Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Bohol Diving, Philippines
The Philippines has an enormous number of dive locations. In Australia we are not aware of the extent of diving nor are we really aware of the quality of the diving in this country. On my trip to the Philippines in March 1997 I was quite surprised to find that there are well over 50 dive locations, each with dozens of dive sites. People come from all over the world, especially Europe, to dive there yet Australians are almost totally ignorant of the place as a dive location.
The island of Bohol is one of the better known dive locations, with more than a dozen dive operators catering for the visitors. On my trip I stayed at the Bohol Beach Club on Panglao Island (off the southern end of Bohol) and we dived with their in-house dive operation. This was one of the better organised operators I have used throughout the Pacific and Australia. As with other locations, the dive boats are the traditional bancas and they are quite good to dive from.
The normal dives from here are to Balicasag and Pamilacan Islands as well as off the Alona Beach area of Panglao Island. The operators also run dives to Cabilao Island where I had possibly the most exciting dive of my life when we encountered more than 100 hammerhead sharks.
Another dive I did was Pamilacan Island which is 45 minutes from the resort. This site we are diving here is called Northwest which we are told is a great site to find manta rays. There is quite a current running as we enter the water. There is not a wall here, the bottom slopes away gradually from 12 metres down past 50 metres. The sandy bottom is interspersed with small coral outcrops. There are quite a few black coral trees along the way. However, the main thing lacking on our dive was fishlife. I did not see many fish at all nor did the others in our group. However, another diver who was on a boat with us told me that he saw schools of barracuda and other pelagic fish. Just shows what a few minutes can make to a dive.
After 10 minutes I am at 50 metres and bored so I start ascending. It is a hard job trying to swim at 45 degrees to the current and get into shallower water. Finally 15 minutes later I am in 10 metres and spend time here decompressing (I have lost my buddies and now need a few minutes decompression). I finally ascend and see my buddies and the others spread out over 100 metres or so. The current is still very strong and I speed along while the boat picks up the others. Finally we are all aboard. The dive has not been worth the effort and is the only disappointment I have about the whole trip.
In summary, the Philippines are an excellent dive location, especially for those who have already been to the more common dive locations in the Pacific. The wrecks of Coron are especially attractive to wreck divers who have been to Chuuk, Santo and the Solomons. Families will also find the resorts quite good, with plenty of activities for non-diving spouses and children.