Macro Heaven in Anilao, Philippines - Bluewater Dive Travel
Macro Heaven in Anilao, Philippines

Macro Heaven in Anilao, Philippines

Macro heaven in Anilao, Philippines

with Bluewater Photo & Travel

Words & photos by Scott Gietler

Anilao is a destination that I never tired of, even after visiting there ten different times. Nowhere in the Indo-Pacific have I seen an area so diverse, when it comes to critters, small fish, nudibranch, and strange creatures - mixed with some beautiful reefs. Add some incredible guides to that equation, and you have yourself a great photography trip! Anilao has to be up there as one of the best macro photography destinations in the world

When I arrive at the resort after a 2.5 hour air-con van ride, the friendly staff greets me with warm smiles, and takes my bags up to my room. I place my camera gear in the state of the art camera room, considered by some the best camera room at any resort. We have 6 boats for the photo workshop I am teaching, 4 guests and 1 guide per boat, along with 2 boatmen. I rotate between the boats, helping guests with settings on the way to the dive sites, help underwater if requested, and photo critique on the way back to the resort.

My co-trip leader Helen Brierley runs the image review every morning after breakfast, with both of us giving guests helpful comments about their photos. The image review also lets the participants see what other guests have seen, and the photos they are getting, which really helps motivate people.

The buffet-style meals work well for our group, as we can eat a variety of Filipino and American style dishes, as fast or as slowly as we like. The kitchen easily handles our guests special requests, as some guests had dietary restrictions or allergies.

After the dive day was over, we enjoyed hanging out in the nicely stocked bar, or getting a massage in their spa area - both new in the past year.

We have a 4 dive a day schedule, which includes one night dive, the favorite of many guests. We go out for two dives in the morning, and two in the afternoon. Dive sites are generally 5 to 15 minutes away, with just a couple of sites being slightly longer travel time. Some guests skip the 3rd or 4th dive, which is generally not a problem as we often stick to the nearby dive sites for dives #3 and #4. 

Heading out for a day of diving bliss!

Helen and myself alternated between giving daily talks on subjects such as macro, lighting, and post-processing. We also worked with many guests one on one with topics such as post-processing and supermacro technique.

Happy guests after a week of diving

The highlight of the trip was seeing several Rhinopia early in the trip. We also got our share of seahorses large and small, ghost pipefish, frogfish, bobbit worms, octopus, pipedragons, bobtail squid and more. A few guests saw a flamboyant cuttlefish early in the trip, but it eluded us for most of the week. The hairy frogfish and blue-ring octopus made an appearance right at the end of the trip, with many guests able to see the hairy.



This Lacey Rhinopia was a great find, at 90ft depth. We don't see Rhinopia every year, as they seem to come and go, and they can be pretty hard to find. But this year we hit the Rhinopia jackpot.



Nearby the purple Rhinopia, this tan Lacey Rhinopia was also hanging out, a little shallower. These fish are ambush predators who generally sit still and wait.



The Sargassum Frogfish lives in Sargassum algae at the surface of the water.



Yet another Rhinopia, a small-ish paddle-flap variety. Nearby this Rhinopia, was several beautiful anemones of various colors, with some (always difficult to photo) Anemone fish living in them. 



And finally, (I belive) a weedy Rhinopia. My first time seeing all 3 Rhinopia species on one trip! 



Cleaner wrasse can be found at most of the dive sites. Anilao is an amazing place to witness marine life behavior, as there always seems to be some kind of mating, feeding, cleaning, or egg guarding going on.



I find these Anthias to be a great photo subject if you have a long lens. The variety of small fish in Anilao is outstanding, and mirrorless and dSLR owners with a longer lens are at a huge advantage when it comes to taking these kinds of photos.



Do see the lure that this frogfish is putting out? These slow-moving ambush predators have one of the fastest strikes in the animal kingdom. We usually see an incredible number of frogfish in Anilao, although this trip was a little slower frogfish-wise than previous trips. Near the end of my week there, we did spot 3 giant frogfish at one of the dive sites with a large reef / pinnacle on it.



Urchin Clingfish. These small crypic fish live swimming around sea urchin spines.



Tiny Bobtail Squid. Night dives are one of my favorite dives to do in Anilao, and my memory card always gets filled. 



Eye of a shrimp, taken at the "Pier", one of my favorite sites. I've seen this shrimp many times, and I never thought of it as a good photo subject, until I decided to focus on its eye. This shot was difficult because the shrimp kept wanting to bury itself in the sand.



A classic stargazer photo. This stargazer can actually generate an electric shock from an organ on the top of its head. They also have a worm-shaped lure growing out of their mouths. This is one mean fish!



Squid can often be seen during night dives if you "look up".



These small lemon gobies are favorite subjects of photographers. They are one of many small critters found on the sandy "muck" sites.



Skeleton Shrimp super-macro shot.

Anilao also has some beautiful reefs


HOW TO GET THERE: Fly into Manila, then 2.5 - 3 hour van ride 
WATER TEMPS: Generally 82, although the water cools into the high 70's from Jan - March
DIVE SITES: 10 - 15 minute boat ride from the resorts
BEST COMBINED WITH: Puerto Galera or Dumaguete


April / May 2017 - more details here
Dec 2017 - more details here



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Sea & Sea Nikon D810 housing
Sea & Sea YS-D2 strobes
Light & Motion Sola 800 Photo Light
BTS Float Ring
Bluewater +7 Macro Lens

Subsee +10 Macro Lens
Nauticam SuperMacro Converter (SMC)

View All DSLR Packages & Underwater Housings








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