Anilao is considered as the birthplace of Philippine scuba diving. The first dive resorts setup operation in the 1960’s and while various islands in the Philippines have also been known for scuba diving, Anilao remains to be the most popular weekend dive destination for Metro Manila folks. It’s where most of us got initiated into the wonderful underwater world. And it only takes 1.5 hours drive south of Metro Manila via the SLEX-STAR (TR3) connection.
Anilao is actually a barangay in Mabini, Batangas but scuba divers use the name to collectively refer to the municipalities of Mabini to Tingloy, which has all the dive sites. The area is so diverse that it has something for everyone, from beginner divers to advance and even technical divers.
Anilao has one of the highest concentrations of marine biodiversity in the planet and is designated as the “nudibranch capital of the world” by the folks at Underwater Photography Guide. The corals are extremely healthy, thanks to the efforts to preserve it by the earlier divers, and it’s truly a haven for underwater photographers whatever your interest may be. Secret Bay, Twin Rocks, and Basura are some of the favorite sites of macro photographers while Beatrice has one of the most beautiful underwater scenes for wide-angle enthusiasts. Sharks and bigger pelagic are often spotted at Ligpo or Mainit Point where current is usually strongest. There are periodic sightings of pelagic drifters in one of the dive sites, whale shark, mantas, and most recently a mola-mola (sunfish)!
One of the best things about living in the Philippines is that scuba diving is possible the whole year round! While July to September is considered as low season due to the monsoon rain in the region, this never really stopped us from going. The logic being why not? Are you afraid you’ll get wet? So we in Manila, rain or shine, we sport our sunglasses and head south on weekends!
Because of all these, there is absolutely no shortage of dive resorts in Anilao. On the top of my head, I can easily name 10 to 15 resorts for all types of budget.
A typical day trip for a group of 5-6 divers with their own gears will cost between 1,500-1,700 pesos ($30-35) per person. This includes 2 boat dives, dive master/guides, lunch at resort, and dive pass. If you go to resorts with awesome house reef such as Planet Dive, Diver’s Sanctuary, Dive and Trek, then you can eliminate boat which costs 3,000 pesos (to be shared) and spend <1,000 pesos for the day trip with unlimited shore entry dive. An overnight stay will cost about 2,000 pesos ($40) for twin sharing. Discovery scuba diving costs about 3,000 pesos inclusive of briefing, gears, and discovery dive.
It goes without saying that getting certified in Anilao is very much accessible. Popular certifying agencies like PADI, SDI, and NAUI are there for your choosing. It costs around $300 for lecture, books, cards, and 4-6 dives. Most if not all Manila based Dive Instructors conduct their check-out dives in Anilao.