Many renowned international divers hail Bohol dive sites as a dream of a lifetime. Located at the center of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world, these dive sites are ideal for all types of divers. They feature gentle slopes, magnificent sheer cliff walls, extensive multi-colored coral cover, and a rich variety of marine creatures. Certainly an opportunity for great underwater photography. And all this at near bargain prices. But hype is hype so you be the judge.
That tall assertion notwithstanding; recent studies published by the World Bank as well as World Ocean Day Celebrations spearheaded by the United Nations Development Program in coordination with over 100 marine resources scientists have placed the Philippines at the center of the world’s marine fish biodiversity. Its 26,000 square kilometers of coral reef is reported to have the highest concentration of marine species per unit area. If the Philippines is at the center of all this, and central Philippines is made up of that cluster of islands collectively called the Visayan Islands or simply the Visayas; this is where Bohol island is located. Needless to say, it is surrounded by the aforesaid dive sites.
But let’s not get too scientific. Instead, let’s celebrate diversity. From the biodiversity of exotic flora and fauna to marine biodiversity, to the very diversity of inhabitants that people this place; Bohol dive sites are unique in the world. Bohol is home to a gentle and friendly people, to the exotic chocolate hills, to pristine sandy shell coralline beaches and hidden coves. Would it be immodest to say spectacular dive sites? You be the judge.
Your staging point will be the southwestern most town of Tagbilaran, the capital city of Bohol. Directly opposite Tagbilaran city is Panglao Island. Diving is done by boat entry; known locally as a “banka”, or boat with outriggers, or by shore entry from a number of international class resorts on the island. On the popular northern and western sections of the island, you will frolic in both narrow and shallow reef platforms at 4 to 6 meters width, the edges of which terminate in perpendicular submarine cliffs plunging down to depths of 30 to 48 meters. Immersed in crystal clear waters with all round visibility of about 30 meters, the sheer variety of multi-shaped and multi-colored corals is breathtaking.
Want to get serious? Go further southwest on a “banka” or outrigger canoe to Balicasag Island. In just 4 short kilometers from Panglao reef, you will break land on pristine white sand beaches surrounding the island. On your approach, your eyes are drawn to peer through the crystal clear waters which hint of the reef set against the white sand bottom. Striking? This is a narrow reef shelf some 49 meters in width. The tops of the submarine cliffs are an extensive forest of black coral cover and sponges and gorgonians populate the lower levels. This is home to sea turtles and sea snakes; and swirling schools of jacks, barracuda, and mackerel abound.
Want to get more serious still? For large marine life encounters, go directly southeast of Panglao island onto Pamilacan Island. This is an almost year round convergence point of hammerhead sharks, tuna, dolphin, grouper, and mackerel. However, the real reputation of Pamilacan Island is that of a prime site for whale and dolphin watching. Endemic species include several of dolphin, melon-headed whales, beaked whales, and the legendary sperm whale. Diving here is nothing short of spectacular. At near bargain prices, can anything be more serious? Of course though, hype is hype and so you have got to be the judge.