With numerous resorts and dive centres, plus easy access to the Philippines best dive areas, Cebu is a great central hub for all divers. Choose from thresher sharks dives, Moalboal’s famous sardine bait balls, vivid macro dives and drop-offs plunging to over 200m deep, with schools of hundreds of hammerhead sharks.
Diving in Cebu
Cebu is a large island located in the Visayas region of the Philippines. It is an up and coming island with one of the densest populations in the country. Much of this population relies on the busy tourist industry, of which scuba diving is a major part.
Diving in Cebu is big business, with high profile diving towns like Malapascua, Moalboal and Mactan bringing in thousands of tourists each year. Malapascua is known for its thresher shark sightings, Moalboal for its infamous sardine run and Mactan for its stunning corals. Near the southernmost province of Santander lies Oslob - a town famous for its regular whale shark encounters, encouraged by feedings from the local fishermen. Off the coast of Oslob also lies Sumilon island, the first marine sanctuary in the Philippines which has some untouched marine biodiversity.
Best time to dive
Cebu diving is possible all year round due to its generally warm climate. The dry season, and the best time for diving, is from February to early June as it has the most reliably dry and calm weather with water temperatures of about 29oC. From June to November, there is a higher chance of rain and bad weather, especially in September/October time. The waters in December and January are the coldest they will be, at around 26oC. The north of Cebu tends to get more rainfall and typhoons than southern Cebu.
Types of diving
Cebu is a very large island and has many different types of diving to choose from. From deep shoal dives in Malapascua to caves on Monad, to walls on Moalboal and drift and reef dives everywhere - there will be something to keep everyone happy.
The island's popularity means that there are plenty of dive resorts and dive centers to choose from. Some dive resorts offer dive and stay options, which can range from backpacker to luxury. Every dive center will offer dive courses up to professional levels, it’s just a challenge choosing between them all. It is a popular place to learn to dive because of the fantastic, relatively easy diving, ease of travel and pleasant atmosphere. There are many different areas to stay in so be sure to check which dive sites you would prefer before booking anywhere. Another option, if you wish to dive in multiple locations, is to book a liveaboard. There are several that depart from Cebu and visit most of the major dive sites.
What to see
Diving in Cebu will delight you, whether you prefer macro filled muck dives or pelagic filled dives out in the blue. Malapascua offers one of the best chances in the world to see thresher sharks all year round. The cleaning station filled with moon wrasse draws them up from the deep and often has eagle rays and oceanic manta rays too. A different dive site offers the chance to see schooling hammerheads.
Moalboal sardine run is a spectacular site, and if you dive to see fish - this is the dive for you. Millions of sardines congregate in a ball of fish that is dense enough to block out the sun. Other fish life in the area is typical of the reefs in the coral triangle - healthy coral with brightly coloured fish. The macro critters of Mactan Island are any photographers dream. You can even see the very rare mandarin fish. One of the sights most associated with Cebu is the whale shark.
Though they can be seen organically at certain dive sites, especially during their migration, the whale shark sightings close to Oslob are now, sadly, artificial. As local fishermen began to feed the animals, more and more started to congregate and ignore their natural migration cycles as the food was so plentiful. It is one of the best chances to see them, but bear in mind that with all the snorkel boats and tours, it may not be the natural or peaceful encounter you are looking for.
Best places to dive
Cebu has some of the highest quality dive sites in the Philippines and these are some of the great choices that each region has to offer.
Malapascua - The most famous dive site in Malapascua is Monad Shoal which allows you to see the elusive thresher shark. The cleaning station attracts them out from the deep and is also frequented by other sharks and manta rays. It is a fairly deep dive, only suitable for advanced divers or those with a deep speciality certification.
Gato Island has several dive sites, all of which have varied macro and reef life and nurse and bamboo sharks hiding in the crevasses in the rocks. There is also a beautiful tunnel here through which bright blue sunlight streams. Kimud Shoal is a reef dive suitable for all…Until it drops into 200m+ of water. The really excellent dive here, suitable only for the experienced is to drop into the blue, 50m from the drop-off. During the right season, and very early in the morning, you might see schools of 200+ hammerhead sharks out there. The Lighthouse is a great shallow reef dive which, if dived at dusk, might allow you to see mating mandarin fish.
Moalboal - Panagsama Beach is home to a worldwide phenomenon of a year-round sardine shoal. They live in their millions off the beach, protected from the fishermens’ nets by local laws. You can often see tuna, trevally and even sharks hunting them.
Pescador island is a sandy slope which drops into a wall. The visibility here is some of the best in the world, as clear water is pushed up the Tanon Strait by the current. It also features an open topped cave called “The Cathedral” and features lots of tunnels and swim throughs.
Mactan - Marigondon Cavern has an entrance at 30m and extends 60m inside the cliffs. Though the entrance is wide, inside it is dark and many small critters can be seen. In some places, the sunlight filters through the rock making for a beautiful vista. Kontiki House Reef is a perfect reef dive for novices, though the array of macro life will keep experienced divers occupied for well over an hour. There are lots of crabs, shrimp, nudibranch and sea snakes to see here, and it is ideally dived at night.
Best of the rest:
Sumilon Island is untouched and has some spectacular sites which include Julie’s Rock and Nikk’s Wall. The Caubian Caves, with the entrance located at 40m are best dived by technical divers. Talima on Cebu is full of vibrant corals and fish life. There is a small wreck to explore, now a teeming artificial reef. Thresher Point on Olango Island also offers a chance to see these timid fish.