PHILIP­PINES

Find­ing par­adise in a coun­try of 7,000- plus is­lands isn’t dif­fi­cult, but it helps a diver to know where to go

Scuba Diving - - TRAVEL - BY TERRY WARD

1 MONAD SHOAL, MALA­PAS­CUA IS­LAND

Thresh­ers, thresh­ers and more thresh­ers. This drop-off dive site near Mala­pas­cua Is­land, off the tip of Cebu Is­land, is the best place in the world for re­li­ably spot­ting the sleek sharks with a scythe-like tail. The top of the reef is full of clean­ing sta­tions fre­quented by the an­i­mals, spot­ted here year-round.

2 THE CA­GAYAN DE ORO RIVER

It’s like a top­side drift dive! De­pend­ing on your ex­pe­ri­ence, you can opt to raft down class one and two or class three and four rapids. With a to­tal of 21 rapids, the beau­ti­ful river on Min­danao is con­sid­ered the pre­mier white­wa­ter-raft­ing des­ti­na­tion in the Philip­pines.

3 OLYMPIA MARU, CORON BAY

The Philip­pines’ an­swer to Truk La­goon, Coron Bay in Palawan has the best wreck div­ing in South­east Asia. Clouds of fish swarm the cargo hold of the Olym

pia Maru, one of over a dozen wrecks to dive in the com­pact la­goon. The Ja­panese cargo ship was sunk by U.S. air­craft in 1944 and sits up­right at about 90 feet.

4 AMOS ROCK, TUBBATAHA REEF

A UNESCO World Her­itage site, Tubbataha Reefs Nat­u­ral Park is con­sid­ered among the world’s most pris­tine co­ral reefs. Fin along­side the gor­gonian-car­peted wall at Amos Rock while watch­ing pa­trolling reef sharks and thou­sands of reef fish flit­ting like tossed con­fetti.

5 APO 29, APO REEF

Apo Reef Nat­u­ral Park is the world’s sec­ond-largest con­tigu­ous co­ral reef af­ter the Great Bar­rier Reef. And when the cur­rent is run­ning at Apo 29, the stel­lar site at­tracts school­ing bar­racuda, reef sharks, manta rays and even ham­mer­heads.

6 PUERTO PRINCESA SUB­TER­RANEAN RIVER

The is­land of Palawan is im­pres­sive in any di­rec­tion you look, but there’s some­thing fas­ci­nat­ing about head­ing un­der­ground. At this na­tional park, float through a sub­ter­ranean river that flows into the South China Sea while ogling the bats and swiftlets ca­reen­ing through the air.

7 SE­CRET BAY, ANILAO

The den­sity of bizarre crit­ters — won­der­pus oc­to­puses, man­tis shrimp, bob­bit worms and ghost pipefish, to name a few — make this site a fa­vorite with muck divers and photographers. You can see it all be­tween depths of just 10 and 70 feet, mak­ing for long bot­tom times too.

8 MANTA BOWL, TICAO

Use a reef hook to stay put while watch­ing the manta ac­tion at this killer site off Ticao. An un­der­wa­ter shoal loaded with clean­ing and feed­ing sta­tions at­tracts the winged beau­ties and some­times, if you get lucky, whale sharks too.

9 MANILA’S CHI­NA­TOWN

Should you get way­laid in Manila on your way to your dive des­ti­na­tion, it’s worth head­ing to Bi­nondo, the city’s lively Chi­na­town district, for a fun foodie tour. Fill up on de­li­cious spe­cial­ties such as pork and leek dumplings, Chi­nese pan­cakes and pork floss.

10 IS­LAND HOP­PING

The tow­er­ing karst is­lands sur­round­ing El Nido on Palawan are as In­sta­gram-wor­thy as land­scapes get. And the best way to explore the area’s crystal-clear la­goons and small islets is on mul­ti­day sail­ing ex­pe­di­tions that stop to let you snorkel, visit lost caves, and bliss out on lonely beaches.

TERRY WARD got cer­ti­fied in Florida’s springs for a col­lege course, and has since dived ev­ery­where from Halma­hera, In­done­sia, to Nor­way’s icy Sval­bard ar­chi­pel­ago.

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