Print version diving in Bohol (approx. 3 pages)

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Bohol is part of the Visayas islands. You find some of the finest scuba diving in the Philippines in this area! My favorite place is Cabilao island in the northwest. This is a quiet place and accommodation is quite basic, but the diving is excellent. You can choose between several beautifully covered steep walls, some with quite a lot of current. Night dives are also very interesting - pure muck diving! Another great dive site is Balicasag island. It has been declared a marine sanctuary and since then diving has become better and better. For a specially challenging dive I usually choose snake island or Pamilacan island in the southeast of Bohol, for my favorite animals like the frogfish or ghost pipe fish I look around the dive sites of Alona (Panglao).

Panglao Island

Bohol can be reached by daily ferry from Cebu and Negros. Panglao lies in the southern part of Bohol. Alona beach can be reached in about 40 min. by car or taxi from the main city Tagbilaran. More information how to get there.

1. Alona Beach, sanctuary: This dive sites lies 5 min. by boat from Alona beach. Shallow dive (max. 25m) on a wall with many vertical cuts. Anemones and multicolored corals teeming with life. Small fish, scorpionfishes, frogfishes and nudibranchs. Seasnakes can be found in sandy areas. Best place for a night dive.

2. Kalipayan: 10 min. by boat from Alona beach. Shallow dive (max. 25 m) on a wall, some sandy areas. Beautiful corals, nearly always a group of batfishes, some lionfishes and a variety of colorful nudibranchs. Look around on the reef top in the sandy area with the coral blocks . We also nearly always found a pair of robust ghostpipefish in the sandy area and for a while two large stonefish in the deeper part. Also good for night dives.

3. Bohol Beach Club (BBC): 15 min. by boat from Alona beach. Shallow dive (max. 25 m) on a wall. Sandy area on the bottom. There is a small cave here with a school of cardinalfishes inside. There is a hole in the roof and the light inside is beautiful. Last time I was there, there were 2 dwarf frogfish, but they have since disappeared. I also found some very nice flatworms and nudibranchs in the cave. One time (2000) I found a baby frogfish hiding among some tubeworms. Go there, when there is no other group of divers around, so you can explore it in peace. At the entrance there are as much as four moray eels and snake eels. Some divers feed them, so they like to leave their burrow and even swim around freely.

4. Doljo Beach: 40min. by boat from Alona beach. This site is visited during strong Habagat-wind (south-west-wind) because it is more sheltered. If you jump in at the right place, this is a great dive. Ask them to drop you on the steep slope over the gorgonians (at 35m), they are huge and numerous. Then go up relatively quickly to the reef top and around 15 to 10 m there are yellowish-green sponges. I think, we looked about in every single one and actually found two giant frogfish. Perfectly camouflaged, they sit in these sponges and wait for their food to come to them. One of them was yellow, the other black. If you are lucky you might also see a shark in the deeper areas.

5. Napaling: 30 min. by boat from Alona. This is a dive on a steep wall with huge gorgonian fans and black coral growing. Sometimes ther are schools of barracudas or jackfish. On the edge of the reef there are table corals with a lot of small fish, moray eels and seakraits.

6. Puntod: 30 min. by boat from Alona beach. Steep wall with gorgonians and soft coral. Mackerels, squids sometimes snakes.

Balicasag Island

Balicasag lies to the south of Panglao, 30 min. by boat from Alona beach. There is a resort on the island (do some snorkeling on the beach just outside, there are some colorful dragonets living on the sand). There are several very nice dive sites around this small island:

7. Black forest: Slight slope. It is a very nice dive site with black coral bushes (they are actually light green to yellow). You might meet the resident solitary Napoleon and if you are lucky the large school of mackerels or barracudas. Actually on one dive we encountered the mackerels three times, the school moved away to the open ocean several times, but appeared again. The reef-edge is also especially rich in small fish.

8. Balicasag Marine Sanctuary: Steep wall. This site is located on the western side of the island. Schools of jackfish accompany you on your dive, groupers swim below.

9. Heaven: Steep wall, mostly drift-dives. This place has very nice coral and a cathedral-like cave. Sometimes you can see turtles, sharks and Napoleon wrasse.

Cabilao Island

Cabilao lies in the Cebu Strait. There are two resorts at Cabilao, but only one, La Estrella is nice. There are two dive operators on the island: Sea Explorers and Polaris. Many dive operators from Alona beach and from Cebu make day trips to Cabilao (2 hrs. by boat from Alona). Though if you want to see special animals like pegasus, seahorses or stargazers you have to stay on the island and make a night dive.

10. Lighthouse: Wall down to 25m, then a plateau at 30m, followed by another wall. Strong currents possible. In winter (Dec. to April) hammerheads and white-tipped reefsharks are possible. In summer they are sometimes seen in deeper areas. Barracuda and jackfish schools. We stayed over a week at Cabilao and enjoyed it immensely. The diveguide Bobet finds all kinds of strange critters: ghostpipefish, pegasus, interesting crabs, seahorses and nudibranchs. Ask him to find the pygmy seahorses (Hippocampus bargibanti) for you that live on gorgonian sea fan (Muricella paraplectana)! Make a night dive, it's a special experience and real muck-diving! We found devilfish and stonefish a plenty and two stargazer hiding in the sand. Bobet fed a fish to a huge mantis shrimp and it came out of its tunnel to catch his prey.

11. Cambakis Point (Cambaquiz): This is a very nice dive just in front of the village. Wall down to 30m with a small cave. I liked the sandy part in between the reefs where we found a double-ended and an ornate pipefish. My dive buddy liked the last part best, where we saw a huge school of fish below us.

South point: Steep wall covered with hard and soft corals and many sponges. Large table corals at the reef top. Really beautiful landscape, especially at the top!

Mangrove dive: I wanted to look at the animals that live in the water under mangrove trees. We asked Sea Explorers and they organized a trip to a place close to Sandigan. We did some diving and snorkeling in the mangroves and found many interesting animals, special nudibracnhs, a brown sea snake, dragonets and chitons.

Pamilacan Island

For a long time Pamilacan was known for the fact, that fishermen there kill several whalesharks per year. It seems they found a more ecological occupation, because now you can go to Pamilacan to do whaleshark watching (report / dolphinwhalewatch)

12. Pamilacan: 60 min. by boat from Alona beach. Pamilacan island is often combined with Snake island. Plan a deep dive (35m) with deco (we had 8min on 3m!). Last summer we swam out over an edge (with beautiful soft corals) that falls down to perhaps 50m and out until we saw five huge Napoleon fishes. I had never seen so many together and was very impressed, so we stayed for some time and tried to swim closer. They didn't seem to mind much, but my computer started to beep - deco time! On the way up we also saw some huge Spanish mackerels.

13. Snake Island: 40-50 min. by boat from Alona beach. Strong currents. This is a sunken plateau about 18m deep, lying in the south of Pamilacan, covered with corals. This dive site lies in the middle of the ocean and usually there is a very strong current. Plan your dive, jump in on the side the current comes from and then sweep over the plateau with it. We saw 8 snakes in total and - as a big surprise - a thresher shark (shark with a huge, long tail) on the edge of the plateau! Great place. As the name suggests, many banded seakraits can be seen.

East coast of Bohol

The dive area of Anda is not very known but I heard it is quite nice, indeed. All dive sites lie between Guindulman and Anda and are easily reached by boat from Bituon Beach resort in Basdio. The dive operator is German. The following descriptions are short translations from the report on their website (detailed description of dive sites in German on the website).

Baong Gala In: Bizarre rock and coral formations with swim throughs, close to Guindulman.

Panorama Reef: Drop off with extensive reef top

Pogaling: Shallow dive (max 8m) with swim throughs. Good place for macro.

Edens garden and Edens grotto (house reef): Just in front of the resort, so you can grab a tank and dive any time you want. Max 25m, drop off at 12m with a sandy bottom. There are several grottoes between 6 and 20m. Good place to see mackerels, snappers and batfish. Also good for night dives.

Lumayag: drop off to about 30m, nicely covered with soft corals, black corals and some Muricella gorgonians with pygmy sea horses. You do mostly drift dives, since there is a current. Sometimes large groups of bumphead parrotfishes and some chance of seeing large fish and sharks.

Snapper's Cave: The large cave, populated by anemone fishes, crabs and shrimps, stretches deeply into the reef

Coral Garden: Beautiful reef with hard and soft corals down to the sand bottom at 25 meter.

Dap Dap: 15min. by boat from the resort. Wall to 25m, reef top at 4 to 7m

Virgin and Bacong: Drift with the current from one dive site to the other. Virgin is a drop off, that goes to about 27 meter depth and is nicely covered with soft corals and large gorgonians. There is a good chance to see large pelagics. It seems, that this is also a special place for nudibranchs and there are several caves.

Turtle cave: 25 min from the resort by boat. This dive site is only for experienced divers. The entrance to the cave lies at 31m and the tunnel then goes up to 27m where its diameter narrows to 150cm. The tunnel is about 15m long and opens in a large cave (8m diameter). From there you exit the cave, often swimming against a current. There is a line installed.

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