2 novice divers: Moalboal vs Bohol/Balicasag vs. Southern Leyte vs. other? (EDITED)

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bluesails

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Hi all!

I'm a Filipina who has been living in the US for some years now for graduate school, and I want to take my boyfriend to the Philippines for a post-graduation diving trip in late May / early June. We are both Open Water certified - I'm a novice diver with around 30 dives and he just recently got certified last summer (and has only gone on one trip since). I grew up in the Philippines, but snorkeled at so many beautiful places that my family just never felt like getting dive certified was necessary while I was a kid hahaha!

Besides visiting family and friends in Manila we are looking for a place to spend around 4-5 days diving on this trip. We are going to wait a few years before getting AOW / doing Tubbataha or Malapascua. Right now we mainly want to see some great coral and schools of fish (+ turtles if possible), and I want the boyfriend to have a nice low-stress high-reward trip. We're willing to travel a bunch and I have been mainly interested in Puerto Galera / Verde Island as well as Southern Leyte (Sogod etc). Would people like to throw in their vote for either of these places, or for a different one? I speak Tagalog and we don't have to have a ton of stuff to do topside, although great places to eat some fresh seafood and other Filipino food is a must! Some relaxing by the beach would be nice.

Thanks and have a great holiday season!

EDIT: Put in my new top 3 now, let me know your thoughts!
 
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Centrals

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PG but without Verde Island which is only suitable for the experienced. Getting there is a breeze from Manila. If you set off early in the morning, you will be diving in the same afternoon. The dive sites are very near so the dive boat goes out for one dive and return to base. Mixed group is extremely rare. Contact South Sea Divers.
Moalboal is another place suitable for novice divers but you need to take a domestic flight to Cebu City first.
Sogod Bay is very very good and slightly off the beaten track which is an added bonus. But I am not convinced you will get your money worth as beginner divers there.
Finally, remember the no flying penalty after diving. Therefore you need to allocate enough time for that if taking any domestic connection flight. 4-5 days will become 5-6 days!
 
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Freewillow

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Anilao, without a doubt, if your familly is in Manilla.

Anilao is mostly know for its macro life, but if you are only there for 4 days, the reef id pretty healthy and there are very intersesting things to see. If you choose to go there, take an hotel in the south, the "reef" dives will be closer.
 

Pearlman

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Not Verde for sure. In fact skip PG if this is a one time visit as the waters are not clearest and cleanest compared to other locations. PG is good for those with a bucket list. I highly recommend going to Dumagete and then diving at Apo Isle from there. Scores very high on my Relaxing Dives list ... and beautiful UW sights too. Bohol and Baliscag Isle also ...

Cheers
 
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bluesails

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Thanks for your replies! After a little more research I am interested in Moalboal vs Bohol / Balicasag Island vs Sogod Bay. Any thoughts as to best value experience? Definitely taking the extra day for flying into account, I meant 4ish days diving total then flying the next day. We are willing to stay in dorm style housing.
 

Centrals

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You are about 10yrs too late for Alona Beach(Bohol). The place has been developed beyond recognition since my first visit in 1997. Back in those days literally everything was built on native materials and only divers shown up on the beach. But nowadays, scuba diving plays second fiddle to mass tourism and ugly concrete buildings. If you do decide to stay on Alona Beach then make sure your room is NOT facing the sea or far away from everything unless you want uninvited live music into your room at night!!!
However, it still has Chocolate Hills to off gas!

Moalboal vs Sogod Bay

As I had said earlier, Moalboal for novice divers.
Nelson(local Pinoy) and his crew at Ocean Safari Philippines will take good care of you.
Get the bus from Southern Bus station in Cebu to Moalboal(2hrs) and then trike to the Beach.
 
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bluesails

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Thanks so much Centrals and Pearlman!! Based on this I think we'll be narrowing down to Moalboal vs. Dumaguete + Apo Island and make a decision based on what we find in terms of accommodation and convenience in getting there. This has been super helpful!
 

Centrals

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Dumaguete(Dauin)
1. Not much travelling from the domestic airport to the resorts.
2. Most of the resorts are based in Dauin. If you are looking for a budget operator then Harold Mansion is right in the middle of the city. "Liquid" is my preference.
3. If you do decide to stay at the resort then you are more or less being restricted to eat at the resort unless paying extra for the transport.

Moalboal
1. 2hrs bus journey from Cebu.
2. Optional dive trip to Oslob for the whaleshark. A bit far to travel from Dumaguete by boat.
3. School of sardines(not sure if they are still there).
4. Various places to eat on Panagsama Beach with a bit of night life throw in as well.
5. The general cost is lower than Dumaguete. A shared tricycle to Moalboal for real Pinoy's treat eg. BBQ chicken's head etc etc!
 
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bshort4

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I'm in the Philippines now and just finished three weeks of diving in Dumaguete (Dauin), Panglao (Balicasag) and lastly Puerto Galera. If it was me I'd skip PG--not that great of diving and vis was not near as good as the other two sights. Yes its easy to get there but it doesn't compare to the diving at Balicasag or Apo Island. Dauin is going to be a mix of "muck" diving and Apo Island which is the only reason I went to Dauin. Dive ops don't make the trip to Apo Island everyday unless they have enough divers so you will be diving the "mud" along the coast on your other dives. If macro is your thing you'll love it. I made two trips to Apo Island this trip (6 dives)--its great diving--more beautiful corals than you can imagine--dive sights for beginners to advanced--lots of marine life--mostly small stuff and lots of turtles-- tons of sea snakes. Wall dives and regular reef dives--current or no current always tops on my list when in the Phils. Balicasag Island is a close second--yeah the Alona Beach area is a drag but you're there for the diving and Balicasag impresses. Beautiful clear water and lots of fish--again mostly small stuff--tornadoes of Jacks--and more turtles than on Apo Island. We saw 13 turtles on one dive--maybe more--I stopped counting at 13! Diving is very cheap at Alona beach and you have your pick of operators. It is mostly wall dives at Balicasag with maybe a little current--its good for all level of divers. If I can provide you with any other information on these three areas feel free to ask.
 
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