At one time Beqa Lagoon was famous for its colourful reefs covered in soft corals. But today it is best known as one of the best shark diving destinations on the planet. There are three shark feeding sites in Beqa Lagoon, and up to eight species of sharks can be seen. But if you only go to Beqa Lagoon to see sharks you will miss the wonderful coral reefs that first made this place famous. Popular dive sites include Seven Sisters, Shark Reef, Pearl Rock, Carpet Cover and Fantasy 1.
Bligh Waters is a body of water off the northern end of Viti Levu and is accessible from the town of Rakiraki. Known for its currents, the reefs in Bligh Waters are richly decorated with incredible corals, but are also home to a vast range of creatures, both big and small. Some of the most famous dive sites in this area include Mellow Yellow, Golden Dream, Amazing Maze, Chile and Wheatfield.
Port Moresby is often overlooked by divers heading to Papua New Guinea to explore its better known dive destinations, but the capital has some amazing dive sites. Off the city lies the Papuan Barrier Reef, with divers able to explore coral gardens, walls, bommies and even muck sites. Popular reef dives include End Bommie, Suzie's Bommie and Baldwin Bommie. There are also a number of great wreck dives on scuttled ships, with the best being the Pai II and Pacific Gas. A good variety of marine life can be seen off Port Moresby, including the elusive lacy scorpionfish.
Tufi is one of those wonderful destinations that have something for everyone. Offshore from Tufi are a network of beautiful coral reefs and pinnacles, with popular dive sites including Mulloway, Veale Reef, Tony's Bommie and Honeymoon. For wreck divers there are two of PNG's most impressive wrecks, the cargo ship S'Jacob and the B17 Bomber Blackjack. And for lovers of muck Tufi Wharf is home to a great range of critters. Expect to see healthy corals, schooling fish, turtles, reef sharks, cuttlefish and a wonderful collection of invertebrates.
Located only a three hour drive from Manila, Anilao is best known as the macro capital of the Philippines. And while Anilao does have sensational macro critter, it also has many colourful reefs that are worthy of wide-angle photography. Off Anilao divers can explore coral reefs and a number of wonderful muck sites, and recently blackwater diving has become popular. Some of the best dive sites include Secret Bay, Coconut Point, Betlehem, Twin Rocks, Bubble Point and Koala Point. All the typical Indo-Pacific critters are seen off Anilao, including special muck critters like flamboyant cuttlefish, mimic octopus, frogfish, snake eels, Bobbit worms and coconut octopus.
Located directly opposite Anilao, on the other side of the Verde Island Passage, Puerto Galera is a divers town with over fifty dive sites to explore. Off Puerto Galera divers can explore coral gardens, walls, scuttled ships and muck sites. Popular dive sites include the Sabang Wrecks, The Boulders, The Hill, Alma Jane, Monkey Beach and several sites off nearby Verde Island. These sites have a good mix of reef fish, muck critters and the occasional shark or turtle.
Subic Bay is a destination for wreck divers, with this former navy base scattered with shipwrecks in shallow and deep water. Most of the wrecks are from World War II and include the cruiser USS New York, the cargo ships Oryoru Maru, Seian Maru and El Capitan, a landing craft utility, a landing ship tank and a dozen other ship and plane wrecks. Unfortunately Subic Bay has poor visibility at times, but the wrecks are fascinating to explore and most are populated by a good variety of marine life, including stingrays, cuttlefish, reef fish and nudibranchs.
Malapascua is a tiny island off the northern tip of Cebu that is famous for its thresher sharks. Each morning at dawn the dive operators head to nearby Monad Shoal to watch the pelagic thresher sharks rising from the depths to get their daily clean. It is an incredible experience, but not the only one at Malapascua, as the rest of the day is spend exploring reefs, walls, wrecks and even muck. Popular dive sites at Malapascua include Gato Island, Lighthouse Reef, North Point, Chocolate Island and the wreck of the Dona Marilyn. Malapascua has a wonderful mix of marine life, everything from nudibranchs and seahorse to turtles and stingrays.
Located at the southern end of Cebu is a wonderful dive destination called Moalboal. You don't have to travel far to dive at Moalboal, as hugging the coast, right in front of all the dive resorts, is a reef wall that drops to 70m. Numerous dive sites dot this wall, with great diving at spots like White Beach, Kasai Reef, Ludo and Talisay Wall. Other dive sites are also found at nearby Pescador Island. At these sites divers will see turtles, frogfish, reef sharks, sea snakes, moray eels and dense schools of sardines. Whale sharks also cruise this wall, but to guarantee an encounter with one of this massive creature you can venture to nearby Oslob, where they are hand fed.
Known as the 'frogfish capital of the world' Dumaguete can also claim to be the 'muck diving capital of the Philippines'. Located at the southern end of Negros, Dumaguete is blessed with sloping black sand beaches that are perfect for muck critters. Most of these sites are around the town of Dauin, and include sites like San Miguel, Sahara, Bonnet's Corner, Ceres and Dauin Norte. All the highly prized muck critters are found here, including wonderpus, flamboyant cuttlefish, blue-ringed octopus, snake eels, stargazers, seahorses and lots of frogfish. For reef diving there are wonderful coral gardens and walls at nearby Apo Island, which is home to a large population of turtles.
Sogod Bay is one of those overlooked gems in the Philippines, mainly because it is a little harder to get to. Located at the southern end of Leyte, Sogod Bay has a great mix of dive sites, including walls, coral gardens, muck and a pier. Popular dive sites include Napantao, Sunok, Adrian's Cover, Ghost Town, Little Lembeh and Max's Climax. But a must do dive is a night dive under Padre Burgos Pier, easily the best night dive in the Philippines for all the nocturnal critters that can be seen. At Sogod Bay divers will see turtles, frogfish, morays, snake eels, pygmy seahorse and many other species, including whale sharks that visit the area between November and May.
Coron Bay is located on the southern side of Busuanga Island in Palawan. The bay and surrounding waters are dotted with coral reefs and muck sites, but the main reason divers head to this location is to dive wrecks. Coron Bay was used as an anchorage by the Japanese in World War II, and on 24 September 1944 the ships where attacked by American planes, sending around a dozen ships to the bottom. The wrecks include the oil tanker Okikawa Maru, the seaplane tender Akitsushima and the cargo ships Olympia Maru, Kogyo Maru, Irako Maru, Kyokuzan Maru and the Morazan Maru.
These two destinations share many of the same dive sites, as both sit on the shores of Iron Bottom Sound where one of the greatest concentration of World War II shipwrecks can be found. Many of the wrecks near Honiara can be explored from the shore, including the Japanese cargo ships Hirokawa Maru, Kinugawa Maru and Kyusya Maru, the I1 Japanese submarine and a B17 bomber. Boat dives from both Honiara and Tulagi gives access to the oil tanker USS Kanawha, the mine sweeper HMNZS Moa, the freighter Azumason Maru, the Coast Guard liberty ship USS Serpens, the attack transport ship USS John Penn and in deeper water the legendary American destroyer USS Aaron Ward. There are also seaplane wrecks, fighter plane wrecks, a junkyard of war material and some pretty reefs in the area.
Like most destinations in the Solomon Islands, Munda has a great mix of dive sites - coral gardens, walls, ship and plane wrecks. However, Munda also has some very unique sites like nothing else in the country. The first is a World War II plane wreck. Now Munda already has a great assortment of war plane wrecks, including an Air Cobra, Corsair, Wildcat and a Douglas Bomber, but it also has a Japanese Zero that still has clearing readable text on its side. Munda also has wonderful reef dives at sites like Shark Point, Haipe Reef, Secret Spot and Rainbow Wall, but the reef walls at Lagarana and Belobelo are something special, as they start from a rocky shoreline, with overhanging trees, and plummet straight into the depths. An finally Munda has a very unique cave dive known as The Cave of the Kastom Shark.
Located on the side of the world largest lagoon, the Marovo Lagoon, and sitting on the edge of a deep water channel called The Slot, Uepi is a small island surrounded by dozens of amazing dive sites. Some of the best diving is found in the channel right in front of the dive shop at the Uepi Jetty, where a wall drops to 30m and reef sharks patrol. Other wonderful reef dives include Uepi Point, The Elbow, General Store and North Log. Further afield there are four Japanese cargo ships that an be explored in Wickham Harbour and two American war plane wrecks off Seghe Airport. But the most unusual wreck near Uepi is the Taiyo Fishing Boat, as this wreck sits vertical on a reef wall.
The reefs off Gizo are some of the richest in the Solomon Islands, with a wonderful mix of beautiful corals, pelagic fish, reef fishes, sharks, rays and invertebrate species. One of the areas premier reef dives, Grand Central Station, has the highest number of fish species counted on a single tank dive outside Raja Ampat. Other great reef dives include The Gap, Joe's Wall, Hot Spot and One Tree Island. For wreck divers there are three plane wrecks and the incredible Toa Maru, a Japanese cargo ship that now rests on its side and is covered in corals and fish, and still full of war supplies.
Santo is best known for one shipwreck. But when that wreck is 200m long, was once a luxury ocean liner and was sunk during World War II full of war supplies it is easy to understand why. The ship is of course the SS President Coolidge, and even though the bridge area collapsed several years ago it is still one of the best wreck dives in the world. However, this massive ship is not the only wreck dive in the area as divers can also explore the USS Tucker, Henri Bonneaud, SS Tui Tuate and also a junk pile of left over war supplies at Million Dollar Point. There are also wonderful reef dives off Santo, including Tutuba Point, Cindy's Reef and Nasiise Reef.
Stage tuned for more images as Nigel Marsh Photography explores more of the dive sites of the Pacific Ocean.