Diving Anilao: Exploring the iconic macro wonderland of the Philippines

Check into Buceo Anilao Beach & Dive Resort in Batangas for world-class muck diving and plenty of macro highlights underwater

Marvel at stunning views of the sea from Buceo Anilao Beach & Dive Resort

Itching for some serious macro action, our co-founder Din decided to spend a few days diving Anilao and exploring its most popular muck diving sites with Buceo Anilao Beach & Dive Resort in Batangas, Philippines. The big question is: Did he find what he was looking for?

It was my first time diving Anilao over January and February, which happens to be the peak season and the coldest time of the year, where water temperatures would dip to 24 degrees Celsius. I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the thought of freezing my butt off, but based on my research (i.e. Google), this was also the best time to spot critters underwater, so I guess I didn’t really mind being a little chilly in the blue.

I flew to Manila on Tigerair, taking the afternoon flight and arriving at 8:55pm. Tigerair flies to Manila twice a day from Monday through Sunday; the other flight leaves Singapore at 1:50am and arrives in Manila at 5:20am – which is great for anyone who doesn’t want to waste a day. Either way, arriving at either timings means you can avoid Manila’s insane rush hour, so getting to the resort by car is a breeze.

The journey from the airport to the resort took almost three hours. After the road trip and a short three-minute boat ride, I arrived at the resort around midnight.

Not one, but two double beds in the cabana

The resort

Having opened its doors in April 2014, Buceo Anilao Beach & Dive Resort is one of the newer dive resorts in Anilao. Located on a hill at end of the peninsula, the place features 10 comfortable cabanas that come with two double beds, one day bed, a balcony, and a spacious bathroom with two wash basins.

Tip: Want to wake up an amazing seaview every morning? Choose a cabana that’s on a higher level. It’s a bit of a climb to the top, but for Instagram-worthy landscape shots, it sure is worth the effort.

The (awfully tempting) two-level infinity pool

The amenities are pretty excellent: free Wi-Fi, a two-level infinity pool, a restaurant, an alfresco lounge area, and an open-air bar near the beach. For the first few days, I was torn between mingling at the bar, hanging out by the pool, and chilling on the balcony back in my room. Eventually, I decided that the balcony was my favourite place to hang in the morning, the pool was perfect for some post-dive R&R, and of course, the bar was where I spent most of my evenings.

The food

It’s an all-you-can-eat spread for breakfast in the morning and for lunch and dinner, you’ll have to order a la carte (although they do sometimes offer a buffet for lunch and dinner). The restaurant serves a mix of Western and local dishes and portions are so huge that they are actually good for two pax. Small eaters, you’ve been warned.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, don’t ever miss the desserts that are part of the buffet spread, particularly the mango-chocolate crepe – believe it or not, that’s one treat I still dream about till today.

The diving

Buceo has a dive centre, an equipment room with a designated gear storage space for each guest, and an impressive 18-workstation camera room complete with lockers and plenty of power outlets. Dives are very well-organised and follow a fixed schedule: two in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening (or night), so you get a total of four dives daily.

The camera room
A pre-dive briefing taking place at the dive centre

The thing I like about Anilao is that most dive sites can be reached by boat in under 30 minutes. I was fully aware that the area is known as a macro destination, but I wanted to experiment a little as Anilao also has walls and reefs. I started off with my wide-angle camera setup for the first two days, but realised it was a big mistake (doh!) because even though the sites our dive guide Jason brought us to were beautiful – like Sombrero Island and Daryl Laut (where I wanted to get a sunburst shot with the resident frogfish that lives on the sunken casino wreck) – the visibility wasn’t that great.

A juvenile warty frogfish
A mimic nudibranch

I had also heard about the massive school of jacks that are often found at the Twin Rocks dive site, but unfortunately, I had absolutely no luck. No one knows what happened to them as the school hasn’t been spotted since last April. What a bummer.

So yes, eventually I gave up, switched to my macro lens, and went muck diving instead. The amount of critters we spotted was incredible, from rare ones like the tiger shrimp to others like ghost pipefish, a juvenile warty frogfish, and even a mantis shrimp that was brooding eggs.

“It’s definitely not an exaggeration to say that Anilao is the nudibranch capital of the world!”

I have to also point out that Anilao’s dive sites are chock-full of nudibranchs. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colours, and I swear I spotted a different one every two minutes. It’s definitely not an exaggeration to say that Anilao is the nudibranch capital of the world!

Another thing worth highlighting is the dive site that’s named Buceo Point. As you would’ve guessed, this spot is situated right by the resort; it’s easy, full of life, and apparently, much, much more interesting at night than it is during the day. Sadly, because it was so cold during this time, I didn’t have the courage to enter the water in the evenings. I really hope I get to do this dive the next time I visit Buceo, but if you can brave the cold, do it.

A tiger shrimp spotted at the Secret Bay dive site
Allen’s ceratosoma
The dive boats are referred to as ‘banca’ by the locals

Buceo Anilao Beach & Dive Resort is run by some very experienced folks. There were virtually no hiccups, mix-ups, or any sort of frustrating issues to deal with. I loved that the staff and crew were warm and friendly, and everyone knew each guest by their name. Now I don’t know about you, but little things like that matter to me. My only regret? The length of my stay. Six days just wasn’t enough! If you’re planning to stay and dive with Buceo, you might want to seriously consider staying more than a week to enjoy this lil’ slice of paradise.

Plan your trip

Average cost: Rates start from USD55 per night for a standard double room (two pax); diving rates start from USD44 per dive
Best time to visit: October – May
Getting there: Fly to Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport; the resort is three hours away by car (depending on traffic), followed by a short three-minute boat ride
Average visibility: 10m – 20m
Average water temperature: 24°C – 26°C from October to February; 27°C from March to May (Tip: a 3mm may not suffice, a 5mm or a 7mm should do the trick)
Experience level: Beginner – advanced

For more info, visit the official website of Buceo Anilao Beach & Dive Resort.