sea snake sanctuary.
The most dived site is The Cave which has a large tunnel running underneath the island at a depth of 12m. Inside the cave that is 30m in length, wide and high with a sandy bottom there are many sharks. The white tips are usually lying on the bottom until disturbed when they will often swim close by the divers until you exit to meet more slowly circling the area.
Soft corals are covering the walls of the tunnel and island with plenty of macro life to balance the sharks and snakes always close by during the dive.
Kimud Shoal is close to Monad and has similar topography sloping down to 200m. It is famous for the hammerheads sharks that visit December to April, at the end of the season sometimes schools of 200 plus are seen by some lucky divers.
The hammerheads are seen in the blue water off the side of the pinnacle so divers should be advanced to avoid vertigo and disorientation.
Manta, devil and eagle rays along with thresher sharks can be seen here too along with barracuda, tuna, mackerel and turtles.
The coral cover here is very dense, and reef life includes moray eels, frogfish, nudibranchs and shrimps.
On Malapascua, the lighthouse is the place for diving at dusk or night as it can virtually guarantee an encounter with mandarin fish. Octopus, shrimp, squid, cuttlefish and seahorses are also common here.
Additional dive sites of Malapascua
There are wreck dive here called the Tapilon and the Dona Marilyn.
Bantigi has been compared to Lembeh for its muck diving, this shallow site has cuttlefish, octopus and stargazers.
Whitetip Alley is another site for both juvenile and adult white tip sharks along with its macro life of seahorses, frogfish and nudibranchs.
Guardhouse has pygmy seahorses housed within the gorgonian sea fans at 24m, also look for the painted frogfish, nudibranchs and large Spanish dancers.
Nudibranch City and the Cathedral are two more sites on this fantastic island.
Southern Leyte Dive Site Highlights
Southern Leyte offers walls and coral gardens, macro life, and seasonal whale sharks diving in Sogod Bay. The best time to dive the area is November to May. On the surface always look for whales and dolphins inside the bay area.
Limasawa Island is the largest sanctuary in Southern Leyte and has two dive sites, Zach’s Cove and Adrian's Cove with their steep walls down to 50m.
Located off the south of Sogod bay the area is known for pristine coral reefs and large pelagic life around the walls and overhangs.
Black coral, gorgonian sea fans, whip corals and massive table corals are on the wall slopes where nudibranchs can be found, but the deep water can bring in whale sharks, manta and eagle rays, reef sharks and even hammerhead sharks. Schooling fish life includes Jacks, mackerel, tuna and barracuda.
Panoan Island is the Napantao dive sanctuary which has the site Rio’s or Toshi’s Wall which is a fish sanctuary going down to 50m+.
Pristine corals are covering the wall with black, gorgonian and soft and the strong currents and upwellings bringing cool water bringing the larger fish life close.
There is a cave at 40m that can be entered, but the reef both shallow and deep is impressive.
Schools of fusiliers, snappers, barracuda, anthers, groupers, sweetlips, batfish and turtles are common. Clownfish in the anemones along with nudibranchs, pipefish, giant frogfish and a host of macro life is seen here.
Marine Park and Conservation in the Visayas
Apo Island is a community-based marine protected area which was created in co-operation with local residents and educationalists.
This is the key to its success as fishing is still permitted to locals, but the reef is protected for research and tourists.