A quick dip into Cebu’s breathtaking dive sites
Text & Images: Jai Gentolea Genilza
STRATEGICALLY positioned, Cebu Island, with its many islets, is one of the best dive destinations in the world, showcasing plenty of stunning underwater beauties.
This elongated island is surrounded by abundant and ecologically linked underwater ecosystems. In the north is the Visayan Sea, widely known as “the heart of marine biodiversity on Earth.” In the east is Tanon Strait, the biggest and one of the richest marine protected areas in the country. In the south and west are also marine-rich seas: Bohol Sea and Camotes Sea.
It’s no wonder why Scuba diving has thrived and has been a growing industry in the Province. Dive site options are from north to south and some are just near the city.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the best and most awesome dive sites in Cebu.
1. Gato Island, Malapascua
Underneath this small rock island are interesting caverns, rock formations, overhangs, swim-throughs and alleys where White tip-reef sharks and bamboo sharks swim along with curious Scuba divers. Soft corals are abundant and you can encounter varieties of critters such as seahorses, frogfish, ghost pipefish, cuttlefish, harlequin crabs and shrimps, clingfish, and different kinds of colorful nudibranchs, a type of mollusc. Depth is around 18 meters to 24 meters and conditions are usually good with visibility at 10 to 20 meters.
2. Monad Shoal, Malapascua
Malapascua is known worldwide for the rare and timid thresher sharks. But do you know that thresher sharks are almost certainly sighted in Monad Shoal? It is an underwater island about an hour’s boat ride from Malapascua Island, and it is the only place in the world where these sharks can be seen every day. Threshers visit the shoal to get cleaned. If lucky, divers can also spot eagle rays, devil rays, mantas and white tip reef sharks getting cleaned by cleaner wrasses. There was once a sighting of a tiger shark at the northern tip of the shoal, thus, diving there is always a lot exciting. The dive site is for advanced open-water divers or at least those who had undergone deep-dive adventure, as depth is usually up to 20 to 30 meters. Visibility is often good at 10 to 15 meters, but the deeper you go, the visibility goes down to five meters at certain occasions. Sometimes strong bottom currents can be encountered. To witness threshers, dives start from as early as 5 a.m. until 9 a.m.
3. Bas Dako, Saavedra, Moalboal
In Moalboal, there are many dive sites and about six of them are found in white beach or Bas Dako area. The approximately five kilometer stretch in this area facing Tanon Strait has a thick coral cover and massive barrel sponges and fan corals that are filled with damsels and other colourful fish. There is a sandy patch at around 18 to 20 meters where hundreds of garden eels reside. You can encounter giant frogfish, cuttlefish, huge trigger fish and parrot fish. Eels, and different kinds of anemone fish are common. Just like all other dive sites in Moalboal, a resident turtle is usually swimming around willing to do a photo shoot with divers. Depth goes down up to 200 meters but the beauty at 10 to 25 meters is already satisfying. Visibility is good most of the time at around 10 to 25 meters.
4. Pescador Island, Moalboal
This small rock island in the middle of Tanon Strait is known for its majestic “cathedral-like” cavern at around 23 meters and its floor drops up to 35 meters. Corals in the area are in good condition and colorful damsels will welcome you as you descend towards the cathedral. Frogfish, electric clams, lobsters, pufferfish, sea kraits (snakes) and turtles will fill your senses. Be ready to encounter huge tunas, barracudas and schools of trevallies as you cruise around the rock island.
5. Talisay Point, Moalboal
Love turtles? Talisay Point in Moalboal is the nearest, most accessible place for you to find them. It is known as a turtle sanctuary where you can encounter up to 10 turtles during a 45 minute to 1 hour of Scuba diving. Branching corals are abundant and massive table corals can be found in Talisay Point. Boxfish, damsels, filefish, lionfish, banded coral shrimp, skunk anemone fish and scorpion fish are among the many critters you can spot in this dive site. The depth goes down up to 200 meters but you can already enjoy the amazing scenery at 10 to 25 meters.
6. Marigondon, Mactan Island
Marigondon is an hour’s drive from the city and is known for cave diving at about 30 to 40 meters. It can be accessed thru a shore entry dive from Marigondon Beach areas. The current can be quite strong at times, but the abundance of soft corals and huge hard corals at 12 to 25 meters will make you want to dive there every weekend. Cuttlefish, barracudas, trevallies, anemone fish and eels are a common sighting in this dive site. Night diving here offers a variety of critters like decorator crabs, Spanish dancers, many kinds of nudibranchs, blue-ringed octopus, wasp fish and reef squids, among others. Sometimes you can also experience what we call “bubble blast” at about 10 meters on top of the cave area. These bubbles are from divers who went inside the cave.
7. Olanggo Island
This island is a 15-minute boat ride from Mactan Island and it has two great dive sites: Talima Marine Sanctuary and San Vicente Marine Sanctuary. Garden eels are quite abundant at around 10 meters in a sandy area in Talima. Your diver spirit will be amazed by how huge groupers, sweetlips, snappers and schools of batfish are in these areas since they are protected and undisturbed. Scorpion fish, clown fish, filefish, stonefish, trigger fish, butterfly and angel fish, and moray eels are common in these areas. Depth is five to 30 meters with visibility of 10 to 20 meters most of the time.
8. Nalusuan Island
Blue-spotted sting rays hanging around at 10 to 15 meters are normally found in sandy areas. When diving here, be careful not to get too close to the bottom as they are good at camouflaging and when surprised, they swim away quickly but might hit you with their tail. Huge groupers and sweetlips are common. Soft corals, huge fan corals and barrel sponge are abundant. Schools of mackerel and yellow jacks are also an amazing sight in Nalusuan. Depth is at eight to 35 meters and visibility is good at about 10 to 20 meters. Since it is located in the middle of Mactan Channel, strong currents are common.
9. Gilutongan Island
Since it is usually teeming with a number of divers, Gilutongan is infamously nicknamed as the “shopping mall.” The island offers an abundance of soft and hard corals and a diversity of fishes such as schools of huge trevallies, snappers, sweetlips, groupers, triggerfish and varieties of damsel fish and wrasses. Moorish idols, butterfly fish, angel fish and trumpet fish are also abundant in Gilutongan Island. Depth is at 10 to 40 meters and visibility ranges from 10 meters to 20 meters. Current can also be strong at times.
10. Antipolo, Tuburan
Also facing Tañon Strait, Tuburan, not known to many, has awesome underwater rock formations from century old massive hard corals, table corals and foliose corals. Butterfly fish, angel fish, banner fish, stonefish, goat fish, nudibranchs, eels, sea kraits, crinoid shrimps and giant clams are among the many critters that can be found at at five up to 25 meters. Visibility ranges from three to 10 meters and at times, it gets a bit murky underwater especially during rainy season due to silts flushed out by nearby rivers. But generally, the site can offer an interesting dive adventure since this site isn’t totally explored yet. Unlike other dive destinations mentioned, Tuburan has no nearby dive shops yet and divers are advised to coordinate with the local government unit if you want to dive and explore the sites.