When it comes to diving, it's safe to say that the Philippines offers a bit of everything and on my recent adventure there, I was lucky enough to have a taste of some of the best sites across the country; from thresher sharks in Malapascua to the beautiful coral reefs and walls around Bohol, and, of course, some incredible macro diving. Two places, however, particularly stood out: Anilao and Dumaguete. For a flavour of some of the incredible critters that reside here, read on to discover my critter logbook...
Diving in Anilao: Top Five Critters to See in Anilao
Only three hours from Manila, Anilao is a great destination for those wanting to experience the vast variety of macro species that the ocean has to offer…
1. Nudibranch Capital of the World
I started my adventure off with a bang, heading to the 'Nudibranch Capital of the World', and it is safe to say that I saw my fair share of wonderful nudis on my dives in Anilao. Here are a few to spark your interest: Chromodoris lochi, Chromodoris annae, Nembrotha kubaryana (or the 'Variable Neon Slug'), Nembrotha aurea, Phyllidiella pustulosa, Goniobranchus kuniei, Chromodoris willani and Nembrotha milleri.
2. The Spectacular Flamboyant Cuttlefish
Having first seen a flamboyant cuttlefish in Borneo, these colourful creatures never cease to amaze me. Tending to be on the smaller size for cuttlefish, they are very well camouflaged and can be hard to spot on the sandy bottoms on which they dwell. However, if they feel threatened, instead of swimming away they tend to flash a magnificent undulating colour, hoping to startle predators. These gorgeous colours are a sight to behold and I was lucky enough to see two juvenile flamboyant cuttlefish.
3. Oddball Ornate Ghost Pipefish
These wonderful, rather odd-looking species of pipefish are a favourite with macro hunters and photographers. I often found that I thought my dive guide was going mad hovering over every feather star for a while, seeming to be looking at nothing. Little did I know that he was finding these unique fish hovering motionless around the feather stars for protection.
4. Sexy Shrimp
I love these little guys, partly because of their name but also because the way they seem to dance on the anemones. While predominantly found paired or solitary, very occasionally you can strike gold by finding groups of up to ten dancing on a single anemone.
5. The Ribboned Pipehorse
The ribboned pipehorse was not something I expected to be amazed by, but these weed-like critters really are peculiar. Best described as a sea dragon with weed-esque appendages, this little guy was a great addition to the Anilao sea life.
Top Five Things to See in Dumaguete
Dumaguete, like other locations in the Philippines, is world-famous for its muck diving and critter life. The list of critters to find in this corner of the Philippines will not disappoint, and I was lucky enough to get the full experience during my time there.
1. Octopus, Octopus and More Octopus!
On my first dive at the amazing Atmosphere Resort & Spa, I was graced with the presence of four different species of octopus! I saw a wonderpus, coconut and mototi octopus, as well the rare and incredible special blue-ringed octopus, renowned to be one of the most dangerous, although beautiful, creatures of the ocean.
2. Spotlight on the Mototi Octopus
The mototi octopus is similar in some ways to the blue-ringed octopus, most obviously due to the fact they are both small and poisonous. Like the blue-ringed octopus, they also display blue rings however are distinguishable as they only display two on each side when threatened (unlike the blue-ringed which has them all over). They love Dumaguete due to the black volcanic sand-slopes which are typical of the area.
3. Fantastic Frogfish
Of all the jaw dropping critters I saw on my trip, it is safe to say that my standout favourite will always be the weird and wonderful frogfish. They must be one of the strangest fish in the sea, mostly due to the way their fins look like legs, allowing them to "walk" along the ocean floor. Some of the species of frogfish on offer include giant frogfish, clown frogfish, freckled frogfish, painted frogfish, Randall's frogfish and warty frogfish.
4. Donald Duck Shrimp
This shrimp gets its wonderful nickname from what seems to be a long beak. They are hard to spot because of their strange shape, which helps them camouflage themselves in the coral; but if you do find them, you're in for a treat!
5. Sea Snakes: The Marmite of Marine Life
My least favourite creature to see is the sea snake, although others love them, so I have included it. It's rare not to see one (or many) while fiving at Dumaguete or, more accurately, around the nearby Apo Island. A volcanic island located around 20 miles offshore from Dumaguete, Apo Island is a marine protected area which, aside from sea snakes, is home to huge schools of pelagic fish, macro critters and sea turtles. Not to forget beautiful coral reefs for when you need a coral fix.
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