TABLE OF CONTENTS
In this guide to scuba diving Subic Bay, you will find all the information you ned to plan and book the perfect, stress free dive trip to the Philippines!
Subic Bay is a former US naval base located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. An important military installation for many years, it’s only recently that this area has been opened for access to scuba divers. Subic Bay features one of the highest concentrations of wreck sites in the world.
As many as twenty wrecks have been identified with dates ranging from the Spanish-American War to World War 2. For scuba divers, exploring these underwater ruins will be a large part of the appeal.
If you’ve ever wanted to dive under the water and take a closer look at these sunken ships, then Subic Bay is the place to go.
Along with its high concentration of war wrecks, Subic Bay is home to wide variety of marine life. This includes octopus, stingrays, and lionfish, among others.
It’s also easy to access and has excellent conditions for scuba diving all year round. For these reasons, scuba diving Subic Bay has a reputation for one of the most popular locations in the Philippines.
Subic Bay also has plenty of fun activities in addition to scuba diving. It offers a wide assortment of resorts, restaurants, amusement parks, and other forms of entertainment. This guarantees you’ll never be bored during your stay, even when you’re not under the water.
Great scuba diving in Subic Bay
USS New York: This is easily the most popular dive site in Subic Bay. Its popularity can be attributed to its long history, having served in many important battles. This ship was used in the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War 2. Believe it or not, its guns are still intact. It was never actually sunk in combat, but was scuttled to keep it from falling into enemy hands. Be aware that green algae can hamper visibility.
El Capitan: The USS Majaba, better known as El Capitan, is another popular spot for divers. This ship provided cargo runs during World War 2 before being struck down by a Japanese torpedo. Its forward and rear holds are accessible to divers. On occasion, you can see schools of thousands of Jack fish. It also has good visibility and shallow depth, making it a perfect dive for novices. It’s a fun dive overall, with many divers likening it to an underwater playground.
The San Quentin: This particular ship is as old as the Spanish-American War and has been underwater since 1898. The passage of time has made it into an artificial reef and is now covered in sponges and crinoids. It is also located next to a coral reef, which is known to contain some Giant Clam specimens.
Japanese Patrol Boat: A Japanese vessel that was sunk during the Japanese occupation of Subic Bay, the exact use of this boat is unknown. Nonetheless, this is known to be a fairly pleasant dive site. You can find it standing upright at a depth of 26m. It has great visibility, and you can find all sorts of marine life.
Landing Craft Utility: A vessel originally used for transporting personnel onto beaches, it’s believed that the Landing Craft Utility was sunk during a storm after the war. You can now find it populated with large numbers of lionfish. The vessel is mostly intact and is known for being a good dive site for beginners.
Upside Down LCU: This is another LCU that was recently found lying upside down, and it’s split completely in two. This is one of the best places to find blue spotted stingrays and nudibranches. This wreck is known for having great visibility and a large assortment of sea life in general.
USS Lanikai: This vessel has a long history behind it and has survived countless battles before being sunk by a typhoon in 1947. Much of the ship is still intact, and it attracts all kinds of marine life. Please be aware that the depth of this site makes it suitable for advanced divers only.
Concrete Ship: The Concrete Ship is the largest wreck you can find in Subic Bay. The sheer size of this wreck alone can make it worth exploring. Those who dive here can find great schools of fish and large sea fans. However, not many people dive here because of bad visibility and its position near the mouth of a river.
The Barges: The name of this site is a bit of a misnomer. It’s really an old dock lying off the beach of Grande Island. It’s not as popular as some of the other wrecks, but it’s a relaxing dive with great visibility and diverse undersea life. This makes it perfect for beginning divers.
Banshu Maru No 52: This Japanese wreck is believed to have been a fishing or whaling vessel. It was sunk after striking a mine in 1942. It lies at a depth of 56m and is recommended for technical diving. Don’t miss this while scuba diving Subic Bay.
F4 Phantom: This wreck is unique for being an aircraft that served during the Vietnam War. To this day, no one is entirely sure how it got down there. In any case, it makes for a good diving site today, and it can be fun to explore an old aircraft on the bottom of the sea.
Seian Maru: The Seian Maru is a Japanese freighter that was sunk by US aircraft in 1944. It suffered severe damage during the attack and is now lying on its port side on the ocean floor. It’s not as popular as some other dive sites due to poor visibility, but it does offer something different from the other wrecks.
SS Oryoku Maru: Also known as the Hellship, this vessel is infamous for war crimes perpetrated during the transportation of American prisoners of war. It was sunk by US military in 1944. It’s known for having terrible visibility but is still worth visiting for the somber atmosphere left behind by its history.
Landing Ship Tank: The LST was made during World War 2 for the purpose of carrying out amphibious missions. It was scuttled in 1946, and its gun platforms still remain intact. This site has very reliable visibility and tends to attract all sorts of marine life.
L2D Tabby: Yet another aircraft that can be found in Subic Bay, this one is of Japanese origin. It was only discovered recently in 2013. A variety of marine life now lives inside of it. The aircraft lies at a depth of 45m, making it a good dive site for advanced divers.
AJ-2 Savage: This aircraft was a bomber used by the United States Navy during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. It was created after World War 2 for the purpose of carrying atomic bombs. The wreck is mostly intact today, and it attracts a large amount of sea life. However, it lies at a depth of 72m, making it appropriate for advanced divers only.
Subic Bay Travel Information
How to get to Subic Bay
You’ll be entering the Philippines from either Clark Airport, which is near Angeles City, or Manila Airport. Clark Airport is less than an hour from Subic Bay, and you won’t have to negotiate the traffic in Manila. This makes it the ideal airport to use if you’ll be staying in Subic Bay.
From Clark, you can reach Subic Bay either by taxi or van. Most resorts will allow you to arrange one of these in advance. Southern Cross Shuttle is a reliable private bus service that frequently works with foreign tourists.
If you have to use Manila Airport then be prepared to deal with some traffic. Again, you’re options are either taxi or bus. However, the bus will be cheaper and more comfortable, making it the preferred method of travel. Take a taxi from the airport to Victory Liner bus station. This will take you to Olongapo City, a trip that will take approximately four hours. From there, you can easily reach your resort in Subic Bay by taxi or trike.
Other things to do and see in Subic Bay
As mentioned before, Subic Bay has plenty to offer besides scuba diving. In fact, it attracts over 8 million tourists a year. It’s a rather peaceful place to vacation in general, especially compared to the busy city life of Manila. Water sports tend to be very popular in Subic Bay. Along with diving, activities such jet skiing and swimming are common.
One attraction you can’t miss if you’re an animal lover is the Zoobic Safari. This is a zoo unlike any other. At the Zoobic Safari, you can get up close with tigers, feed crocodiles, visit savannahs featuring ostriches and wild boars, and see animals living in simulated natural habitats.
For those of you that can’t get enough of the water, check out Ocean Adventure. This an open water park similar to what you might expect at SeaWorld. You’ll get to swim with dolphins, make friends with sea lions, and have a look at their impressive aquariums.
For the thrill seekers out there, you should visit Tree Top Adventure. Tree Top Adventure is a zip line park set in the middle of a forest. It’s a place where you can go zip lining and bungee jumping in a natural setting. This is a fun activity that combines beauty and excitement.
Best times to visit Subic Bay
Again, you can dive in Subic Bay during any time of the year. However, it’s best to do so during its dry season. This lasts from November to May. During this time, you can expect to have better visibility and less currents.
Subic Bay has an average temperature of 80 degrees fahrenheit. It’s warmest time of the year is in the months of March to May.
Philippines visa info for Americans:
Vacationing in the Philippines is fairly easy for Americans. No visa is required if you’re staying for less than thirty days. All you will need is a US passport and a valid return ticket.
If you decide you want to stay longer than thirty days, getting an extension is a simple process. Just visit an immigration office in Manila, and they will get you taken care of. You can extend for another month for the first few months, or you can get a six to twelve month visa for about 60 dollars. That’s really all there is to it.
Critter highlights in Subic Bay:
Of course, Subic Bay has no shortage of fascinating marine life. Some of the animals you’ll find in these waters are difficult to find anywhere else. This makes diving in Subic Bay a golden opportunity to see some critters you’ve never seen before.
The sheer variety of life down there is astounding. Here is a short list of what you can expect to see when you’re in the water.
A few critters you’ll see while scuba diving Subic Bay:
A Wide Variety of Nudibranch. The Philippines is a great place to see nudi species in general, and Subic Bay is no exception.
Various Species of Octupi. Watch out for the blue-ringed octupi, as its bite can be venomous.
Blue Spotted Stingray. A gorgeous animal to behold, but another to be careful around. Its barb can be dangerous.
Lionfish. Among the most beautiful fish you can find. Known for the fleshy tentacles and distinctive brown stripes.
Coral Snakes. Easily identified by their red, yellow, and black banding colors.
Cuttlefish. You’ll find all kinds, including pharaoh cuttlefish and flamboyant cuttlefish.
Sea fans. These a can grow several feet high and are beautifully colored.
Portuguese Man-o-War. Beautiful creatures, but admire them from a distance.
Moray Eels. They can usually be found hiding in crevices.
Batfish. A strange looking fish that actually “walks” on the ocean floor.
Where to stay in Subic Bay & who to dive with:
There are a number of great dive resorts for scuba diving in Subic Bay, with good gear and boats and crew. You can search through plenty of hotels and dive resorts in Subic HERE. Let us know who you dove with and how you enjoyed the dives!
Want to check out other great Philippines dive locations? Check out our complete Philippines Scuba Guide.