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 ...
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You might be forgiven for thinking that Dumaguete’s incredible scenery - with dramatic volcanic black sand beaches and Mt Talinis looming in the background - is all that this destination has to offer. However beneath the surface of the calm sea, Dumaguete has some equally dramatic diving experiences - particularly for those that are passionate about their macro critters! Dumaguete's remarkable inhabitants rival those of the 'muck diving' meccas of Lembeh and Anilao, and as such, this beautiful destination makes a perfect, quiet coastal retreat for macro lovers.
Located in the southern Visayas along the heel of Negros Island, the waters around Dauin and Dumaguete continually provide some of southeast Asia’s best encounters for critter-loving enthusiasts. Its gently sloping sand plains, dotted with coral patches, are home to the rare, the bizarre and the ugly. From yawning frogfish to camouflaged ghostpipefish, mating flambuoyant cuttlefish to hunting coconut octopuses, Dumaguete is a dream location to start crossing off those little things on that diving bucket list. Other critter highlights include thorny and pygmy seahorses, exotic nudibranchs and flatworms, velvet ghostpipefish, Ambon scorpionfish and mating mandarinfish.
Aside from muck diving, the nearby Apo island is surrounded by coral walls and bustling reefs, and makes a great day trip. Just 30 minutes on a traditional Filipino banca, divers visiting Apo Island can see large schools of jacks, plenty of turtles and the occasional roaming pelagic, a testament to the conservation efforts that have protected these reefs for so long. Keep an eye out for the volcanic gases bubbling up through the sand - it is not every day you can say you have dived a geothermal vent.
Muck diving meccas rarely come hand in hand with great snorkeling, however the clusters of coral reefs dotted along the coastline provide ample opportunity to see beautiful reef fish and the occasional critter that may have strayed into the shallows. A day trip to Apo Island provides good snorkeling and a break from spotting critters, with turtles, schooling fish and busy reefs aplenty.
Dumaguete is located at the foot of Mt Talinis - also known as the Cuernos de Negros (Horns of Negros) - and visitors are afforded a dramatic drive along the national highway that loops beneath the mountain. Leaving behind Dumaguete City, you soon enter a more traditional Philippines with villages and food stalls flanking the roads, until finally reaching the shoreline and the resorts hidden amongst coconut palms - an ideal place to get away from it all.
If you are planning a longer stay in the Philippines, Dumaguete is well placed for a quick 2 hour ferry over to the fabulous Bohol island or to head back towards Cebu for the whale sharks of Oslob or the fantastic dive destinations of Malapascua and Moalboal.
Dumaguete is easily reached from nearby Dumaguete City’s airport. From here the international hubs in Cebu and Manila are just a short flight away.
Accommodation in Dumaguete is limited to a small number of resorts and homestays - some offering diving services - that have been developed along the coast. Given the low-key and peaceful nature of the tourism industry here, options are somewhat limited, but divers are particularly well-catered for at resorts such as Liquid, Atlantis and Fish Unlimited.
October to early June is the main diving season around Dumaguete. The monsoon period arrives in July and lasts until September, so it’s best to avoid those months. Water temperature is averages 27°C to 28°C but can get as low as 25°C in January and February. A 3mm wetsuit and a hood are recommended if you do a lot of diving. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen for when you are out of the water!
ZuBlu have been fortunate to witness first hand the cooperation between some of the resorts in Dumaguete, aimed at encouraging sustainable business practices and conservation efforts amongst guests, businesses and the local community. Regular evening events are held to promote awareness of the environment and share information about sustainable practices and beach and dive site clean-ups are organised between the different resorts. Keep an eye out for our special conservation-focused packages that are featured throughout the year.
Although one of the poorer municipalities of Negros Oriental, the local municipality of Zamboanguita has established a number of Marine Protected Areas as part of a wider "Coastal Resource Management" (CRM) plan. However, with limited resources and the disruption caused by typhoons, policing these areas is often tricky.
One of the oldest protected marine reserves in the Philippines is at Apo Island. Originally setup in the 1980s by the National Integrated Protected Area Act and under the jurisdiction of the Protected Area Management Board, the project is often held up as a great example of community-led conservation. Unfortunately the Sendong typhoon in 2011, Typhoon Pablo in 2012 and Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2016 all caused significant damage to the corals in the sanctuary, as well as a decline in coral reef fish numbers, and parts of the reef are still closed off to visitors to give the corals the best possible chance to recover. Today the reefs have undergone a major recovery and the diving around Apo Island remains world-class.