Best Dive Sites in Cebu: From Malapascua to Dumaguete

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Malapascua & Surrounding Islands, Cebu

Malapascua is a small island off the Northern coast of Cebu and one of the best places for new divers to visit. There, you can find a plethora of dive schools offering tours of the area. Another highlight of Malapascua is the prevalence of thresher sharks in their waters. Malapascua is known to be the best location in the world to catch sight of thresher sharks so naturally, numerous thresher shark dives are offered in Monad Shoal for those looking to take a dip with the majestic beasts of the ocean.

The extraordinary journey into the deep blue for an up-close encounter with the thresher shark starts early in the morning when the waters are calm. Visitors can opt for an easy afternoon exploring waters with thresher shark divers or choose from a wide range of excursions, from reefs and wrecks to dives by day and by night. Close encounters with these incredible predators are not unusual and will certainly make for thrilling and memorable dives.

Soft coral scene with fish shoal in the background, Calanggaman, Malapascua, Philippines

Just 90 minutes away from Malapascua is another underwater playground. With its white sandy beaches and turquoise waters framed by an azure sky painted with white fluffy clouds, Kalanggaman Island is the picturesque definition of a tropical paradise. More suited for the experienced, divers can look forward to healthy fringing reefs, the famous juvenile green sea turtles and schools of trevally.

Cave divers in Gato Island, Malapascua, Philippines

Another island just off the coast of Malapascua is Gato Island. The surrounding reefs here are resplendently healthy with magnificent soft coral gardens covering a jagged, rocky seascape, truly a sight to behold. However, the true star of Gato island is the underwater cave system that takes you from one side of the island to the other. For photographers, this is a great destination as all the dive sites offer excellent macro. Expect an abundant variety of sea creatures like sea snakes, frogfish, nudibranchs, black-tip sharks, bobtail squid, blue ring octopus, harlequin shrimp, ghost shrimp, xenon crabs, sea hares, sea stars, and many more.

Getting here
Perched at the far northern tip of Cebu’s main island, getting here involves a four-hour land travel from Cebu City to barangay Maya in Daanbantayan town. From the town, it takes another 45 minutes by boat to Malapascua.

Moalboal, Cebu

Sardine Run in Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines

A short distance from the city, Moalboal is at the heart of marine biodiversity in the Philippines and its healthy reefs and steep walls support schools of snappers, jacks, barracudas, sardines, reef sharks, tuna, turtles, passing thresher sharks, and the well-known sardine run. Its top draw for divers is Pescador Island, an islet located at the Tañon Strait. Among the incredible species lurking around the island are frogfish, all kinds of tiny shrimp and crabs, as well as countless others.

Colourful Coral Reef with Schools of Fish, Pescador Island, Moalboal, Philippines

Reaching a depth of more than 600 meters, the marine sanctuary is famous for its abundance of sardines, which surround divers in schools of more than 1000. The diversity and mass of reef fish is a surreal and breathtaking experience that divers will find rewarding. A Moalboal tour is a must-add to your Cebu bucket list.

Other well-known spots include The Plane Wreck, a purposely sunken Cessna two-passenger plane that divers will find interesting to explore. The Sunken Island, where the underwater pinnacle tops out at 25 meters is suited for more experienced divers but nonetheless remains a diving hotspot for all.

Getting there
Moalboal is three hours away from Cebu city and public buses are available to bring you there. Ceres and Librando buses going to Moalboal are located in the Cebu South Bus Terminal. Meanwhile, vans that transit between Cebu City and Moalboal are stationed in Cebu South V-hire Terminal in Junquera Street near University of San Carlos. Travel time is considerably shorter at two hours.

Dauin, Dumaguete

Pygmy gobies hiding in a glass bottle, Dauin

This location lies in Negros Island and is known as one of the best luxury dive destinations in the Philippines. Dive sites are found mainly along the coastline of Dauin, 20 minutes from Dumaguete. This stretch of coastline has 21 dive sites where you can search for the weird and wonderful.

Expect exceptional muck diving, a variety of coral reefs, and several luxury dive resorts facing the beach. Dive resorts in Dumaguete offer a day trip to Oslob, where you have the rare opportunity to snorkel or swim alongside a colourful variety of marine life, including the likes of blue spotted stingrays, red snappers, scorpionfishes, peacock groupers, and bat fishes. Visibility generally ranges from 10 to 12 metres.

Group of the colorful underwater nudibranch on the coral reef, Dauin, Philippines

A 30-minute boat ride from the dive resorts will bring you to Apo Island, known for its abundant coral gardens, schools of fish, sea turtles, and sea snakes. At Coconut Point, Apo invites adventurous divers to try an exhilarating drift diving experience over a sloping wall where you can spot marbled groupers, bumphead parrotfish, and green sea turtles. Visibility ranges from 16 to 30 metres.

Getting there
A swift 45-minute flight from Manila gets you to Dumaguete. Luxury resorts also offer returns and transfers free of charge. Dauin is 15 km south of Dumaguete and only a 20 minute drive away. There are taxis available to bring you there.