Cebu and Bohol

4.25
(5 REVIEWS)

 

In a Nutshell

 

Excellent macro combined with a diversity of coral reefs, a wide range of resorts from budget to luxury and the possibility of thresher sharks all attract divers from all over the world.

 

Dive Conditions

 

Nutrient filled waters, support a plethora of eco systems & a diversity of marine life. Thanks to the great land-protection Cebu and Bohol have, divers of all levels can enjoy the area and its calm seas without a concern. Best diving season January - May.  Average visibility between 50 - 65 ft. Advise a 3mm wetsuit, average temperature 75 - 80.

 

 

Marine Life

Most divers of this area have an appreciation for macro sightings like pygmy seahorses, skeleton shrimps, nudibranchs, etc.  That being said, Whale sharks and thresher sharks are found commonly enough moving along the channel. Pristine corals are abound, housing neverending species and eco systems.

 

 

Topside Activities

While in Cebu, visit the Magellen Cross and the Carbon Market (largest farmers market in Cebu). Trips to Cebu are easily combined with trips to Bohol. While in Bohol, checkout the chocolate hills for a scenic view, take a Loboc River Tour, or just explore some old churches. 

 

 

 

  

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There are a lot of ways to come up with a dive itinerary for a dream destination. The “no plan” kind of a plan is not exactly the typical consideration, especially when you will step off of a plane 7,000 miles from home with a load of dive gear and camera equipment. It is possible though if you want to dive in the Visayas of the Philippines, and not only will you take part in the fantastic diving, but you will also have a chance to experience more of the local culture unedited by another Westerner.

I did not have a name for it before I arrived in Cebu City, Cebu, but by the time I left, I knew that my itinerary in development was locally referred to as the dive ‘n’ drive. The term refers to diving and driving in the Philippines where you can arrive by plane on one main island, but drive to several dive destinations on different islands with the help of ferry transport. It sounds perhaps familiar to divers who have been to Bonaire, for example, but where it differs in the Philippines is that it is both feasible and reasonable to transfer yourself, your gear, and even a car by ferry to a completely new island. Since ferries run daily, it is possible to move to your next destination any day of the week.

The dive ‘n’ drive is perhaps a different version of the liveaboard experience, but one that you are entirely in control of. You can leave one place for another, or not leave at all. You have the chance to mingle outside of a boat and eat the kind of food that you want each day. Most importantly, you have a chance to participate more directly in the local culture. The beauty of the dive and drive is that it is a work in progress and all the while you can adjust the plan based on the diving, the weather, and whomever you are with.

On your travel days, you can be diving either before you leave one destination or upon arrival to the second. When I left Dauin, Negros for Panglao Island, Bohol, I had the entire morning to dive in Dauin because the ferry was leaving at 15:30.

I had 21 days. Malapascua Island was on the mend after the typhoon, but I was steered away from there, as resorts were only marginally operational in January of 2014. Based on the weather and options available to me at the moment in the Visayas, a three-stop dive adventure was proposed which was also a three island adventure (actually more): Moalboal, Cebu; Dauin, Negros; and Panglao Island, Bohol.

The highlight of Moalboal in January 2014 was a sardine ball, which remarkably was only about 30 meters from shore rather than out in the deep blue. Macro life was prolific on every island. You can sometimes be jaded and say, “oh, I have seen this one before,” except for example, on Apo Island near Negros, where the nudibranchs were no longer macro subjects. It was as if the marine reserve was off limits even to predators of nudibranchs.

The diving routine was similar in Moalboal and Panglao Island in that it was a short boat ride to a dive site, backward roll into a hard coral garden, swim a bit to the drop off, and descend along a wall. In all three places, there were other smaller islands to visit: Pescador Island, Moalboal; Apo Island, Dauin; and Balicasag, Bohol.

On my first dive day in Dauin, I found myself in an 8-person capacity banca crossing over to Apo Island. It was the one adventure that I have to say that if I had known what the situation was before I arrived that morning for the dive, I never would have agreed to it. Once I was at the boat, I thought that it would be all right because Filipinos crossed to other islands probably for centuries in these boats, and ours had an engine.

Dauin was different than Moalboal and Panglao Island because the immediate area is a muck diving paradise. At Car Wreck, there were brooding cardinal fish. It is an amazing behavior to witness because their mouths are stuffed full with their eggs, as if they have eaten too much banana and might throw up. Occasionally they will “burp” and a couple eggs will drop out. And during those magic last minutes of daylight, we peered at mating pairs of mandarin fish shedding clouds of their gametes on the house reef in Moalboal.

The Dauin dives were really a macro photographers dream. All sorts of critters were living on ropes and the other odd bits of metal deposited at different sites as artificial reef. At first glance, you would have thought it was an underwater desert, but there were incredible creatures to find. The dives at Dauin were similar, sloping brown sandy with tiny coral bommies. Each day we went to three new sites along the coast and then spent an exhaustive hour moving from one micro-habitat to the next, exposing unique creatures. What I did not expect was to find a field of anemones. Dauin South was a magical site for me because I was surrounded by anemones, and they were covered with small cleaner shrimp.

One twist to the dive ‘n’ drive was that a dive site for whale sharks, Oslob, on the southern end of Cebu, was actually easier to reach by the dive boat from Dauin, which is on Negros. Another diver had warned me ahead of time, that while I would certainly see a whale shark, it would not be with the same kind of excitement as with a spontaneous sighting. I took the opportunity anyway, and in the end, I am not sure I would recommend it. It felt a bit like a circus, and it might not actually be good for the whale sharks. I have to admit, however, that to see this dark shadow slowly turn into a giant fish looming directly over me, was awesome.

Ultimately though, I found the other islands to be a distraction at Dauin; Dauin itself deserved at least another three to four days just to focus on the muck dives.

My time seemed as if it was up pretty quickly. On top of it, the dives were so relaxing in all of the places, that I was taking some of my best underwater photos.

Visited on 01/2014 - Submitted on 10/16/2014
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REVIEW OF DIVING BOHOL

I've been living and diving in Panglao Island, Bohol for six years and here is some general information.

Bohol is a nice mix topside activities, nightlife, and good diving. For diving, a 30 min boat ride from Panglao Island gets you to Balicasag Island has the most marine life in the area to see. It's quite common to see hawksbill and green sea turtles in the <15m depth range at dive sites Black Forest and Diver's Heaven. There's also a local large school of jack fish that patrol around these areas. Additionally it's quite common to find frogfish, scorpionfish, leaf scorpionfish, various nudibranchs, and the occasional whale shark. Corals are fairly lush too throughout the dive sites around Balicasag. Other dive sites but more around Panglao Island which are good are Buoyancy Garden (sandy bottom, small creatures), Bohol Diver's Wreck (small recent wreck), Sand Eel (small animals in sandy bottom, seahorses, etc), and Snake Island (lots of banded sea snakes).

Overall, dive conditions are good visibility (20m+), mild-moderate current (some in Balicasag, most at Snake Island), 28C water temperature. Most dive sites are 1-10 minutes via local banca boat. I usually dive with a 3mm shorty.

Alona Beach on Panglao Island, Bohol is the main tourist area in Bohol. It is where most the dive operators operate and where most the nightlife is. Nicest bar to hangout at on the beach is Coco Vida. Best nightlife (dance, lounge) is away from the beach at Pinarella Bay. Early night it's a nice lounge atmosphere that turns more to dancing as the night goes on. By far, this place plays the best music around -- owner is a DJ from Italy with an eclectic taste of music that's different than the typical "Top 40" commonly found.

Most topside activities are in the main island of Bohol. This includes the famous Chocolate Hills tour, seeing tarsiers (small primate), waterfalls, visiting old Spanish churches, etc. You can typically hire a driver to give you a tour but I would recommend if you're comfortable driving a motorbike (100cc) to rent one for 400-500 pesos/day and visit these destinations yourself. It's much more fun and you can go at your own pace. Also, I would recommend seeing the tarsiers at the tarsier sanctuary instead of around the Loboc river. The sanctuary keeps the tarsiers in their native trees whereas the others keep tarsiers in cages.

Visited on 07/2014 - Submitted on 07/30/2014
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I'm pretty biased when it comes to Cebu since I grew up there. My parents had a beach resort in Panagsama Beach, Moalboal & when diving was still kind of foreign to the locals, my father kept inviting foreigners from the Mactan airport for a private dive excursion, then sometimes we had people who chose to stay so they ended up at our house in the city. Those are the kind of people you'll meet over there, hospitable and happy to see smiling faces.

Now for the dive part, us locals would just dump our gears in the trunk and head to a what we call "non resort" sites like KM45( locals would know this) This is like laguna beach(shaws cove) in California but no divers around & way more things to see. This is a different perspective from a dive in a resort. Now we have Whale Sharks that loves to hang out at a town called Oslob at a very shallow 20ft dive and they just swim around you.

Water conditions are always great, 80deg water temp year round & 50+ visibility(on a bad day). The best thing that I totally appreciate (coming from California) is the fact that the boat crew caters to you like take your dive gears and wash it for you even. Other towns you should look at in Cebu is Sumilon, Bantayan although still recovering from the typhoon.

When traveling to Cebu/Bohol or anywhere else in the Philippines, bring an open mind and remember this is a totally different culture.

Visited on 06/2014 - Submitted on 06/10/2014
  • Top Reviewer
Los Angeles, CA
United States
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I went to Cebu in October 2010 with a girlfriend for a week of diving. We stayed at Turtle Bay Dive Resort (located in Moalboal-- west side of Cebu). This was a great place to stay for diving, good food, fabulous dive guides, and posh amenities.

Getting to Cebu is also fairly easy. I flew from LAX to Manila and then hopped on a domestic flight to Cebu (Mactan Cebu Airport). From there it was a 2-hour drive t the resort. We had our driver stop at a grocery store along the way so we could pick up local fruits, snacks, water for the drive/trip.

The wall in the resort's "backyard" was plentiful in underwater life... gorgeous! We saw lobsters, crabs, pipe fish, LOTS of frogfish, nudis, seahorses, two octopus (one was quite large for the area), etc. And within a 20 minute boat ride were amazing dive sites. One of my favorite sites was Pescador Island which is known for the millions of sardines (silver sides) that reside there. Other fun spots were Copton Point (with an airplane wreck you could get into for a fun picture), Dolphine House (with it's black coral).

It seemed like every dive I was seeing something new. We did a muck night dive and I was so impressed! I saw the one thing I was hoping to see a Stargazer! What a trip to see this unique creature. The dive guides are helpful, not pushy and allowed us to stay down longer than usual once they realized we were competent divers. :) Our gear was carried for us to/from the boat and they were always game to go out for afternoon and evening dives. You tell them what you want to see and they'll find it for you!! I was in frog fish heaven!

Topside fun: Kawasan Falls!! Three level of waterfalls and pools with bars and small eateries around. You have to walk trough the forest and small villages to get there. Very surreal experience... especially when you see a family skinning a goat in their yard. Love international travel!

Good for couples, people who **love** macro, and those who want variety in the underwater life. I recommend bringing a fish/creature guide with you as you'll see SO many things on each dive it's easier to start tagging them as you finish your days.

Things to bring: Fish ID book if you're interested in that stuff, macro lens, sunscreen!

Visited on 10/2010 - Submitted on 02/20/2014
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I visited Malapascua Island for about a week in September 2013. This island is off the northern tip of Cebu, and is about a 4 hour car ride plus 1 hour boat ride from Cebu airport (most dive resorts on the island can arrange all of your transfers for you). I was traveling in the Philippines and looking for something with a laid-back vibe and off the beaten path, but still with excellent diving - this was certainly the spot! There are just the right number of dive shops, restaurants and bars, and you can walk around the entire island in about 2-3 hours (there are no cars). Tourism has still not overrun the island, so the locals are very friendly and are down to hang out and show you a good time. I went as a relatively young, single traveler, but met a variety of people ranging from young to middle aged, and singles, couples, and groups of friends. It's incredibly inviting, so I think anyone would feel welcome.

Now, onto the diving! I was *very* impressed with the diving and conditions. Visibility was always good (70+ feet) and the water was quite warm (no need for wetsuit, although I normally went with one anyway). Marine life was spectacular. It is one of the best places in the world to see thresher sharks, which are spotted there year-round. It is also quite common to see manta and devil rays (which I had never seen before). The real treats though are for the macro photographer. Coral diversity and cover is excellent, and there is no shortage of amazing little critters - nudibranchs, all sorts of crabs and shrimps, and it is also quite common to see mandarinfish mating on nightdives - really neat! Additionally, there are some terrific wrecks (which are especially enjoyable for the tec diver).

Overall, I'd say this place is up there with my favorite spots I have ever been on a dive vacation. Highly recommended!

Visited on 02/2014 - Submitted on 02/17/2014