Puerto Princesa Diving
Peurto Princesa is the gateway to the incredible reefs of Palawan Island. Novice divers can learn to dive in the calm sites of Puerto Princesa’s sheltered bay or travel in style by liveaboard to Tubbataha Reef. Here, divers will find world-class diving among drop-offs, swim-throughs, and thriving reefs with manta rays and whale shark.
Diving in Puerto Princesa
Puerto Princesa is a coastal city located in the midsection of Palawan Island, Philippines. The city has fast become one of the Mimaropa regions tourist-hubs, offering incredible diving in Puerto Princesa Bay as well as being the access point to Tubbataha Reef, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
In the sheltered reefs of Puerto Princesa Bay’s white-sand islets and sandbars, novice divers can take part in dive courses before advancing to sites with fast-paced currents. Puerto Princesa diving can also take you to Tubbataha Reef, with world-class drop-offs, coral gardens, channels and the opportunity to see sharks and manta rays. Macro-photographers will delight in capturing frogfish and nudibranch on camera while long-nosed dolphin and dugong are occasionally spotted - all adding to the magic.
Scuba diving in Puerto Princesa is possible from a number of dive resorts and dive centres in the area yet if you intend to descend into the incredible underwater world at Tubbataha Reef, it is only accessible from visiting liveaboards. Liveaboard trips often combine Tubbataha Reef with a day in Coron Island, the prime place for wreck diving in the Philippines.
Best time to dive
Puerto Princesa diving is best from November through to May. From June to December is Palawan Island’s rainy season, so it is best to avoid diving during these times. Often the dive sites are still accessible in the rainy season but the water visibility can be compromised. Currents can be strong in some areas of Puerto Princesa Bay but divers will also find themselves at a number of calm reefs.
The two large atolls and the Jessie Beazley Reefs that comprise the Tubbutaha Reefs, are only accessible for three months of the year. From March until June, when the conditions are at their calmest, liveaboards sail across the Sulu Sea to experience the beauty of the marine park.
Types of diving
Scuba diving in Puerto Princesa invites divers into a world of fantastic coral gardens. In Puerto Princesa Bay, there are a number of muck dive sites, where photographers can grab their cameras and capture a range of weird and wonderful creatures against the muddy backdrop. Red Cliff is a particularly great muck dive site. Pete’s Reef is one of the more adventurous dives in the bay, offering a negative entry and drift dive along a multi-hued sloping reef.
Delving into Tubbataha Reef via liveaboards will find divers in fun swim-throughs, drop-offs, and pristine reefs. Sandy bottoms offer the chance to hunt for macro life while there are also a few wrecks in the area, such as Malayan Wreck. With strong currents, you can expect some excellent drift dives while visiting.
What to see
In the reefs and sandy seabeds of Puerto Princesa Bay, divers are likely to see a myriad of small fish as well as the larger pelagics, including tuna and barracuda. Octopus hide in rocky crevices while sea turtle and dugong are often seen in the area munching on seagrass and algae. Don’t be surprised if the view from your Peurto Princesa dive resorts includes dolphins as long-nosed dolphins are resident to the area.
When diving the Tubbataha Reef, expect rich marine biodiversity, with a total of 600 fish species, 11 shark species and 360 coral species in the area. Whale sharks regularly visit the reef in groups while nurse sharks and reef sharks are always spotted. Manta rays can be seen gliding effortlessly through the water as grouper, barracuda, and mackerel all hunt for small fish. Macro life is also abundant here with frogfish and countless bright and colourful nudibranch finding refuge in the reef.
Best places to dive
Jump into sites only minutes away from your chosen dive centre and become immersed in the sloping reefs of Mares and Putol Reef. Located at the mouth of Puerto Princesa Bay, discover crustaceans, octopus, barracuda, and turtle at Mares Rock or survey the seagrass in Putol Reef for playful dugongs you’ll often find grazing. In Cuttlefish Shawl, encounter passing reef shark and dugongs as the intricate patterns of several cuttlefish draw your attention.
Many people claim that diving Tubbataha Reef is their highlight of diving in the whole of the Philippines. Almost every site here is a good spot for drift diving, with fast-changing currents that can be unpredictable. The reefs are composed of two atolls and a reef, one, the Jessie Beazley Reefs, is known for slopes, drop-offs, and gorgeous coral reefs. On the southeast end of South Atoll is the Delsan Wreck, a small sunken ship that is a great spot for reef sharks, turtles, and eagle rays. Black Rock, also on the South Atoll, is well-known for its population of white-tip sharks while frogfish can be seen hiding between corals.