Leyte, located northeast of Cebu in the Philippines’ Central Visayas Region, is a top historical attraction, but has also become recently famous for its whale sharks, which are annual visitors. With all sizes of marine life from pygmy seahorses to the biggest fish in the world, the four diving areas surrounding the main island can challenge the most advanced diver or allow beginners to bulk up their log books.
Because of the island’s tropical climate, diving around Leyte 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 these months.
Most of Leyte’s dive sites are concentrated in the far southern tip of the island. But, between Limasawa Island, Panaon Island, Libagon and the southern Leyte peninsula, there are plenty of sites in this area to keep you busy. Accommodation is additionally plentiful. Leyte features a wide range of hotels, from budget to luxury.
From November until May, Leyte can get crowded as everyone and their mother wants a chance at swimming with a whale shark. In particular, avoid visiting during the Christmas, Chinese New Year, and Easter holidays when both local and international tourists flock to the island. The best bet is to arrange a diving trip in May or November when diving is good but the high season is just beginning or just ending. During these months, you may be able to secure discounts on accommodation or diving.
In addition to being the home of the whale sharks, Leyte is an important historical center in the Philippines. It was here that General MacArthur first landed to begin the Allied liberation of the islands. To commemorate this important historical event, the island has constructed the Leyte Landing Memorial which is a popular attraction for tourists.
On your non-diving days, you might also enjoy hiking around Lake Danao National Park, taking an excursion to an uninhabited island or shopping in the region’s capital, Tacloban City.
However, if you wish to relax during your vacation, there are a great many white sandy beaches, which offer a perfect excuse for burying your toes in the sand and dreaming about what might be out there in that great, big, blue ocean.
Your journey to Leyte will begin at either Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila or Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Cebu to which most international flights destined for the Philippines terminate. Once you have reached either of these airports, use AirPhil Express, Zest Airways, Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific Air to fly to Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City.
From Tacloban City, a taxi, minibus or public bus is required to travel to southern Leyte where most diving takes place.
Alternatively, local ferries are available for divers traveling from Bohol and Cebu.