Anilao

4.4375
(8 REVIEWS)
anilao scuba diving

Scuba Diving in Anilao, Philippines

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Anilao is located about 3 hours drive south of Manila on the island of Luzon, in the Batangas province of the Philippines. Divers and underwater photographers are attracted to Anilao for the incredible diversity, rich reefs, variety of fish, unexpected critters and nudibranchs turning up at every corner. The beachfront resorts are nestled against the jungle and provide exotic scenery while riding to and from dive sites.

Read why Anilao is home to some of the best diving in the Philippines

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anilao diving highlights

The Anilao diving scene is dominated by its world-class muck dives, wide array of rare critters, and unique blackwater diving experience. Prepare your critter list, pack your underwater photo gear, and head to Anilao. You'll be surprised how many you manage to cross off within a week of scuba diving Anilao.

Saying that Anilao is a critter haven and paradise for macro underwater photographers is almost of an understatement. There is more to this Philippines diving destination that you could ask for. With healthy reefs nearby, wide-angle opportunities are also present. 

Much like its rivaling destination in Indonesia, Lembeh, Anilao is home to incredibly trained and knowledgeable dive guides who will blow your mind with their God-given ability to point the rarest, smallest, weirdest critter that you'll never be able to find yourself. 

And then there is the friendliness and hospitality of the Philippines dive and resort staff. The Philippines truly is a hospitable country, and you'll feel their warm welcome the moment you land at the airport. 

Watch this awesome video to give you a great feel for what it would be like to dive in Anilao!

 

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Anilao diving information

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Critters & macro life in anilao

Virtually every variety of juvenile fish and critter imaginable can be found in Anilao. You'll definitely want to bring your best underwater camera. Shrimp, crabs, nudibranchs, small squid and cuttlefish are arguably more plentiful than any other dive destination. Frogfish, pipefish and seahorses are also fairly common and we've even seen Rhinopias and Hairy Frogfish. Wonderpus, mimic and blue-ringed octopus can also be seen.

Bobbit worms and many other critters await patient muck divers. Anilao has a large number of species of hard and soft corals - perhaps more than anywhere else in the world. Local guides take pride in locating even the smallest macro subjects living on the corals, oftentimes leaving photographers with a tough decision on which subject to shoot.

 

bigger marine life & wide-angle opportunities in anilao

Larger marine life is also found in Anilao, including large schools of jacks, the occasional turtle and giant seahorses. At Mainit point, which has strong currents, we've seen up to 4 great barracuda hunting, along with giant and bluefin trevally. Reef sharks are occasionally seen down deep at dive sites with stronger currents and on very rare occasions people have seen small whale sharks.

Anilao has some unique soft coral forests, generally found at 70 - 130ft deep, which are mostly unexplored and can turn up rare critters such as seahorses and rhinopias.

 

what it's like to dive in anilao

Diving is usually by a small open boat (bangka), which is comfortable for up to 4 divers plus a crew of 2-3. Dive sites are usually 10-25 minutes away from most resorts. The general schedule is 2 dives early in the morning, enjoying lunch and rest in the afternoon at the resort, and then 2 more dives in the late afternoon, with the last dive being a complete night dive.

Frequent night dives are a must in Anilao and no visit would be complete without a muck dive at the pier! Dive time limits are less stringent than at other locations, and significant time can be spent in the shallows. Occasionally divers will encounter currents but the guides at the resorts we recommend dive according to everyone's skill and comfort levels. The guides are excellent critter-finders, which keeps photographers shooting for the entire dive.  

 

Diving Conditions

  • Water Temperature: Water temp is generally 27.5C/81F but in January and February this can drop to around 25C/77F. We recommend diving in a 3mm full wetsuit with booties. Many divers choose to wear light gloves and occasionally a hood after several days of repetitive diving. Be sure to bring a light rain jacket, and ample sun protection.
  • Visibility: Typically 40-50ft
  • Weather: The average annual temperature is 27.2 °C

 

best dive sites in anilao

Here are some of the diving highlights around Anilao!

  • "Twin Rocks" - one of the best. Prolific life at 10ft to 130ft and all depths between. Great for macro and wide-angle. Soft corals, schooling jacks, small fish, jawfish and much much more.
  • "Beatrice" - stronger currents, profusion of swarming anthias, great wide-angle opportunities shooting upward against corals
  • "Kirby's Rock" - great visibility, a beautiful wall filled with life, and a surprising number of good macro subjects
  • "Secret Bay" - popular muck site that sometimes has mimic octopus, wonderpus, pipefish, seahorses, frogfish and more
  • Muck sites - the "hot" muck sites change season to season, contact Bluewater Travel for the latest spots and critters seen.
  • Blackwater dives - Anilao offers some of world's best blackwater diving. You can see countless species of jellies and larval stage fish and invertebrates, most of them unknown to science.

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Travel Information 

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How to Get to anilao

Anilao is about a 3-hour drive from the Manila International Airport (MNL), also known as Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Several major Asian airports run flights to MNL and serve as layovers for visitors from the US and Europe. Once clearing customs with checked bags, divers walk outside and take a tunnel down to the left where resort shuttle drivers are waiting with signs. The drive out of the city is exciting and you can catch glimpses of the colorful Manila city life through the window.  

 

How to Dive Anilao

Anilao is a two to three-hour van ride from the airport in Manila. Resorts, liveaboards and dive centers are available. Many divers combine Anilao with a trip to dive Puerto Galera, or Cebu / Dumaguete. Puerto Galera is just an easy hour speedboat ride away, while Cebu or Dumaguete is an hour's flight from Manila.  

Most of the Anilao dive sites are close to the dive resorts, 10 to 20-minute boat rides in a small "outrigger" style boat is the norm.

 

Underwater equipment to bring

  • Anilao is a mecca for underwater macro photography.  Dive guides are well-trained in showing photographers and videographers the best subjects in a careful manner. In addition to an underwater housing, we recommend bringing an underwater strobe to bring back the colors of the marine life.

 

best time to dive 

October to early June is the main diving season in Anilao. The best months are November / December and April/May, with April and May being the most crowded months at the resorts.

Monsoon occurs in July through August, but the dive sites remain accessible.

The critters and rich marine life are found year-round. If you don't mind slightly cooler temps, then Jan - March is great too, and often has more critters underwater.

 

Other things to do

Anilao is relatively limited in terms of non-dive activities. Snorkeling, kayaking and various excursions can be arranged at the resort of your choice. If you're traveling with non-diving friends, partners, or family members, destinations like Puerto Galera or Dumaguete might be more suitable.

  • Snorkeling
  • Kayaking
  • Various excursions

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Other Useful Information 

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Practical Information

  • Currency: Philippine Peso (PHP)
  • Language: Filipino & English
  • Time Zone: UTC+8
  • Electricity: 220 V 60 Hz

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Got Questions? Ready to Book?

Call us today at +1-310-915-6677 or email us info@bluewaterdivetravel.com

And let us book your dream vacation!

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Reviews (8)

5
5
5
4

I'm an intermediate underwater photographer, so this review is written through that lens (pun intended).

I had always read that Lembeh was more difficult to get to than Anilao, but an overall better destination for macro because it had a bit more diversity and that diversity was more dense. Having been to both once each now, I don't find that true. While maybe seasoned experts with 200+ dives in each destination might know the differences, I didn't. I saw almost all of my critter list I'd put together at both destinations, and Anilao was much easier to get to!

We stayed at Crystal Blue Resort, which had average accommodations and food (can't really say anything negative about either), but an excellent camera facility and absolutely phenomenal dive guides. In the camera room, each person had their own cubby/workspace that was more than enough space to setup everything and organize your equipment without getting in anyone else's way. Our dive guide had us literally photographing subjects 90% of every dive. As soon as I would finish with one subject, our dive guide was already getting my attention to come to one of the other 3 critters he had been scouting.

We had 2 of our dives with strong current. While certainly not the strongest current I've been in, it made shooting super macro impossible, and shooting regular macro with a 105mm lens difficult. I'm not sure whether the current was due to the time of year or something that happens semi regularly. Aside from those 2 dives, the other dives were almost like diving in a pool. There were tide changes throughout the week that required us to dock on the other side of the peninsula since it wasn't safe to dock at the resort. It took longer to get back to the resort and we were shuttled in stuffy vans, but that seemed like a necessary evil.

Visited on 05/2019 - Submitted on 05/21/2019
  • Reviewer
Minneapolis, MN
United States
5
5
5
5

We had an EXCELLENT experience in Anilao, booking through Bluewater. Crystal Blue was a great resort for our foursome and we really enjoyed having our own boat and amazing dive guide. Macro and super-macro photo opportunities were around every corner and we were treated like family at the resort. We will definitely be coming back - can't wait!

Visited on 10/2017 - Submitted on 02/27/2018
5
4
5
4

It's hard to find anything to complain about with respect to diving in Anilao. It is very easy to get to from the West Coast of the US, and once in Manila the resort makes the last leg of the journey to Anilao very easy.

If you are into macro, this is a must-see destination. Anilao is home to some of the worlds most dense populations and wide variety of nudibranchs, in addition to dozens of other critters that are a photographers dream. In general, the dive guides are among the best I have ever been with, and they will easily keep you on subjects for the entire trip. Ask for something to see and they will deliver. Obviously it depends on which dive operators you use, and some will be better than others, but in general the guides in Anilao know the locations, the critters and the habitats.

Anilao is somewhat remote, so the topside activities are limited, but for me going to Anilao was about the diving and photography.

Overall, this desitination should be on any list for macro photographers. Wide angle options are there, but could be considered limited.

Cannot wait to get back to beautiful Anilao.

Visited on 05/2017 - Submitted on 11/03/2017
5
5
5
3

Anilao is one of my favorite places to dive in Asia. The marine life is incredibly diverse and abundant. Most of the life is small and best suited to macro photography, for example reef fish, sea slugs, crustaceans, cephalopods, and the like. What is so amazing about Anilao is that it is not uncommon to see very special and rare creatures, such as mimic octopi, wunderpus, coconut octopi, ghost pipefish, seahorses, stargazers, bobbit worms, and the list goes on. Some people call Anilao the "nudibranch capital of the world" and it kind of makes sense when you consider that it is possible to see 100 different species of sea slugs in a weeks' diving!

Secret Bay and Anilao Pier (best done as a night dive) are my 2 favorite sites for macro life, and Twin Rocks and Beatrice are my favorite wide-angle sites, but there are many many other great sites too and it is hard to go wrong. All the dive sites are located within a 15 minute boat ride of one another, so travel time between dive sites is limited. Conditions are usually good so the diving is easy and relaxed. Water temperatures can get chilly from November to April, with a low water temperature of around 24 degrees C, so bring a 5mm suit if you are planning to visit during those times. Typhoon season is around the middle of the year, when winds can be strong and there is a small risk of typhoons. This is low season and a great time to visit if you don't mind the winds. The water is also warmest in the middle of the year.

Topside activities are limited as each resort tends to be self-contained and self-sufficient. There are limited options for nightlife in the area it is really geared towards diving.

Visited on 05/2011 - Submitted on 08/24/2014
Amsterdam,
Netherlands
4
3
4
3

I was only able to dive for three days in Anilao. The resort I stayed at was good, the staff was wonderful, the food was great, and rooms and grounds were clean. I like that they had a separate camera room for camera gear. The resort I was at in Anilao was very quiet, I was not near the "town". I was just on the side of a hill with the ocean in front of me. Weather was hot and dry with minimal breeze while I was there. The one thing that is concerning is the built up of villages along the coast. There was a lot of trash near the shore in some places. If that continues the dive sites may deteriorate there which will be very sad.

The dives guides were very good finding many small creatures, such as rhino shrimp, harlequin shrimp, frog fish, and lots of nudies. I liked the Darllout, twin rocks, and the pier was good for night diving. Snorkeling was good at Bethlehem. I liked that Anilao had lots of small stuff and you could just putter around looking. There were no big critters like in Australia (e.g. sharks) which can be good or bad depending on what you are looking for. I was not looking for that so it was perfect for my needs. In many ways I thought the sea life was better than Thailand.

Diving was fairly easy and great for taking photos.

Visited on 03/2014 - Submitted on 06/14/2014

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