Dive the depths of Cebu
Cebu City is the second-largest in the country after Manila, as well as the region’s capital. The island of Cebu offers numerous dive destinations, and one area now gaining popularity is the nearby island of Malapascua, separated from Cebu itself by a small strait. Three hours north of the airport, this little island has become famous for regular sightings of deep water thresher sharks. Though in order to see them, divers need to be in the water before 6:30 am. Monad Shoal, as the site is called, is the top of an underwater plateau. Rising from a thousand feet below, the top is usually at a depth of 70 feet. Divers are led by dive guides to the edge of the plateau where the sharks slowly start swimming by.
With visibility limited, some divers find it unnerving when a 12-foot shark materializes out of the murky waters. Sightings are fairly regular, year-round. As the rainy season approaches, large pacific mantas start visiting the shoal as well.
On land, Cebu has many historical and religious monuments to visit owing to its Spanish heritage. These include sites like Magellan’s Cross, Fort San Pedro, Cebu Heritage Monument and Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. For festivals, visit during January to experience Sinulog or in April for Holy Week.
Scubadiving in Bohol
Southeast of Cebu is the quizzical island of Bohol. Large coral fans and schools of jacks are ready to greet you as you plunge into the water. A fish sanctuary was established here by the Philippine Department of Tourism and there is also a lovely resort on the West side of the island. The usual inventory of South Pacific reef critters awaits as divers submerge themselves next to splendid walls. Lionfish are found in nearly every nook and cranny hunting for food, a plethora of butterfly and cardinal fish hug the walls as you descend, and with good reason as sometimes, a solitary reef shark can be seen swimming by. This site is wide-angle heaven for any photo enthusiast. This is also a Turtle Paradise where you are almost guaranteed to see turtles on every dive.
There are three islands around Bohol that have great diving:
Panglao Island is the main diving destination and it’s famous for its pristine beaches fringed with vibrant coral reefs.
Balicasag Island is a short boat ride from Panglao Island, and here you will find various dive sites rich with marine life including an abundance of turtles and colourful fish species.
Cabilao is a quiet island off the west coast of Bohol is home to some of the most beautiful reefs in the Philippines. Cabilao could be considered a macro photographers’ dream with its vast array of underwater species.
For a break from diving, Bohol is the home of the famous Philippine tarsier, a tiny critter with eyes almost the same size as its head. A good topside diversion is to visit the Tarsier Center and Chocolate Hills Park. The Chocolate Hills are a naturally occurring set of hills that often remind observers of a gigantic bowl of Hershey’s Kisses. Alona Beach is a great place to base yourself on the island of Bohol, a perfect location offering access to a nice mix of land-based activities and diving.
Best time to Dive
Diving is possible all through the year, but the best diving season is January – May.
How to get there
There are numerous direct daily flights to Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB) from China, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan. Then from Cebu, it’s a short ferry ride to Bohol.