From humble beginnings as a quick and easy place to dive at the weekend for people from Manila, to an internationally recognised dive destination for superb macro diving. Photographers from all over come to shoot its wonderfully diverse life forms.
Located a 3 hour drive from Manila, Anilao is where recreational diving started in the Philippines back in the 70’s. From humble beginnings where divers used to meet up in Anilao town centre, a huge range of dive centres and resorts are now on offer, although you never really feel it’s a busy place because they are spread out over such a wide area.
Although for marketing purposes the destination is known as Anilao, it’s probably more accurate to name it after the municipality of Mabini, as dive centres and resorts are strung along miles of coastline. Typically once you’re in your resort, that’s where you’ll stay for the duration of holiday, only really venturing out to go diving!
There is a huge number of dive sites in the area, offering different kinds of environment, from reef dives to a half hearted wreck dive, but for us the primary reason for going to Anilao is for macro and muck diving.
Nowhere else in the Philippines offers such an array of sites where you can find ‘bucket list’ creatures and not just that, the numbers of species and individuals are the highest too.
The Dive Guides here have risen to the challenge of getting to know all the creatures and how to find them for photographers and videographers to tick off their wish lists. It does seem almost odd listening to a conversation between local Dive Guides as they quote scientific names of the creatures they’ve found recently, as they share stories on surface intervals!
Our favourite dive sites include:
Secret Bay – pure muck diving on dark sand. When this place is hot (lots of things to be found) it is a super wow dive site, with every chance of finding a whole heap of creatures including mimic and wunderpus, froggies, seahorses, ghost pipefish and nudibranchs.
Anilao Pier – no need to go any deeper than 5 or 6 metres, a wide sandy area with occasional whispy seagrass is home to multiple species of frogfish, stargazers, snake eels, nudibranchs, crustaceans, Pegasus fish, ghost pipefish, octopus and many more. After a 90 minute dive, you’re just getting started!
Secret Garden – House reef to Buceo Anilao Beach and Dive Resort, here is a beautiful soft coral garden. With a little current to help the soft corals come out, good viz and sunlight, this is such a fantastic dive if you are prepared to really slow down and search for creatures living here, you will not be disappointed.
Twin Rocks – just when you’ve had enough of looking for small things, Twin Rocks reminds you there’s also fish to look at on a reef! The school of Big Eye Trevally doing their swirling school routine above the twin rocks is a mesmerising distraction before you get your head stuck back into the reef!