Liveaboard Diving in the Philippines
The Philippines is become an increasingly popular destination for international divers, and the scuba diving liveaboard industry is finally noticing. About seven years ago, I did a study on the then current status of the liveaboard industry in the Philippines and the potential for growth. I found only a few small poorly managed liveaboards and one small fleet, a fleet that had potential but was not forward thinking and going out of business. They closed for a few months and then with new investment and only using one liveaboard reopened.
One of the items I saw as a point of failure was most of the vessels only dived Tubbataha reef. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a 97,030-hectare Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Palawan, the westernmost Philippine province. It is located 150km southeast of Puerto Princesa City, at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the global center of marine biodiversity.
Granted it is a great place to dive, but the dive season is only three months. Other than that season, All but one became charter boats in Puerto Princesa City and given the poor sea conditions that keeps the dive season short, I am sure few charters.
Fast forward to this year, the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) reports that they have issued permits for 12 liveaboards to dive the marine park. As you look over the schedules of those vessels you see only five being ported at Puerto Princesa City and only diving at Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. The other seven are diving year round. Five in the Philippines and two spending part of the season in Palau.
This is a major step forward for the liveaboard industry in the Philippines and show that, as we have known for a long time, the Philippines have some great dive destinations. Apo Reef is one of the areas that the liveaboards will visit after the Tubbataha season. In my personal view, this reef has the potential of being one of the best diving destinations in Asia. What I see holding it back has been the time it takes to get there and the low quality of accommodations. It may be slowly changing, however, the liveaboards bypass those problems. Some of the liveaboards also travel to see the Thresher Sharks in Malapascua or the Whale Sharks of Leyte. Leyte, especially the southern portion has a great potential for becoming a diving paradise. The conditions are great and the land area also pristine.
There are five diving liveaboards that stand out above the rest that I believe the international diver would enjoy best. Each of these also dive other Philippine locations in addition to Tubbataha Reef. The Philippine is known to have a very strong typhoon season and that scares many divers away during the typhoon/ wet season. The Philippines is a long narrow string of islands and the areas where the liveaboards go after the Tubbataha season are not as frequently impacted by the typhoons. Here is a little about the liveaboards.
The Philippine Siren is a member of the Siren Fleet, a well respected luxury scuba diving liveaboard experience. In addition to the Tubbataha season, she will dive year round Cebu, Dauin, Apo reefs, Malapascua, Donsol, Coron Wrecks and Anilao. The Philippine Siren has 8 luxury cabins each with en-suite facilities, individual controlled air conditioning and entertainment center. The lounge is fully air conditioned with a dining area and cocktail bar in addition to comfortable causal seating. Meals are buffet style and can be taken in the lounge’s dining area or in a shade dining air on a open deck. The dive deck is very spacious.
Solitude One Liveaboard
Solitude One Liveaboard is a beautiful 52m ex-merchant vessel that will be diving Palau when not in the Philippines. This is a new company only just a little over two years old, but they certainly gained a outstanding reputation in that short time as one of the best diving liveaboards in the world. It helps that the management team was responsible for the success of a couple other international known fleets.
The Solitude One caters to a maximum of 22 divers in 10 different cabins.
Overview – 10 Cabins in Total
- 2 Staterooms (King-Sharing)
- 7 Deluxe Cabins (4 x Twin or Double-Sharing, 2 x Double-Sharing and 1 x Twin-Share, Bunk Bed style)
- 1 Standard Quad/Family Cabin (2 x Twin Beds & 2 Twin Bunk Beds)
In addition to a comfortable lounge, the vessel has a digital media center complete with computers for you do process yur digital images. There is areas for both indoor and outdoor dining and
This fleet has a special place in my heart because they have the same vision of diving in the Philippines as I do. I have meet a number of the people involved with this home grown company over the years and have been always impressed with their dedication and business skills. The M/V Discovery Palawan is an older vessel with 20 cabins, that had a 1.5 million dollar upgrade two seasons ago. On the Tubbataha reef trips she will carry 32 divers. On the other routes she will only carry 16 divers and between 24 – 26 non divers. They have developed a non divers program to make this an attractive liveaboard for those traveling with non diving companions.
This year they are adding the M/V Discovery Adventure fresh from dry dock for dive trips to the Tubbataha reef program.
M/V Atlantis Azores
If you have ever been diving in the Philippines, I am certain you have heard of Atlantis hotels. There are two Atlantis hotels each with 40 rooms, one in Dumaguete and the other in Puerto Galera. Two locations known for their excellent diving and these two hotels are considered among the best resorts in the Philippines. Their dive centers are often ranked among the best in Asia. The M/V Atlantis Azores is their liveaboard and follows in the footsteps of the resorts. An excellent choice to dive in the Philippines.
The Seadoors is a smaller vessel and is focused on European divers. The 25m Seadoors Dive Liveaboard was custom built for divers to explore the beauty of the Philippines underwater world in comfort. The Seadoors Liveaboard has 8 cabins and caters to a maximum of 16 guests.
The Liveaboard diving industry is starting to grow and this website will be following that growth. I plan to bring you updates on each of these vessels and more information on the different routes and dive sites.
Malapascua Island and Philippine liveaboards. The expanding of the Philippine liveaboard industry will also be a great benefit to local dive operations. Just like cruise ship passengers returning to spend a week in their favorite port of call, divers will come back to the areas that they liked the best. The trips that include Malapascua […]
The Coral Sea & Ribbon Reefs- The Worlds Best Year-Round Liveaboard Destination. There are dozens of special destinations around the world that are normally only dived by liveaboard vessels. Often these destinations are very remote and difficult to get to. The Coral Sea & Ribbon Reefs is one of those destinations that is […]