Updated: Aug 16, 2022
Gooooood morning divers!
It's been quite the trip so far! Starting 2 months ago in beautiful Indonesia, now traveling to the Philippines to revisit this incredible diving paradise, once again. And to bring you all the places you never knew you wanted to go. We're already at our second stop, which is Boracay! Boracay island was known for a long time as a party island, until quite recently. The president called the island "a cesspool" because of the many bars, parties, and pollution that come with it.
Things have changed drastically over the past 4 years, and the island is completely rebranded, from party paradise to family-friendly, more high-ended, and much, much cleaner!
In this blog I'll be sharing the following:
Leaving Sabang/ Puerto Galera.
Initially, I booked Puerto Galera for 1 week and soon found out this wouldn't be enough. I am very glad I extended my stay here because to truly appreciate this lovely place you need to calm down and put your mind at ease.
I started talking to more and more locals, and the people are incredibly friendly and laidback. I am curious to find out what will happen when they finally finish reconstructing Sabang bay though. As this will remove the beachfront and replace it with a concrete harbor front.
Getting to Boracay.
When the day had come to leave this place I chose to take the scenic route. You could quite easily go back to Manila and fly to Boracay, but where's the fun in that? So I chose to take a trike to Puerto Galera town, and get into a van, first to Calapan, then transfer to Roxas in the south of Mindoro. The people at the bus station were incredibly helpful, as they contacted the operator in Calapan and the van was waiting for me to pick me up.
I eventually got dropped off at Roxas harbor, where I bought my ticket for about 700 pesos and was just in time for the boat to leave!
Leaving at 5.30 AM I was on the 10 AM boat.
The boat ride was about 4 hours long, however, the boats are equipped with bunk beds for you to relax or sleep on. I took a nap and woke up 30 minutes before arriving in Caticlan harbor.
From Caticlan harbor, you will have to take a trike (120 pesos) to the ferry port 5 minutes away. Ferries are departing every hour starting 6 AM until 6 PM. Once the covid status was checked and a form filled in online, I just needed to pay the environmental fee and port fee (300 pesos and 100 pesos). Finally walking to the boat, there was a ticket to be bought (50 pesos) and we were on our way to Boracay. It was quite the hassle because of the 3 lines you have to wait for, but eventually, we got on the boat.
After only 10 minutes we arrived on the southeastern side of the island and a trike brought me to my hotel for 150 pesos.
Finally, at almost 4 PM, I was in my hotel, so all in all about 10 hours of traveling. It seems a lot, but when you consider this many transfers and waiting lines, it's actually okay.
And when you see this view you instantly forget your worries and can't help but get excited for the week to come right?
So to summarize my trip:
Taking a trike to Puerto Galera town.
Get a van/ jeepney to Calapan.
Get a van to Roxas harbor/ pier.
Get your ticket and sail for 4 hours to Caticlan.
Take a trike to the Boracay ferry port.
Get onto the ferry to Boracay.
Take a transfer to your hotel.
You've arrived, sit back, enjoy the sunset and grab a drink!
Getting to Boracay from Manila
Most likely you will enter the Philippines through Manila. While the city isn't one I would stay in for too long, you can easily transfer to a bus station, next flight or taxi from here.
When traveling to Boracay specifically, fly on to Caticlan airport which is right next to the ferry port, and in 2 hours you can be on Boracay island from Manila.
Recent changes were made to Boracay.
While talking to some people along the way, in Indonesia, but also in Puerto Galera, I got a lot of mixed stories and experiences about Boracay. And now that I've been here myself, I can see why.
The island has undergone some huge changes in the past 4 years and the government has completely rebranded this island. While talking to Mike, the owner of Eclipse Diving Boracay and also the president of the diving association in 2018 I got told the entire story.
Boracay has been known for many years now as a party paradise among many people. Domestic and foreign tourists flocked to Boracay during the season to enjoy the beaches, bars, and people. The island had a big influx of people, money, and demand. This resulted in pollution, and buildings, hotels, and bars not even bothering to get permits to expand, but just doing it. A big problem has also been that for example water treatment, was not up to standard, resulting in more pollution. The president of the Philippines called Boracay "a cesspool" at one point and closed down the entire island for 6 months.
No discussion, no warning.
Starting in 2018, in May, the island closed down completely for a massive "clean-up". Water treatment was improved, and trikes/taxis were made electric. Beaches and marine sites (including dive sites) were cleaned up. And even buildings were demolished for not having the right permits and building outside their allotted area.
When this was finally done, the island rules became more strict. And people had no choice but to bow or break. Then the pandemic happened. During this period there was no tourism. Hotels, bars, dive shops, etc. had to close their business and hope for a quick solution. As we all know now, this didn't happen.
Many of the bars, hotels, and tourism-related businesses didn't survive this sudden stop in income. And many disappeared. Fast-forward to 2022, tourism is picking up again, but the island is aiming for a more mature public. Fewer backpackers and more families.
The future is unsure of course, but I don't feel things will go back to how they were before. The island and government have made up their mind, about changing the type of guests they want to invite, and it's working.
Don't get me wrong, you can still party, go out and drink yourself into an oblivion of course, but the locations are less prevalent than before.
The island looks clean, new buildings are constructed, and the beach is pristine again. This surely must be a good thing going into the future!
An impression of the diving scene in Boracay.
That being said, the diving scene is also undergoing some changes. Boracay was never known for diving specifically. However, diving here for me has been a blast! There are about 20+ dive sites you can visit, and unlike other places, the diversity is incredible.
You will find amazing wreck diving here with Camia and Tri bird both discovered on this website.
As I talked to Mike, he was very passionate about making Boracay, a classroom for diving in the Philippines, because you can see everything here. There are easy sites for learning and more challenging sites for perfecting your skills.
What's also interesting and great, is the connection between Manila and Boracay. You could easily fly to Caticlan, hop on the ferry and spend your weekend here, doing what you love most: Diving!
Diving prices are supposed to be set around 1800-2000 pesos per dive. Some operators will offer you lower prices, however, usually this means less service and overall enjoyment. The personal touch I got from Eclipse Diving Boracay I felt, was really genuine and pleasant.
The most memorable dive sites!
There are a few very good dive sites in Boracay. Below I will summarize my favorites. Some of them are reason enough to book that airplane right now.
A few good spots to go diving are:
Tri Bird Airplane
1. Tri Bird Airplane.
This is my number 1. Not necessarily because it's the best, but perhaps the most accessible, even for "starting" divers. The wreck has a max depth of 27 meters, so advanced is enough to get you there. The wreck is in a sublime state, with many fish in and outside of the wreck.
One of the most famous dive sites in the Philippines, but not everyone can go diving here. the dive is deep. It actually starts at 32 meters(!). However, to really appreciate this amazing dive site you will want to go a bit deeper, perhaps to 37 meters. Depth is not the only thing to be concerned about. Yapak is located on the topmost northern corner of the island, and currents can be very strong. This means big fish, big risks (for the learning diver, or newer diver).
I would put a compilation here, but it's best experienced for yourself, you won't be disappointed.
3. Camia Wreck.
The Camia wreck is a cargo ship that sunk about 20 years ago and is still in very good condition. The dive site has a max depth of 30 meters, but you can easily stay at 22 meters and enjoy this amazing gathering spot for thousands of fish.
4. Crocodile Island.
Perhaps my favorite dive in Boracay. Not necessarily for the special fishes. But more the sheer amount of them! You can see Pipe fish, frogfish, and thousands of glass fish in the many caverns and overhangs in this sloping wall dive. It's very accessible with a max depth of 22 meters, making this a dive for everyone to enjoy!
I highly recommend watching this video!
Balinghai, Friday's rock, and Diniwidi are probably the most common dive sites you will see, but not at all boring. These dive sites are very accessible, with almost no currents, and still plenty to see. Moray eels, manta shrimp, schooling fish, and lionfish can be spotted multiple times on these sites. Super relaxing and a great meet and greet with diving on Boracay!
The next blog will be from The Philippines!
My next planned trip is to Bohol and wherever I might end up next.
I am also working on making more "specials" about specific topics, like the Manta ray before. Expect a Special on turtles, octopuses, and many more to come!
This will hopefully complete the full Philippines experience and make for amazing stories, photos, and travel tips!
Thank you for taking the time to read this, any questions or tips can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, and remember:
"If you can breathe, you can dive"
Want to visit The Philippines or Puerto Galera yourself? Book your stay and/or travel guide here!