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.
One dive I did was at Black Forest off Baliscag Island. The dive starts about 700 metres to the east of the Marine Sanctuary dive site and as we drop over the wall there is not much of a current. Two divers actually turn in the opposite direction to the rest of us and dive the island in the a anti-clockwise direction whereas we dive in a clockwise direction. Later on it takes us almost an hour to find them back on a beach on the island. The current picks up as we follow the wall. The maximum depth is 35 metres or so and the wall is shear down from five metres. As might be expected from the name, the site is overwhelmed with black coral trees. They are everywhere, on the seafloor and on the less vertical parts of the wall.
As we travel along we see some excellent fishlife including barracudas. One of the most prominent of the fish was huge schools of long-finned bannerfish. I have seen these fish before of course, but the extreme numbers we see (schools of 50 or more) are quite colourful as they cross our path. Once again, the shallower reefs are very interesting and you can easily spend 20 to 25 minutes at the end of a dive in these areas. An excellent dive.
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.