For any self-respecting scuba traveler, the Philippines is the dream destination to get your fins wet. Dive locations that offer wrecks, sharks, walls, drifts, whales, muck, reef and more, and each one unique. There are so many options that a diver could cross off most, if not all, items from their scuba bucket list.
One of those awesome dive locations in the country, is Moalboal, in the southern end of Cebu of the Visayas. If you have only a limited time in the Philippines and want the best possible dives, Moalboal might be the place to go.
How to get to Moalboal:
There are quite a few world class locations for scuba diving Philippines, each with something different and unique to offer, however, as the Philippines is an archipelago, most of them are widespread and are only accessible by flying from one island to the next.
When you arrive by plane in the Philippines, it will most likely be Manila where you first step foot. There are international flights to Cebu City, but most are to the capital.
From Manila, you will need to take a short domestic flight to Cebu City (Mactan International), which is about a 50 minutes flight.
When you get to Cebu City, you need to go overland south to Moalboal. There are a few options to get there, such as renting a car, taking the bus, or hiring a taxi to take you, the easiest is to just take a taxi.
A regular size taxi will cost between 2500-3500 PHP and will take about 3-4 hours, depending on traffic.
For a cheaper option, head to the south bus station. North bus station buses only head towards Malapascua, so make sure you are getting to the south station.
Busses are relatively comfortable but can take up to 6 hours if traffic is bad. Prices per person for the bus are only about 350 PHP, or $7. The bus will drop you off on the main road outside of Moalboal, where there are tons of tricycles waiting to take you to your hotel or dive center.
Dive Sites in Moal Boal
For me, one of my favorite aspects about Moalboal, is how relatively easy it is to access, and still be a world class dive location. Many of the best dive locations around the world are hard to travel to, so Moalboal’s ease is appreciated. Here are a few of the best sites that I recommend:
The Sardine Run. Of course, I have to mention the Sardine Run first, as it is the most well-known attraction of Moalboal. The Sardine Run is a huge bait ball of hundreds of thousands of tiny sardines, that congregate in one enormous school, and swim in synch together. As they dodge around barracudas, trevally, and sharks together as one. They look to be dancing through the sun rays and blotting the sun. Trust me, you won’t want to miss them.
Pescador Island. The Sardine Run is a must-see, but for underwater photographers interested in pristine corals and rare species, Pescador Island will be sure to impress. Incredible species you might run into include frogfish, cuttlefish, ornate ghost pipefish, all kinds of tiny shrimp and crabs, and countless other critters, hiding in very healthy corals around the island. No matter how many times you dive Pescador, you are going to see something new overtime.
The Plane Wreck. There is a purposely sunken Cessna two-passenger plane near Moalboal that is worth visiting. It was sunk to create some artificial reef, alleviate some of the other reefs from divers, and to offer a unique scuba diving opportunity. Most dive centers don’t mention this dive site, as there are so many others, so if you want the chance to see something strange and different underwater, ask to be taken to this dive site!
Sunken Island. This dive site is for experienced divers, as it is a little deeper, with the occasional currents, but is a photographer’s favorite. The underwater pinnacle tops out at 25 meters and offers chances to see not only the regular residents of frogfish, nudibranchs but pelagics as well. Sharks and mantas show up here sometimes, and if you are really lucky, a whale shark.
The house reefs and walls along the coastline of Moalboal peninsula. A lot of the dive resorts are located right on the coast or beaches, and those ones normally have great house reefs. A steep wall follows the whole coastline, with tons of hard and soft corals coating every inch, as well as countless species calling it home.
There are countless other dive sites around Moalboal where you should visit, but definitely don’t miss the ones above. I should also mention that if you have more time, Moalboal is pretty close to a few other popular diving and non-diving destinations, and it would be an even better trip if you combine a few of them.
On some of my visits to Moalboal, I also visited nearby Dauin, a short ferry ride away, to Siquijor, another ferry ride away where you can visit the island of voodoo. There are many opportunities that you can spend a long holiday just in this one area and never run out of fun things to do!
If you need a recommendation for a reputable company to help you get the most out of Cebu, I can highly recommend booking a Cebu tour package with Travel Cebu. From chasing waterfalls and canyoneering for the trill to swimming with majestic sea turtles and whale sharks, you can find the most convenient and hassle-free adventure package for you!
Editor’s Note: Looking for the best Philippines liveaboard diving experiences? Here are our top recommendations
Highlights of Moal Boal
One thing I love about Moalboal, as an underwater photographer, is the huge variety of chances to see unique critters. There were so many species, that my dive guide would ask me what I’d like to see, and then take me to one of the many sites where he knew we would find it.
If I wanted to see a giant frogfish, they knew where to take me. If I wanted to see a porcelain crab or an octopus, they would know where they were. I would compare diving in Moalboal to mall shopping: I just tell them what I want and they take me to it!
There is something for everyone in Moalboal. Even if you are not a diver, the famous Sardine Run lays just feet from White Beach, meaning you can see this awesome site by just snorkeling on the surface.
The same goes for seeing turtles. In one single location, I counted 27 turtles before I lost count, and many of those were near the surface. If you are like me and want to see some turtles, it is an absolute guarantee you’ll find them in Moalboal.
As a scuba traveler, you are already winning by coming to the Philippines, and heading to a location like Moalboal will make it even more memorable.
Read: Where to Stay in Cebu