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Paradise awaits in Bicol where you can dive with whale sharks and manta rays every morning and relax on pristine beaches every afternoon. Suited to all levels, Bicol is the perfect diving getaway.

Diving in Bicol

Quick facts

Diving in Bicol is most famous for its whale sharks. Locals claim that this is your best opportunity in the entire world to swim among the graceful beasts. But don’t just come here for the big species. Take some time to appreciate the pristine beauty of the region both underwater and above it. You’ll find an abundance of pelagic and macro life as well as colorful environs to keep your eyes happy.

There are four main dive areas in Bicol, namely Donsol, Ticao Island, Catanduanes and Calaguas. Of these, Donsol is by far the most popular. It is here that divers regularly spot whale sharks from November to May. The second, Ticao Island, is about a one hour boat ride from Donsol. It’s here that graceful manta rays come to be cleaned. Nearby San Miguel Island features a reef so colorful and pristine that its equal is rarely found elsewhere. Catanduanes is a large island found in the northeast section of the region. Diving is in its infancy on this gorgeous isle. As such, you can help the local dive shop explore new sites never seen by other divers. Finally, Calaguas is well off the beaten path. Most accommodation on the island consists of tents, but this is the real deal, your best shot at a Robinson Crusoe moment. The water is turquoise blue and the wide beaches remind locals of Boracay before it was discovered by the masses. Unfortunately because it is so remote, there is not yet a dive operator on the island. All diving must be completed independently and with your own gear. However, the reefs offshore are amazingly diverse. You never know what you might see.

Because of the region’s tropical climate, diving around Bicol is possible year round. On average, the air temperature ranges from 80 - 96°F (26 - 36°C) and the water temperature is 80 - 86°F (26 - 30°C). November to May are the best months for diving. During this season, seas are calm and the weather is mostly dry. These are also the best months for whale shark sightings. From June until October, diving is still possible, but the weather is more unpredictable. Rain and wind may prevent dive boats or ferries from leaving the protection of safe harbor. Typhoons are also a threat during at this time.

When to go

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Water temperature

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What to see

Of course, the big draw to the region is the almighty whale shark. Swimming with these creatures in the clear, warm water of Bicol is the experience of a lifetime. But the whale sharks aren’t the only interesting creature found here. Manta rays, sun fish, hammerheads and thresher sharks are all seen regularly. In addition, you can explore ‘tuna alley’ through which tuna and other pelagic fish species often travel. There are plenty of reef species to keep you busy between big fish sightings. Clown fish, eels, nudibranchs, and other tropical fish are all common to the region.

If you choose to dive in Bicol, which we heartily encourage, you are sure to have more than a few unique entries in your log book.


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Most likely sightingsPossible sightings


Bicolandia or Bicol is one of the Philippines’ 17 regions. It encompasses the Bicol Peninsula, which is at the southeastern end of Luzon Island and a few more neighboring islands. The region has six of the Philippines’ 81 provinces. They are Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Masbate, Sorsogon and Catanduanes. The largest urban settlements in the region are Legazpi City, Naga City and Sorsogon City. They are also the hub of the region’s economic activity. To give you an idea of the nature of the area, the peninsula is best known for its imposing mountains and volcanoes. The people of Bicol are extremely loving and hospitable.

Not much is known about Bicol’s prehistory. It appears that the earliest civilization dates to the late Neolithic period. At the time of Spanish conquest, the region was known as Ibalon and appeared to be apolitical with chieftains that only intervened in periods of war. The Spanish arrived in the 16th Century and quickly sent missionaries to convert the region’s inhabitants to Catholicism. For many years, the area’s main industry focused around its plentiful hardwood forests. These were used to build Manila Galleons in the expansive regional ship yard.

Bicol is a volcanic region sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire. This results not only in perfectly conical volcanos but also in the region’s hot springs and crater lakes. In fact, Bicol is home to the most active volcano in the Philippines, called Mayon Volcano. Today the economy of Bicol is mainly agricultural. It’s main crops consist of coffee, jackfruit, coconuts and bananas. Bicol is furthermore a beautiful yet blissfully uncrowded region of the Philippines, making it the perfect choice for your next dive vacation.

Other attractions

Bicol offers everything you would expect in a tropical vacation. You can relax your days away on painfully white sand beaches or camp overnight on the same beaches listening to the rolling waves. Hiking opportunities are plentiful on the area’s many dormant volcanoes. Island-hopping and deep-sea fishing trips abound. History enthusiasts might enjoy visiting one of the many colonial-era churches including St. Peter the Apostle Parish of Vinzons and St. John the Baptist Parish of Paracale. Surfing is big business in both Calaguas and Catanduanes as well as other areas along the Pacific coast. Spelunking is also possible in the caves around Catanduanes if you are an explorer at heart. Finally, for those who enjoy a little shopping, don’t miss watching abaca carpets being made in local markets and purchasing the wares available at the region’s handicraft centers.

Getting there

To reach Bicol, you must begin your journey in Manila. From there, you can arrive to Legazpi or Naga by domestic flight. It is also possible to take a bus from Pasay to Daet or from Manila to Sorsogon. There are additional bus routes from Metro Manila to Legazpi or Naga.

Once you are in the region, you will need to rely on three-wheelers, taxis, jeepney or minibuses to travel from point A to point B.


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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