7 Filipino freediving spots that could break Instagram
THE PHILIPPINES is made up of over 7,000 islands. Each of them with its own quirks and attractions that entice millions of visitors each year.
Some are renowned for lush beaches, blankets of emerald forests, tantalizing food hawkers and others for their enticing party scenes, festivals and adventures.
But the true gems of the Philippines are hidden in the crystal blue oceans that surround the stunning islands.
Rated as one of the top places in the world to dive by Sport Diver, the country lives up to its reputation with warm ocean currents that provide the idyll home to thousands of species of fish, magnificent coral reefs, turtles, sharks, manta rays, seahorses, octopus and sunken shipwrecks.
With so much going on below the surface, you can only begin to imagine how many cool photo opportunities there are down there.
While there is plenty of fun to be had in scuba diving, there is something special about freediving to explore the ocean.
To free dive, you have master the art of total body zen and be able to calmly control the oxygen in your blood and adapt to being oxygen deprived without allowing panic to set in.
You can practice this art at the local pool or while cycling. You can even practice it sitting at your desk by taking in large quantities of air, holding it and training yourself not to become anxious when your lungs feel close to bursting.
Regular meditation and yoga practice will also help increase your lung capacity and create an awareness of breathing techniques.
Of course, the best way to become good at freediving is to practice in the sea. So, grab a pair of long-fin flippers, a snorkel and mask, and head to these stunning freediving locations around the Philippines. South Morning China Post pointed out five spots, but here are a couple more.
Don’t forget your camera.
Apo Reef, Occidental Mindoro
Apo Reef is the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world and certainly the largest in the Philippines.
The 34-square kilometer coral reef is abundant with sprawling branches of coral and home to thousands of fish.
The underwater visibility here is incredible. Divers can sink down to 30 meters to take photos of manta rays, mobula rays, sea turtles, and sharks.
But remember that getting too close to an animal can stress them out and be dangerous for you.
Balicasag Island, Panglao, Bohol
Balicasag Island is a tiny spherical island located in the center of the Philippines. The island acts as a marine sanctuary off the coast of Panglao, Bohol.
The stunning waters that surround the island create the perfect setting for keen photographers looking to get that stunning marine shot.
Some of the most noteworthy diving sites include the Black Forest, which is known for its intriguing black corals that grow on a 40-meter slope.
Also, Turtle Point is a great place to see wild sea turtles roaming around, and The Royal Garden offers a shallower freediving spot where you can discover schools of fish, blankets of coral and sprawling ocean plants reaching for the sunlight.
Once you’re back on dry land, it’s worth exploring the 600-meter wide island as it’ll only take you around 45 minutes. Then you can hop to the next island.
Even above the water at Coron, there are some brilliant Instagram opportunities of tranquil waters and rugged rockfaces topped with vibrant flora. But below the water is where the party is at.
Coron offers divers of all levels a great opportunity to explore shipwrecks and corals while practicing their freediving techniques.
The shallow seabed is home to a Second World War naval ship which is visible from just five meters below the surface.
For more advanced freedivers, head over to Black Island Wreck where you can find a sunken Japanese tanker at around 21 meters below the surface.
El Nido, Palawan
El Nido can also be found in the Northern province of Palawan and it is a perfect spot for first-time divers as well as those who wish to become freediving instructors.
The beaches at El Nido have been listed as some of the best in the world by Conde Nast Traveler for three years running. The golden sands and tall jutting islands that surround the bay will inspire you even before you enter the water.
The surrounding islands protect the warm waters from big ocean swells and crashing waves, meaning you won’t be tumbled around.
The waters here also offer a stunning array of marine biodiversity including five turtle species and 800 species of fish.
If you take a freediving course with Palawan Divers, they will take the time to identify the species you saw in your lessons after your dive is finished. Two lessons in one.
If you’ve only got a few days in the capital city of Manila but you’re desperate to get on the diving hype, then head to Batangas.
You can get a bus straight here from Manila to Lemery Xentro Mall, which usually takes around three hours and then hail a local taxi to take you to Binukbok Point.
The shallow waters offer wonderful views of the white-sanded seabed where you can swim alongside schools of jackfish.
The waters can be unpredictable all year round in this area so if you’re inexperienced, make sure you go with an instructor.
Southern Leyte is still relatively unknown to the wider diving community which is great for first-time free divers who don’t fancy an audience.
There are more than 20 different dive spots to explore in these waters and hundreds of species to be seen.
Some of the most anticipated creatures divers hope to see are eagle rays, sea turtles, frogfish, nudibranchs, ghost fish and even the scary blue-ringed octopus – don’t get too close.
Between October and May, divers are able to see the migration of whale sharks too.
Panagsama Beach, Moalboal
Panagsama Beach is where most of the dive shops, restaurants, and fun hang-outs are located in Moalboal down the western coast from Cebu City.
Although there isn’t much of a beach here, as it got washed away in the 1984 typhoon, the little shoreline provides great access to a wealth of marine life.
There are plenty of training schools and boats primed and ready to take you out to the acclaimed diving spots at House Reef and Pescador Island, to name a few.
The extensive and diverse coral reefs in the Tanon Strait that flow past Panagsama Beach attracts thousands of divers each year.
The schools of glistening sardines also attract underwater photographers and the occasional prowling turtle has also been spotted.
Panagsama Beach provides a fantastic base to begin your journey to freediving excellence. Enjoy.
Have fun exploring these underwater paradises, we’re sure you’re going to be the envy of all your followers.
But remember in all scenarios, no matter where you’re diving or how advanced you are, never go freediving alone.