Located 165 kilometers (102 miles) south of Metro Manila and 445 kilometers (276 miles) northeast of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan is the Philippines 7th largest island where its name was derived from the Spanish word Mina de Oro meaning Gold Mine. Having an area of 10,571 square kilometers (4,082 square miles) and divided into 2 provinces (Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro), Mindoro in general is fast turning from a mining province into a tourism magnate, where for us, the real motherload of gold can be found underwater which does not need any mining equipment or extracted out of the water. Instead, it is best left alone for it to flourish and for everyone to see and enjoy.

What we are talking about is the marine ecosystem of Mindoro. And this is not just any ordinary marine ecosystem, but a special one since Mindoro is located at the epicenter of the world’s marine biodiversity.

Why visit Mindoro?

When it comes to ecotourism, Mindoro is primarily known for the white sandy beaches of Puerto Galera where crowds from both local and foreign tourists flock especially on weekends and holidays. But if you want to get away from the crowd, Mindoro has some of the country’s unspoiled beach, unexplored islets and islands that features an amazing underwater habitat that are relatively virgin and pristine.

Since it is completely surrounded by water such as the Mindoro Strait, Sibuyan Sea, Sulu Sea, Tablas Strait, Verde Island Passage and the West Philippine Sea, scuba diving in Mindoro is very popular that it has become one of the top diving destinations in the Philippines. Mindoro is literally dotted with dive sites, some of which are located near tourism facilities, while some may require you to do travel adventure as they are remotely located.

Read: The Best Liveaboard Trips in the Philippines

The best dive sites in Mindoro, Philippines

Puerto Galera

Location: 43.4 kilometers (27 miles) west of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro
Level: All levels of certification
Max depth: 20 meters (60 feet)

Puerto Galera is your main jump off point when you go diving in Mindoro. Located on the eastern coast of Sabang Beach along the Escarceo Point is the Hole in the Wall. Your dive profile involves descending in multiple limestone wall with small drops offs at 3 meters (10 feet) deep interval. Descending further will take you to a conspicuous depression at 13 meters (45 feet) deep where the hole has a diameter of 1.25 meters (4 feet) fully encrusted with soft corals, sponges and a thriving population of sweetlips, jacks and moorish idol.

Wreck diving is popular in Puerto Galera where newbies can explore a series of shipwrecks in just one dive in a site called Sabang Wrecks. Either doing it by shore entry or boat diving, your entry point will usually start on a shallow reef that has a gentle slope and ends up in a sandy seafloor that has an average depth of 18 meters (60 feet). You need to swim further out in the sand to see the first shipwreck which is an open timber ship. While most its structure have collapsed, the main attraction here are the reef fish like moray eels, cardinalfish and the large batfish that usually goes in school. The second wreck that you will see are the remains of a yacht encrusted with black corals and sponges. The last wreck is pretty old and the only remaining structure that you can see is the timber hull where reef fish like lionfish, moray eels and pipefish had taken refuge in its artificial structure.

Apo Reef

Location: Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro: 114 kilometers (70 miles) southwest of Calapan City
Level: All levels of certification
Max depth: 30 meters (100 feet)

Do you want to explore a pristine reef that is considered as the second largest coral reef system in the world? Then head out to Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro where your playground involves a vast 34 square kilometers (13 square miles) of coral reefs that has been declared a natural park.

In general, the dive sites in Apo Reef are located in the northern coast of this triangular-shaped reef system that has 2 lagoons and narrow reef platforms. Made from a limestone ledge, Apo Out is one of the popular sites in Apo Reef where you can go wall diving along a garden of sea fans and barrel sponges. The reef crest of Apo Out is a popular area for marine reptile interaction where many have seen sea turtles. If your fad is multilevel diving, then you should check out Apo Menor. Located in Binangaan Island, diving in Apo Menor will take you to explore 3 unique underwater topography in various depths: a shallow slope, a reef plateau and a limestone ledge. While you will be exploring 3 unique reef topography, the climax of your dive in Apo Menor is when you reach the reef plateau. Also called as Shark Airfield, this plateau is famous for shark interaction where you are guaranteed to see whitetip reef sharks.

 

Photo: Farhan Sharief

Verde Island

Location: in between Batangas and Puerto Galera
Level: Advanced
Max depth: 20 meters (60 feet)

Technically under the jurisdiction of Batangas City, Verde Island can be accessed via Puerto Galera and is considered a major dive site in Mindoro. While there are several descriptions given to Verde island, one description stands out that is fully supported with scientific data: that the reefs of Verde Island is one of the most highly diverse in the world since it is located at the center of marine biodiversity. On top of this, since Verde Island is located in a passage known for huge tidal fluctuation, hardcore divers will surely enjoy Verde Island where you can go drift diving along sweeping currents that may reach 4 knots (2 meters/second).

Washing Machine is the main drift diving site in Verde Island. When you dive during the ebbing of tides, you need to do a negative entry and directly descend towards the reef. Once at the reef and although the water current is generally in one direction, you will observe that the current may pull you randomly towards the left, right, forward and backward. This is caused by the deflection of current as it touches multiple small canyons that is abundant within the site. Another major drift diving site is the Pinnacle which is a rocky protrusion that comes out of the seafloor at 20 meters (60 feet) and rises all the way up almost to the surface.

Where to stay in Mindoro

Lalaguna Villas

Address: Sabang, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro

A short walk from the popular Sabang beach of Puerto Galera is an exotic beach resort back-drafted by lush green forest. Their accommodation are private style villas where you can choose from a long selection of room types: the standard 20 square meter (215 square foot) studio type, the 100 square meter (1,076 square foot) Penthouse, the 2-bedroom luxury villa and the premium suites. On top of the 24/7 room service, take note that they offer free laundry service. They have an in-house dive shop that offers PADI certification courses and guided dive tours to 30 dive sites in Puerto Galera that includes Hole in the Wall and Sabang Wrecks.

Check prices and dates

Atlantis Dive Resort

Address: Sabang, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro

If you are a hardcore diver and want to meet hotel guest that deeply talks about diving, then we highly recommend you should stay in Atlantis Dive Resort. After a long chat with fellow divers at the beach front bar, you can recharge and have a nice accommodation where your room selection includes the Family Suite, Premier Seaview Suite, Deluxe Room and the Coconut Terrace.

Now here’s the thing with Atlantis Dive Resort: aside from having an in-house dive shop that offers PADI certification courses from open water way up to instructor level, they have their own liveaboard ship – the Atlantis Azores that charters to major Philippine dive spot like Bohol, Mindoro’s Apo Reef, Monad Shoal of Malapascua in Cebu, Tubbataha reef and the wrecks of Coron in Palawan.

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Apo Reef Club

Address: Concepcion, Occidental Mindoro

If you wish to explore Apo Reef, then we highly recommend you stay at Apo Reef Club. This 5 hectare (12 acres) Swiss-managed facility is one of the few resorts in Occidental Mindoro that is fronting the world famous diving site of Apo Reef. Your accommodation in Apo Reef Club includes 4 choices: the Beachfront Bungalow, Beachfront room, Garden Bungalow and the Backpackers room. Sanctioned under SDI and PADI, they have an in-house dive shop that offers Open water to divemaster certification course and guided boat diving tours to Apo Reef.

The best time to go diving in Mindoro

Generally, diving in Mindoro is a year round activity. But if you want to dive in the best water conditions like a 32°C (89°F) water temperature and a 30 meter (100 feet) water visibility, then we highly suggest you visit Mindoro from March to August. During these months, wetsuits are just hung inside the dive shop as you only need to wear board shorts and rash guard. There is an exception though when you go diving in Verde Island where you are required to wear a wetsuit to protect yourself from accidental reef scratch due to strong water current.

Apo reef in Occidental Mindoro has a special case where it is only accessible outside the southwest monsoon months from October to June where the waters are generally calm and clear.

What you can expect to see in Mindoro

Diving in Mindoro allows you to primarily see vast coral reef areas where it houses the world’s 2nd largest reef – the Apo reef of Occidental Mindoro. Moreover, the reefs of Mindoro (particularly in the side of Oriental Mindoro) are healthy, abundant and diverse where it has been categorized as the epicenter of the world’s marine biodiversity. This means that this is the area where you can see the most number of species of fish and corals per square meter of reef. Name it, Mindoro has it: tropical reef fish, small pelagics, big pelagics, sharks, rays, sea turtles, dolphins and whales to name a few.

The best dive schools in Mindoro

Atlantis Dive Center

Certifying Agency: PADI
Address: Sabang, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro

Seriously into diving, Atlantis Dive Center in Puerto Galera will provide everything you need, from gear rental, storage of special equipment like camera, certification courses from open water diver all the way up to Instructor’s Development Course, guided underwater tours and liveaboard dive safari to major Philippine diving destinations.

Sea Rider Dive Center

Certifying Agency: PADI and SSI
Address: Sabang, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro

Located at the heart of Sabang beach in Puerto Galera is a dive shop manned by English and Chinese speaking instructors – the Sea Rider Dive Center. They offer both PADI and SSI certification courses from Open Water, Advanced, Specialty Diver, Rescue and Divemaster. They offer guided dive tours to Puerto Galera’s dive sites where they specialize in handling small groups and does not mix underwater photographers with fun divers.

Apo Reef Club Dive Center

Certifying Agency: SDI and PADI
Address: Concepcion, Occidental Mindoro

One of the highly reputed dive shops in Occidental Mindoro that specializes diving in Apo Reef is the Swiss-managed Apo Reef Club Dive Center. They offer certification courses from open water diver to divemaster under PADI and SDI diving agency. They usually offer a 2-day guided dive tours in Apo reef onboard their banca-based liveaboard plus an optional visit to 7 local dive sites outside Apo reef.

Freediving in Mindoro

In cooperation with Freediving Philippines, Badladz Adventure Resort is one of the few resorts in Puerto Galera that offers freediving certification course. You can undergo training and be certified under the Association Internationale pour le Développement de l’Apnée or AIDA. They also offer guided tours where you can choose a shallow site often preferred by newbie freedivers or the deep abyss which is designed for the highly experienced.


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