Philippines Liveaboard Diving

Visit the Philippines, one of the most unique and diverse diving destinations. You will be sure to find your best diving safari. Go ahead and check our special liveaboard selections!

Reviews about Philippines Liveaboard Diving

Philippine Siren Liveaboardhttps://media.divebooker.com/media/images/h128/153674126925ee9924e8f6294dd0e81d136cd52746.jpgPhilippine Siren LiveaboardMaster Liveaboards, 111 reviews
5

Great Dive

I really enjoyed the dive. The rooms on the boat were the largest I ever experienced, the food was fine and the crew was outstanding. The diving was fantastic. The only negative point was the lack of fish !!!, the corals were great so were the critters, but there is way overfishing even in the marine reserves !!! , and I was told the natives ate all the fish during COVID. I had been to most of the sites several years before & can see the clear difference.
Zakaria Adel2022-08-29
Azalea (Philippines) Liveaboardhttps://media.divebooker.com/media/images/h128/16460668980ff9b0aac759f61eafef9489b3130d18.jpegAzalea (Philippines) LiveaboardLiveaboard Diving Philippines, 2 reviews
1.12

Catastrophic Liveaboard to Tubbataha

I have booked many liveaboard with Divebooker and always had a great time. Therefore, I was surprised by the number of disappointing aspects of this trip to Tubbataha and can say with confidence that diving on Azalea boat was my worst experience so far.
It already started one week before the departing date when the manager of the boat contacted me asking me to reschedule my flight back home (departing 6 hours after the estimated arrival time back to Puerto Princessa), as due to unusually bad weather conditions the boat would probably not make it back on time. They did not seem to have much understanding that a last minute rescheduling of a 20 hours flight would probably cost over 1000 USD and rather blamed me for not having booked a later flight.

The troubles continued when on the departing day we were supposed to leave at 6pm, but ended up leaving at 2am. The delay was due to a broken engine of the speedboat and the owner kept telling us the problem would be solved within half an hour. The engine had broken down the previous day, but apparently they had only tried to repair it at the last minute. We ended up with another speed boat that was not really suited for diving and could not carry more than 5 divers.

The next morning we were informed by our divemaster that due to the delay and bad weather conditions we would only reach Tubbataha at 8pm and lose a whole day of diving. This seemed a joke to all of us, as there was hardly any wind and the sea was flat, no sight of real “bad weather”. It turned out that we were travelling at an average speed of 4 knots the entire time, which according to the crew was the maximal speed possible (according to liveabord.com the max speed of the boat is 22 knots!). This was the real reason that our journey took 20 hours instead of the usual 10-12 hours and not the weather. Most other problems on the boat were only made transparent after being pushed or questioning several crew members.

On the journey we also discovered that our two “very experienced” guides had not dived for the last two years and that one of them had never been to Tubbataha. The other one had been there once in 2009 as a guest, so I would not qualify that as experienced and they did not really act as guide during the diving, discovering the sites with us. Their lack of local knowledge showed during the briefings and the planning of the diving. They also did not really have a concrete diving plan for the next few days and we passengers ended up drafting with them in order to have the slightest idea what to expect. Tubbataha has around 20 dive sites and covers a huge area, but again due to “bad weather” (not really existing) we ended up spending two of our 4 diving days more or less at the same place (Amos Rock), while the majority of other boats seemed to be in far more interesting spots. Apparently they could be there as their engine was powerful enough not having to stay moored during the night, while we had to stay in sheltered places. Therefore we completely missed out on all the famous dive sites like “Washing Machine”, “Shark Airport” and “Black Rock”. Only after several arguments between the passenger and the crew, on our 3rd day we traveled to the South Atoll, where we encountered slight current and some waves. For every other liveaboard I took this would not have been a problem, but with the weak engine and instability of the boat diving became a risky task. Therefore, as soon as the weather conditions were not perfect the boat seemed to have problems. Given that Tubbataha is in the open sea, 100 miles away from shore and you can’t expect perfect conditions the whole time, this boat is unsuited for this trip and is a liability for every passenger.

Although the crew was friendly and wanting to help, there was a lack of overall awareness of what a good liveaboard normally provides, including a real structure as already described. I was aware that booking a low budget trip I could not expect luxury, but I had not expected this. The boat features very basic facilities and the slightest waves rock the boat quite strongly, making the walking around unsafe. There are not many places to rest and the upper sundeck was often used by the crew to sleep, as apparently their cabin was even smaller than ours. The food was very basic and did not vary much. As a vegetarian I had informed the boat about my dietary requirements a month in advance and was therefore surprised when on our first dinner they served me a fish soup and had only meat for the main course. They seemed absolutely unprepared and unaware of my requirements. Although for the rest of the trip they provided me with vegetarian alternatives and tried to do their best, I hardly got anything else than rice and the same overcooked vegetables.

In order to make it back on time to Puerto Princessa and try to have as many dives as possible on the last day, the passengers drafted a diving plan allowing enough margin for unforeseen “bad weather” and the crew agreed to it. However, there was again “unforeseen” troubles with the boat and we departed towards our last stop “Jessie Beazly” with a delay of 40 min. Bad logistics between the boat and the dive sites made us lose additional time and we ended up with only two dives instead of 4. After the second dive we were rushed back to the boat where the captain announced that due to the “bad weather” we would have a journey back of at least 24 hours and that we had to leave immediately, in the end we reached Puerto Princessa after 15 hours. It is incomprehensible to me how a supposedly experienced captain can miscalculate so many times, but at least we made it back on time and I did not miss my flight!

Before we left we had a long discussion with the tour operator and owner, Dirk, who halfheartedly apologized and told us all the problems we had were due to unexpected events, which had never occurred in the past (not true according to several negative reviews). As of the promised 18 dives we ended up only with 14, it was agreed that we would receive a reimbursement of 20%. This reimbursement did not contain compensation for missed out spots/sightings due to the lack of local knowledge of the guides/crew. Two weeks after the trip I’m still waiting for Dirk to send me the money.

In Summary, I would recommend a trip to Tubbataha, but definitely not with this boat as from my point of view it is not suitable for the open sea at all!
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Pfleumer Laura2022-05-22

Questions and Answers

Why Philippines Liveaboards?

The Philippines consist of more than 7,500 islands with 36,289 km/22,549 mi of coastline, which is the fifth longest coast in the world. The Philippines is part of the Coral Triangle, which means that it has abundant marine species, from little seahorses and harlequin shrimp to thresher sharks and dugongs. The fauna include hundreds of coral species, and the Philippines is one of the places richest in corals in the world.

The history of the Philippines is rich in wrecks and battles, which makes it a perfect place for those liveaboard guests who love wreck diving and enjoy stories about great ships, such as the WWII Japanese fleet sunk at Coron Bay.

 

Liveaboard diving in the Philippines

The Philippines is definitely the place for a diving safari. While some places are accessible from the shore, trips to the dive sites take time out of your underwater experience. The long distances between the best dive sites and rich selection of sites make liveaboard diving trips the best way to get the most out of your trip and see the largest number of marine species during your diving holiday.

Liveaboards come in a variety of sizes and packages depending on your needs and budget. The itineraries of the Philippine liveaboards vary a lot, because each route is created and chosen based on different themes, such as focusing on wreck diving at Coron Bay or having a shark weekend in the Visayas.

 

Length of Philippines liveaboard trips

Most of the time the diving tours are for 7 nights, but trips of up to 10-14 nights are also available. If you choose an extended Philippine tour, make sure to check availability, because such trips are much rarer. As a rule, you will visit at least 5 different islands in a trip, but the number varies depending on the offer you choose. During the safaris you will be able to make 3-4 dives a day, but for crazy divers willing to get the most there are so-called “Aggressor boats” offering up to 5 dives a day.

 

Must-see spots in the Philippines via liveaboards

Philippine dive sites are diverse and frequently one-of-a-kind. The islands offer a wide range of opportunities for every type of diver, from beginners to professionals and photographers.

  • Divers can enjoy a very famous place called Puerto Galera. This is a group of wrecks where the blue throat triggerfish wanders in between the pink corals with white-tailed moray eels. Here you can also visit Apo Reef to see coral reef snakes and white and black sharks.

  • If you prefer wreck dives, then Coron Bay will be your best match.

  • Tubbataha is a well-known spot for photographers because of its diversity of flora and fauna.

  • If you like to see sharks, then Malapascua Island is the best place to start. It is a famous place to begin the day with awesome shark encounters, and you will almost always see thresher sharks at the Monad Shoal cleaning station.

Where to Dive in the Philippines: Choose Your Itinerary

If you are planning your trip for the period between March and June, we recommend that you first consider Tubbataha Reef, the diving Mecca of the Philippines. Another awesome liveaboard trip would be to the Visayan Islands (also known as “the Visayas”), which would be from November to May. If you want sharks, check whether your itinerary includes Malapascua or not, because if not almost all Visayas trips visit this island. And if you love wrecks, go to Coron Bay.

 

Tubbataha Reef

Time to go: March to June

Tubbataha Reef is an atoll coral reef located in the Sulu Sea. The entire Tubbataha Reef consists of two atolls that each have a small islet protruding from the water. Between the two atolls, there is an 8-km/5-mi wide channel with a flourishing, diverse ecosystem.

This dive destination has become extremely popular because of the coral “walls” where you can observe the shallow coral reef abruptly giving way to great depths. Tubbataha Reef provides a wonderful habitat for unique fauna and diverse colonies of fish. About 11 species of sharks, and 479 species of fish and 350 species of corals can be spotted here. Here you can find hammerhead sharks, manta rays, giant jacks, barracudas, as well as parrotfish, Moorish idols, and moray eels in the sanctuary. The checklist of Tubbataha’s inhabitants should include the hawksbill sea turtle, which is an endangered species.

The reef has dive sites of all levels and complexity, allowing divers of any certification level to find something extraordinary here. For instance, the South Atoll with its Lighthouse has gentle dives, while the Delsan Wreck dive site is frequently called heaven for macro photographers. North Atoll is suitable for more experienced divers, and many sharks and manta rays are along for most dives. The best spot for photography at Tubbataha Reef is Malayan, with numerous crabs, shrimp, nudibranchs, and reef sharks. Due to the weather conditions in the Sulu Sea, diving at Tubbataha is strictly seasonal and lasts from March to June. The destination is only available on a liveaboard.

Some of the most well-knows dives sites for Tubbataha liveaboard diving are Wall Street, Washing Machine, Shark Airport, Delsan wreck, Triger Fish City, Black Rock, Amos Rock, Seafan Alley, and Malayan Wreck and Jessie Beazley Reef. Tiger sharks can be occasionally seen while diving on Delsan wreck, dive at Shark Airport to see hawksbill and green sea turtles or at Wall Street for Napoleon Wrasse. As you can consider from its name Washing Machine is known for strong unpredictable currents. 



 

Visayan Islands (also called “the Visayas”)

Time to go: November to May

The Visayas are the Philippines’ central region of tropical islands. The Visayas are famous for beautiful beaches, a relaxed lifestyle, and visually striking dive sites. Marine life is extremely diverse here from macro to big pelagics. Thresher sharks, manta rays, whale sharks, various nudibranchs, bumblebee shrimp, pipefish, pygmy seahorse, flamboyant cuttlefish, mimic octopus all these creatures can be spotted.  

There are six main islands, namely Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, and Samar.

  • Panay Island is a famous wall diving spot with a depth of 3-30 m (10-98 ft).

  • Negros also has wall diving but is famous for dive sites with large fish on Apo Island.

  • Cebu’s dive sites are very different and adventurous. If you love turtles or have been dreaming of seeing them, then go to Dolphin House or Tuble Point. Another famous spot here is the Moalboal, which is a well-known home for large pelagics and schools of fish. Oslob, which is on the opposite side of Cebu, gives unique access to the spot where locals feed whale sharks! And of course, Malapascua and its thresher sharks are on the far northern point of Cebu.

  • Bohol Island’s main attraction is the pelagic fish and reef sharks that are frequently seen here.





Malapascua Island and thresher sharks

Time to go: December to April

Malapascua Island is one of the best scuba diving locations in all of Southeast Asia. Here divers can find wrecks, sandy muck dives for photography with models, amazing coral walls, tunnels, and lots of fauna. This dive spot is mostly known for its thresher shark dives and manta rays.

This location is the best choice for shark lovers. Tunnels near Gato Island offer unique opportunities to see numerous whitetip sharks on the sandy bottom. The cleaning station on Monad Shoal is one of the few places in the world where you can almost always find thresher sharks, and hammerhead sharks are present at Kemod Shoal (a sunken island) from December to May.

 

Coron Bay

Time to go: November to May

Coron Bay is famous for being one of the best wreck diving spots in the whole world. To this point, 12 WWII Japanese ships have been discovered here. Most wrecks have remained untouched and are well preserved. A couple of them can be visited by divers with open-water certifications, while others require advanced knowledge and experience.

Local guides say that because most of the sunken ships here are huge (up to 160 m/525 ft long), it is advisable to make a couple of dives at the same site to see and discover the entire ship. Make sure to note that this spot is only for wreck lovers, because there isn’t much marine life around the ships, and the visibility in these places is pretty low (5-15 m/16-50 ft).



 

Bohol 

Time to go: December and April

Trips to Bohol usually include Moalboal, Oslob and Balicasag. Moalboal is mostly a plateau with a drop-off, where barracuda and turtles are common. Divers visit Oslob for whale sharks. Balicasag - one of the stops on the way with healthy corals and pelagic visitors. Overhangs of the dramatic multi-hundred-foot vertical walls hiding an abundance of large groupers, napoleon wrasses and snappers, turtles, whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, eagle & manta rays.

Current can be pretty challenging. 

Bohol is represented by limestone rock formations, caves, and sandy beaches. Soft corals, gorgonian fans, coral gardens are waiting for you here. Look for numerous macro creatures including harlequin ghost pipefish, harlequin shrimps, mantis shrimps and an amazing diversity of nudibranchs. As for the bigger fish diving here features manta rays, whale sharks or occasionally hammerhead sharks.  

 

 

How to visit the Philippines on a tight budget

Philippines' liveaboard trips are known for having prices slightly over average, but you can still get pretty good prices on the Philippines' liveaboards. There are wet and dry seasons in the Philippines, and the dry season is more pleasant for diving. But during the wet season, you can still find nice itineraries to avoid rainfall and enjoy your trip at a significantly lower price. So the tips for saving money are to choose the low season (wet season) and special boats--check our “smart choice” selection.

 

What can photographers expect from liveaboards in the Philippines?

The Philippines has a high density of marine life such as fish, sharks, turtles, corals and other flora and fauna, which is a perfect match for photographers. Those looking for unique shots and incredible landscapes will find something here. It doesn’t matter if you prefer photographing marine life, landscapes, the macro world, or working with a model--there is something in the way of photography for everyone in the Philippines.

All the mentioned itineraries have perfect places for those looking both for large fish and macro life. Many promotional ads are created precisely because of the picturesque landscapes and enormous numbers of sea species.

The most suitable for photography can be considered Bohol, Apo Reef, and Moalboal. This destination can be named a good option for macro photographers. Wreck ad corals are full of small fish. reef sharks and whale sharks are also one of the attractions of this area. Although it's great for divers to see all in one dive including tiny macro creatures and large whale sharks, it's quite challenging for a photographer. It could be difficult to choose a lens. So be prepared, if you have it, better bring it.   

Some boats are more friendly for underwater photographers and their facilities are better equipped for those needs. Boat’ can supply with Charging stations, compressed air and separate rinse tanks, camera work areas for pre-dive checks and post-dive cleaning.  Please take a look at our “photo pro” selection to find such trips

When to dive via liveaboard in the Philippines

While the water temperature is constant all year round (not less than 27°C/81°F), the climate is divided into the dry and wet season.

The dry season is between November and May, and April is the hottest month. The dry season is better for visiting because the visibility at all dive sites is great and there is a higher chance to see any species you want.

During the wet and the hottest season, the wind changes from the northeast to the southwest at some places, so some locations become open and accessible for diving during the wet season, which is impossible during the dry months. The busiest times to dive in the Philippines are around Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year, and Easter, so if you prefer calmer vacations, make sure to visit outside of these periods. If you are planning to travel to the Philippines during the wet season, your best choice will be Cebu and the Visayas, because they usually have only one heavy rainfall in the afternoon and have sun and temperatures between 27-29°C/81-84°F throughout the day.

Fall is the least recommended season for liveaboard diving, because the islands are most frequently hit by typhoons during this time. The common path of typhoons is over Samar Island and on to China and Japan, but Cebu Island can also be affected from time to time by overcast skies and rain that lasts for several days.

 

Local regulations and getting through customs in the Philippines

All equipment can be rented in the Philippines, but some exceptions apply depending on the specific dive operators. Please check the information on the boat page on Divebooker.com or make a request to our 24/7 support. If you have your personal underwater computer, compass, flashlight, surface marker balloon (or any other signaling device), then bring those with you. Most liveaboards in the Philippines work with Yoke valves, so if you have DIN valves, make sure to bring your adapter or arrange a rental agreement beforehand.

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after your date of arrival in the Philippines. The law allows every tourist entering the Philippines to bring the following with them: up to 2 bottles of alcohol of not more than 1 liter each, and 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 g of tobacco. Citizens of Brazil and Israel get visas for 59 days, citizens of most countries are allowed to stay in the Philippines for 30 days, and citizens of Hong Kong and Macau are only allowed to stay in the country for 14 days.

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