Anilao is located in south of Manila on the island of Luzon, in the Batangas province of the Philippines.
It is a 3 hours drive from Manila. Scuba diving in Anilao is the main attraction for underwater photographers and those who love marine life.
While scuba diving Anilao, you can expect to find a vast array of rich reefs, a variety of fish, unexpected critters and nudibranchs at every corner.
Underwater photographers find Anilao as a paradise. It is a macro heaven with incredible reefs and a labyrinth of the most sought-after Indo-Pacific critters in the local waters. Scuba diving in Anilao is a dream come true for the marine-lovers.
Guide to Scuba Diving Anilao
A barangay in the municipality of Mabini – Batangas, Anilao is as a Marine Protected Sanctuary that is commonly regarded as the birthplace of scuba diving in the Philippines.
It is the best spot in the Philippines for underwater macro photography.
Compared to the rest of the world, it is normally ranked for Muck Diving in the top 3 at third position after the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia and Mabul Island in Malaysia.
Anilao is a favourite destination in Philippines for local and international divers and is also a choice for scuba diving beginners.
Anilao has 48 validated dive sites around it’s area. It is the home to the rarest soft corals, offers marine lovers a range of corals, reef fish, bottom fish and pelagic fish, rare corals and boasts of a diversity of nudibranchs.
It is a visual delight. Most of the dive spots in Anilao has coral slopes and shallow coral gardens.
To preserve the natural wonder of Anilao, it has also been chosen as a marine conservation laboratory for Metro Pacific’s Shore It Up program.
How to get to Anilao
From Manila, it will take about 2 to 3 hours depending on traffic through SLEX (South Luzon Expressway) from Magallanes or Alabang Muntinlupa. You can take a bus from LRT Gil Puyat Station.
You should board a bus that goes to Batangas City. From there, you can take a jeepney with a signboard Mabini-Batangas or Mabini Anilao.
If you are already in Puerto Galera, I would recommend you to reach Anilao by speedboat. It will only take an hour.
Best dive sites around Anilao
Twin Rocks: Twin Rocks consists of two rocks separated by one meter that receives special protection. It is one of the best sites for scuba diving in Anilao. It is known for rich underwater environment and Muck Diving. You can see large elephant ear corals at the entry point of this site. There is an abundance of prolific marine life at 10ft to 130ft and all depths in between. One can find soft corals, schooling jacks, small fish, jawfish and anything that you can imagine of. The underwater life is vibrant here.
Beatrice Rocks: Known for its tantalizing beauty, Beatrice Rocks is one of the scuba diving sites in Anilao, which provides wide-angle photography opportunities. It has stronger currents and profusion of swarming anthias. It’s actually on the northeast corner of Sombrero Island. The vibrant view of red-orange basslets that swim graciously with the current on all over the two major huge coral formation of the site is still vivid in my mind. There are large barrel sponges, good gorgonians, black corals, soft corals, stony corals, anemones with clownfish, nudibranchs and sea stars. It is densely populated with just about all the reef fish you could expect.
Kirby’s Rock: This diving site in Anilao has great visibility, a beautiful wall filled with life, and a surprising number of good macro subjects. Hard and soft corals were abundant on the rock, including gorgonians and crinoids in a range of colors. Keep an eye out for scorpionfish and lionfish as well, and look closely for nudibranchs here and there. Current is slight to moderate moving westward most of the time.
Secret Bay: Secret Bay, also known as “Mainit Muck” for its proximity to Mainit, is one of the most popular dive spots in Anilao. This muck diving point is highly appreciated by macro photographers worldwide for the quality and quantity of critters that can be found. It is a popular muck site that sometimes has mimic octopus, wonderpus, pipefish, seahorses, frogfish and more. I spotted a giant Trevally, a shark and several barracudas on their hunting spree. It is excellent at any time of the day, but at the night it fills you up with an enchanting experience.
Devil’s Point: This is situated at the southwest point of Maricaban Islands and is known for its soft corals. In the calm current, you can see gorgonian bush corals, tree soft corals, and bluefin jackfish and tunas.
What to expect while scuba diving in Anilao
Diving is usually done with a small outrigger boat (bangka) that can take up to 4 divers with a crew of 2 to 3. The diving conditions in the Anilao dive sites are clear and ideal for scuba diving.
It is colder from November to February at around 24°C and then approximately 27°C from March to May. A more technical thing that experienced divers look for is the visibility and it ranges from 3m to 20m depending on the season and the tides.
(Naturally, visibility is poor during the rainy months of July to September).
It is easy to snorkel off the shore right in front of most of the resorts. The resorts can also arrange a scuba diving tour for you.
When I dive at diving sites in Anilao, I go out for 2 dives early in the morning, 2 dives in the late afternoon, with the last dive, always being a complete night dive. Daily night dives are a must in Anilao! I enjoy using Nitrox on all of my dives.
At the diving sites in Anilao, reef life is thriving and usually quite shallow allowing longer bottom time for photographers and a perfect spot for snorkelers to explore and spend time without any limit.
There about 40 dive sites around Anilao with the most famous being Sombrero Island, Maricaban Island, Cathedral and Mapating. They are all reachable by a short boat ride. This scuba diving sites at Anilao can also be explored on a Liveaboard trip that includes Coron Wrecks, Apo Reef, and Anilao.
Apart from every marine life imaginable, that is found here, I’ve seen Rhinopias and Hairy Frogfish. Anilao is also a great place to find Bobbit worms. Anilao has a large number of species of hard and soft corals, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world because of the great conservation efforts.
One more thing that I would suggest you is not to stay too far north of Twin Rocks so you are not too far from the best dive sites.
Other things to see and do in Anilao
Isla Verde is a day trip away from Anilao. This place too has some spectacular walls. Puerto Galera is another popular diving destination and you can easily reach this island in a boat.
If you are not into diving, you may enjoy snorkeling or kayaking.
Sombrero is an island where you can escape on a beautiful sunny morning. It is a 15-20 minutes boat ride from Anilao.
A short trek to Mt. Gulugod Baboy is a perfect idea if you like outdoors. You can probably reach the top in less than an hour of an ascending walk.
The view of the sea and the forests is incredible from there. You can catch the sunset over Balayan Bay. It is an incredible treat to the eyes and the soul.
With various nationalities visiting Anilao year through, it is also known as a culinary destination with the assortment of popular cuisines from all over the world. You can find staple Cordillera delicacies which includes the peppery dinakdakan (grilled pork).
Best time to visit Anilao
Technically, it is possible to dive all year round but the main diving season in Anilao runs from early November to May.
The visibility is about the same from November to May and you can expect about 15m and even 20m in a good day.
The critters and rich marine life are found all through the year. If you don’t mind slightly cooler temps, then Jan – March is great too and often has more critters underwater.