Marine biologist Miguel Azcuna curates of underwater species in the Philippines you should see at least once in your life.
The Philippines is an archipelago. This means it’s made up of groups of islands surrounded by a vast expanse of water, ergo, a rich diversity of marine life. Diving is the best way to see the beauty that our water holds.
We spoke to a marine biologist, Dr. Miguel Azcuna from Batangas State University, to know which marine species in the Philippines you should see at least once in your life.
Where to find them: Anilao, Batangas
The name rolls off the tongue, right? These are the cute, colorful, shell-less mollusks (scallops, clams, snails, cuttlefish) you see in those island hopping package pamphlets that offer snorkeling. They love seawater and some have been referred to as sea slugs.
Where to find them: Malapascua Island, Cebu
“Thresher sharks are unique in that they use their unusually long tails to catch their prey,” says Dr. Azcuna. This particular species have found a home in the waters off of Malapascua Island in Cebu, known for its magnificent and quiet beaches. They are often found in Monad Shoal and pose no threat to humans. Be at the site early, like around 4am to 5am, for better chances of sighting.
Where to find them: Tañon Strait, between the islands of Cebu and Negros
Dr. Azcuna says they rarely pass by the Philippines but they do swim from time to time. “These apex predators prefer cooler tropical waters and can (in very rare cases) be seen in Tañon Strait between June and October.” The last time orcas were seen in Philippines waters, it was 2018.
Where to find them: Apo Island, Negros Oriental
Yes, there’s more than one place to find the humble pawikan. They can usually be found nesting in the waters of Palawan (for instance, just offshore of Club Paradise), but for a better chance of spotting one, Dr. Azcuna recommends Apo Island. You’ll usually see them grazing on seagrass.
Where to find them: Sohoton Cove, Siargao
You may be asking yourself this: “Why would you recommend seeing jellyfish as a once-in-a-lifetime activity?” Well, these jellyfish are ones you can actually swim with and not be extremely worried. Dr. Azcuna says the jellyfish that swim in Sohoton’s jellyfish pond are stingless “because they have no need for stings in freshwater.” Go early in the day to avoid the crowd.
Who is Dr. Miguel Azcuna?
Miguel Azcuna is a marine biologist who specializes in Bioprospecting for New Medicine, particularly from marine sponges. He holds a Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, where he majored in Marine Biotechnology.
He was a part of the team from UP MSI’s Bolinao Marine Laboratory that donated giant clams to Camiguin’s Giant Clam Sanctuary.
He is currently an associate professor at the Batangas State University – ARASOF Nasugbu Campus and a member of the research staff at the Verde Island Passage Center for Oceanographic Research and Aquatic Life Sciences (VIP CORALS).
Riding a motorbike is one of life’s greatest joys (or, at least, it should be), and here’s where you should do it.
Since it’s not as wet in the South as it is here in the North, and since motorbiking is life, giving you an adulterated freedom to see and experience sights at your own pace, cheating city and inner town traffic, here are five destinations you can fly to and enjoy the sights of, after renting a motorbike. Bloggers Kara Santos and Louie Pacardo curate.
The island province of Siquijor is a scenic island worth exploring on a day motorbike tour. Often associated with stories of witchcraft and mysticism, Siquijor offers enchanting beaches, beautiful waterfalls, and other architectural gems. The most interesting spots are scattered around the island—a bit difficult to access by public transportation but best if via a motorbike.
Glan, Sarangani Province
The road going to the beach town of Glan is already a destination. The coastal road along the edges of Sarangani Bay offers scenic views of the mangrove-rich and white sand beach strips. Glan is best known for its white sand beaches and heritage sites. Biker-friendly resorts include Kamari Resort and Hotel which offers a spacious and guarded parking area.
Glan is about one hour’s ride away from General Santos City in Mindanao
Alamada, North Cotabato
Alamada is among the lesser known riding destinations in Mindanao with unique landscapes and roadside views. The 120-meter wide Asik-asik Falls is the top destination going to this silent town in North Cotabato. Another emerging must-stopover is Daday Falls, a tall drop settled in a Jurassic period-like landscape sandwiched by steep gorges in Barangay Dado.
Alamada is about three and a half hours’ ride away from Davao City
Lebak, Sultan Kudarat
This coastal town facing the Celebes Sea in southwest Mindanao is best known among riders because of its twisting roads. You’ll do about a hundred motorcycle bankings going in and out of this sleepy town in Maguindanao Province. Lebak is best known for its tasty crabs and seafoods and its many waterfalls like Tres Andanas Falls.
Precaution: Mindanao is generally peaceful. However, just like when traveling in any part of the country or even the world, it is still best to check the present security situation in particular areas with previous peace and order issues.
For beach-lovers and surfers, the island of Siargao is one of the best places where to ride. Aside from the main surfing area of Gen. Luna, the island conceals beautiful uncrowded spots like Malinao, Magpupungko Tidal Pools, and Pacifico, that you can easily ride to. There’s a variety of motorbikes for rent, including ones outfitted with surf racks—well, for packing your surfboard—and gorgeous bespoke bikes handcrafted by 3B Customs, a bike builder from Surigao City.
We tell you: You can go overseas without having to leave the country. Read how.
The Philippines may be a tiny archipelago but it’s so beautiful and blessed—thanks to its 7,000++ islands making it almost have a bit of or something similar to what another country has to offer.
Here are five places in the Philippines that transport you to places outside the Philippines.
The rolling hills of “New Zealand” (Batanes)
This one’s no secret. Every time we see someone post about one of the ultimate #travelgoals, it almost always involves a sense of awe.
The northernmost province of the country, Batanes, is home to rolling green hills dotted with livestock that resembles the home of the Kiwis. You may not see fluffy flocks of sheep, but you will see herds of cattle and/or cows grazing among all that beauty, a rare combination in the country. There’s also the clear skies that add to the whole “this shouldn’t be in the Philippines” vibe.
There’s a particularly good spot that will make you say “Am I REALLY in the Philippines?”: Rakuh-a-Payaman in Mahatao.
“African safari” (Calauit Safari Park in Palawan)
It’s safe to say you’re not really going to find wild zebras and giraffes running around in open fields ANYWHERE in the country; they’re usually seen in enclosures inside zoos. Not that we’re complaining, but we’d like to see them in their element, similar to their brothers and sisters in Africa.
Luckily, there is a place just like the African safari that’s within 35 minutes of Metro Manila: the Calauit Safari Park. It’s home to reticulated giraffes and Grévy’s zebra that get to run around and play alongside local species, some of which are endemic to the Calamianes Islands where the park resides.
Experience the rolling hills of Batanes by booking #DashHolidays! Tel: +63917 840 6853, +639917 627 6179 Solar Century Tower, 100 Tordesillas cor. HV Dela Costa Streets, Salcedo Village, Makati City
Time travel to “old Spain” (Vigan, Ilocos Sur)
UNESCO calls it the “best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia,” and it’s not hard to see why.
Vigan, Ilocos Sur is a remarkably well-preserved Spanish colonial town thanks in large part to the people taking pride in their heritage. One street, in particular, gives this city that true “old Spanish town” feel: Calle Crisologo. This cobblestone street is at the heart of Vigan’s very best when it comes to preserving old Spanish architecture. That, coupled with local laws that prevent extensive modifications to heritage houses, make this sight unique to Vigan.
“Japanese Bamboo” Forest (Man-made forest in Bilar, Bohol)
This is not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, but the way the Bilar Man-Made Forest looks really gives you that feeling of being inside the Sagano Bamboo Forest in Kyoto, Japan.
You won’t see a single bamboo tree standing here (nor will mahogany make the same soothing sound when they get hit by a breeze), but you have to admit that the tree tunnel it creates is eerily similar. It’s like going through a wormhole that will transport you to somewhere completely different.
Going “Dutch” with flowers (Sirao Flower Farm, Cebu)
You can’t grow tulips in the Philippines without a truckload of struggle. Does this mean Amsterdam’s flower gardens are a far-fetched dream reserved for those lucky enough to get a Schengen visa? No.
A trip to Cebu is all you need to see sights similar to those in Amsterdam. The Sirao Flower Farm started making rounds in social media before the 10,000 Roses Cafe was even a thing. It looks spectacularly like the flower gardens in Amsterdam even without the tulips thanks to a more Philippine-friendly flower that’s just as colorful: the celiosa flower or cock’s comb.
Do you know of other destinations that you feel are similar to those overseas? Let us know and we’ll do a second set!
Explore sunken ships—the ugly beautiful allure of Coron, Palawan.
Coron, Palawan, the wreck diving capital of the Philippines, is known for its 13 World War II Japanese shipwrecks all lying within depth enough for them to be explorable by underwater addicts—the divers— from the Teru Kaze at a minimum depth of 4m, to the Irako with a maximum depth of 42m.
offer great views from the outside and excellent routes on the inside for
experienced divers and those with the right certification levels. Most of
Coron’s dive operators in town, including our own Reggae Dive Center, typically
offers three daily dives.
If you only have
a few days in town, try this itinerary.
Start your diving holiday with some shallower check out dive in Barracuda Lake, known for its thermoclines and temperatures reaching 39 degrees Celcius—a perfect warm-up for a stunning dive on the Morazan Maru, which offers great diving both for experienced and entry-level divers.
Morazan Maru was originally built in
1905 in England but was sunk in September 1944 along with the other wrecks. She
has since turned into a home of an abundance of species like lionfish and giant
trevallies—and sometimes even turtles.
Cap off your day
with a shallow dive at Teru Kaze
located a stone’s throw away from the Morazan Maru, for some reef and wreck
diving. This wreck is good for snorkeling as the shallowest part is only 4m
below the surface. On most days, Teru Kaze will offer good views from below as
well as from above the surface.
You’ll be back
in Coron later in the afternoon with ample time to climb Mount Tapyas for a
view of beautiful sunsets and of Coron Island. Enjoy a refreshing fruit shake
or a cold beer at the newly opened Tapas Lounge before you continue further
down the hill and out into town.
End your day by
stopping at Coron’s many bars and restaurants. You can have the bistek and menudo at Lolo Nonoy’s or
vegan pesto pasta and veggie sticks at Le
Voyage. For something off-track, walk off the main street and venture into
Coron’s side streets with its eateries and restaurants catering to all tastes.
Experienced and certified divers can upgrade their depth limits with dives to the Akitsushima.
location between 23 and 35 meters under the sea makes it not suitable for entry
level divers but it remains to be one of the most popular dives in the area as
it’s the only wreck left with its guns mostly intact. The guns are dislodged
from the gun turrets and are currently standing upright on the seabed next to
the wreck, with three barrels raised toward to surface.
some time on the surface, have your second dive at the Okikawa Maru, an oil tanker that holds the distinction as Coron’s
longest and widest shipwreck at 160 meters in length and a 20-meter span across
the beam. Her shallower part lies above the depth limit for entry level divers.
This wreck is
located in a passage that from time to time creates strong currents. Due to the
relatively shallow depth and the current, the Okikawa Maru teems with marine
life—groupers, snappers, crocodile fish, triggerfish, and more. Those with keen
eyes will find this wreck good for macro diving.
Cap your day’s
dive series at Lusong Gunboat, one
of the last unidentified wrecks in Coron. The Gunboat took direct hits and had
its wreckage spread over a wide area, though the hull is generally intact. As
with the Teru Kaze, this gunboat was also sunk in very shallow water—so shallow
in fact that this wreck pokes out of the water at low tide.
Gunboat is perfect for all levels of divers—from those getting into scuba
diving, experienced divers who want to chill a bit after some great dives, and macro
End your day
with a dip at Maquinit Hot Springs with its natural saltwater springs, or a
full Italian meal at Altrove.
This day will be your last diving day in Coron since divers are advised not to fly within 18 hours of going underwater. Finish off in style at the Irako, Coron’s deepest and darkest shipwreck.
Irako was a
refrigerator ship in the Japanese Navy. She has tight compartments and storage
rooms, and her starting depth of 30 meters means only the most experienced of
divers dare to take her on. Currents can change in a heartbeat and visibility
ranges from a few meters on a bad day to magnificent ideal months. Her upright
position with masts still poised makes it easy to see why she has become part
of many divers coming to Coron’s bucket lists.
dive is on the cards for your last dive day: the Kogyo Maru, an auxiliary construction supply ship, which went down
with her load. One can still see the toppled construction machines in her cargo
holds, with belt tracks and hundreds upon hundreds of bags of cement. Like the
Morazan Maru, this wreck is widely covered in corals and marine life, from
schools of seabreams to circling big-eye trevallies, to huge numbers of scads
Make a final
dive in one of Coron’s reefs or one of the shallower wrecks to make this trip
one for the books.
Head back town
for some tasty ramen and a cold beverage at Buzz. You can also visit Tita Esh for a more low-key vibe and some
filling pansit canton or a
heart-warming bowl of mami.
It’s island hopping day! Make sure not to leave Coron without taking a trip to Coron Island. Rent a private boat with a tour guide or book a tour through an operator.
offers a lot of white sand beaches and clear waters, with lunch that’s served
in one of the small huts they have set up for the same purpose on the beaches.
Do not miss out on Kayangan Lake or Twin Lagoon; go snorkeling in Siete Pecados or Twin Peaks.
Rent a kayak or
a standup paddleboard in town if you’re feeling edgy before leaving and explore
the island as you paddle along. This is a great opportunity to experience the beauty of the island in a very eco-friendly way.
Relax and enjoy
the evening with a good view and a cold gin and tonic from either the View Deck
or Suites 4:13 before heading out for dinner and summoning a good night sleep.
Who is Lisbeth Jensen? Lisbeth is an instructor at Reggae Dive Center in Coron for over four years now. She is passionate about the environment and has used her work to participate in conservation efforts in Busuanga.
The Basics Get there. Skyjet Airlines flies from Manila to Coron three times daily. Flyskyjetair.com
Dive tours. Reggae Dive Center offers fun dives to Coron’s many shipwrecks as well as PADI dive courses. Mobile: +63928 835 5657, +63906 316 1454 Reggaedivecenter.com
Head to Freediving Coron if you want to enjoy these same dive spots without the need for heavy scuba gear. Mobile: + 63915 172 6809 Freediving-coron.com
Words: Lisbeth Jensen; Photos: Catalin Craciun & Daniel Soriano Featured photo by Catalin Craciun