Which Philippines itinerary to choose?

The Philippines are well known for their underwater wonders. You can literally find anything there! From impressive coral gardens, colourful reefs, and a high biodiversity of macro critters, to the larger gentle giants such as manta and whale sharks. However, the country is huge and it can be hard to know which Philippines itinerary to choose. But don’t worry, we are here to help!

Philippines itinerary map
Key: Malapascua and Visayas Tubbataha National Park Tubbataha and More Southern Leyte & Visayas

Your diving experience and qualification

With 9 itineraries on offer, it might be confusing to chose the best one for you. The first aspect to consider is your qualification and diving experience. To help you narrow down which Philippines itinerary to choose, just click on the applicable option for yourself below and we’ll show you the most suitable:

Divers on platform - diving courses
Scuba diving course

All itineraries

With your experience and qualification, all the itineraries are open to you. Congratulations…though it doesn’t help with which Philippines itinerary to choose.

So the next part to consider is how long you would like to spend onboard. We offer itineraries from 6 nights to 13 nights. Your holiday days might be precious and you may travel a long way to get there. Therefore we thought that duration should be the next deciding factor in selecting your itinerary in the Philippines. Do note that some of the itineraries are seasonal so might not be available all-year round.

Turtle in Tubbataha – Credit: Steve De Neef

6 or 7 nights

You have chosen 6 or 7 nights as the perfect length for your liveaboard. This can seem like a short time, but we offer several itineraries that may fit you. Both will let you experience the best in the shortest time possible. So let’s answer that last question to find your prefect match!

Diver in Leyte
Diver in Leyte – credit: Jane Morgan

Tubbataha

The 6 nights Tubbataha National Park itinerary is your match and is our most popular Philippines itinerary. This 6 night liveaboard adventure allows up to 18 dives, including up to 4 sunset dives in and around Tubbataha National Marine Park. We run this itinerary from and to Puerto Princesa and only from March to May.

150km South East of Puerto Princessa, on Palawan Island, the Tubbataha reef system covers 970km², with 100km² of pristine coral reefs for divers to explore. Accessible only by liveaboard, the reefs are a national marine park and the only UNESCO World Heritage site in the Coral Triangle. UNESCO recognise the reefs for their outstanding universal value in terms of marine life species diversity and richness.

Formed millennia ago along the Cagayan ridge, Tubbataha consists chiefly of two atolls (North and South) and the Jessie Beazley reefs. The whole reef system supports over 600 different fish species and over 300 coral species, whilst providing a haven for nesting hawksbill and green turtles, as well as numerous birds. The reefs are mostly vertical walls or near drop off’s. Not only are the reefs are stunning, but you will get chances to spot hammerheads, thresher sharks, and whale sharks.

A field station on the north atoll is manned by rangers year-round and during your trip you can visit the rangers to learn more about conservation and reef protection

The amazing reefs of Tubbataha
The amazing reefs of Tubbataha – credit: Steve De Neef

13 nights – Tubbataha and More

Tubbataha and More is our longest itinerary in the Philippines and is a transition itinerary. As such, we only run these trips twice a year; at the start of the Tubbataha season around the end of February and again towards the end of May. The itinerary departure and arrival ports will be different so you will need at least one domestic flight.

This extended 13 night liveaboard allows up to 42 dives. You will typically spend 5 to 6 days at the National Marine Park of Tubbataha as well as covering many of the highlights of the Southern Visayas. So it is kind of the best of both worlds!

Accessible only by liveaboard, the reefs are a national marine park and the only UNESCO World Heritage site in the Coral Triangle. UNESCO recognise the reefs for their outstanding universal value in terms of marine life species diversity and richness. The reefs are mostly vertical walls or near drop off’s. Not only are the reefs are stunning, but you will get chances to spot hammerheads, thresher sharks, and whale sharks.

The Southern Visayas region boasts some of the best diving in the Philippines and is often underrated, in our opinion. There is a huge diversity of marine life; muck diving hotspots, gentle sloping reefs, and steep coral covered walls. You will get some amazing macro opportunities and the chance to see big schools of fish, but also the possibility of some larger pelagic encounters (like thresher sharks and even whale sharks).

Tubbataha and More is the ultimate itinerary in the Philippines and should you have the chance, jump on it as they fill up really quickly.


Plenty of itineraries

Well done on answering the first question. Now you still have the choice of 7 itineraries. So how to chose? Easy… the next thing we have is to look at how long you will want to spend onboard. The longer time you can spend, the more amazing sites you will be able to dive; but we do understand that you may not have the holiday time. So what would the ideal length of your liveaboard be? In the Philippines, we offer 6 nights, 7 nights, and 10 nights for your level of experience. So which length would suit you best?

6 or 7 nights

Southern Visayas 6 nights or Southern Visayas 7 nights itineraries are your match! These liveaboard adventures take you to the southern region of the Visayas, home to some of the best diving in the Philippines.

Be aware, these itineraries may have different starting and ending ports. Sometimes we alternate between Cebu and Moalboal. Both ports are on the same island, but running it this way allows for maximum exploration over minimal time! These trips typically run over the months of July to September as these are peak seasons for some animals around this region.

During your trip you will visit and dive the islands of Cebu, Cabilao, Balicasag, and Pescador; along with Apo Island marine sanctuary and the critter hot spot, Dauin. The itinerary not only offers fantastic macro and the chance to see schooling fish, but also the possibility of some larger pelagics. The shy thresher sharks come in to feed on the huge schools of sardines around Moalboal and Pescador. Whale sharks may also be seen here year round.

The underwater the topography of dive sites varies from shallow sandy fringing reefs to steep walls dotted with sea fans and sponges. Marine life is diverse however common sightings include green and hawksbill turtles and schools of barracuda and jacks, whilst red-tooth trigger fish, pyramid butterfly fish, and blue lined fusiliers are seen on almost each dive in huge numbers. Smaller creatures such as frogfish, ghost pipefish, octopus, and pygmy seahorses are found at several of the dive sites. Of course there are also a wide range of nudibranchs, shrimps, and crabs found on each reef.

We also run this itinerary over 10 nights in case you wanted to treat yourself!

Whale sharks at Oslob Philippines
Whale sharks are a common sight on Southern Visayas itineraries during the season – credit: Scott Gutsy Tuason

Just add a little extra with Leyte!

Many of our guests have already visited the Southern Visayas, loved the Philippines, and wanted to see more. So we listened and added an extraordinary new itinerary: Southern Leyte & Visayas. The itinerary runs from and back to Cebu and typically from November until February.

During the cruise you will visit and dive some of the islands around Cebu; Cabilao, Balicasag and Bohol as well as Limawasa and Sogod Bay in Southern Leyte. This trip not only offers fantastic macro and the chance to see schooling fish, but also the possibility of some larger pelagics such as whale sharks towards the end of the season.

The Visayan Sea is rich in nutrients and plankton which supports a variety of important ecosystems. There are several areas of protected mangroves and much of the region is protected by marine sanctuaries. Underwater, the topography of dive sites varies from shallow sandy fringing reefs to steep walls dotted with sea fans and sponges. Marine life is diverse; common sightings include green and hawksbill turtles and schools of barracuda and jacks, whilst redtooth trigger fish, pyramid butterfly fish, and blue lined fusiliers are seen on almost every dive in huge numbers.

Smaller creatures such as frogfish, ghost pipefish, octopus and pygmy seahorses are found at several of the dive sites and of course a wide range of nudibranchs, shrimps and crabs can be found on each reef.

Nudibranch - macro life Philippines
The macro sights are really spectacular in the Philippines – credit: Chris Von Damm

10 nights

We are glad to hear you want to spend the time to explore the Philippines. We have 5 itineraries that run over 10 nights!

The first one covers the Southern Visayas. You can read all about this fantastic region here. This itinerary is very practical as you will run from and back to Cebu saving you a land transfer!

The second, and more popular, option you have is to explore the Visayas and add Malapascua. This 10 night cruise allows up to 32 dives (including night dives) and takes you to some of the most beautiful regions of the Philippines. It will cover the entire Visayan area with the added bonus of visiting Malapascua. This is of course the place to see thresher sharks! It is an itinerary that has it all and is the one we always recommend if you were to go only once to the Philippines.

Thresher shark at Malapascua by Saeed Rashid
Thresher shark at Malapascua by Saeed Rashid

A little extra with Leyte

The last choice you have is to do it all: the Visayas, Malapascua and Southern Leyte. We typically run this trip from October to February using Cebu as the home port. This 10 night Visayas, Southern Leyte & Malapascua liveaboard itinerary offers a wide diversity of marine life, steep coral covered walls, gentle sloping reefs and muck diving hotspots.

During this trip, you will visit and dive the islands of Limawasa, Cabilao, Balicasag, Bohol, and Malapascua. This trip not only offers fantastic macro and the chance to see schooling fish, but also the possibility of some larger pelagics. Also, thresher sharks come in to feed on schools of sardines and whale sharks may also be seen here.

Underwater, the topography of dive sites varies from shallow sandy fringing reefs to steep walls dotted with sea fans and sponges. Marine life is diverse; common sightings include green and hawksbill turtles and schools of barracuda and jacks, whilst redtooth trigger fish, pyramid butterfly fish and blue lined fusiliers are seen on almost each dive in huge numbers. Smaller creatures such as frogfish, ghost pipefish, octopus and pygmy seahorses are found at several of the dive sites and of course a wide range of nudibranchs, shrimps and crabs can be found on each reef.


Another destination

We recommend holding an Advanced Open Water Diver or equivalent to dive in the Philippines. This will ensure you will make the most out of your diving liveaboard and experience the underwater wonders safely.

As you do not have that qualification (yet), you do have several options:

  • Book an Advanced Open Water course with your local dive shop. Then start again the quiz to find your perfect match!
  • Head over to some other suitable destinations where you will be able to enjoy your trip and even complete that course while onboard. Thailand is one of the best places to do just this and we happen to offer some amazing trips onboard The Junk and The Phinisi.

Here you have it! It was not that hard to chose which Philippines itinerary to choose, right? So we look forward welcoming you onboard Philippine Siren for some amazing scuba diving adventures.

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