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Liveaboard Diving in the Philippines: The Complete Guide to Dive and Explore

by Max
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Liveaboard Diving in the Philippines - The Complete Guide to Dive and Explore

While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Philippines, this island nation is becoming increasingly popular as a diving destination. With its rich marine biodiversity, crystal clear waters, and over 7000 islands – the Philippines is a paradise waiting to be explored.

Liveaboard diving in the Philippines offers unique opportunities to explore remote and untouched dive sites that can only be accessed by boat. When visiting this Southeast Asian country by liveaboard, you can enjoy spectacular diving no matter your experience level.

From where to go, the best itineraries, and what to pack – this ultimate guide to liveaboard diving in the Philippines has all the information you need for a seamless trip!

Liveaboards Reviewed in this Post

The Best Liveaboard for Budget Travelers: Azalea Liveaboard

Simple but practical, the Azalea will take you to all the best dive sites for a fraction of the cost compared to other boats.

The Best Liveaboard for Non-Divers: Philippine Siren

The impressive-looking Philippine Siren offers fun both on and off-board for divers and non-divers alike.

The Best Liveaboard for Family Trips: Infiniti Liveaboard

If family vacations are more your thing, the Infiniti liveaboard could be precisely what you’re looking for.

The Best Liveaboard for Luxury: Philippines Aggressor

The modern yacht Philippines Aggressor has all the home comforts, with the added bonus of multiple daily dives in many beautiful locations.

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Why The Philippines Is Great For Liveaboard Diving

Located at the northern tip of the Coral Triangle, the Philippines is home to some of the most beautiful and diverse marine life in the world. Its waters are abundant, with over 3000 species of fish, 500 species of coral, and a huge variety of marine animals – including many weird and wonderful critters!

Due to the sheer number of islands and dive sites, it only makes sense to explore the Philippines from the comfort of a liveaboard. This way, you can move around, explore, and enjoy this stunning country with ease! Liveaboards truly are a divers dream vacation, thanks to their convenience.

Let’s dive deep into why we feel the Philippines is excellent for liveaboard diving.

Access Hard-to-Reach Areas

While only 2000 of the islands that make up this archipelago are actually inhabited, there are still over 7000 islands in total – giving divers an incredible selection of remote dive sites to explore. Many islands are accessible only by liveaboard, such as the UNESCO World Heritage site Tubbataha.

For this reason, liveaboard diving in the Philippines offers a unique and exclusive opportunity to explore lesser-known sites that can’t be accessed by shore.

Majestic Underwater Landscapes

From vibrant reefs and walls to dramatic pinnacles and wrecks, the Philippines has a wide range of underwater landscapes. Whether you are looking for macro life or want to explore the bigger creatures of the deep, there is something here for everyone. In fact, thresher and whale sharks, turtles, and even sperm whales are regularly spotted during liveaboard trips in the Philippines!

Ideal For Underwater Photographers

As the Philippines is located at the apex of the Coral Triangle, the marine life here is incredibly diverse – making it a dream for underwater photographers. With such varied species to capture on camera, the warm waters of the Philippines provide photographers with an ideal environment to hone their skills and create amazing shots. In some areas, you will even witness vast schools of sardines and jackfish, allowing you to get some truly stunning images.

Huge Amount of Coral Reefs to Explore

The Philippines is home to over 26,000 square kilometers of coral reefs – creating an incredible reef system to discover. This makes it an ideal spot for divers to explore and witness first-hand how fragile yet beautiful these underwater ecosystems are. With a mix of hard and soft corals, it’s an ideal playground for divers of all levels.

Liveaboards vs. Dive Resorts in The Philippines

When comparing liveaboards to dive resorts, the choice is clear – liveaboards are far more flexible and provide a wider range of options when exploring the Philippines. For starters, dive resorts are only located in certain areas and generally have a limited selection of dive sites. On the other hand, liveaboards offer you a unique opportunity to explore many different islands as outlined in your boat’s itinerary.

Finally, another significant advantage of liveaboard diving is that you can cover longer distances and visit dive sites that are not accessible from a resort. Put simply, liveaboard diving offers far more convenience and flexibility than a dive resort.

Of course, it is entirely up to you which option you choose – but for those looking for the best experience, you really can’t go wrong with liveaboard diving in the Philippines!

Things to Consider When Booking a Liveaboard in The Philippines

The Philippines offers incredible diversity – both on and off the land. The country is home to over 100 different dialects and various cultures. But before you rush off to book a liveaboard in this beautiful destination, you should consider a few things first.

Locations Visited

We know the Philippines is home to thousands of islands and long reefs – but that doesn’t mean everything will be accessible during your trip. It’s essential to check the itinerary of each liveaboard you are considering and ensure that the locations you are most interested in are included.

With this in mind, here are some incredible dive sites you should check out during your liveaboard trip.

Best Locations for Scuba Diving in the Philippines

Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park

Here you can expect to see majestic pelagic wildlife and abundant coral gardens. Tubbataha Reef is a protected park that only allows divers during certain times of the year, so check this before booking.

Malapascua

If thresher sharks are what you are after, then Malapascua is the place for you. This remote island is home to one of the best thresher shark dives in the entire world! Alongside shark diving, Malapascua provides a range of dive sites among vibrant reefs and walls.

Apo Island

This small island is located off the coast of Negros Island and offers some truly stunning reef diving. Here you can find incredible coral gardens, bright anemone fields, and a wide range of macro life. Aside from being one of the best dive sites in the country, Apo Island is also known for being a feeding ground for female turtles.

Dauin

Home to various car wrecks, which over time have become an ecosystem of coral and fish, Dauin is an excellent spot for divers. These wrecks lie at varying depths, but the shallower one is great for those just starting out. You can find sloping reefs and some truly stunning macro life alongside the wrecks.

Moalboal

At the heart of the marine bio-diversity in the Philippines is Moallboal. This dive site is brilliant for macro photographers as it is home to many small critters. You can expect to see seahorses, nudibranchs, and even the occasional flying gurnard.

Jessie Beazley Reef

At this incredible coral reef, you are guaranteed to find something astonishing. Jessie Beazley Reef is home to a range of spectacular coral formations and is the perfect place for encountering some larger marine life, such as manta rays and whale sharks.

Malayan Wreck

Located at the southern tip of the northern atoll, the Malayan Wreck is a sunken vessel laying at depths of 12-18m. Aside from being a spectacular artificial reef, you can witness dogtooth tuna, barracuda, and native reef fish in the surrounding area.

Boat Type

Almost all liveaboards in the Philippines are purpose-built yachts, offering comfort and safety for divers. The number of cabins and amenities will vary from boat to boat, so make sure to read the full description before confirming your booking. Keep reading to find out what we think are the best liveaboards in the Philippines – as well as a few tips on what to bring with you.

Trip Length

When liveaboard diving in the Philippines, the length of your trip can vary depending on the season and itinerary of the boat. On average, most trips last for 7 days and 6 nights, with longer 14 days options available with some liveaboard operators. There are also shorter trips for 3, 4, or 5 days depending on the areas you want to explore.

Daily Amount of Dives

Each liveaboard in the Philippines will have a slightly different schedule and itinerary, affecting the number of dives you can do each day. Generally speaking, most boats offer up to 4 days, including a night dive. The number of dives can be subject to change depending on the weather, so be sure to keep this in mind.

Required Experience

Depending on the locations visited, the liveaboard may require a certain level of scuba diving experience. Some areas, such as Apo Island, can be suitable for beginners, but other dive sites may require as many as 50 logged dive hours. Always check the experience level needed before booking to avoid any disappointment.

Dive Insurance

Many liveaboard operators state that you must be covered by appropriate dive insurance before traveling. This will cover you for accidents that may occur during your trip and should be taken out before you set off. Dive insurance is always a good idea, no matter where you dive in the world!

We recommend DiveAssurethe leading dive insurance with the most comprehensive Diving Accident and Dive Travel insurance plans. Get your dive insurance now and enjoy your scuba diving vacation without worries.

Nitrox Availability

Many divers like to use nitrox to increase their bottom time while diving. This is very helpful on the repeated dives you will do on a liveaboard! Some boats in the Philippines offer nitrox, usually for a fee, so check with the operator before booking to see if this is an option (if you wish to use it).

Required Gear

Many experienced divers have curated their own collection of dive gear, and if this is the case for you, then it can be worth taking this with you. However, some liveaboard operators in the Philippines offer rental equipment, so check if this is available before packing your bags.

What Is the Best Season for Liveaboards in The Philippines

Diving in the Philippines can occur all year, but the country does experience distinct wet and dry seasons. The best time to visit the Philippines for liveaboard diving is between March and May, which is the hot, dry season. December to February is the cool, dry season, which can also be an excellent time to visit.

The wet season falls between June and November, with September to December having the highest possibility for typhoons – which can affect your diving plans. However, depending on location and time of year, visibility can reach up to 30m, and water temperatures range from 73-86°F (23-30°C).

The Best Itineraries for Liveaboards in The Philippines

The routes taken by liveaboards in the Philippines can change based on the season. Specific locations, such as Tubbataha Reef National Park, are only open briefly, meaning the itineraries for these areas are limited.

The locations you wish to visit will dictate your route and the time of year you will visit. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the best itineraries offered by liveaboards in the Philippines.

Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park

Available from March to June, the Tabbataha Reef National Park is by far the most popular destination for liveaboard diving in the Philippines. With its incredible corals, shark species, and stunning topography, it is no wonder why. This route also usually covers the Jessie Beazley Reef, Deslan Wreck, and Staghorn Point.

The Visayas

Circling the island of Cebu, this is the perfect route for divers who are looking to explore some brilliant dive sites. Malapascua, Moalboal, Gato Island, and Apo Island are all often visited on this liveaboard route, allowing divers to spot various marine life.

Apo and Bohol

Often available later in the year, this itinerary will take you to some lesser-known dive spots – alongside some diver favorites. Apo Island, Dauin, Anda, and Pamilacan all offer unique dive experiences and will allow you to explore the abundant marine life of the Philippine seas.

What Is the Required Budget for Liveaboard Diving in The Philippines?

The price of a liveaboard in the Philippines can alter greatly depending on the time of year, how long the trip is, and what boat you choose. For a 7-day trip during the hot, dry season, you can expect to pay $2500 – with some liveaboards being more expensive than others. Prices for a 3-day trip on a budget-friendly boat can start at around $400 and range to $7000 for a 14-day journey.

It is certainly worthwhile doing your research before booking, as prices can vary significantly.

It can definitely pay off to check for last minute deals, so make sure to check current offers at Liveaboard.com frequently.

The Best Liveaboards in The Philippines

Your chosen liveaboard will likely depend on the route and areas you wish to visit, as well as your budget. However, here are some of the best liveaboards in the Philippines that consistently offer excellent service and visit stunning dive sites.

4 Best Liveaboards in the Philippines – Our Top Picks

Azalea Liveaboard

Length: 21m Width: 5m Nitrox: No Cabins: 5 Maximum capacity: 10 guests Rental Gear: Yes

The Azalea is an excellent choice if you’re looking for an all-diving, no-thrills, budget-friendly liveaboard. With a maximum capacity of 10 guests, the boat is more personal and intimate than many other liveaboards – there is almost a 1:1 crew-to-guest ratio. Offering trips ranging from 4 to 7 days and visiting some wonderful locations, including Tabbataha, you’ll surely have a great diving experience on the Azalea.

This liveaboard features en suite bathrooms, daily housekeeping, and a set dinner menu offering a range of cuisines. There is a dive deck, a shaded diving area, and DIN adaptors for diving. The Azalea is certainly worth considering if you’re looking for an affordable and comfortable liveaboard.

Philippine Siren

Length: 40m Width: 9.7m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 8 Maximum capacity: 16 guests Rental Gear: Yes

The Philippine Siren is a brilliant liveaboard for divers traveling with those who do not want to dive. This large vessel offers diving, snorkeling, and kayaking trips – meaning there is plenty to do for everyone onboard. With a maximum capacity of 16 guests, the boat is spacious and offers some nice amenities such as aircon cabins, an upper deck area, and video entertainment.

As for diving, the Philippine Siren offers a range of itineraries. There are options for 7, 8, 11, and 14-day trips, taking you to all the best spots – including the Visayas, Malapascua, and Tubbahata, depending on the time of year.

Infiniti Liveaboard

Length: 39m Width: 8m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 11 Maximum capacity: 25 guests Rental Gear: Yes

This newly renovated yacht offers 7-day long trips covering some of the best itineraries in the Philippines. The Infiniti is ideal for family trips due to the vast array of onboard activities, including a BBQ, leisure deck, and the family cabin option.

All cabins have air conditioning, TVs, and en suite bathrooms for your comfort. Custom-built for divers, the Infiniti has a dive deck, rinse hoses, and tenders if required. Plus, the staff are incredibly friendly and accommodating, ensuring your entire experience is stress-free.

Philippines Aggressor

Length: 135ft Width: 28.5ft Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 12 Maximum capacity: 24 guests Rental Gear: Yes

For a luxury liveaboard experience, look no further than the Philippines Aggressor. This modern boat offers suites with private balconies, ocean views, aircon, and en suite bathrooms. Between dives, you can relax in the sun deck hot tub and then enjoy the fine cuisine served onboard by the dedicated crew.

The Philippines Aggressor also offers a camera room with a charging point, dive deck, and optional nitrox. Trips on this Philippines liveaboard can range from 8 to 11 days, with the itineraries focusing on the Tubbataha or Visayas routes throughout the year. With all the luxury and comfort onboard, it’s no wonder the Philippines Aggressor is one of the most popular liveaboards in the Philippines.

What to Bring for a Liveaboard Trip in The Philippines

When considering what to bring on your trip, packing light is essential. Some liveaboards in the Philippines provide towels and bathroom amenities, so you don’t need to worry about bringing too much. However, it’s still a good idea to bring the essentials, such as:

Essentials:

  • In date passport
  • Travel documentation
  • Outfits suited to the season
  • Medication – if needed
  • Sun protection (reef-safe sunscreen, sunglasses, cap, rashguard etc.)
  • Toiletries (soap, toothbrush, etc.)
  • Towels (it always pays off to bring an extra towel)

For Diving:

  • Diving certificates
  • Dive log book
  • Scuba equipment – unless renting
  • Local currency and/or credit card
  • Surface marker buoy – if required
  • Dive insurance

Additional:

Final Thoughts on Liveaboard Diving in The Philippines

Diving in the Philippines has been increasing in popularity over the years, and with the addition of so many wonderful liveaboards, it’s easy to see why. If you’re hoping to spot a whale shark or maybe capture a photo of a rare nudibranch, then liveaboard diving in the Philippines is a must. From luxury yachts to smaller vessels, there is a liveaboard to suit every budget and vacation requirement. Just ensure you do your research before booking, as the itineraries and amenities can vary from boat to boat – as do the prices. No matter which liveaboard you choose, the experience of diving in the Philippines will be one to remember.

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