I was in Manila in the first half of April visiting family. While I was there, I took the opportunity to take in some diving.
Thankfully, this is an embarrassingly easy thing to do in the Philippines. Blessed with 7,107 islands, the keen diver has a nigh endless supply of dive sites to choose from. My constraint was proximity to Manila; preferably somewhere I could quickly get to and out. Puerto Galera had long been on my list of places to dive; it is frequently featured in international lists of top places to dive. Being approximately 3.5 hours away via bus and ferry from Manila, it was perfect place to getaway from the city.
How to Get There
There are several options (of varying cost and luxury) for getting to Puerto Galera from Manila, all of which travel the same route comprising a two-hour drive south to Batangas Pier, then an hour ferry ride to Puerto Galera.
The private (and dearest) option would be to have one of the numerous resorts organise it for you. This should cost from $100 one way. This is the most hassle free way of doing it as they adapt to you. Alternately, there are private coach/ferry companies departing from Mabini that offer a similarly convenient, albeit shared service for about $17 one way. These depart every morning.
The public option would be to catch a bus from the Cubao terminal to Batangas pier. These buses operate all day without a timetable and merely depart when full. It should cost about $4.50. Once in Batangas pier, avoid the fixers trying to rip you off (telling you that the ferry isn’t running and that they have a private boat) and purchase a ferry ticket ($5), a terminal fee ($1) and an environmental fee ($2). Ferries start from early morning til ~4pm in the afternoon.
The same rates/times apply going back to Manila.
Where to Stay
There are two main beaches in Puerto Galera where people stay (there are certainly more beaches but they are reachable from these two main ones). Sabang is where divers most go. Though its got no beach as such, its coves are home to more than 40 amazing dives sites. It’s also known for it’s nightlife and girly bars and is where most foreigners go. White Beach is where most locals go. Featuring a beautiful shoreline, this is where to go for traditional fun at a tropical island beach (also featuring its own nightlife).
Sabang itself is a tiny town with one street going through it. Despite this, it has a full array of pubs, resorts and restaurants of varying quality, catering to the budget-conscious backpacker or the discerning diver.
Who to Dive With
Entirely going on internet research, I went with Action Divers, an dive shop owned and run by a New Zealander who’d been there for more than a couple of decades. Their operation is top notch – the dive masters are knowledgeable and friendly and the equipment new. A boat (ie outrigger) dive including equipment hire will cost about $30. They also have package deals featuring a double dive, accommodation and breakfast starting from $75.
As for the diving itself, Action Divers gave me a fantastic sampler of the kind of diving in Puerto Galera. I did the Sabang Wreck (20m depth), Monkey Beach (20m depth), Hole in the Wall (20m depth) and the Alma Jane wreck (30m depth).
Despite the warm weather, they still supplied and recommended their 2.5mm wetsuits. At depth, the temperature was a warm 27ºC.
I usually take pictures with my underwater point and click but instead tried taking video with my new GoPro Hero 3 Silver. I had only taken videos of the latter three. (One of the things I learned from these videos is to take a magenta filter… white balance is not very easy to fix for underwater videos and pictures.)
A couple of dives in Puerto Galera
Here’s a quick video of the three dives (and a couple of clips on the island). It’s my first ever attempt at video editing so you’ll excuse the over enthusiastic use of text! Don’t forget to view in HD!
Alma Jane Wreck
The MV Alma Jane Express, scuttled in Puerto Galera in March 2003, is a 60-ton 115-foot Japanese cargo ship built in 1966. Depth on the sea floor/cargo hold is 30m and 22m on the upper deck. Here’s a video of our dive. It’s my second ever attempt at video editing. View it in HD!
The word? Amazing diving at even more amazing prices. So close and convenient to Manila, what’s not to love about this beautiful island?