Aquatic Adventures: A Submarine Safari in the Philippines

TripBlog
Sep 20, 2019

Known as“the country of a thousand islands,”the Philippines is full of surprises.Manila overflows with history and culture. Boracay has some of the world’s best beaches.On Bohol you can explore magical underwater realms. Ever fancied swimming with whale sharks? Visit Cebu and you can.Countless bays and seemingly unexplored coves await you on Palawan.With delicious cuisine, friendly people, and a proud culture, travel possibilities in the Philippines are nearly infinite. In this short article, we survey several popular destinations and recommend fascinating things to see. Come along as we explore the Philippines. Adventure awaits on land and there’s veritable submarine safari below the waves. The skeptical traveler might retort no one place could offer this much. We’re here to prove otherwise. This is the best of the Philippines.

Contents

  • Manila
  • Boracay
  • Cebu
  • Bohol
  • Great Santa Cruz Island
  • Palawan Island and El Nido
Aquatic Adventures: A Submarine Safari in the Philippines

Manila

Manila is the national capital and the Philippines largest city. Visitors arriving from abroad will likely land in Manila. From there it’s easy to book domestic flights bound for the smaller resort destinations. The main islands are spread out so overland travel is cumbersome and slow. Consider reducing the number of places you visit, opting instead to increase your time per location. By way of reference, the most popular tourist and resort towns are located on the central islands. Time-limited travelers often skip Manila, opting instead to make a dash for the beaches on Boracay or Cebu. In recent years however, Manila has become quite popular with expats and garnered a reputation as a worthwhile destination in its own right.

Aquatic Adventures: A Submarine Safari in the Philippines

Start your tour in Intramuros. The Spanish-era colonial fortifications are a great introduction to the country’s long history. There are lots of attractions here, among them Fort Santiago, Manila Cathedral, and San Agustin Church. Just to the south is Rizal Park. Visit the National Museum of Natural History or the National Museum of Anthropology. Once you’ve had your fill, find time for a little shopping or explore the nightlife in Bonifacio Global City. The trendy area is home to lots of shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars. Finally, take a daytrip north on Luzon Island to visit the stunning Banaue Rice Terraces. This great excursion is perfect before you venture south to the beaches. Fed by runoff water from the rainforests situated above, the terraces were long ago carved into the steep hillsides. In full sunshine the patties glow emerald green and transform the entire landscape into a miraculous vista stretching as far as the eye can see.

Aquatic Adventures: A Submarine Safari in the Philippines

Boracay

This comparatively tiny island packs a mighty punch. Located off the northern top of Panay, Boracay has long been known to have some of the world’s best beaches. The island’s reputation as a resort travel destination is well deserved. Just over 10 square kilometers in area, Boracay is packed with resorts. The island’s oblong shape guarantees you’re never much more than a kilometer from shore. Naturally, pricier accommodations offer direct beach access or other amenities like infinity pools and exclusive areas. Hike up Mount Luho for spectacular views and to get a lay of the land. You’ll see the sands extending out as azure waters roll in waves up the beach.

Aquatic Adventures: A Submarine Safari in the Philippines

White Beach along the central island coast is a popular place for sunbathing and swimming. You can also head to the far north of Boracay and visit Puka Shell Beach. The lack of development along the shore gives Puke Shell a distinctly different feel. This is where you can indulge your tropical island fantasies while you marvel at the ocean in front of you and the lush green vegetation behind. Travel and tour operators on the island are legion so you won’t have trouble linking up with an organized outing or cruise. Charter fishing is popular and the waters around Boracay teem with life. We recommend a sunset cruise aboard a traditional Filipino sail boat known as a paraw. Gentle winds blow across the deck as you glide through immaculate waters, chasing an ever disappearing sun far off on the horizon. Watch the Pacific appear to swallow it whole and gently extinguish day with the warm embrace of night. Treat yourself to a bowl of coconut ice cream from Coco Mama and realize how fortunate you are to be able to visit the veritable earthly paradise on Boracay.

Cebu

Cebu is a long, narrow island stretching some 196 kilometers north to south. It is popular for its beaches, coral reefs, and rich fishing waters. Cebu City is the principle transportation hub. Explore sights in town as you acquaint yourself with the island. Pay a visit to Fort San Pedro, Magellan’s Cross, and Basilica Minore del Santo Nino. Take a trip out to Budlaan Fall, a lovely little waterfall easily accessible from central Cebu City. Along the way you can enjoy spectacular tropical scenery, lush forests, and incredible meadows. Return to town for some great food and interaction with the local culture before heading out to other places on the island. Cebu is one of those destinations where you can easily spend an entire vacation. Do some planning ahead of time so you maximize your enjoyment and get the most out of this amazing location.

Aquatic Adventures: A Submarine Safari in the Philippines

From Cebu City many people head to Moalboal, which sits on the Tañon Strait to the southwest. The strait’s sheltered waters make for excellent swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Tour companies in town can help you find operators offering a range of packages and excursions. We recommend the famous sardine run. Dive into a sardine swarm and watch as countless fish churn under the waves. Want to get in a good hike? Osmena Peak is a jagged formation offering panoramic views from the summit. If you’re feeling inspired, head out early and reach the peak in time for sunrise. In Oslob on the south of Cebu Island, you can swim with whale sharks. These are the largest fish in the world and truly spectacular creatures. Seeing them up close is the highlight of anyone’s visit to Cebu. There is also Inambakan Falls, a famous spot known for its iconic blue pools. Watch as water cascades down the drops and fills the picturesque pools at the bottom.

Aquatic Adventures: A Submarine Safari in the Philippines

Bohol

Located adjacent to Cebu, Bohol is a prized diving location. Unlike its neighbor, however, Bohol is round. Luxury resorts ring the coast while the interior contains the famed Chocolate Hills, which were used as backdrops for scenes in the Harry Potter film franchise. Beneath the waves, the waters here hold a wondrous landscape. On land, there are historic churches, cute tarsier monkeys, and beautiful natural scenery. Tagbilaran City is the main point of entry for those arriving by air or sea. Panglao Island is connected via two bridges to Tagbilaran City and is a great place to explore. Visit Alona Beach, a popular venue for some diving or snorkeling amongst the coral reefs. Explore Balicasag Island with its famous Black Forest Dive Site and marine life sanctuary. As on Cebu, the waters around Bohol are incredible. The Black Forest is so named for its steep drop off and collection of black coral formations. Off Turtle Point you can swim with sea turtles as they gracefully navigate their underwater habitat.

Aquatic Adventures: A Submarine Safari in the Philippines

From Tagbilaran City, head inland to the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary. The iconic monkeys rest during the day and are easily seen clinging to the lower branches on tress throughout the sanctuary. A bit further along the road is Lobac, a river town with several attractions. Visit the Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park or take a Loboc River lunch cruise. Navigating the waterways is a great way to see the landscape and diverse ecosystems on Bohol. A few kilometers further is the Bilar Man-Made Forest, a picturesque grove of densely clustered mahogany trees. The ethereal setting is a great backdrop for selfies and social media posts. Finally, if you’re going to Bohol, you have to make your way to the Chocolate Hills in the central part of the island. The unique geological formations were created eons ago as ocean corals were lifted out of the water via unimaginable tectonic processes. The brown colored hills dot the landscape and stretch far into the distance. This is certainly one of the highlights on Bohol.

Aquatic Adventures: A Submarine Safari in the Philippines

Great Santa Cruz Island

Southern Mindanao Island is rather removed from the popular resort areas in Boracay or Cebu. Don’t let this deter you, however. Great Santa Cruz Island, located just off Zamboanga City, features a fantastic pink sand beach that’s recently drawn attention to this small corner of the Philippines. Zamboanga International Airport has flights to a few regional destinations in addition to domestic cities in the north. Spanish colonial-era buildings were constructed beginning in 1569. Today, you can visit the National Museum – Zamboanga, set within the remains of the historic Fort Pilar. Afterwards, hop a ferry at Zamboanga Port and strike out for Great Santa Cruz. Not much more than a large atoll, there are a few inhabitants living near shore. The island’s prime attraction, not surprisingly, is its stunning beach. Centuries upon centuries of constant ocean churn have ground down organ pipe coral, giving the sands their distinctive pink hue. Accommodation on Great Santa Cruz Island is limited so you will probably want to day trip over from Zamboanga. Enterprising travelers can attempt to circumnavigate the beach, which runs roughly 6.6 km around the island. Its reputation having grown, Great Santa Cruz Island has become easier to reach while still managing to retain its charms. If you ask us, this is one of the top-10 pink and beaches anywhere in the world.

Aquatic Adventures: A Submarine Safari in the Philippines

Palawan Island and El Nido

In the western Philippines, there is an island archipelago with unique geology and majestic scenery. Known locally as “Heaven on Earth,” travelers who venture there cannot help but to agree. El Nido sits on the northern tip of Palawan Island, roughly 420 kilometers south-west of Manila. Owing to its location as part of the Sunda tectonic plate, the geology on El Nido is unlike anywhere else in the Philippines. Towering limestone formations enclose great bays filled with emerald and sapphire waters. Schools of multicolored aquatic life swim in the pristine currents, which are largely protected against development. Recognized among the world’s best beach destinations, El Nido remains relatively unknown to foreign tourists.

Aquatic Adventures: A Submarine Safari in the Philippines

Travel by boat around the network of small islands. Navigate into a cove and let the rocky cliffs close around you. There, seemingly cutoff from the world, you can glimpse El Nido’s true majesty. The waters will call to you with their siren song, seducing you to gaze upon their displays of aquatic life, color, and brilliance. Corals and clownfish, manta rays and jellies, a veritable feast for your eyes. Sparkling in the sunlit waters, these creatures have evolved elaborate shapes and vibrant colors to conceal them from would be dangers. Fortunately for our human eyes, the colors pop with contrast, highlights, and shadows. Being but visitors to the underwater worlds, one cannot help but marvel at the ballet occurring below the surface.

Find time to explore the emerging bar and restaurant scene in El Nido town. Despite its small population, there are a number of establishments catering to various tastes. Local Filipino cuisine is on offer along with European and other international fare. Sunset in El Nido brings out a new character. The karst formations lining the bays create otherworldly canvases, glowing amber and red in the setting sun. When day is finally exhausted, El Nido’s relative remoteness make for fantastic stargazing. A great tapestry of stars shine overhead, sparking like diamonds in the tranquil night. Using a long exposure camera, you can capture the Milky Way as it stretches clear across the sky. The magnificence on display makes El Nido as much a nighttime paradise as a daytime one.

The Philippines has long captivated visitors. As its reputation for world-class travel continues to grow, more people are discovering this wonderful country. The several places outlined here only scratch the surface of what’s waiting for you. As you consider your next travel destination, there is much to recommend in the Philippines. Add it to your list if you haven’t done so already. No matter where you go and what you choose to see, you will have a delightful time in the Philippines. Take an underwater safari around the many islands and discover a world normally hidden from human view. A place of aquatic adventure, the Philippines is an island paradise perfect for a traveler like yourself!