Situated roughly 2 to 3 hours away from Metro Manila, although my best record was 1 hour, is my favorite SCUBA diving destination – Anilao! Ever since I learned and got certified Anilao has become my weekend getaway – a sanctuary where I could get respite and recharge my enthusiasm for the day job. Oddly enough though the enthusiasm for work has never been a favorable consequence with each trip as I never look forward to going back to the daily grind.
Anilao has more than 40 dive sites beaming with rich marine life and my top 5 favorites are:
- Twin Rocks. My “go-to” site because of its fantastic mix of corals and variety of marine animals in all sizes. Maximum depth of roughly 30 meters or 90 feet but most of the action happen at somewhere between 15 to 50 feet. There is a resident school of jacks that seem to just forever swim around in circles, a variety of nudibranchs, the occasional school of barracudas, snappers, and lots of fish. I never fail to visit Twin Rocks every time I go for a dive in Anilao and I never get tired of being immersed in its beauty. Its also a fantastic site for night dives with sitings of octopus, cuttle fish, barracudas, morays and colorful nudis.
- Kirby’s Rock. This is where I saw 6 frog fish and fell in love with these ugly looking creatures. Kirby’s Rock is a wall dive that can go to depths of over 100 feet and is known to be the residence of black and white frog fish. In one of our dives we saw 6 and there were brown, white, white with black spots, neon green, and orange. We had a great time admiring these creatures as they blend with the rocks and corals. The current could be treacherous though, especially if you do not have a dive master who is familiar with the site.
- Mainit Bubbles. Perfect dive site for those who are looking for a relaxed time underwater. This site could go as deep as 100 feet but most of the experience is in the shallow part as you watch the hot bubbles come out of the sandy bottom. Interesting corals here as they are immersed in more sulfuric conditions owing to the volcanic steam that escapes through the bed of sand.
- Darilaut. About 90 feet in depth, Darilaut is great for practicing wreck dives. The top deck of a big floating casino that used to dock in this area and sunk is now a dive site to practice buoyancy and getting in and out of wrecks. the structure is now laden with corals and home to lion fish, bat fish, gobys and mandarin fish. I once chased after a hunting Great Barracuda here, thinking it was only a big grouper, until it flicked its tail and went off like a lightning. Lucky it didn’t turn around and decide to have a piece of me for lunch.
- Cathedral. This is the home of crazy bunch of fish that harass divers for food. They got used to being fed by other divers which explains their unusual behavior. They literally crowd around you! This site is the usual spot for check out of open water student divers. It has artificial landmarks like a castle and a concrete cross that was installed by former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos. Cathedral is also home to the pygmy sea horse.
When in Anilao I stay at Balai Resort located in Barangay San Teodoro. Balai has rooms made of bamboo and nipa layered along the rocky slope. It has a main dining area where guests can have drinks and sumptuous food and becomes the main area to socialize with other divers. It also has a deck to view the fabulous sunset. The staff are very friendly and it has a fully equipped dive shop for all your diving needs.
With Anilao being a couple of hours away from Manila weekends are always a no-brainer and my gear is always ready to go!