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As the Philippines’ last diving frontier, Mindanao offers dive sites for every level. Advanced divers can enjoy deep wrecks, while beginners will appreciate easy beach entries. 1000 species await.

Diving in Mindanao

Quick facts

While Mindanao represents the third major group of islands in the Philippines, the area does not have the same diving infrastructure found in the Visayas and Luzon. This is due to the violence that has, in recent years, troubled the island and left tourists scared to visit. However, the diving in Mindanao is as good as the rest of the Philippines, if not better. Here you will find pristine reefs, abundant marine life and interesting wrecks that haven’t been degraded under the pressure of tourism.

There are four main diving regions in Mindanao. First, Camiguin and nearby Misamis Oriental are the most popular and also have the most diving infrastructure. Here you will find a sunken cemetery as well as bountiful reefs. To the east, Surigao is a bustling city with a diving industry in its infancy. In addition to the pristine reefs, there are some historical wrecks nearby and many more just waiting to be discovered. To the south, Davao hosts a few dive shops that service its 25 dive sites. These sites surround nearby Samal and Talikud Islands. Finally, the southern most site on the southwest side of Mindanao is Tabina in Zamboanga Del Sur. This is the true frontier. Unspoiled waters give life to some of the most diverse marine life in all of the Philippines.

Because of the region’s tropical climate, diving in Mindanao 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). March to September are the best months for diving. During this season, seas are calm and the weather is mostly dry. From December until February, diving is still possible, but the weather is cooler and more unpredictable. Typhoons are rarely a threat in this part of the Philippines.

When to go

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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What to see

With over 1000 marine species and 300 of the world’s 500 coral species, the question isn’t what will you see diving in the Mindanao; it’s what won’t you see.

Mindanao is a great area for spotting barracuda, emperor fish, scorpion fish, moray eel, tuna, batfish, Moorish idol, trevally, and flute mouth. On the more unusual side of things, the area is also home to lionfish, triggerfish, pygmy seahorses, trumpet fish, mantis shrimp, unicorn fish, wrasse, squid, parrot fish and octopus.

Pelagics are plentiful in certain areas of Mindanao, especially in the southwest. Sightings may include manta rays, eagle rays, devil rays and sharks such as hammerheads and reef sharks.

Wherever you are, you’ll be filling up your dive logs faster than ever before.


For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

Most likely sightingsPossible sightings


Mindanao is the third group of islands in the Philippines, along with the Visayas and Luzon. It also happens to be the name of the largest island of the group and the second largest island in the Philippines. Geographically, Mindanao is the furthest south of any region in the country. As the country’s main agricultural producer, Mindanao is known as ‘The Philippines’ Land of Promise.’

The region’s history dates back thousands of years. The Subanon are thought to have established residency on the island in the Neolithic Age. In the 2nd Millennium, Islam took hold in the country, which was spread from neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th Century, they had trouble establishing control over Mindanao due to the Islamic population. However, efforts were made by both the Spanish and the Americans to colonize the area due to its agricultural importance. These efforts were successful, for the most part, and Christianity became the region’s major religion, practiced by 75% of the population.

Since the 1960s, the region has experienced violent conflict due to the colonizing efforts of the Philippines, the USA and Spain. The Muslim minority would now like to establish an independent state. In 2000, the Filipino government tired of the low intensity conflict and declared an all-out war on the rebels. This led to heavy violence in the southwestern section of Mindanao. In 2012, a major breakthrough in relations pacified the conflict, meaning that Mindanao is now safer than ever before. With that said, many governments still regularly issue travel warnings for the region. It is best to check the current situation before planning a trip to this area.

Other attractions

Be one of the first to explore this beautiful island now that violence in the area has seemingly settled. Highlights include climbing Mt. Apo, relaxing on white sand beaches, and gaping at Aliwagwag Falls. Be sure to reserve some time for a trip to Camiguin where you will find plentiful trekking opportunities, refreshing waterfalls, quaint fishing villages and hundred year-old churches. Life’s definitely more adventurous in this part of the Philippines.

Getting there

Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao is the main gateway to the province. It is also possible to fly into Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan de Oro. Most flights to Mindanao are domestic in nature. However, there are occasional flights to and from Singapore.

Once you are in the region, you will need to rely on three-wheelers, taxis, jeepneys 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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