By freedivinguae

Mystery of sea nomads’ amazing ability to freedive is solved

Scientists have uncovered the secrets of the Bajau people, long-famed for their ability to hold their breath for extraordinary lengths of time

The secret behind the ability of a group of “sea nomads” in Southeast Asia to hold their breath for extraordinary periods of time while freediving to hunt fish has finally been revealed – and it’s down to evolution.

The Bajau people are able to dive tens of metres underwater with no conventional diving aids. Instead they rely on weights, handmade wooden goggles – and a single breath of air.

But while the Bajau people’s talents have long been known, it was unclear whether the skill was the result of practice, as in the case of the excellent underwater vision of Thai “sea nomad” children, or the result of adaptations which have their roots in the Bajau people’s DNA

Now experts say they have the answer: over time the Bajau people have undergone natural selection, resulting in certain versions of genes becoming widespread – many of which are linked to biological changes, including having a larger spleen, that could help the Bajau to hold their breath underwater for many minutes at a time.

The team say the findings could eventually prove useful in medical settings, potentially allowing experts to identify patients that might be at greater risk of death if they experience a lack of oxygen, for example during surgery.

“There seems to be so much to learn from the Bajau and other diving populations about how the human body is able to react to oxygen deprivation, which is an important medical issue,” said Dr Melissa Ilardo, first author of the study who was at the University of Copenhagen at the time of the research.

Writing in the journal Cell, the scientists reveal how they unpicked the mystery following a clue from previous research: species of seals which can dive for longer have larger than expected spleens – an organ which, among its functions, can store oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

As a result the team used an ultrasound device to measure the spleen in 43 Bajau people and 33 people from a neighbouring group of farming people, the Saluan.

“The spleen size is about 50% larger in these sea nomads than it is in the [Saluan], so already it was like ‘Oh my God – it is really [an] extreme physiological characteristic,” said Prof Eske Willerslev, a co-author of the study from the University of Cambridge.

The team note the trend held regardless of whether the Bajau individual was themselves a diver, and even when factors such as age, sex and height were taken into account.

Genetic testing revealed that certain versions of genes are more commonly found in Bajau people than would be expected, with many apparently linked to biological changes that could help individuals cope with low-oxygen conditions.

Among them is a form of a gene linked to an increased spleen size – an effect the team reveal is likely down to an increase in thyroid hormone levels. Crucially, a contraction of the spleen is one of the features of the so called “diving reflex” – a set of responses in mammals that occur when the head is submerged. A large spleen means even more oxygen-carrying red blood cells can be pumped into the circulatory system when the organ contracts, allowing individuals to stay underwater for longer.

Another is a form of a gene linked to a different feature of the diving reflex: narrowing of the blood vessels to the extremities, aiding delivery of oxygenated blood to organs such as the brain, heart and lungs.

Further analysis by the team revealed that these genetic boons are not the result of chance, but evolutionary adaptations arising from natural selection.

Stephen Stearns, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University who was not involved in the research, saidthe study adds to evidence for recent natural selection on certain genes in human populations – with previous examples including genes for lactose tolerance that cropped up with the advent of domestication of dairy animals, and genes for adaptation to high altitude in Tibetans and Native Americans in the Andes.

“What we lack at this point, and badly need, are samples large enough to allow us to infer when the selection [in the Bajau] started to happen,” he said. “We know that the Bajau have been leading this lifestyle for at least a thousand years, but we do not know when they started it – perhaps much earlier.”


By freedivinguae

Stunning dolphin pictured in the sea in Inner Hebridean, wins an annual photo competition

A striking photo of a dolphin reflected in the sea off a rocky Inner Hebridean outcrop has won an annual photo competition to celebrate British mammals.

The image, captured by James West, from Hampshire, was among 350 wildlife pictures snapped in the British Isles for the annual Mammal Photographer of the Year competition.

James, who took the picture near the Cairns of Coll, off the northern end of the Island of Coll, said the reflection added a different dimension to the picture.

“The sea was very calm and like a mirror.

“As I examined the shots afterwards, I could see not only a sharp photograph of the dolphin but also its reflection in the water, revealing a beautiful creature in motion with tremendous power and grace,” said James, from Chandler’s Ford.

“The reflection adds a different dimension to the shot, bringing out details that a shot from above couldn’t have done by itself.”

Chief Judge Hilary Conlan, editor of Mammal News, said: “It is hard to photograph dolphins completely out of the water as well as capturing not only the reflection but also a sense of speed and purpose.”

The winner of the Best Mammal Society member photo was Graeme Hull, from Caithness, with a stunning picture of a grey seal “waving”.


By freedivinguae

3 Sea turtles returned to the wild

Clearwater, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) – Clearwater Marine Aquarium released three sea turtles today at Fred Howard Park.

The sea turtles included Echo and Papa, two endangered green sea turtles treated for the Fibropapilloma virus, and Marigold, a critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle treated for boat strike injuries.

Echo and Papa, named during the NATO phonetic alphabet theme, were rescued in January this year in Hudson Beach, FL. They were brought in with low body temperatures and tumors caused by the Fibropapilloma virus. Both sea turtles underwent successful tumor removal surgery and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) cleared them for release.

Marigold was rescued in October 2017 during the flower naming theme. The critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was found by a fisherman on the Cotee River, near New Port Richey, FL. Marigold’s left lung was partially exposed through an extensive wound on her top shell and had sustained additional wounds on her bottom shell. The injuries are believed to have been caused by a boat strike.

Marigold was also cleared for release by FWC and returned home along with Echo and Papa


By freedivinguae

These sea turtles use magnetic fields like GPS

Loggerhead sea turtles that nest on beaches with similar magnetic fields are genetically similar to one another, according to a new study.

“Loggerhead sea turtles are fascinating creatures that begin their lives by migrating alone across the Atlantic Ocean and back,” says Kenneth Lohmann, professor of biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Eventually they return to nest on the beach where they hatched—or else, as it turns out, on a beach with a very similar magnetic field.”

The research, that appears in  Current Biology, provides valuable insight into the turtles’ navigation and nesting behaviors that could advance future conservation efforts.

Key takeaways include:

  • Magnetic fields are the strongest predictor of genetic similarity among nesting loggerhead sea turtles, regardless of the geographic proximity or environmental traits of nesting beaches.
  • The findings support previous research which indicated that adult loggerhead sea turtles use magnetic fields to find their way back to the beach where they themselves hatched. The new research implies that sometimes the turtles mistakenly nest at a different beach with a similar magnetic field, even if that beach is geographically far away from the beach on which they hatched—like on the opposite coast of Florida.
  • Conservation efforts should consider the importance of a beach’s magnetic field for attracting loggerhead sea turtles. Sea walls, power lines, and large beachfront buildings may alter the magnetic fields that turtles encounter.
Sea turtles make more nests on tidy beaches

“This is an important new insight into how sea turtles navigate during their long-distance migrations. It might have important applications for the conservation of sea turtles, as well as other migratory animals such as salmon, sharks, and certain birds,” Lohmann says.



By freedivinguae

Curaçao, A Special Scuba Diving Destination In The Caribbean!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWILLEMSTAD – Curacao is special to me because I received my Open Water certification there ten years years ago when my local dive shop referred me to The Dive Bus, one of the most popular local operators.  In the intervening years I have widely traveled around the world, and the rest of the Caribbean.  These experiences have given me the benefit of contrast and hindsight, and so I decided to return to Curacao last summer for a week of diving.

Why? Curacao has lots to do-above and below the water.   For photographers like me that OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwant some independence, you can enjoy unlimited shore diving.  If you want to reach the more inaccessible sites then you have the option of boat diving. You can also relax with an easy dive, or challenge yourself at the more advanced sites.  And you always have the option of a quick snorkel.

On surface intervals, I’ve visited the Nurse Sharks at the Curaçao Sea Aquarium, joined an awesome dune buggy tour through the desert interior, explored historic sites, and toured the colourful colonial architecture in the capital of Willemstad.

But here I want to focus on the diving.  I believe that the secret to enjoying your stay, and getting the most out of your diving, is to stay close to activities, be mobile and carefully choose your dive sites.  This way you can avoid long boat rides, enjoy some great diving, and avoid long car rides as the shore diving sites are not that close together.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe based our stay at the all-inclusive Sunscape Curaçao – Resort, Spa and Casino (formerly Breezes, Curaçao) in Willemstad, a beachfront hotel with five different cultural restaurants, four bars and three pools.  You won’t be in want for anything, and you won’t waste time travelling anywhere for meals or snacks.  You can ask for a room close to the dive shop which also helps.

The other real advantage to staying at Sunscape Curaçao is that the resort is partnered OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwitha Ocean Encounters Diving Curaçao which is conveniently located right on the resort grounds.  Within minutes you can be in the water enjoying a nice reef, quite often all to yourself!  We did several days of diving with them, and  found them to be friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful in all things.  They even gave us a key to a storage room so that we could do our own night dives. They have covered bench seating, cold drinking water, fresh water showers, rinse tanks, and a dock that makes getting into and out of the water a breeze.

The House reef, Oswaldo’s Drop Off, is an easy and fun dive, but it gets better the deeper and further West you go.  On your way through you will see numerous (rare and endangered) elegant Staghorn corals, and many re-planted Staghorn corals that have been out-planted by the Coral Restoration Foundation Curaçao. At this reef we were visited by Reef squid, a large Tarpon, a large Southern Stingray,  a Chainlink Moray Eel,  Blennies peeking out at us from  their homes in Brain Corals, curious Spotted shrimps in anenomes,  and all the other usual suspects that you’d expect in the Caribbean.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou have to pass through the House reef to get to the Car Pile site, which is a “must do” dive.  It’s an artificial reef consisting of old cars, boats, and trucks and other construction materials that were sunk in the 1970’s. If you love to “poke around” and explore, then this site is for you.  I got such a “kick” out of diving this reef that I spent half my week here.  And again, most times we had it all to ourselves since the site is not moored for dive boats.  It begins at 45’, and goes to more than 100’.  It’s full of life. For the first time ever I saw numerous purple masses of eggs being guarded by Sergeant Majors on the Barge, the biggest wreck you will come to. Here you can expect to find massive tube sponges, loads of colourful fishes, and schools of Snappers and Jacks.

I can also recommend diving the Watamula!  This at the extreme West end of the Island and we had the pleasure of boat diving this site with GO WEST Diving Curaçao.  Part of the fun was the Sunday drive getting there through the peaceful, cactus- studded desert terrain.  Watamula gets its name from the Dutch word for “Water Mill” because of the currents that flow there.  These currents nourish a very healthy reef, mostly of hard corals, and attract schools of fishes.  This is one dive that I could do over and over again.  The slow drift felt like a continuation of the relaxing drive up, only through a lush reef exploding with life.  Like its name-sake neighbour in the west, Mushroom Forest, you can expect to see large mounds of mushroom-shaped Star corals, huge Barrel Sponges, and fields of massive Sea Plumes almost 6’ tall. There’s so much here, you don’t know where to look.

We finished our last day with boat dives at the Lost Anchor (no, there’s no Anchor to see, as it’s lost!) and Saba Tugboat. Lost Anchor makes for a nice Wall dive, filled with lots of sponges and soft corals. Close to the boat mooring, my wife spotted a large moray eel in the process of swallowing prey!  It was relaxed enough to allow us to watch and get an up-close pic.

The nearby Saba Tugboat was sunk intentionally as an artificial reef and as an alternative to their busy signature Tugboat site. It sits in about 20’ of water and is filled with lots of colorful small fishes that now call it home. It makes for a nice safety stop after doing the nearby wall dive. It was also encouraging to massive colonies of growing Staghorn coral here, which is a real success story for the Coral Restoration Foundation Curaçao.  I would highly recommend learning more about this important coral reef restoration initiative and even adopting a coral fragment, because when you “Adopt A Coral” you contributing directly to the restoration of the Curaçao coral reefs.  Since my visit, the Coral Restoration Foundation Curaçao has expanded their coral nurseries.  Now, the Foundation’s coral nurseries include their initial site located on the Ocean Encounters house reef (Stella Maris) and now, the house reef of Atlantis Diving.

Curacao is a place that I will keep coming back to!  It’s easy to get to, it’s safe, it has a great cultural mix and an amazing balance of everything you need.  And, the diving is exceptional, rich with biodiversity at a very reasonable cost.  The best part is that the Curaçao diving community is committed to sustainable dive tourism initiatives so that these beautiful reefs will be around for years to come!


By freedivinguae

Lake’s only pair of manatees survive winter as manatees die at record pace

As Florida manatees are dying at a record pace from the cold winter and algae blooms, an unlikely sea cow duo has surprised researchers for their persistence in braving frigid temperatures to survive.

A manatee dubbed Leesburg — after the Lake County city where she was first spotted in 2015 — was seen by researchers from the group Sea to Shore Alliance alongside her 6-month-old calf several times this year in the St. Johns River. Their survival comes as 166 manatees have died this year through March 2, according to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

“There’s several springs we monitor, and we’ve seen her multiple times,” said Sea to Shore researcher Monica Ross, who dispatches alongside colleagues on boats to observe the manatees every year.

Leesburg is one of the first manatees recorded on the Harris Chain of Lakes, about 35 miles west of Orlando. The first-time manatee mother, distinguished by a boat propeller scar on her back, has amazed observers by surviving the winter with her newborn.

Florida’s manatee counts have doubled in the past two decades to about 6,600, but the marine mammals are still dying by the hundreds every year. In 2017, 538 manatees died in Florida, a 13 percent increase from 472 deaths the year before.

The trademark Florida species is designated as endangered by the federal government. Jeff Ruch, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility executive director, has said he fears for the manatees’ future.

“Manatees may join polar bears as one of the first iconic victims of extinction in the wild from climate change.”

When Leesburg was first spotted in the Harris Chain of Lakes by recreational boaters in 2015, officials were skeptical of eyewitness accounts until a photograph of the sea cow and another male manatee convinced them.

Her companion didn’t make it through the harsh winter leading in to 2016; he was found dead at the Moss Bluff Lock in the Ocklawaha River, north of Lake Griffin.

Leesburg was also found suffering from the cold temperatures and transported to Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa for rehab. Three months later and weighing a healthy 1,100 pounds, Leesburg was dropped off in the St. Johns River in Putnam County nearly 80 miles away.

But she insisted on being in Lake County. Astonished researchers tracked her by GPS as she bolted from Putnam back to the Harris Chain.

Since then, an alligator ripped off her tracking collar and a boat propeller slashed her back, scarring her but distinguishing her from the other manatees researchers count every year. It’s how Sea to Shore was able to identify her among other manatees in the St. Johns River this winter, Ross said.

After she has endured so many trials, no one is sure if Leesburg and her newborn will return to Lake as some of the only documented manatees to make it their home.

“When a female has her first calf, she tends to change her pattern,” Ross said. “So she might go back to the Lake County area, but if she does she might not stay the time she did there before.”




By freedivinguae

Don’t Miss Out On Freediving Papua New Guinea’s Kimbe Bay

If freediving the South Pacific has been on your bucket list for a while, you might want to check out Australian-based Encounter Freediving.

Encounter Freediving is offering a trip for freedivers to Kimbe Bay, off the Papua New Guinea island of New Britain. The group will be led by Michael Bates, an Austrialian freediving instructor who holds a PhD in marine science. Bates says:

“I grew up in PNG, and worked in tourism. I know what an amazing place it is, and what it has to offer freedivers. I am truly excited to be able to showcase what is on offer to the world of freediving.”

The group will be lodged at Walindi Plantation Resort on the shore of Kimbe Bay, a place that Bates calls “an ideal spot for freediving”:

“You have areas with over 80 meters of depth inside a protected bay with almost no current or swell. There are a wide variety of coral reef environments for freedivers to explore and a couple of wrecks, including a reminder of the region’s pivotal role in World War II, in a Japanese fighter plane. Dolphin and shark encounters are also a regular occurrence in Kimbe Bay. On occasion, divers are lucky enough to encounter a pod of orcas!”

The group size will be limited to 12 freedivers, allowing Bates to give individualized feedback to help folks reach new depths. Aside from the freediving, you’ll also be able to do a village visit, take a hike, or go bird watching.

The trip runs from September 28th to October 5th, 2018. Prices start from AU$3595 (~US$2791/~2257 Euros) and include return airfares from Brisbane, Australia to Kimbe, accommodation at Walindi Plantation Resort, all meals at Walindi, five days of diving, airport transfers in Kimbe, and taxes.



By freedivinguae

Endangered sea turtle released on Sanibel Beach


SANIBEL, Fla. — An endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was released back into the water by the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) on Tuesday morning.

The sea turtle was released at the Sanibel Lighthouse Beach after arriving to the clinic on March 27. The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was found floating near the Sanibel Marina.

The turtle was suffering from the effects of brevitoxcosis, known as red tide poisoning. It also had an old injury that resulted in the loss of part of its left front flipper, but had already healed.

The sea turtle was treated at the clinic for two weeks and made a full recovery before being released back into the water.



By freedivinguae

Underwater Photo of Whale Shark’s Gills Shows Incredible Anatomy of This Gentle Giant

Underwater photographer Simone Caprodossi has been photographing the deep seas for over 10 years. The Italian-born, Dubai-based Caprodossi has combined his passions for photography and diving, creating an impressive portfolio of underwater imagery. Particularly fond of sharks, he managed to capture a stunning image of the gills of a whale shark, demonstrating the impressive anatomy of this gentle giant.

The largest living fish species, whale sharks are a slow-moving shark that can weigh up to 21.5 tons and grow up to 41.5 feet. Caprodossi was working with researchers in Djibouti and Qatar to help with photo identification when he snapped this interesting perspective on the shark. “The whale shark spot pattern is unique to each animal like a human fingerprint so photos of the area between the gills and the end of the dorsal fin are used to uniquely identify individuals and estimate populations as well as tracking movement and recurrence of the same animals,” Caprodossi explains to My Modern Met.

While the underwater photographer has taken hundreds of photographs of the “ID area” next to the gills, one day the stars aligned for this special shot. “The light just shone on the pink inner side of the gills wide open during the feeding action and instead of trying to get in front of the animal I swam right along it, getting parallel to the body to get the most open angle that would show the gills.”

Caprodossi hopes his work will help people break their preconceived notion that all sharks are dangerous. He notes that as a photographer trying to get up and personal with them, he’s often seen the whale sharks purposely swerve to avoid hitting him with their tail or fin—a surprisingly polite gesture for the mammoth fish.

What he would really like people to know is just how vulnerable these fish are due to human activity and construction close to their habitats. “We see so many animals with propeller or boat impact wounds already and some of their aggregation areas are getting higher human pressure,” the photographer shares. “The area in Djibouti where juveniles aggregate every year in December/January is getting a new port built by China and this will carry much more shipping pressure, eventually making the area off-limits and high risk for the animals.


Underwater Photo of Whale Shark’s Gills Shows Incredible Anatomy of This Gentle Giant

By freedivinguae

5 of the best places for freediving in the Philippines – it’s paradise for underwater adventures

The archipelago nation sits at the centre of the so-called Coral Triangle, which is almost six million square kilometres that includes ecosystems containing more coral reef species than anywhere else on Earth, with six of the world’s seven marine turtle species and more than 2,000 species of fish.

Aside from its abundant reefs, the Philippines ocean floor is a home to a variety of shipwrecks, lying at depths ranging from just below the surface to 40 metres.

“You can also do deep diving without even using a boat. The depths are accessible from the shore,” says Gen Abanilla, a freediving instructor from Manila.

Abanilla, together with co-founder Nico Soriano established Seazoned, a Manila-based company that offers freediving courses, including theory lessons, breathing and relaxation techniques, with confined water and open water sessions. Fellow instructor Soriano says the Philippines has seen a surge in interest in freediving in the recent years because of stories and photos shared through social media. As a result it has shifted from a competitive sport to a rewarding hobby for casual divers.

“After seeing photos and videos of freediving on social media two years ago, I immediately pursued my certification,” says Gen Santiago, a 28-year-old Filipino flight attendant who has explored 53 out of the 81 provinces of the Philippines. “The experience of diving into the ocean on just one breath is challenging, and I want to test my limits.”

John Nico Gavan, a master freediver from southern Leyte, Philippines, says it is an invaluable skill that grants him a rare and unique opportunity to have a close interaction with marine life, and take photos that would otherwise be impossible to take. Gavan has a maximum depth limit of 131 feet on a single breath.

“I love showing the connection between the diver and the environment he is with. How they can coexist and how colourful and magical being weightless is,” says Gavan.

Unlike scuba divers who rely on a diving tank to sustain their breathing, freedivers count on a single breath of air. To attain their target depth, a freediver must learn how to maximise their oxygen consumption. This is accomplished by maintaining a “Zen state of mind”, says Abanilla: freediving is where endurance meets meditation.

“If you can’t relax from the beginning, it’s going to be hard to hold your breath longer,” Abanilla says, adding that you should always have a “dive buddy”.

She also notes the importance of proper body positioning, finning and equalisation. Equalisation is necessary to prevent potentially serious injury such as head trauma.

Freedivers experience the changes in the marine environment like few others, says Ivy Bagay, founder of NymPH, a non-profit organisation composed of divers who conduct clean-up drives on Philippine beaches.

They notice the once vibrant coral reefs getting bleached, more plastic bags drifting with the current, turtles getting caught in abandoned nets, and sharks having visible scars left by boat propellers and fish hooks, she says. “We do both underwater and shore clean-ups. We also coordinate with the local government about proper waste disposal and encourage them to involve the local community in protecting the ocean,” says Bagay.

Every freediver can contribute by sticking to some simple rules, says Bagay, such as making every dive an opportunity to collect rubbish, making sure you use non-toxic sunscreens and refraining from touching or interfering with the activity marine species.

Five of the best freediving spots in the Philippines

1. Apo Reef, Occidental Mindoro

Apo Reef is recognised by Unesco as one of the most important reefs in the world as it encompasses the world’s second largest contiguous coral reef system.

“It’s insane clarity paired with the abundance of marine life,” says Gavan. “If you want to see some of the big pelagic fish that call the Philippines home then this is the best place to find them.”

The good visibility means can go as deep as 30 metres to take photos of manta rays, mobula rays, sea turtles and sharks.

When shooting marine life, keep a safe distance from the creatures and avoid chasing them as it will cause them stress. Diving in Apo Reef can be done all year round, but March to May is best for beginners, to avoid strong currents. The dive spot is accessible through Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro or Coron.

2. Coron, Palawan

Coron is blessed with a wide range of dive sites for divers of all levels, from shallow reefs to advanced wreck diving, with well-preserved shipwrecks dating back to the second world war.

For beginners, Abanilla recommends the Skeleton Wreck and Lusong Gunboat. The 25-metre Skeleton Wreck, which has well-preserved keel and ribs, is inclined at 45 degree angle, making it visible at around five metres below the surface. Meanwhile, Lusong Gunboat is submerged just half a metre below the surface. In fact, the stern actually breaks the surface at low tide.

Advanced divers can explore the East Tangat Wreck, inclined on the coral reef on the east side of Tangat Island. Despite its depth at around 20 metres, you get great visibility up to 10 metres.

Another of her favourites is the Black Island Wreck, a small converted tanker designed to carry fuels that were from the Japanese Imperial Army. The wreck’s depth starts at 21 metres, with 15-20 metre visibility.

Coron is also known for its crystal clear lakes such as the Barracuda Lake, which is situated on top of a volcano crater. The lake has layers of fresh, salt and brackish water and thermoclines at four and 14 metres. There are no currents and strong waves, allowing divers to go deep without fins.

It is possible to dive around Coron all year round. However, visibility and weather are best from December to March. There a direct flights Manila to Busuanga Airport. From there, hop on a van for Coron Town.

3. Balicasag Island, Panglao, Bohol

Another budding dive site in the Philippines is Balicasag Island, a marine sanctuary off the coast of Panglao, Bohol. Crystal clear waters – visibility ranges from five to 40 metres – make it a playground for underwater photographers. An abundance of sea grass draws sea turtles, sponges, frogfish, moray eels, mackerel and barracuda. The conditions are normally calm, with little or no current, so diving in Panglao is possible at any time of the year, but the best time to go is from December to June. Balicasag Island is accessible from Panglao Island via motorised boats. To get to Panglao Island, take a plane to Tagbilaran, from where you can rent a van.

4. Southern Leyte

Located in southern Leyte are dive spots in Pintuyan, Padre Burgos and Limasawa. Pintuyan serves as a sanctuary for migrating whale sharks. The sanctuary is not crowded, the water visibility is excellent and sound ecological practices are strictly observed. There are sightings of whale sharks in Pintuyan all year round, but it is best to visit Pintuyan from October to May, their natural migration period.

Padre Burgos on the other hand is where you can find Tangkaan Beach, a quiet white sand beach that boasts a seabed filled with soft coral and waters frequented by turtles. Limasawa Island is home to steep drops filled with fan corals and massive table corals. You can reach Pintuyan Island from Manila by air with connecting land travel from Tacloban. Padre Burgos and Limasawa are accessible by boat from Pintuyan.

5. Batangas

Batangas is the closest and most accessible dive spot from Manila. Go to Binukbok View Point in Bauan for an opportunity to swim with schools of jacks and visit Masasa beach in Tingloy Island to explore its white-sand bottom and clear waters. Waves and current can be very unpredictable in Batangas, but the main diving season in Batangas runs from early November to May.