Ocean First in the Philippines 2022

By Ingrid on 6/10/22

Ocean First returned to the beautiful Philippines for what promised to be a trip full of adventure and great diving. Our itinerary had us diving in Dumaguete on the island of Negros for some classic “muck” diving for a week followed by a week aboard the Azores liveaboard to explore the reefs of Tubbataha. This is arguably the “best of the Philippines” with a nice mix of weird, camouflaged creatures and brilliant reef and schooling fish. Our group got all of that and more on this expedition!

We began our adventure at Atlantis Dumaguete Resort after a short stay in Manila. This pretty little resort is tucked away, off the beaten track, surrounded by lush gardens full of blooming orchids. The gardening crew clearly took a great amount of pride in the grounds working tirelessly to clear the walkways of dropped flowers and leaves. Picture1.jpg

We began diving promptly at 8am the first morning with an easy checkout dive to sort out weights and get used to being back in the water. There were a lot of dives offered every day, up to 5 for those really enthusiastic divers! Muck diving is essentially diving in a black volcanic sand environment where nutrient-rich water passes by, super-charging the food chain. Steady and precise buoyancy control is a must as the sand is very fine and one errant fin stroke can compromise the visibility for your dive partners.

Right away we were gifted with frogfish of all sizes from ones the size of a volleyball to baby ones no bigger than the top of your thumb. There were purple, yellow, pink, green, and white frogfishes, waiting patiently for an unsuspecting fish to swim by. Our list of creatures was just getting started! There were numerous cuttlefish sightings from the larger broadclub cuttlefish to the flashy flamboyant cuttlefish who, rather than swim, walks along the seafloor perfectly camouflaged unless disturbed. The flamboyant cuttlefish will display spectacular color changes while hunting or mating, making it a favorite find.


There were so many interesting animals to see in the muck. Seahorses, pipefish, anemone fish, devil fish, turtles, ornate ghost pipefish, decorator crabs, beautiful little shrimp, and so much more! The octopus sightings probably took the prize, however. Our groups were blessed with multiple sightings of the wonderpus octopus, a small octopus with very long arms capable of dramatic color washes and flashes. These smart little creatures are voracious hunters and masters of camouflage. We were also gifted a very rare experience with mating blue ring octopus. This is a really big deal! These tiny octopus are no larger than an egg and are highly venomous. Their electric blue rings flash when startled and are a sight to see. To witness their mating ritual was a true gift indeed! Picture3.jpg

Our dive plan also included a day trip to Apo Island which is primarily comprised of coral gardens and wall profiles. The ecosystem is very different here, making it a nice change from the black sand. The water was clear and warm (83F) and we found turtles just about everywhere! One of the coolest experiences was the champagne bubbles” coming out of the sand in this one patch of geothermal activity. It was really fun to swim close to the bottom and feel the effervescence!

Picture4.jpgAfter a great week in Dumaguete it was time to change venues and head for the remote reefs of Tubbataha, about 12 hours from the island of Palawan. Tubbataha is in the Sulu Sea and is a series of 3 atolls. The diving can best be described as wall dives with shallow coral gardens at the cusp of the wall. There were big schools of horse-eyed jacks, chevron barracuda, blue fusiliers, surgeonfish, pyramid butterfly fish, red-toothed triggerfish, and so much more! The reef was alive with all sorts of plankton feeders as well as the usual suspects of reef inhabitants. Our divers soon learned to be wary of the Titan triggerfishes that were actively cleaning up nesting sites! They would charge if you got too close and they are not a small fish! Picture5.jpg

The highlight of the diving was hand’s down the manta encounters. One morning we had beautiful flybys from two different mantas and it was amazing! These graceful creatures like to visit the shallow reefs to be cleaned by a variety of small reef fish. Their movements are so graceful, like no energy is being exerted at all. Our divers were beyond happy to have these ocean gliders cruise by to say hello. We also got to see schools of baby blacktip sharks which were so cute. These little guys were always around, patrolling the deeper water right off the walls. We would also see the adult sharks off in the distance every so often.


Our epic journey came to an end when we returned to port in Puerto Princesa. The trip was not without it’s challenges but as with all experiences we all come out stronger in the end! Great friendships were forged on this trip. Single travelers met new dive buddies, old friends were reunited, and there are stories for days to be shared! This is what it means to live each day to the fullest. Get out and explore your world, friends! The ocean has gifts waiting just for you.

Until the next adventure,


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