Contrary to popular belief, Alex Garland's iconic 'The Beach' was actually based in the Philippines, not Thailand. And while the beaches are nothing short of heaven on earth, the diving is out of this world. From eerie Second World War wrecks to freshwater lakes, healthy coral reefs to elusive thresher sharks, the Philippines has a little bit of everything - not to mention its position in the Coral Triangle with some of the highest marine biodiversity on earth. And while the number of dive sites dotting the archipelago is mind boggling, we've chosen some of our favourite sites conveniently located close to the shore.

Wreck diving in Coron

The wrecks of Coron Bay, Palawan

This isn't a specific wreck, but an underwater museum of over 10 Japanese Second World War wrecks. Conveniently located in close proximity in Coron Bay in Palawan, linger over wartime vessels (some extending a whopping 170 metres) encrusted in corals and decked out with amazing artefacts (think anti-aircraft guns).

If you have your wreck spec, this really is heaven - penetrate through passageways to discover engine rooms, workshops and kitchens still equipped with pots and pans (if you don't have your wreck spec, this is the place to get it).

Good for: Japanese Second World War wrecks

Level: Open Water to Advanced

Depth: 12 - 30m

Current: None

Barracuda Lake in Palawan

Barracuda Lake, Coron Bay, Palawan

Barracuda Lake owes its name to one large barracuda (supposedly) residing in the lake. But the real reason this dive site is so special is because of its thermocline. Located in a former crater, Barracuda Lake offers the opportunity to dive in a mix of fresh and salt water separated by a foggy thermocline at around 14 metres. Continue descending down against a dramatic jagged limestone walled backdrop until you reach the silty floor, which might feel like landing on Mars.

Good for: Thermocline

Level: Snorkeller to Advanced

Depth: 30m

Current: None

thresher shark, monad shoal, malapascua

Monad Shoal, Malapascua, Cebu

This is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime dive for one particularly elusive species: the thresher shark. Located on the northern tip of Cebu, Malapascua is one of the few places in the world where you are virtually guaranteed to see the usual tailed thresher shark. It's an early start to get to Monad Shoal for sunrise, descending to a maximum depth of 25 metres to see thresher sharks winding their way up for a morning clean. This is one not to be missed.

Good for: Thresher sharks

Level: Advanced

Depth: 25m

Current: Mild

sardine run diving in moalboal

Panagsama Reef, Moalboal, Cebu

Imagine entering a festival of fish and you'll not even scratch the surface of Moalbaol. Enter a cloud of millions of sardines directly from the shores of Panagsama beach, following the ocean floor until you reach a sudden 40m drop - if you can draw you gaze away from the dancing bait balls look out for macro critters and healthy corals. There are a further 15 dive sites within a short distance from the beach where you can explore caves, canyons, coral gardens and even a cathedral (insider tip: don't miss Pescador Island).

Good for: Sardines

Level: Snorkeller to Advanced

Depth: 30m

Current: None

mandarin fish

Atmosphere House Reef, Dauin

Dauin and Dumaguete are home to some of the best muck diving sites in the world, and one of our favourite dives happens right on Atmosphere Resort & Spa's house reef shortly after sunset. Watch the mating ritual of colourful mandarin fish, with males competing for females and seemingly dancing over the reef. As the sun sets see the reef come alive with other nocturnal creatures (think skeleton shrimps, hermit crabs and cuttlefish) - to make the experience even more trippy try a fluoro night dive to see the reef in technicolour shades.

Good for: mandarin fish

Level: Snorkeller to Advanced

Depth: 8m

Current: None

frogfish macro diving

Cars, Dauin

One of Dauin's most famous muck dives, Cars looks like one giant wreckage littered with discarded debris, from car wrecks to cement mixers. But look more closely and discover a haven of crazy colourful critters including several species of frogfish, cuttlefish, box crabs, garden eels and stargazers - this is a real macro photographers dream.

Good for: macro life

Level: Open Water

Depth: 30m

Current: None

green turtle at coconut point in Apo Island

Coconut Point, Apo Island

Located to the south of Apo Island near Dumaguete, Coconut Point is a sloping coral reef that carries exhilarating currents. Drift alongside giant trevally, big-eye trevally, dogtooth tuna, snappers, Spanish mackerel, anthias, barracuda and even green turtles - it comes as no surprise that the sites unofficial name is the 'washing machine'.

Good for: Pelagic species

Level: Advanced

Depth: 26m

Ready to book your diving holiday to the Philippines? Reach out to our dive experts today to plan your perfect holiday.

Current: Yes