While the Philippines are home to several world-class scuba diving sites, the Visayas and Palawan islands are undoubtedly the top destinations for beginners and seasoned divers alike. The waters around the city of El Nido and the beautiful archipelagos of Bacuit and Miniloc in particular host very popular spots. Exceptionally rich in color and surprising marine life, these sites make El Nido the first diving destination in the Philippines.
A UNIQUE AND PROTECTED BIODIVERSITY
The waters of El Nido contain no less than six species of marine mammals that are endemic to Palawan. These include dugongs, the animal believed to have given birth to the legend of mermaids, and Irrawaddy dolphins. In these tropical waters also live four species of threatened marine turtles: the hawksbill sea turtle, the olive ridley sea turtle, the leatherback sea turtle, and the green turtle. There are also about a hundred kinds of corals, and more than 800 species of fish.
To protect this abundant nature, in 1998 the Filipino government created the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area, the largest marine sanctuary in the Philippines. This area includes a marine reserve of about 360 square kilometers, the entire Bay of Bacuit (including its islands), the forts around El Nido, and part of Taytay, which is about 60 kilometers South from El Nido.
EL NIDO DIVING SPOTS
Off the coast of El Nido, Bacuit Bay is home to around thirty diving sites with depths ranging from 6 to 30 meters, with coral reefs and numerous marine species.
– The spot of Nat Nat is most recommended for beginners. Close to El Nido, it is sheltered from currents and allows divers to see many corals and anemones, but also turtles, seahorses, and other species of fish.
– The site of North Rock is particularly recommended for corals and pelagic sight. There, you can also see octopi, sea turtles, and many other species of fish, such as the Golden Spade fish.
– South Miniloc, another interesting spot, is known for its thousands of fish moving in shoals, including moray eels, yellow-tailed barracudas, and fusiliers.
– Finally, experienced divers will love the “tunnel”, located 12 meters deep, near Dilumacad Island. If you like to be challenged, you will love crossing this 40 meter long tunnel with light only coming from a few ceiling holes. Definitely an unforgettable experience!
DIVING INTO HISTORY: DISCOVER A FLEET FROM THE SECOND WORLD WAR
A different scuba diving site attracts another kind of divers to the waters of El Nido. Near the island of Coron, a fleet of Japanese warships rest at the bottom of the sea, creating a real marine cemetery. These wrecks, dating from the second World War, are at different depths and are therefore accessible to divers of all levels. Covered with coral and inhabited by many marine species, they are really captivating, and combine historical discovery and scuba diving.
PLAN YOUR DIVING EXPERIENCE IN EL NIDO
Several diving centers based in El Nido offer first diving experiences, fun dives, and PADI courses. You will have plenty of choices among the diving experiences for children and adults, day trips, night dives, or, for the most passionate, PADI trainings.
The equipment is always provided by the diving school, and some centers even offer to transfer you from your hotel, or even from meals. Most instructors are English speakers, but you will also find some diving centers offering activities in other languages.
Here are our recommended centers.