There’s something for all dive levels at Mactan; from exciting drop-offs, caves and deep walls to easy coral gardens, wrecks and seagrass meadows. A great destination for shore dives and day boat diving, there are plenty of resorts and an array of thriving reef and pelagic life to encounter.
Diving in Mactan
Mactan is an island found nearby the larger island of Cebu in the Visayas region of the Philippines. It is the most densely populated island in the Philippines and is separated from Cebu by the Mactan Channel, and connected to it by two bridges.
There are plenty of dive sites suitable for all levels of divers around Mactan. There are drop-offs, walls and slopes to explore, as well as coral gardens, caves, seagrass meadows and two wrecks. There is lots of shore diving in Mactan but many sites require a short boat journey. The popularity of the island with tourists means that there are plenty of dive resorts and centers to choose from.
Best time to dive
Mactan diving is available all year round but there are seasonal changes in the weather. The best conditions for diving tend to come during the warm and dry season between February and May. there is less rainfall in this season and the waters are at their warmest in May/June. From June - November, there is slightly more rain but as they tend to be short, refreshing showers; it is nothing that will ruin a holiday! December and January are the coolest months of the year and water temperatures can reach as low as 25 degrees Celcius.
Types of diving
There is lots of both shore and boat diving in Mactan. Most of the drop-offs start around 50-80m away from the shore entry point. There are shallow reefs to enjoy until the drop-off, perfect for beginner divers. The walls sometimes plunge into very deep water which is a favourite of technical divers. There are sometimes currents here, which can be used for drift dives. There are two wrecks, including an aircraft, to enjoy too.
The densely populated island means there is a wide variety of dive centers and dive courses to choose from - some of which include technical diving. There are several dive resorts too, which cater to different budgets ranging from backpacker to luxury. Several liveaboards include diving at Mactan Island, within a tour of the wider area.
What to see
The reefs surrounding Mactan are very healthy, particularly because of the deeper, cooler water which surrounds the island. The reefs host many colourful and diverse fish and sea creatures - groupers, barracuda, nudibranch, scorpionfish, pufferfish, clownfish, moray eels, butterflyfish and fusiliers are seen on almost every dive. The slightly more elusive creatures like frogfish, leaf fish, squid, octopus, sea snakes, stonefish and pipefish are there for the sharp-eyed too. There is even the chance to spot the super rare mandarin fish.
Out in the blue, mackerel and jacks gather in huge schools. Turtles, stingrays and even big-eyed trevally often accompany them. Whitetip reef sharks frequent several sites, and some dive sites even have the opportunity to see hammerhead and thresher sharks, though rarely.
Best places to dive
Kontiki House Reef is the perfect dive site for novices, though provides plenty for more experienced divers to enjoy too. Comprising of a gentle slope to 50m, it is perfect for skill practice as well as for night dives. There are lots of crabs, shrimp and sea snakes to see here. The bright corals, seagrass meadows and pebble bottom are all perfect for the macro critters that are found here - be sure to bring your camera.
The Tambuli Plane Wreck lies between 18 and 22m on a steep slope. It can be dived by all levels of divers, but bear in mind that the slope continues down to 80m+. There is a pleasant reef at 5m with lots of soft corals to look at - see if you can find the resident pipefish. The plane itself has become a haven for macro photographers, as it has become a healthy artificial reef.
Marigondon Cavern lies with an entrance at 30m, making this dive only suitable for advanced divers. The entrance is 15m wide and you can continue to penetrate to around 60m into the cave - bring your torch as it will be very dark! As the average depth of the cave is around 25m, nitrox is recommended to extend your bottom time.
Shangri-La Marine Sanctuary is a lovely site in front of the resort of the same name. It is a well maintained and healthy reef with very clear waters. Huge hard and soft corals sustain the array of life found here which include lots of parrotfish, lionfish and even giant green frogfish. Schools of jack and batfish surround the area too, making it almost like swimming in an aquarium. Though most of the site is shallow enough for open water divers, the slope extends down to 80m+ making it popular for deep divers too.