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Cebu boasts spectacular diving with unique experiences like thresher shark dives at Malapascua, mighty schools of sardines at Moalboal and whale shark sightings.

Diving in Cebu

Quick facts

Cebu and its surrounding islands are easy to dive save for a few exceptions. Visibility is fairly good and 50-66ft (15-20m) can be expected while the water temperature is typically warm, averaging at 84°F(29°C). Having a nitrox certification is a plus at certain sites which require more bottom-time. Dives usually take place from traditional boats called a bangka, which is a double outrigger canoe. Even larger boats powered by engines feature the outriggers and this makes for a pleasant and stable boat ride.

Mactan is popular for quality shore dives and also the Marigondon Cave. With Olango close by, most dive operators will bring divers there as well but because of the stronger currents, it calls for divers with experience. Bantayan is slightly less popular to dive, but it does have healthy coral gardens to explore. Moalboal is famous for seeing mighty schools of sardines, which can been seen year-round.

Malapascua is the standout diving destination in Cebu. The highlight of this island are the thresher shark dives in Monad Shoal, which are easy to do and almost always rewarding. Besides that, head to the nearby Gato Island which features a 100ft (30m) tunnel. Another highlight dive is at Kimud Shoal, where you might see schooling hammerhead sharks in April.

When to go

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

  • Moalboal

    Dive the Pescador Island protected marine park and you’ll soon see why Moalboal is one of the Philippines most revered diving destinations. The impressive marine bio-diversity and sheer abundance o...

Talima – This reef and wall dive is a firm favourite of many Cebu divers due to the healthy, vibrant corals and abundant fish life. Look out for groupers, oriental sweetlips, schooling batfish, jacks and snappers. The remains of the small wreck are teeming with marine life. Nalusuan Island – This marine protected area offers world-class corals, a colourful shallow reef top and a steep slope. The biodiversity is impressive with schooling snappers, trevally, grouper and barracuda as well as a plethora of reef fish. Look out for stingrays, passing sea turtles and even a mermaid statue. This is a stunning dive from start to safety stop. Hilutongan Island – Kaleidoscopic corals, incredible fish biomass, turtles, schooling giant trevally, snapper, jacks and sweetlips are all highlights of this marine sanctuary dive site. The colourful topography, clear waters and calm conditions make this site suitable for all divers and a must for wide-angle photographers. Monad Shoal – Located in Malapascua, in Cebu’s north, this submerged sea mount is one of Cebu’s most famous dive sites and the best spot for thresher sharks sightings. Diving here is either a “swimming dive” or on a stationary line waiting for the sharks to approach. Close encounters with these incredible predators are not unusual. It’s a thrilling dive. Pescador Island - Located in Moalboal, in Cebu’s south-west, this protected marine park is one of the most famous dive spots in the area for good reasons. Underwater, this small island is a diver’s playground with tunnels, caverns and swim throughs. Fish life is abundant here and you’ll find white tip reef sharks, schooling barracudas, sardines, jacks and occasional thresher sharks. The diversity and mass of reef fish is breathtaking.

What to see

Big and small, Cebu has it all. At Monad Shoal in Malapascua, dive at dawn to see the beautiful thresher shark, which rises from the depths to visit the cleaning station almost every day. Oceanic manta rays also like to visit this cleaning station. Around Malapascua, find seahorses, mandarinfish, pipefish, moray eels and other critters. Gato Island is popular for its whitetip sharks. At Kimud Shoal, you could get lucky and see a huge school of scalloped hammerhead sharks.

Moalboal has regular sightings of sardines forming large schools that attract predators like blackfin trevally. You might also spend time with whale sharks coming to feed in the nutrient rich waters. At Mactan, a myriad of small critters can be found along with sharks and turtles at the outer reefs. There have been sightings of thresher sharks at Olango as well but not on a regular basis.

Calendar

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Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

Area

Cebu is a province located in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines. Consisting of the main island of Cebu and 167 surrounding islands and islets, Cebu was established as a Spanish colony in the 16th century resulting in a majority population of Roman Catholics.

The best time to visit Cebu is during the dry season from November to May. The north area of Cebu province is exposed to typhoons and was hit by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Typhoon activity picks up from July to August.

For a traveler, Cebu is a top destination to visit for beautiful beaches, resorts, and scuba diving. On the main island of Cebu, head to Moalboal which is popular for its congregations of sardines. For some idyllic island time, visit islands like Mactan, Bantayan and Olango. A standout, and arguably the top diving destination in Cebu is Malapascua Island which is famous for thresher shark sightings. Many also travel to Cebu to see and swim with whale sharks at Oslob.

On land, Cebu has many historical and religious monuments to visit owing to its Spanish heritage. These include sites like Magellan’s Cross, Fort San Pedro, Cebu Heritage Monument and Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. For festivals, visit during January to experience Sinulog or in April for Holy Week.

Other attractions

Snorkel and kayak at the many islands with beautiful protected reefs and simply take the time to enjoy the pristine beaches and resorts. Take a city tour to visit historical and cultural sites around Cebu City. Visit in January or April to experience great cultural and religious festivals.

Getting there

Fly to Mactan-Cebu International Airport from destinations in Asia like Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong on airlines like Cebu Pacific, AirAsia and Silk Air. Alternatively, fly in on local airlines like Cebu Pacific from other cities in the Philippines.

UTC+08:00

Time zone

PHP

Currency

+6332

Calling code

220 V

Electric volt

A, 

B, 

C

Plug type

CEB

Main airport
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.