DIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES
Known for white-sand beaches, gemstone lagoons and mountainous volcanoes, natural beauty is a given in the Philippines. Yet, below the surface, warm tropical waters yield to reveal colourful reefs and huge shoals of shimmering fish that rival even the most luscious of landscapes.
Second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Apo Reef is a continuous atoll that covers around 34sq km and offers some of the best visibility (with reported depths of 50m). While there is debate among scientists as to exact
numbers, there are an estimated 400 different coral species and over 400
variations of aquatic life here, including the critically endangered
hawksbill turtle, green turtle, dugong and whale shark. The latter can reach lengths of 18m, and spotting the speckled backs of these gentle giants is a remarkable sight for any diver to behold.
whale shark populations are largely under threat, coming face to fin
with whitetip and blacktip reef sharks is quite common here, as is the
sight of the ever-imposing rays that come hurtling overhead. The shallow
waters remain a relatively untouched playground for fish and lionfish, clownfish, striped surgeonfish, fivestripe wrasse and Bleeker’s parrotfish, which form a brightly coloured patchwork over the corals. To top it all, the dramatic drop-off point at the edge of the reef, plunging to a 30m channel, is enough to stop even a seasoned diver in their tracks.
The adjacent Coron Bay – an underwater graveyard for ship wrecks – is guaranteed to excite history buffs too. Cited as the best site for wreck diving in Southeast Asia, the skeletal remains of at least ten well-preserved Second World War Japanese ships are littered across the ocean floor in almost-unbelievable close proximity. For those who dare, making your way through the
sunken passageways, boiler rooms and cabins of these vessels of war is a thrill not easy to forget. Among the most popular sites, Irako, Akitsushima and Okikawa Maru are standout wrecks.
Pair a PADI-approved excursion from the Filipino-owned Umali Dive Center Corporation, who will cover trips both to Coron and Apo Reef with a stay at Aman’s, the jungle-fringed private island resort of Amanpulo. travel.padi.com aman.com
A little further afield, on the teardrop-shaped Apo Island, check in to Atmosphere Resort & Spa – a PADI diving resort – for uninterrupted beachfront views, premium pool suites and a seafood-centric menu. atmosphereresorts.com