Snorkeling in the Philippines
Snorkeling Philippines is a great way to experience first hand what the underwater world has to offer. With more than 7,500 islands (some only recently officially added to their map) amid warm, crystal waters and surrounded by vast coral reefs, snorkeling in the Philippines is the ideal place to take to the water, whether you're a snorkel newbie or an aficionado. Sitting off the southeastern coast of the Asian mainland, the islands are part of what is known as the Coral Triangle, a hotspot of marine biodiversity spanning the Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Timor Leste, and the Philippines, crammed full of most of the planet's species of coral and more than 2,500 species of fish.
Colonized by the Spanish in the 16th century, when the famed explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived on the scene, the Philippines was named in honor of King Philip II of Spain. The country stayed part of the Spanish Empire for over 300 years as an important center for ocean trade on routes across the Pacific, connecting Asia with western coast of Mexico in the Americas.
Today it's the spectacular Philippines snorkeling and scuba diving, an intriguing blend of Spanish and Asian cultures, and almost unbeatable hospitality that attracts divers and travelers. With thousands of islands to explore, complete with idyllic beaches, luxuriously overgrown green mountains and turquoise waters filled with a psychedelic array of corals and sea life, there's no downside.
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Marine Life In Philippines
A snorkel tour in the Philippines will offer the chance to swim with thousands of colorful reef fish including various angelfish, enormous Napoleon wrasse, scattered anemones with their resident clownfish, banded pipefish, the elaborately decorated Mandarin fish and schools of jacks and barracuda, among multitude of corals that carpet the reefs and shores. Meanwhile the likes of sea turtles cruise dreamily along, and a variety of shark species swish by seemingly menacingly, and there's always a chance of a dolphin encounter.
With a keen eye there's a good chance to spot a disguised Reef Squid, flamboyant Cuttlefish or Blue Ringed Octopus hiding on the reefs, especially if when they suddenly put on one of their shows of shapes and colours.
Between November and June, with the best months being February to April, Philippines snorkeling will undoubtedly involve swimming with the biggest fish in the ocean. Measuring an impressive 4-12 meters (13-40 feet) and weighing in at up to 20 tons, whale sharks really are the gentle giants of the sea. Migrating in groups to these waters around the islands, they only feed off plankton and krill, and never seemed bothered by humans hanging around to admire them.
Another connoisseur of the nutrient-rich waters of the Pacific Ocean is the magnificent and graceful Manta Ray. Although they hang around the islands all year round, it takes more than a little luck to encounter one on either a scuba diving or snorkeling trip to the Philippines.
Sea turtles are truly creatures of habit, returning each year to where they hatched, to lay their own eggs. Known as 'pawikans' in the local lingo, 6 out of 7 of the world's endangered sea turtle species can be seen while snorkeling Philippines, including many Hawksbill and Green turtles.
While others are out in the deep waters diving, snorkelers have the advantage in hope of sighting a shy Dugong. Often called sea cows, these docile relatives of the manatee spend their days munching on sea grass in the shallows.
Best Snorkel Sites Philippines
There are numerous great Philippines snorkel sites in the waters around Camiguin, which together make up more than 40 locally protected marine areas where fishing is prohibited. Crystal water makes it easy to enjoy the vibrant corals, all manner of tropical fish, huge, iridescent giant clams, and at the right time of year you have the chance to hang with the whale sharks.
Another of the best snorkeling areas in the Philippines is around Balicasag Island, just southwest of Duljo Point on Bohol, where you are likely to have the place to yourselves. The turquoise water stretching out several hundred meters from the pure white sand beach has all been designated a marine sanctuary filled with the best of the local reef life on display in the warm, shallow water.
At the snorkeling site of Apo Island, a UNESCO Heritage site near Dumaguete, sea turtles are the stars of the show, where they flock to munch on the the abundant seagrass. Although coral formations are not as plentiful as at other snorkel spots, there's plenty of sea life hanging out around the rock formations including parrotfish, sergeant majors, clownfish, cleaner wrasses giving turtle shells a good polish, as well as the occasional shark.
Nearby Siquijor, known as Isla del Fuego (Island of Fire) by the Spanish, also offers excellent snorkeling, but keep an eye open for any strange occurrences on shore. Considered by many as an island full of witchcraft, it is both revered and feared by locals who will tell you its place to go if you need witch doctor. The shallow waters off the beach are packed with multicoloured hard and soft corals, vibrant starfish, and a divers array for reef fish.
Best Time To Snorkel in Philippines
Snorkeling in the Philippines is good any time of the year with warm weather cooled by sea breezes. During November through February winds can be a bit stronger, meaning the water can sometimes be a little choppy, but as it's the coolest time of year, it is also the busiest time of year. March through May are the drier months with calm, warm days, while June through October can bring some rain, it is always warm. All year round the air temperature is around 25-32C (78-90F) and humid.
How Do I Get To Philippines
One of the easiest and most comfortable ways to snorkel in the Phillipines is from a liveaboard. The big bustling Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila is the most common place to arrive into the Philippines for any land-based or liveaboad snorkeling trip. From here you'll transfer to one of the national airlines to take you to any of the nation's many islands.
The other main airport is Mactan-Cebu International Airport on Cebu Island, which makes the perfect jumping of point for your snorkeling adventures.