Diving in Camiguin, Philippines | Solitary Wanderer

Planning on going diving in Camiguin? Here’s how to get there, where to go, what to see in the island’s dive spots, and how to participate in the first Camiguin Dive Festival.

Diving is one of the best things you can do in the Philippines. As an archipelago with over 7,100 islands, you will not run out of dive spots to explore. Scuba divers worldwide flock to the country; after all, it’s part of the coral triangle, an area with the highest diversity of fish and coral species. In short, if you love the water, the Philippines should be among the top 5 countries you should visit.

While Palawan is undoubtedly our top diving destination, there are other places in the Philippines that are also great for scuba divers, and that includes Camiguin Island.

School of catfish in Black Forest. Photo by Bo Mancao.

How to get to Camiguin Island

There are two ways to get to Camiguin Island. The most convenient, of course, is to fly. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific flies to Camiguin daily via Cebu City, while Skyjet flies direct.

In Balingoan bus terminal, there’s a sort of office that sells ferry tickets (P220, one way). The port is just around 5-10 minutes walk from the bus terminal; we took the tricycle (P10 each, shared) as we had luggage.

A cheaper (longer) way to get to Camiguin is via ferry from Balingoan Port (Misamis Oriental) to Benoni Port. You can get to Balingoan either from Butuan City or Cagayan de Oro City. Back in December, the second time I went to Camiguin, I got the earliest flight from Manila to Butuan, walked out of the airport to the highway, and hailed the first bus that passed by going to Cagayan de Oro. Travel time was over 2 hours.

Once you get to Benoni Port in Camiguin, there will be a lot of tricycles and multicabs waiting outside. I highly suggest arranging a transfer with your hotel, especially if you get in later in the afternoon.

Camiguin Dive Sites

corals camiguin dive site black forest
Rich corals in White Island, Camiguin. Photo by Bo Mancao.

If you’re staying in Mambajao, there are a number of dive sites in the area, including the following:

  • Black Forest Reef
  • Coral Garden
  • Kilambing
  • Sunken Yacht
  • Tangub Bay
  • Old Volcano
  • Sunken Cemetery
  • Canyons

Outside the so-called “local” area above are the following dive sites:

  • Mantigue Island
  • Jigdup Reef
  • Tupsan Point
  • Bulias Shoal
  • Cabu-an Point
  • Kabila
  • Alga
  • Fishport Point

Black Forest Dive Site, White Island (Reef Slope)

corals in camiguin
Pretty, isn’t it? Too bad I didn’t use a filter.

When I first went diving in Camiguin in 2011, I used Johnny’s Dive and had one dive at the Black Forest Reef in White Island. I don’t remember much aside from what’s written in my log: good visibility, maximum depth of 22 meters, and sandy slope.

When I went back to go diving in Camiguin in December, I used Johnny’s again, and went diving 3x in White Island and 2x in Mantigue. We were supposed to go to Old Volcano, but the December (rainy) weather made it impossible.

I had gone down to Black Forest five times, and every time, it was like new. It’s so called because of its garden of beautiful corals. Expect to see a number of colorful tropical fish, including schools of Moorish idol, catfish, butterfly fish, and more. I spotted a stonefish and lionfish, and during the launch of Dive Camiguin, I saw three banded sea kraits, a porcupinefish, a big nudibranch, and a pretty porcelain crab anemone.

We hung around White Island during our surface interval. Bring snacks when you go!

Mantigue Island Dive Site (Wall)

Mantigue Island Camiguin
Beautiful Mantigue Island.

My favorite dive site in Camiguin is definitely Mantigue Island. The boat trip took 45 minutes. We did two dives there, with a maximum depth of 18 meters. Visibility was good at 15 meters, and bottom time was 43 minutes (I had 80 bars left).

Mantigue is a protected sanctuary that’s quite rich in marine life. There are a LOT of turtles, you don’t even need to be a scuba diver to see them! You can snorkel and you’d see big ones near the shore.

I saw the biggest turtle in my life hiding in a shallow cave in the wall. It could easily be four feet long and I regret the fact that I didn’t bring an underwater camera. Aside from turtles, we also spotted ribbon eels, a tiny nudibranch, trumpetfish, pufferfish, boxfish, parrotfish, and frogfish, among others. You may also see schools of jacks, barracuda, bathfish, sweetlips, and if you’re really lucky, some rays and blacktip sharks.

scuba diving in camiguin
All ready for my dive in Camiguin last December.

For the first time, I also experienced being attacked by a triggerfish. It was a big one with a mean set of teeth and when it came aggressively at me, I couldn’t swim away fast enough. Later on, when I told our divemaster Mario about it, he said it was because it was protecting its eggs.

So when you go diving in Mantigue, keep on the lookout for triggerfish. They can pack a mean bite!

Join the 1st Camiguin Dive Festival

camiguin dive festival
Checking my equipment (courtesy of Ajis Camiguin Adventures) during the dive fest launching.

If you’re planning to dive Camiguin, now is the best time to do so. The Camiguin Provincial Tourism Office, in cooperation with the Department of Tourism Region 10, is running its first ever dive festival, and it lasts until August 31st.

The tourism office is giving a discount of 15% per dive, and each participating dive operator is also giving an additional 15%. A discount of 30% per dive is a lot (I sure wish we had it when we went diving 5x last December)! Make sure to register here to qualify for the discount.

Here are the participating dive centers and their location:

diving with scuba de oro and DOT 10 RD Mae
With Scuba de Oro’s Vladimir Elazegui and Dept. of Tourism Regional Director Marie Elaine Unchuan.

You can also join the underwater photography competition. Two categories are available: macro/super macro, and wide angle. There are no required equipment; you can even use a GoPro if you wish. Registration is free. For the competition rules, check this out.

Want to get certified? You’ll have a 15% discount, too, for both scuba and freediving (freediving only offered by Kurma). I had stayed in Kurma for a couple of days last December, and aside from freediving, they also offer accommodation as well as delicious vegetarian meals that my blogger friends, Gian and Sheila (Adrenaline Romance) and Potpot Pinili (Travel Trilogy) absolutely loved.

***

I’ve been a licensed open water diver since 2011 but I haven’t gone diving much. In the Philippines, I’ve been to Anilao (Batangas), Puerto Galera, Apo Island (Dumaguete), Apo Reef (Mindoro), Cebu, Boracay, and of course, Camiguin.

These are just a handful of the many dive sites in the Philippines that are a must for those who love the marine life. If I can get another chance to go diving in Camiguin, I’ll definitely go back and check out the other dive sites. The underwater world is fascinating, and if you’re traveling to the Philippines (or are living here), I highly suggest visiting Camiguin Island!

Have you gone diving in Camiguin? How was your experience there?

Aleah Taboclaon
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