The island nation of Indonesia straddles the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and lies at the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ - the epicentre of the world’s marine biodiversity. Nowhere on ...
Named by Spanish explorers in 1570, Puerto Galera is a series of narrow and near-landlocked coves at the northern tip of Oriental Mindoro, renowned for their diverse diving and beautiful beaches. From diving-focused resorts to eco-retreats, Puerto Galera has something to offer everyone and its location, just a few hours from Manila, makes it ideal for quick underwater adventures and weekend getaways.
Puerto Galera is one of the Philippines’ most diverse diving destinations. Its spectacular reefs with their beautiful formations are home to more than 300 species of corals and nearly 60 percent of the world’s known shore-fish species.
Sabang is the main focus for divers - and rightly so. Night dives on the reefs in front of Sabang are great for muck-diving enthusiasts and the wrecks in deeper water are home to schooling batfish, giant frogfish and a host of other marine life. Around the inlets of Paniquian and Medio Islands, critters such as flamboyant cuttlefish and mimic octopus are found on the sandy rubble, whilst east around Escarcio Point can be found some of Purta Galera’s best diving sites - Monkey Beach with multiple pygmy seahorse on a single seafan, Hole In The Wall, a short tunnel swim-through at 12m, and Puerto Galera’s ‘must do’ site known as Canyons. This last site is an exhilarating drift dive, with three spectacular canyons swept by currents that attract plenty of big fish such as trevallies, batfish, and the occasional manta ray. Thresher and hammerhead sharks are also known to make an appearance and keep an eye out for the old Spanish anchor in the third deepest canyon at 30m.
Nearby Verde Island has some of the best reef diving in the Philippines. The Drop Off is probably the best site and features remarkable topography with enormous sea fans, carpets of soft coral and thousands of anthias. With good visibility and currents, this is a spectacular dive, awash with colour and activity.
Overall Puerto Galera is an excellent dive destination with something to offer the complete novice and the seasoned professional. With so much variety in terms of reef, muck, wrecks and drift dives, this is a great place to learn to dive, advance your skills, or even embark on a technical diving course.
Although famed for its diving, snorkelers certainly won’t feel excluded in Puerto Galera. Many of the top dive sites are perfectly suited for snorkelers, with plenty of coral and marine life to enjoy in the shallows. Most dive operators offer a snorkeling option so ask them for advice as to the best places to go. Sabang Beach has arguably the better snorkeling and Estacio Point, directly beneath the lighthouse being the best location although watch out for strong currents.
Translated as “Port of the Galleons”, Puerto Galera is situated on the northern coast of Mindoro Island. With its deep natural harbour sheltered on all sides, it was a popular anchorage for local fisherman and Chinese traders even before the Spanish arrived. The entire area takes its name from the local town, but it is the beaches and coves of Sabang and those east and west along the coast that attract visitors today. White beach, Long beach and Sabang beach are the most famous of Puerta Galera’s natural attractions and all have been developed with restaurants, bars and resorts strung out the coastline.
Just 12 nautical miles south of Batangas City, Puerta Galera’s accessibility has created a shift in the tourism industry over recent years - from backpackers and adventurous independent travellers, to both mass tourism and more up-market visitors, the area now caters for all. Diving has long been a mainstay of the tourism industry as the beautiful reefs up and down the coast, as well as those further afield, have attracted divers for many years. Today, Puerta Galera is the perfect destination for divers keen to explore some beautiful reefs, as well as enjoy some great nightlife and beautiful beaches.
Puerto Galera is easily accessible from Manila. Resorts and hotels will help arrange a private minivan to drive you south for 2 hours to Batangas. From there, a ferry out to the coves of Puerto Galera takes just over an hour. It is advisable to leave extra time on your return journey to Manila airport as bad traffic can occasionally cause delays.
With its proximity to Luzon, Puerto Galera lies within the main typhoon belt that runs across the country and as such, is subject to proper typhoon seasons. December to April is the dry season, with December to February the cooler and more pleasant months. This coincides with the high season and peak prices, particulalry around New Year and Easter.
June to September is the low season with typhoons causing days of torrential rain that can keep divers land-bound. However, the waters are warmer at this time of year and can be great for diving, so with the cheap prices offered by the resorts, a trip at this time of year can be a gamble worth taking.
Puerta Galera has a huge range of different places to rest your head after a day of diving - including resorts, apartments, villas, homestays and some big hotels. Most of these are found clustered around the Sabang beach area as well as to the east and west along the coast. As well as several large dive resorts, there are numerous dive centres that can set up accommodation with their preferred resort or hotel. Given the size of the tourism industry in Purta Galera, a visitor is guaranteed to find something that will match their budget and style, however ZuBlu recommends dive resorts such as Atlantis or Coco Beach that offer in-house diving services and have reputations for professionalism and customer service.