You don't have to be a banker to hop on a banca. The Philippines has a long history of diving, but remains one of the best buys. Shhh ... don't tell!
You'll be met with a smile and a song in the Philippines, where diving caught on in the 1960s, making it perhaps the oldest dive destination in Asia. There are excellent sites sprinkled throughout the country's 7,100 islands. At around US$30 per tank, dive prices rate the best buy in Asia. An Open Water Course will vary, but you can find them for around US$300. After touching down in Manila, you won't even have to leave Luzon to strap on your BCD. There's good diving within driving distance of Manila at the marine sanctuary in Anilao, celebrated as the birthplace of scuba in the country. It's particularly famous for macro photography and muck diving. Hop on a banca to make the short trip across the Verde Island Passage to Puerto Galera. There are dozens of dive centres and dozens of sites in “PG,“with The Canyons probably being the best-known. Tech divers will find plenty of deep sites, where divers have set several depth records. Subic Bay is driveable from Manila to the northwest. It's famed for its wreck diving, and the battleship USS New York, scuttled as U.S. troops retreated from Japanese occupation. The turn in the tide of WWII is clear in Coron Bay in Palawan province, where a U.S. Navy strike force surprised a Japanese supply fleet in September 1944 and sank many of the vessels. On the north side of Coron, you can fly into Busuanga and head to island resorts where you'll forget you ever got behind the wheel or a desk. Or put on shoes. Oh did we mention that giraffes and zebras roam the Coron plains? At least they do in Calauit Safari Park, a legacy of the rule of Ferdidand Marcos, who accepted a call from Kenya in 1976 to help preserve its wildlife. There are now 480 descendants of the original African animals, including a herd of 35 highly endangered Grévy's zebras. The park is well worth a side trip for divers based on Coron. The island of Palawan is one of the most pristine ecosystems in the country. The limestone cliffs of El Nido are spectacular, and the underwater environment is untouched. Dugongs live in the area. The party-friendly island of Boracay has plenty of dive operators, with the lack of currents making the waters great for kids. Nearby Cebu and laid-back Bohol offer access to the dive sites of the Visayas. Just off the north end of Cebu Island, Malapascua Island is famous for its resident thresher sharks. Apo Reef in Mindoro Strait is a popular destination for both day trips and liveaboards. Fleets of devil rays may pass overhead, in a National Geographic moment. In the southwest, Tubbataha Reefs offer two atolls and the country's best diving. They can be reached only by liveaboard, an excellent way to hit a bunch of sites anywhere in the country.
Asia Divers • Club Paradise • Dugong Dive Center • El Galleon Dive Resort • El Nido Resorts • M/Y Palausport • Sea Explorers Philippines • Seaquest Dive Center • Solitude One • Turtle Bay Dive Resort