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!

Action Asia - - FINAL FRAME -

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.

Plan­ner Con­tents

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

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