Scuba Diving Puerto Galera, Philippines

Puerto Galera is located on the North West coast of island of Mindoro and is about 130 miles south of Manila. One of the main destinations in Philippines for scuba diving is Puerto Galera. There are more than 30 dive centres. It is also a marine sanctuary with a great marine life and coral reefs. The area has been a Marine and Biosphere Reserve of UNESCO since 1973 and has some of the most diverse coral reefs in Asia. While scuba diving Puerto Galera, big fish like white tip sharks, tunas, barracudas, eagle rays, turtles can be seen at the popular dive sites. Thriving fish life like angelfish, wrasses, surgeonfish, batfish, butterfly fish can be seen at house reef wrecks. You can also spot exotic fish like spanish dancer, harlequin ghost-pipefish along with camouflaged frogfish, fire gobies and blue-ribbon eels.
Scuba diving Puerto Galera is a heaven for underwater photographers, marine biologists and divers. You get to see a diversified marine life of soft corals, gorgonians, crinoids, colourful sponges, tunicates, crustaceans and shrimps and the most popular is the invertebrate, ‘nudibranchs’.
It is also a great place for night diving.
Most of the dive sites are located in Verde Island passage. Here the current is strong and the water is clear. It is a great opportunity for drift dives along the deep walls.
The other popular dive sites are in front of Sabang beach and are accessible via a 5 minute boat ride.
There are many places at Puerto Galera where you can learn technical diving.

How to get to Puerto Galera

You can travel to Puerto Galera from Manila. The preferable transport is the bus. There is a bus terminal along Taft Avenue, Pasay City. This is nearest to the Ninoy Aquino International and Domestic Airport. The other bus terminals are in Cubao (Quezon City), EDSA corner Kamias Street (Quezon City), Alabang(Muntinlupa City).
You can also avail the ferry going to Puerto Galera. Travellers may also opt to use private transfer.

Best dive sites around Puerto Galera

Hibo Reef: The depth is 40 m. This is located in the Manila Channel. The wall is covered with gorgonian sea fans and large black coral trees, unique to this spot in the locality. Eels and blue triggerfish have made small holes in the wall their home. stingrays are common below the wall, on the sandy patch. A variety of soft corals can be spotted while scuba diving Puerto Galera’s this dive site.
Tamaraw Rocks: The depth ranges from 3 to 16 m. It is a shallow dive. You will find barrel sponges and colourful reefs on your way while scuba diving. On the sand there are stingrays. This site is home to leaf fish, frog fish and is a good site for night dive.

Odies Wall: The depth of this site is 33 m. The ocean floor is white sandy with large bommies and rock formations. The contour slopes off gently. You will find large number of staghorn coral, basket sponges, plate corals and sandy areas are covered with long whip corals and a variety of small tropical fish. Reef sharks and turtles can also be spotted.

Manila Channel: The depth is 18 m and the site is abundant with gorgonian sea fans and colourful sea whips. You can also see hard and soft corals in a variety. While scuba diving, groupers are hard to spot because they are well camouflaged.

Coral Gardens: The depth is 10 m and this is one of the best dive sites of Puerto Galera. It is excellent even for drift drive. Coral strewn terrain shelves out from the beach and some of the crevices are home to ribbon eels and even turtles can be seen.

Alma Jane: It has a depth of 30m. A liveboard which had sunk in 2000 is home to giant frog fish and even batfish hang out here. Turtles can be spotted too.

Sabang Wreck: With a depth of 18m, this is an old wooden fishing vessel sunk off in front of Sabang beach. Home to bat fish and surgeonfish, it is a popular dive site. Trumpets, stone fish, stargazers, flounders, sea stars call this dive site home.

Sabang Point: It has a depth of 24m with stoney corals, fish, invertebrates such as cuttlefish and octopus. A ridge is covered with crinoids and corals. It is a good site for night dive.

Monkey Beach: A coral slopes down to 18 m. This site is good for beginners. Small coral heads have crinoids, nudibranchs and reef fish.

Dungung Wall: A wreck sits at 27m, at the bottom of the multi-level wall. The wall rises to 12m where the bottom extends into the bay. A good area for colorful corals and reef life.

Hole in the Wall: Situated at Escarceo point, this dive is normally performed as an 18m profile. You descend in several drop offs, each about 3m, and reach the hole at about 13m.The hole is about 1.5m wide, covered with multicolored corals and crinoids. While scuba diving Puerto Galera, you will find this as a world class dive site.

The Canyons: An advanced dive site with 30m depth. Drop offs are covered in soft corals and sponges.You will find a variety including snappers, emperors, sweetlips, barracudas, jacks, trevallies and the occasional shark, that make this a high-light Dive. The dive ends at a large anchor embedded in the coral where the group can gather before being swept off before the safety stop, in the current.

The Atol: This large rock has several small crevices on the bottom side, reef sharks and stingrays have made these crevices home. On the other side the rock overhangs, it is a good place to explore with a flashlight. You will find eels, lionfish, nudibranchs and octopus. A large grouper also lives here and also the occasional larger pelagic fish. It is good for nitrox diving.

Shark Cave: It has a depth of 27m. It has a large overhang which is a favourite spot for white tip reef sharks. It’s also home to blue spotted stingrays, moray eels and octopus. This site is usually visited at the beginning of a multi-level dive to the Pink Wall or as a stop on the way to the canyons.

Pink Wall: It has a depth of 12m. A very pretty site with many corals. When dived on the correct tide, it is a paradise for photographers and beginners.

What to expect while scuba diving Puerto Galera

The conditions on many dive sites are pretty easy and therefore ideal to learn scuba diving. Puerto Galera is famous for its drift dives along the beautiful walls.
Since Puerto Galera is considered as warm water diving area, 3 mm thick wet suits are the norm. The tide exchange is from a few centimetres up to 2 meters. For scuba diving Puerto Galera, selection of the dive sites depends on the tidal exchange and the slack tides, which is an important part of dive planning.
The currents which is common in the area are often brisk and unpredictable.
You will find gentle currents in most of the local dive sites ideal for training. It is fierce in the straits in the channels between the Islands.
The Verde Island Passage is known as the “centre of the centre” of the world’s marine biodiversity. Life enhancing nutrients from the Pacific and waters of the South China Sea mix together. Underneath the surface are vivid reef formations which consists more than 300 species of corals. It also has underwater rock canyons that host nearly 60 percent of the world’s known shore fish species. It is described as the marine counterpart of the Amazon River basin,” by World Conservation Union. The passage is at the peak of the “Coral Triangle” that consists of the Sulawesi and the Sulu Seas in the southern Philippines and nearby Indonesia.

Other things to do and see in Puerto Galera

Apart from scuba diving Puerto Galera, you can indulge in other activities like sailing, kayaking, sunset cruises, beach hopping, volleyball, golfing, snorkeling, banana boat, trekking, buggies and motorcycle rentals and even paintball. There is also a zip-line in the area.


Best times to visit Puerto Galera

It is possible to dive all year round in Puerto Galera. The visibility ranges from 10m to 30m depending on the season and the tide.
The best time to dive is from April to September. During this period you will enjoy great visibility, good sea conditions and warm water.
During winter and especially in December, the water temperature is much colder with minimum around 23°C on certain dive sites.


Where Days are made of Sun, Sand and Sea

Sun kissed beaches lined up with white sand, turquoise shaded transparent sea water, minimal human intervention and activity, far ahead of any competition of what you call paradise.

Lakshadweep islands are a group of 36 coral islands. For all those who aren’t travelling by cruise, Agatti is basically the entry gate to Lakshadweep. The airport which is one of the smallest I’ve ever seen is one of the most charming you’ll ever see. At times, beauty lies in small things, doesn’t it? As the aircraft descends, you get a feeling that it will land on the water, so close is the beach from the strip of runway. You can see the waves breaking down and forming lagoons. It’s beautiful, to say the least. I wanted to sail on a cruise but I didn’t prefer taking one because then your itinerary is scheduled.

From Agatti, I took a speedboat ride to one of the other islands and chose the Kadmat Island as the destination solely because they have a diving school and my intention was to do just that. The more the hardship while travelling, the more beautiful the destination appears. The speedboat ride from Agatti to Kadmat was worse than any experience on the most convoluted roller coaster ever designed. It’s difficult to describe a journey where you are being tossed in every conceivable direction every minute. But I got there! Finally! I could sit there for ages looking at them and may be would free the anchor someday and let them sail away. The first sight of Kadmat was breath taking; I approached the island just prior to sunset. Clear turquoise, rather almost green, waters calmly embraced the pure white sands. Every few moments the waters came and hugged the sand with joy, only to depart with a pang of separation, but with the hope to be back to spend some time with the shore. As this game of hide and seek went on between the waves and the shore, I disembarked on what turned out to be the most picturesque jetty that I have seen in my lifetime.

Nowadays on a holiday like this one, I prefer getting up before the sun rises. I did that on the first day morning and saw an enthralling sunrise with is orange-red reflection making the ocean look as if on fire. The increasing warmth of the sun in the background and some wonderful dry branches on the shore made for some amazing pictures. After breakfast, on our first morning, I was all set for our first dive of the trip. Pure enticing waters and a promise of colourful marine life were enough motivation for me to overcome the little fear that had settled in as I had not dived for about 18 months. The oxygen tanks, the buoyancy control device and the amazing divers all set with their dive watches tuned for another dive made us more restless as we took our boat ride 45 minutes into the ocean. My instructor Shamsuddin, rattled all the instructions I was supposed to follow without considering how nervous I was. Reminded me of the time when I was teaching a tough skill procedure to some of my team members in Accenture, and how narrow my tolerance was for their fear. When you are geared up and in water, there comes a command from the dive master to go down. At that point, I deflated the life jacket and allowed my weight to take me down. The descend requires you to adapt your breathing style and keep equalising the increasing pressure on your ear drums. Once the first few seconds pass, you open your eyes to the surrounding. The first glimpses are of all the little things that live under water. The fish are colourful, to say the least. Several are named after animals, so you have the leopard fish, the tiger fish etc, but what took our breath away was the large turtles that gracefully swam past us, as if to show us that big can be beautiful too.

On some of our dives, we saw spiky lobsters, the spikes of which resembled my childhood hairstyle. The schools of fish too seemed to be busy going about their daily business. I have still not understood why they swim a few feet one way and then turn back to return to the point of origin. I feel they play out the choreographed dance steps from time to time. In one of those silent moments under water I looked up to the sky from the ocean floor and I saw the fish shimmering in the rays of the subdued filtered out the sun. Even the sun does not like to be harsh on these underwater creatures. At that point, everything seemed to be in slow motion. You know your time under water is limited to the amount of oxygen in your tank and those few minutes you want to see as much as you can and more than that try your best to remember everything you see.

On the last dive, we went to this dive site called “The Wall”. It was a dive in which I started on the mountain peak under water that had a steep 20 feet fall into the valley. It was great to be under water but at the top of the mountain at the same time, falling down into the valley full of beautiful creatures. Buoyancy control is the name of the game under water. You have to strike a balance between floating up and sinking further down, almost like how we do it in real life on land. You don’t let your failures take you down and the success to make you rise up so much that your feet don’t touch the ground.

Good friends can share a lot of silence with each other very comfortably. I made few friends while diving for those few days. There were few travellers from Portugal and Mexico. When we came up from our dives generally for a few minutes no one talked after the pleasantries are exchanged. Each one got lost into reminiscent images of the beauty witnessed underwater.

My thoughts usually get more philosophical and these are the times I question the reason of my existence, the purpose of my life. The answer is usually very harsh as my inner voice tells me that in this big universe I am too small to take myself so seriously. I think my purpose now is to ‘just be’ and travel as much as I can to see the natural designs that are attributed to be of divine origin.

Kayaking into the glorious colourful sunset was an activity I have never done before. In Kadmat, the evening invited us to spend the time rowing towards the setting sun that only looked humble as it got ready to be engulfed by the water. It surprises me every time how the harsh beating sun can be humbled by the passage of the day, a quality many of us humans should learn. We had our snorkels with us, so we took a dip into the water to observe some superficial corals with their rich marine inhabitants. The bright pink colours of the live corals were, fortunately, better than the grayscale corals I had seen at Andamans. I was surprised to see so much beauty just a few feet under water. The fish must be finding us humans so colourless, with our shapes really funny and sounds that we make while breathing must be a pain to their ears. I saw some of the fish looking condescendingly at me, just the way I would look at an intruding stranger in my world.

So our days went by, from waking up before sunrise to see the hope of a new day unfold in front of our eyes, taking our morning dives and being impressed with all that we saw, to having some great simple local seafood for lunch (and during dinner we ate the fish we caught) with a relaxing afternoon nap and then as the universe gets energised to call it a day, we sat on the beach with some warm conversations and saw the beautiful sunset scenes orchestrated in front of our eyes. As the darkness of the night took over we laid there on the beach and looked at the stars in the busy sky, trying to make sense of the subtle messages we receive from them.

On our last morning, we went on a tour to see the Kadmat Island. The tour was over in 2 hours. We found the North end of the island rocky with the smallest lighthouse on the shore I have ever seen. It was almost as if the light house was in hiding, trying to prevent people in the sea from finding Kadmat. The highlight of the tour was the wonderful hospitality we received at the house of the tour operator with some local sweet dishes and a special item called coconut apple.

At the far end from where I was, I saw some of my friends talk to each other and a few minutes later as the sun bid us the last goodbye for the trip, I saw them get up to leave; as they did that, they left their soul there. I did the same and walked back to my room to pack up, the next morning will see us depart from Kadmat and arrive at the cacophony of the mundane, materialistic city life. I still feel great reaching home, I know I will rest and travel soon again.