Swimming with sea turtles: Top 5 spots in the Philippines

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Philippines Best Spots Header Image

Philippines Best Spots Header Image

Located at the “Coral Triangle”, the Philippines is known to be the center of global marine biodiversity. Since it holds hundreds of diving spots, this country is the perfect place for diving enthusiasts and professionals. We both think sea turtles are among the most exciting animals to be in contact with during a dive. But what is more frustrating than going on a dive expecting to take a couple of epic shots with Crush and ending up coming back empty-handed (or with an empty SD card in that case).

Turtles photobombing diver

Watch out! Sea turtles are pros at photobombing!

Below, we listed our top 5 spots where you will meet turtles and more during your dives.

5. Malapascua

Malapascua is located north of Cebu Island. While the island’s main attraction is diving with Thresher sharks, it is surrounded with various diving spots where you will be able to see turtles. While we were looking mostly for sharks and experiencing cave diving for the first time, we did spot a few turtles swimming around.

4. Moalboal

The first reason to come to Moalboal is to witness the Sardine run. Thousands of Sardines swimming in almost perfect ranks. However, we also witnessed a couple of turtles swimming around close to the shores.

We even get to see a turtle enjoying her dinner right below the terrace’s balcony of the bar we were sitting at.

Turtle from Chili Bar Balcony Moalboal

Old friend joining us for dinner!

Puerto Galera

Puerto Galera is only 3 hours traveling by bus and boat from Manila. It is one of the closest beach from the capital that holds many diving spots close to each other. We recommend diving with Didier of Pacific Divers. He’s very good especially if you are just a beginner with diving.

Puerto Galera has many diving spots where to find turtles. And the good thing is that you can get really close without them swimming away, unlike Balicasag where the turtles tend to flee the scene when you’re getting too close.

Diver above a sea turtle laying on a boat wreckage in Puerto Galera

Sea Turtle chilling in a boat wreckage.

2. Balicasag Island

Balicasag comes as second in our list! We visited the place during our stay in Panglao, located South West of Bohol. Many hotels in Panglao include a trip to Balicasag in their packages.

We advise getting to the island in the morning when the turtles are feeding. You can just snorkel around and check the seabed to spot them. We encountered at least 7 turtles (one of them was really big) within 15 minutes of snorkeling. However they are shy and will swim away if you’re getting too close. Alex had to swim really hard to get the shot below.

Diver taking selfie with a turtle

Not interested in Selfies…

1. Apo Island

The island is located South of Dumaguete and is home to a diverse marine reserve with more than 60 turtles. While the place is great for diving, we were disappointed with the snorkeling area and marine reserve that is very limited. However, it is the easiest place to approach turtles and get amazing shots, and we decided to put it at number one for this.

Apo Island being small, you can cover the islands activities in a day. Furthermore, it is close to Siquijor Island, another great place to put on your bucket list.

Sea Turtle off the shore of Apo Island

One of the easiest turtle to photograph!

Conclusion

The Philippines has more than 7,000 islands with many diving and snorkeling spots where you will likely encounter sea turtles. Although visiting one of these 5 spots will guarantee you a turtle encounter, there are many other spots you can check like Apo Reef or Port Barton’s Turtle Sanctuary that offer great diving experiences.

If we had to really recommend 2 spots out of our top 5 where we think you have 100% chance to see turtles, it would be Apo Island and Balicasag.

Our personal feedbacks:

Alex:

“Among those 5 spots, I mostly recommend Apo and Balicasag Islands, although the experience between the two is quite different. People mostly come to Apo Island for diving and there is not much else to do there. I had great expectations for Apo Island’s Turtle Sanctuary but it turned out to be by the most populated beach of the island, and you will have to pay to swim and see the turtles. While I found it very touristy, I must say that’s THE place to get your best turtle shots as the turtles are very easy to approach. Balicasag Island near Bohol is also one of our favorites. Many tourists go there as well but you are not limited to one zone and can go to a more quiet area to swim with turtles. But getting a shot with the turtles turned out to be much more challenging than Apo Island.”

Nanda:

“First you should know that I’m not as crazy about diving as Alex is but my favourite spot as a new diver is Puerto Galera (also it didn’t go snorkel with the turtles in Apo Island). Aside from seeing turtles, we got to dive in shipwrecks as well. It made the diving twice as fun”

Have you dived in the Philippines? Do you find this article useful? Do not hesitate to share your experiences and feedback with us! We’d love to hear from you! 😉

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