Liveaboard Diving in Negros
A liveaboard to the Negros offers divers the chance to experience some amazing diving around the Visayas area. The island of Negros, a landmass that mirrors the long north-south orientation of Cebu, and is Cebu's immediate western neighbor, offers the highlights of many Negros liveaboards. The first is Apo Island and its corals; the second is Dauin and its critters. You'll find these two destinations on most Negros liveaboard itineraries in the region. However, the appeal of Negros doesn't stop underwater. The Negros Oriental capital of Dumaguete consistently entices tourists, students, and local residents with its waterfront promenade, restaurants, urban parks, and general livability. For mountain and volcano trekking, both the south and the north of Negros can deliver; Mount Talinis takes a 2 to 3 day trek in Negros Oriental near Dumaguete, and Mount Kanlaon (an active volcano) can be climbed near the northern Negros Occidental capital of Bacolod.
Negros liveaboard destinations
No Negros liveaboard is complete without a visit to Apo island (not to be confused with Apo Reef). This small island off of the south coast of Negros hosts the most famous and successful community-based marine protected area in the Philippines. It was the second MPA established in the country, and it was created through extensive coordination and community education campaigns with the local residents. This strategy is undoubtedly the key factor in Apo's success as a tourist attraction, and as a place where fishermen still have fish to catch.
At Apo, landscapes of 100 percent healthy hard coral cover are the big draw. Expect to see coral gardens that are pulsing with life and color, as well as legions of turtles. In terms of dive sites, Mamsa Point is selected by many Negros liveaboards; here, you'll probably do a drift dive along walls and slopes with great benthic life, complimented by a school of circling jacks that give the site its name (mamsa means jack in visayan). Coconut Point is another drift dive site that mixes excellent corals (soft corals in this case) with good pelagic sightings.
On the western side of the island is the site Chapel's Point, where divers go to see gorgonian sea fans and get lucky with tuna and barracuda. On the southern tip of the island lies Rock Point, where the surface can be a bit rough, but the dramatic submerged rock formations of the underwater landscape and their abundant marine life make up for it. The marine sanctuary itself was hard-hit by a typhoon a couple years ago, so it is currently closed for restoration. Never fear though- the benefit of a marine protected area is that it contributes to the health of the surrounding reefs, which is why Apo Island remains a world-class dive location. Visayas liveaboards usually visit Apo Island for at least one day.
Dauin, about 15 kilometers south of Dumaguete, is a muck-diver's paradise. Divers flock here for cuttlefish, octopus, seahorses and frogfish, which Dauin regularly delivers, along with some great spots for healthy corals and fish. First on the list of Dauin's renowned dive sites are its eight long-established artificial reefs. Among the most famous are the Pura Vida Housereef, Sarah's Place, Bangka Wreck and Car Wreck (also known simply as the Cars). Among these wrecks, tires, concrete blocks, and sunken vehicles lie all the critters sought by avid muck divers and photographers, like ghost pipefish, frogfish, seahorses, and more.
In terms of natural habitat, the sandy bottom of Bonnet's Corner is one of the best Dauin dive sites for special mollusks like wonderpus, blue-ringed octopus, mimic octopus, and flamboyant cuttlefish. For coral and fish, look no farther than the marine sanctuaries in Luca, Dauin, and Masaplod. Here, divers can swim in pristine shallow coral gardens and around healthy coral bommies, while enjoying sightings of stingrays, morays, snappers, groupers, barracudas, and turtles. Negros cruises usually visit Dauin for at least one day.
Siquijor and Bohol are only a hop, skip, and a jump away from Negros, and any liveaboard visiting Apo and Dauin will probably visit them as well. Boholís Balicasag Island off the south tip offers incredible shallow corals gardens at the top of a steep wall where jacks patrol, and a seagrass area that is chock-full of turtles. Siquijor's community-managed sanctuaries are some of the small-scale MPAs you'll find in the Philippines, with areas of pristine coral cover and plentiful fish life.
The length of liveaboard itineraries in Negros can be 6, 7 or 10 nights (the Siren offers 13 nights on a special transition trip from Palawan to Cebu), with budgets ranging from around 280 to 450 euros per night. These liveaboards usually combine dive locations in Negros with dive locations in other islands of the Visayas, like Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, and Southern Leyte. Liveaboards in Negros range from the super luxurious S/Y Siren with its billowing sails to refurbished merchant vessels and dedicated M/V diving yachts- all enjoy different degrees of luxury, but consistently offer great diving amenities.
The experience level required by Negros liveaboards is generally Open Water, with either ten or twenty dives, depending on the itinerary. The exceptions to the rule are one trip on Solitude One requiring Advanced Open Water and 50 logged dives. Select dive sites in the Philippines definitely experience current, but the country is not as infamous for fast-moving water as the Maldives or Indonesia. You'll depend on your dive guide to advise you of any particular challenges or experience requirements at a given site.
Dumaguete in Negros itself is sometimes used as the port of departure for Negros liveaboards. A flight of about one to two hours can get you there from Manila or Cebu City. However, liveaboards that dive in Negros also depart from Cebu City and Malapascua.
Getting to Cebu City is easy with a 1.5 hour flight from Manila or direct flights from select Southeast Asian countries nearby. International flights can get to Cebu City via a transfer in Asia. Malapascua, on the other hand, has no airport, but it can be reached by taxi, van, or bus (and small boat). From Cebu City, getting to Malapascua requires a five hour bus journey; taxis take about half that time.
Moalboal in Cebu is the fourth potential departure port for Negros liveaboards. It is best reached by bus from Cebu City, or by bus and short ferry from Dumaguete.
Best time to travel
Negros is a year-round diving destination. The island is drier than the eastern Visayas (Cebu, Bohol, and Leyte). There is a rainy season in Negros, from June through December, but for the other half of the year, sunny, hot days are standard. Winds correspond to the northeast monsoon or the southwest monsoon, and they can certainly whip up the waves; however, dive operators know which sites to visit during which season and can always find the appropriately sheltered area. The weather is hottest and the seas are generally calmest in May and June. The water temperature averages 26 to 30 C.