BOHOL DIVING SEASON
The diving season in Bohol is year-round. Expect some monsoon rains between July and September. But it is generally too far south to be affected by the rainy season typhoons.
Cabilao Dive Site Bohol
This eight-square-kilometer island jutting out into the waters of the Cebu Strait and the Bohol Sea is the convergence point of hammerheads sharks, tunas, dolphins, groupers, and mackerel that abound around the island.
Chartered dive boats running from Mactan Island on Cebu down Balicasag often include a stopover at Cabilao Island on their itineraries. This spot is just off the west coast of Bohol, about 2 hours out of Mactan (in fair weather) and 2 hours from Balicasag. Shark sightings are generally rare in the Philippines - presumably due to fishing pressures - but this site is sometimes patrolled by schools of hamerheads. Sightings are common shortly after sunrise or just before sunset. The best dive is on the edge of a sand-flat which projects westward from the point at the northwest tip of the island. Go down 30-35 meters(90-105 feet) and work your way along th e wall (it drops off to considerable depth).
In addition to the sharks, you may see large barracudas and game fish. Colonies of garden eels live in the sand-flat. When they poke their heads out of their hoels to feed, their upper bodies sway in the current like a living carpet of long grass. As you approach they'll withdraw quickly into the sand. Strong tidal currents run at up to 3 knots, which means you need a high level of experience, a knowledgeable guide and proper timing in order to guarantee an enjoyable diving experience here.
Panglao Island Dive Site Bohol
This site is located on the southwestern tip of Bohol directly opposite Tagbilaran City. The northern and western sections of this reef are noteworthy , with a reef platform that is relatively narrow and shallow (4.5 to 6 meters). The reef has an edge terminating in perpendicular submarine cliffs which plunge down to depths of 30 to 48 meters. The reef is thickly covered with hard and soft corals. Water is crystal clear with visiblity of up to 30 meters.
Balicasag Island Dive Site Bohol
The wall right in front of the resort has excellent diving. There are slightly stronger currents here than at other spots around the island, which means there's alot of nutrient mixing in the water. The result is reef life that's particualrly active and colourful. The wall starts about 30-50 meters(90-150 feet) off the beach, in approximately 2-3 meters (6-9 feet) of water. The fringe reef here is flat and relatively smooth, mostly covered in seaweed and a few rocks, allowing comfortable entries and exits from the beach. There are superb sea fans and a proliferation of reef fish - including dozens of lionfish and scorpionfish.
BLACK CORAL FOREST
The rare opportunity to swim through a "forest" of black coral makes this dive an experience not to be missed. Although this form of coral is ussually found below 50 meters (150 feet), there's an area on the northern tip of the island where it grows at a surprisingly shallow 30 meters (90 feet). Biologists have speculated that the shadow of the island combined with the coolness and nutrients provided by currents and upwellings "deceive" the coral into thinking its at greater depth. The forest of bush-like coral has taken root on a portion of the reef whee ledges and rock faces are interspersed with patches of sloping sand. The coral trees are set wide enough apart for you to be able to fin gently among them, altough you must take great care not to damage any of them. Apart from the black coral, you'll also see schools of tropical fish - such as morrfish idols, batfish and lionfish - along with assorted nudibranches, including Spanish dancers. It's best to time your dive here for a slack tide, or else make sure you have a boat ready to pick up if the currents are strong.
Situated on the southwest side of the island close to the resort, this craggy section of wall has many caves and recesses which are geat fun to explore. You'll need to carry a torch to bring out the relief in the walls and illuminate the activity of the caves. The reward is a kaleidoscope of marine life, including brilliant reef fish which dart around among flourished corals and sponges, and schools of big jacks which idle along in the current.
This dive takes you down the drop-off on the eastern side of the island, and gets its name from the turtles which hide in caves about 20-25 meters (60-75 feet) down. The key word is "hide". Don't be surprised if turtles do not materialize immediately: be patient, and if you're lucky you'll soon see what one diver described as a "B-52 sized" turtle swim out of its lair. While you wait, you can enjoy the scenery on the wall outside the caves: cushion stars, a profusion of feather stars, and a vast variety of reef fish, including lionfish and triggerfish. Mackerel are also common. In the shallower water here anemones, always with their resident clownfish, are abundant.
Just a few hundred meters northeast of the resort there are several small caves about 20-25 meters(60-75 feet) down the drop-off wall. While these caves and adjoining walls are interesting in themselves, the recommended procedure is to sit inside the cavesm relax and wait for big fish to pass by. A particularly interesting time to dive here is just before sunset - which reef biologists describe as "turnover" time - when daytime and night-time organisms change shifts, feed and breed. You're guaranteed underwater activity. Note that the shallowness of the reef at this site can make diving from a boat very tricky at low tide, especially if there's a prevailing northeasterly wind.