Last December Sarah and I spent a few weeks diving in the Philippines, starting in Manila we traveled south to the province of Mindoro Oriental and the town of Puerto Galera. This was our first time in this region, to be honest we had been put off visiting this area of Philippines, whilst we’d heard the diving was good around Puerto Galera we always got the impression it was overdeveloped and perhaps showed a negative side of the country – girly bars and sleeze if we’re brutally truthful. However this time we were here to see a resort some way from the main drag of Sabang called Fishermen’s Cove, run by the every charming Guiseppe from Italy. He met us off the bangka and we made our way to his resort by jeep, after settling we headed to the restaurant to meet the other guests. Although you have the option of eating separately most people opt for the communal option which is nice especially for single travelers, we then got the first taste of what was an incredible dining experience. Guiseppe enjoys his food and everything is prepared fresh with Italian flair – I can’t remember eating so well from a dive resort, fresh pasta, salads and panna cotta where staples for the days to come.
The resort is set among beautiful grounds overlooking a limestone cove and back dropped by the highlands of Mindoro, there’s certainly a secluded and private feel to the place. The pool and communal areas are well kept and blend nicely with the scenery. You can take a trip into the town of Puerto Galera which is well worth it for a taste of the local culture, we even decided to venture into Sabang to see what it’s really like – yes it’s built up and probably not the kind of place we’d recommend but we didn’t get the sense it was particularly sleazy.
So what about the diving? There’s plenty of dive sites to explore around Puerto Galera offering white sand critter dives, wrecks, reefs and also some muck diving, in fact I struggle to think of a destination in the Philippines that offers such a range or marine environments. Close to the resort and around the actual shores of Puerto Galera you’ll find fringing reefs and sheltered bays, there’s not a huge amount of coral life although many of the sites are quite picturesque. Sites like Canyon are a must, with high adrenaline currents swirling around a group of bowels carved out of the rocks between 20-35 meters I imagine this site could be quite challenging when the water is moving rapidly. On our day it was quite calm but we still had an abundance of fish which also seem to find the currents difficult to navigate, the white sand bays are also very good for critters, we saw numerous sea horses, frog fish and mimic octopus.
Verde Island is a pinnacle dive often made as a full day trip by the operators from Puerto Galera, it descends to 70+ plus with vertical walls covered in hard and soft corals, this is an incredible reef, very pristine and colorful and this is certainly a dive worth signing up for. We dived the Alma Jane wreck which is sitting in Sabang Bay at around 30 meters of water, again not a huge amount of coral yet but the fish life is very good with plenty of batfish, jacks and passing pelagics, look carefully around the masts and exposed areas and you’ll find ghost pipefish and nudibranchs. Finally if you have the time and like critters make sure you head over to dive Anilao, again usually made as a day trip, this is a destination in itself and we look forward to visit next year to see the opening of a new resort. Secret Bay must be one of the best muck dives in the world, the range and diversity of critters is staggering. For more details on diving in Puerto Galera give me a call on 0800 955 0180 or write at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’d be glad to share more details with you.0