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Dive Review of Asia Divers in
Philippines

Asia Divers: "The Philippines is open for Diving", May, 2022,

by Raymond C Villemarette, VA, US (Reviewer Reviewer 5 reports with 4 Helpful votes). Report 11971 has 3 Helpful votes.

Photos Submitted with this Report


Click on an image to see an enlarged version and captions

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 4 stars
Snorkeling 4 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments The Philippines is open for Diving
Puerto Galera/Coron
April/May 2022
(skieer@gmail.com)

I have been informed by Asia Divers that the requirements for entering the Philippines have changed and they are now allowing the entry of fully vaccinated tourists and have dropped a requirement for having medical insurance. For my travel it was necessary to have been vaccinated, have travel insurance of $25K and register at the airport website. For the most up to date requirements I would reach out to the Resort prior to travel but it appears at this time entry is much simpler.
I had intended to stay more than a month in the Philippines but the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC was not accepting visa applications. This meant I had to get a visa on arrival which is good for thirty days. Note your airplane ticket must (repeat must) show a return date of less than thirty days. I traveled on a previous occasion without a return ticket and was forced to book a return while standing in the immigration line in Manila in order to get in the country. Once you are in country you can extend your visa an additional sixty days and this was accomplished at reasonable cost through a travel agent provided by El Galleon resort. Note here is that you need to have easily changed tickets which is usually not the case if you book through a service like Expedia. I had lots of unused Korean Air points and the flight though Seoul is one of the easier connections to Manila. Also Korean Air is very flexible on excess baggage weights and I was bringing my own gear. Also note keep the receipt (the receipt not the letter) for your visa extension! It is marked “Official Receipt” and has a code you will need to exit the country at immigration. I had a few sweaty moments at imagination when I had my letter of Certification but not the associated receipt with the barcode.
Insurance: No longer required but you can get travel and medical insurance through DAN. If you already have DAN the Medical portion is covered but they also offer trip insurance. I had to buy the travel insurance in order to get the previously required letter showing medical coverage and I note this here in case things change and an insurance letter is required. DAN (Divers Alert Network dan@DAN.org, [dan.org link]) In order to get the letter you need to buy their trip insurance (Travel Protection Plan). The trick here is unless you really want them to insure your whole trip is you put down a minimum amount for the actual trip insurance. The letter will cover the medical no matter how little of the trip you actually cover.
Website: there is an airport website where you need to submit your travel documents three days in advance and they will also give you a QR code for travel which you will need to board the plane. The website is called “One Health Pass” [onehealthpass.com.ph link] and you will need to indicate Municipality: PASAY City, NCR, Fourth District (Not a Province), National Capital Region (NCR) if you spend the night in Manila. You may also need a second QR code for travel to Puerto Galera which you can work through the resort. I would check with the resort for the most current guidance. At this time it is my understanding basically you need a return ticket and vaccination card (US CDC works).
The connection to Puerto Galera is made by a van from Manila and then a motor boat from a pier south of Batangas if you work through the resort. This connection can be set up by El Galleon who will arrange the van pickup and the water taxi to Puerto Galera. If you decide to stay at El Galleon they have their own pier and dock so you will have an easy connection to the hotel. There used to be a seaplane connection from Manila Bay (Air Juan) but this now appears to be only a charter service and I do not have the current details. Depending on your arrival time in Manila or how keen you are to go diving you may want to spend a night in a hotel either coming or going and I have had good luck at the Belmont Hotel which is located right across the highway from the airport.
The diving in Puerto Galera is quite good and they offer a wide variety of dive sites (approximately 30). Typically you can do four dives a day (two in the morning and two in the afternoon) plus a night dive if you are so inclined. They use outrigger boats which are very easy entry and exit for the divers. I personally find the outriggers way more comfortable than the speed boats used by some other operations as while the speed boats are typically twice as fast to the dive site the ride in any kind of chop you feel like you have been beaten up by the time you are ready to get in the water. The only caveat I have about the El Galleon Boats is they are not covered so make sure you have hat/sunscreen as the Philippine sun will very quickly do a number on that western skin.
There is a purposeful wreck the “Alma Jane” that if you are inclined to take the PADI wreck course is used for the training. One of my most memorial dives ever was a night dive on this wreck when the water was full of effervescence plankton. You did not need a dive light as every time you moved the ocean just lit up around you. The wreck typically attracts all sorts fish and is usually a pretty good photo location.
One of the more interesting “muck dives” is to go and visit the giant clams which are indeed giant measuring I estimated about three feet in length. It is a good sign that these clams are clearly very healthy and are thriving in spite of global warming. More than a few of the divers had their expensive cameras and were able to collect a wide variety of sea life memories.
The “canyons” is also one of the must do dives and it is a location with a number of ridges underwater. The goal is to drop into one of these ridges and then watch the sea life go by in the current. This is one of those pay attention to your DM however as if you miss the first canyon you can always drop into the next one and you do not want to use all your air working against the current (speaking from experience). It is a lot of fun once you are in position watching all the fish go by with the tidal change.
There is also a “protected area” called Verde Island that is a bit longer boat ride to an area that is protected from general fishing. I made two trips during this visit and one day was perfectly clear and the next time a bit rough with reduced visibility on the dive site. Both occasions wer worth the trip but this is just to advise conditions will vary according to the weather.
Water temperatures were a bit on the cool side this visit with typical water temperature running about 27C. I was in a shortie wetsuit and was cold more than once after an hour in the water. Switching to a full wetsuit made the dives more comfortable and most divers are in full wetsuits, although at least one DM was also typically diving in a shortie but he had way more natural insulation.
The resort has its own air compressors and can provide NITROX for your dives for a slight additional cost. If you are not NITROX certified they can also provide the appropriate training to get you certified.
El Galeon also has a Tech dive shop Tech Asia which is a fully equipped Tech Dive operation. I took a mixed gas deco course from the shop a number of years ago and was quite happy with the quality of the instruction. Be prepared however if you do a mixed gas course the helium comes from Texas which gives you high confidence on the quality but it also is not cheap to transport from the US. By way of instruction El Galeon offers everything from the discover scuba to the instructor IDC program so reach out ahead of time if you are interested in specific training or if it has simply be a while since you were diving and want a “refresher” course. If you want to strap on a twinset or go side mount you can reach out to the Tech Asia shop and they will be happy to accommodate you.
The accommodations at El Galleon range from a basic room next to the pool to stand alone A frame house with a full kitchen. They offer both short term and long term rates so if you have the time to stay for a month you can get a very good extended rate. The owner of El Galeon is an Australian who designed and built much of the infrastructure so unlike many of the other places most of the things work most of the time. I do have to say however this is the Philippines and you can expect that not everything will go as expected. The Filipinos will do their best to accommodate you but be prepared to on occasion just be patient. Make sure you have the resort's phone number just in case there is a missed connection or something out of their control breaks down. My “pickup” from the hotel failed to pickup a second customer (an oversight) and this did result in a bit of a delay in collecting the second passenger for the boat connection to the resort.
Puerto Galera like many other tourist locations is in the process of recovering from the COVID lock down. El Galleon resort is one of the few that maintained a presence through out the COVID crisis as as a result has been able to bounce back fairly quickly. This is not the case for many of the smaller dive operators and hotels in this area. While I was there I would estimate about half of the businesses had closed and were in the process of reopening. Also there is a new breakwater going into Sabang Bay area which means many of the operators who were originally on the water are now set back behind the breakwater. This does not impact El Galeon as they are actually outside the Bay area but this is a consideration if you go with a different dive shop or Hotel. One evening at low tide I watched a group of divers trying to make their way back in as the boats could not make it to the breakwater wall. It did not look like much fun as they dragged themselves through the muck to get back to the dive shop. I have posted some 360 views of the area on Google Earth if you are interested in getting a feeling of what to expect and El Galleon has an excellent newsletter to which you can subscribe through the below contact information.
I would like to say if this is your first trip to the Philippines, or Asia for diving the choice of El Galleon is a good starting point as they have a very good western staff who will do their best to make sure you arrive safely. Quite often when setting up this kind of trip the communications, expectations, and what is advertised really do not line up. More than once in other places I have arrived only to realize what was shown in the pictures or the description in no way matched any notion of reality.

Contact Info: instructors@asiadivers.com (Allison Manis Marketing Manager/PADI Instructor El Galleon Dive Resort )
Small Lalaguna Beach Puerto Galera
Oriental Mindoro PH 5203
Mobile: +63 995-224-8674
Website: www.asiadivers.com
Email: allison@asiadivers.com


CORON

The second part of this trip took me to Coron in the Philippines which is considered to be one of the best wreck dive locations in the world. In the fall of 1944 the US Military caught part of the Japanese fleet in the bays of Coron. There are approximately a dozen wrecks which given the relatively shallow depths are very dive able using regular Scuba gear and non-deco techniques. However you should have a deep dive certification and NITROX certification to really take advantage of the wrecks if you really want to explore inside. A wreck certification is advisable to give you an idea of what to expect however most of the protocols taught as part of the PADI course are not used.
To get to Coron I returned to Manila and took the Cebu Air flight to the Francisco B. Reyes airport on the other side of Busuanga Island. Be aware that Cebu is a low cost carrier and make sure if you are bringing your dive gear you prepay in advance for the extra weight. I have had situations in the past where the counter check-in cost is higher than the web/app in advance cost. Also if you are an Expedia user the low cost airlines do not show up as an option to fly to Coron so be aware there are low cost options like Cebu which are running quite new aircraft and will cost less than some of the other carriers.
At the time of my travel getting into Coron required a “QR” code tied to a “tour” due to COVID restrictions. This may still be in effect but is fairly easy to address through your hotel booking. In my case I just had the Hotel book an island hopping tour at nominal cost and they provided the necessary documentation to get on the airplane. The Dive shop or Hotel that you choose can provide the current COVID restrictions if they are still in place and assist with the necessary documentation.
Wreck Diving: I have been to Coron a half dozen times and have made many dives on all the wrecks and given my experience wanted to provide some background as to what to expect. I have personally have dealt with panicked divers and watched more than a few abort when they find themselves in limited visibility before even getting on the wrecks. The Coron diving is primarily in Bays which means at times the visibility can be fairly limited due to sediment in the water. Once you are in the wrecks the situation improves considerably unless you kick up the sediment with your fins in which case you can reduce the visibility to almost nothing. Inside the wrecks you need to be comfortable with confined spaces, places where there is no external illumination, getting snagged by rusted metal sticking out in places, have very good buoyancy control, and have a good flashlight. It is possible to dive the wrecks with much less limited penetration and still enjoy the experience but even then you need to be prepared for limited visibility on the way down. There have been days when the visibility was very good and in those situations the ships are small reefs with all sorts of sea life but you should not count on that on a regular basis.
Please leave your free diving fins in the hotel room if you plan to dive on a wreck. Inside the wrecks in the confined spaces the goal will be to kick up the minimum (if any) amount of sediment as possible and with free diving fins it is almost impossible not to kick up sediment. I had to deal with an experienced diver who panicked because his free diving fins made it impossible to see in a confined space. It took me a year to get all the iron rust out of my knee where I hit it on the side of the boat trying to control this diver. Turns out for some of the shops the Dive Master training actually includes situations where they will deliberately kick up the sediment in a boat confined space to make sure the DM can handle that kind of situation.
I looked at online records and while there appear to be no cases where divers have died in Coron on the wrecks but there was a case in Subic Bay where two experienced divers died on the USS New York. I have also dived on on the New York and the visibility outside the wreck at the time was less than a meter. That said there are places where it is so tight on the Coron wrecks it would not be possible to buddy breath should you have a regulator problem. If your DM has an extra long hose on his primary regulator that is a good sign they have been thinking about that kind of situation.
I wanted to say something about wreck diving as I have seen more than a few divers come away disappointed. On the other hand there are those like myself who will continue to return to Coron on a regular basis as every time you are on a wreck you discover something different.
My favorite wrecks include the Irako which is a very large wreck that sits in 30 to 45 meters depth, the Akitsushima which is on its side at about 35 meters, and the Olympia Maru in about 30 meters of water. There are plenty of links on the internet that will give you additional information on these wrecks and the history. From a divers perspective you can dive ten times on each wreck and never actually see the whole wreck. There is so many twists and turns if you do full penetrations that it takes many dives before you actually start to build a mental image of the internal passageways of the boat. This is why an experienced DM is so critical both from a safety standpoint and to optimize the use of your bottom time.
Dive Shops: My dive shop of choice is called Neptune Divers which is managed by an expat by the name of Patrick. The shop has an excellent collection of local DM's and in the past has also had some foreign DM's who as of the last visit had all returned home due to COVID. The DM's have been with the shop for many years an as a result are very familiar with the wrecks and can be relied upon to safely steer you through the the many twists and turns in the dark of the wrecks. My DM on the last trip however as a result of COVID had sold all his gear in order that his family could eat including his flashlight. At one point I was messing around with my GoPro and he went up and I went down in a passageway. When I hit a point I could go no further I realized I had lost him in the dark. Normally the glow of the DM's flashlight would be a clue to his presence but lacking that I had not paid attention to which way he was going. As I have been in these wrecks so many times I backtracked and was able to quickly find him. My DM now owns my spare flashlight so any subsequent customer will not be left in the dark.
Neptune is a fairly small operation but as a result it is a very personal one with great customer interaction. Another operation in Coron which is popular is Reggae Dive Center but is much larger and as a result you end up with larger dive groups. The majority of my dives I have had a dedicated DM which means my dive was not limited by the skill level or confidence level of another diver. It was way more relaxing not to have to worry about others air consumption or if they were nervous about being in a dark confined space. I highly suggest Nitrox on all dives except for the very shallow dives as it helps extend bottom time and gives you some extra time to explore. As you will be making multiple deeper dives it also helps prevent nitrogen buildup and Neptune can provide custom mixes for each wreck depending on the expected depth.
One of the highlights of this trip was an opportunity to dive with the Sea Cows of the Philippines. Now Sea Cows look almost exactly like Manatees but are a different animal called a Dugong. They “graze” on sea grass and breath air so they spend time on the bottom and on the surface. The sea cows were located on a distant and protected area of Coron and required special arrangements in order to make a visit. It was a bit unfortunate however the group that set up the tour did not follow the “do not interfere or disturb” instructions that were given by the local guides. The goal is for the Divers (and also swimmers) to be as passive and unobtrusive as possible so the Sea Cows can graze normally. The group that set up the tour at one point chased a cow to the surface which was unfortunate.
Where to stay: Coron is one of those Philippine towns that has grown too fast and the infrastructure has not caught up. I used to stay at the Coron Gateway Hotel and Suites as it is in Coron Town proper as it is not on any of the main roads. As of my last visit it was under new management and the daily cost had increased considerably and I was not sure about the condition of the rooms. I suggest it due to its location but cannot provide a current review. I ended up at the Princess of Coron Resort Hotel which is about a ten minute walk to Neptune Divers. The Hotel had just renovated five rooms and other than a weak air conditioner were very inexpensive and away form the constant noise and vehicle pollution of downtown Coron. The “Princess” clearly has seen more glorious days but is working to make a comeback. The staff was super pleasant and the inexpensive breakfast was good. There are some real high end resorts but since I am there to dive I really just want a comfortable place to sleep.

Contact Information Neptune Dive Center:

POC: Patrick
Web Page: [neptunedivecenter.com link]
Phone: +63-917-589-4568 Globe
+63-921-760-7492 Smart
Email: info@neptunedivecenter.com :

Hotels:

Princess of Coron Resort
No. 6 Nueva St
Coron Town Proper 5316
+639165400288

Coron Gateway Hotel and Suites
Poblacion 3
Coron 5316
+639171134117

Websites Asia Divers   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Maldives, Thailand, Philippines, Hawaii, Okinawa, Australia, Red Sea, Mediterranean, Virgin Islands
Closest Airport Manila Getting There Washington DC/Seoul/Manila

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, choppy, currents, no currents
Water Temp 27-29°C / 81-84°F Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 10-50 Ft/ 3-15 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions COID documentation checked
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 4 stars
UW Photo Comments Tanks for soaking gear, spaces for photo workshop (Asia divers only)
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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