Panglao - Cabilao
Panglao - Cabilao
The second-largest archipelago in the world with 7,107 tropical islands, the Philippines is one of the treasures of Southeast Asia. Only 7% of the islands are larger than a square mile, and one third have names. As it is located in the Pacific ring of fire - the most volcanic region on Earth - the country has 49 active or potentially active volcanoes.
First and foremost, the Philippines is a place of natural wonders. Above sea level, the Philippines has a fantastic landscape with wonders enough to stagger even the most jaded traveler: numerous palm-fringed and white-sanded beaches, the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, and forests hosting 13,500 plant species and 170,000 animal species of which many are endemic to the country. Among the many rare species are the Philippine Tarsier, the world’s smallest primate, the White-Winged Flying Fox, the Philippine Eagle and the Pygmy Goby.
Alona Beach, Panglao-Bohol
Below sea level, the Philippines boast some of the world’s best diving and snorkeling with 488 species of corals and even more of fishes, all in warm waters! The country has a well deserved reputation as one of the best locations for macro diving, with numerous species of shrimps, nudibranchs, ghost-pipefishes, seahorses etc, although pelagic visitors occasionally visit the area.
The resorts are situated on Alona Beach, in the heart of the Visayas, a cluster of islands in the middle of the Philippines archipelago. They are located on Panglao Island, off the south western tip of Bohol Island, only 30 minutes away from Tagbilaran’s airport and ferry pier, which are just an hour away from Manila by airplane and 90 minutes away from Cebu by fast craft, respectively.
Diving the Panglao area
Panglao’s 25+ dive sites range in depth from 5 to 35 meters (16 to 115ft). Dives can be conducted all year round and the visibility is usually between 20 and 30m (65-100ft), with an average of 25m (80ft). From Panglao, you will get a chance to experience many other dive sites located around the islands of Balicasag and Cabilao, which are considered among the best dive spots in the country. It takes between 5 and 40 minutes to reach dive spots, with the exception of Cabilao Island, which is further away and requires approximately 1.5 hour.
Because of their depth and reasonable currents, most dive sites are accessible to Padi Open Water certified divers (or equivalent).
Panglao: the north and western section of the reef are noteworthy, with a narrow and shallow (5-6m/15-20ft) reef platform populated with an impressive diversity of macro species. The reef’s edge terminates into perpendicular submarine cliffs, plunging to depths 33+m/100+ft, and is thickly covered with mixed corals, branching tables, and teeming with schools of tunas, mackerels and surgeon-fishes.
Balicasag Marine Sanctuary: Balicasag is ringed by steep drop offs which play host to hard and soft corals, nudibranchs, shrimps and eels. Close to the wall are schools of snappers, fusiliers, turtles and mouth mackerels. Head out a little into the blue and you may see schools of barracudas and big eyed jacks that have made their residence there.
Cabilao: an excellent site for macro, with pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, pipe and file fishes, and an interesting double drop-off, where schools of barracudas and (in the cooler months) hammerheads are occasionally seen. Cabilao is not among regular dive sites due to certain preconditions for the trip to go ahead - favorable weather forecasts and a minimum of six divers - but should these conditions be fulfilled, our local partner will be happy to schedule a day trip to the island. A minimum of three dives is planned on these trips so that divers can make the best of the day.
Some of Alona's Most Famous Dive Sites
Tawala Marine Sanctuary (TMS)
Just minutes away from the dive center, this site is a shallow dive (max. depth 25m/82ft) on a coral garden with many vertical cuts. Anemones and multicolored corals are teeming with life, and there are many species of tropical fishes, scorpion-fishes, frog-fishes and nudibranchs. Sea snakes and snake eels can be found in sandy patches. This makes TMS an excellent place for a night dive and for snorkeling.
Black Forest (Balicasag Island)
A steep sandy slope that reaches a depth of over 40m/130ft. Starting in deeper waters, you will find forests of black corals, and can find large groupers, Napoleon Wrasse, barracudas, tunas, snappers, and bat-fishes. Going up, the black corals will end at about 30m/98ft, and in the shallower waters you will see a large variety of fishes, and plenty of sea stars, sea cucumbers, and colorful crinoids.
This wall dive starts at 2m/6ft and slopes down to about 20m/65ft. Currents can be strong, but you will only go there when conditions are calm. There are good soft, leathery and stony corals with lots of small fishes, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, angelfishes, putter-fishes, butterfly-fishes. Recently, hammerheads have been spotted on various occasions at depths of 30-40m/98-130ft. This site is also excellent for snorkeling.
The Dive Center
Whether you chose to stay at the Oasis Resort or at La Pernela Beachfront Resort, you will dive with the Seaquest Dive Center, a Padi Gold Palm 5 Star Training and IDC Facility, run by Dutch management and located dead smack in the middle of Alona, right on the beach! It operates 2 traditional bangkas powered by marine adapted Isuzu 8 cylinder diesel engines and two smaller speedboats powered by 40hp Yamaha engines. The bigger boats go to the further dive spots and are fitted out with medical oxygen and first-aid kits. Dive groups are not bigger than six divers on a divemaster.
Please note that if you have not been diving for more than six months, you are not an experienced divemaster or higher, or if you have less than 50 logged dives, a check dive will be required. This is to ensure that the dive center knows your abilities and can put similar experienced divers together in a group.
Technical and Admin Information
- rental equipment: Cressi wetsuits and BCDs, Scubapro regulators
- 10 and 12 liter aluminum tanks, international cylinder valves (DIN adaptors can be borrowed but it is appreciated if you bring your own), tanks, weights and weight belts are provided
- night dives possible every night, torches can be rented
- Nitrox available
- logbook - dive certification card
- medical clearance for scuba diving from a physician, issued within the last 12 months
- evidence of repatriation insurance
Recommended diving equipment and documents: 3 or 5mm wetsuits and torch, dive computer, safety sausage, a magnifying glass, insurance covering dive-related injuries (DAN or equivalent)
The closest hyperbaric chamber is located in Cebu, all dives are within no-decompression limits.
Other Activities and Excursions
Bohol is one of the most picturesque provinces in the Philippines and offers a wide range of attractions for non-divers and kids. The island is filled with natural and historical highlights.
A typical day for a diver in Alona goes as follows:
- two dives, from 9:00 AM till 1:00 to 3:00 PM
- late lunch
- optional third dive in the afternoon or at night
- free time to rest or enjoy activities
Activities for non-divers and for divers’ dry days are the following:
- Chocolate Hills: a collection of at least 1,268 cone-shaped hills of which color changes from green to brown during the dry season. This tour of about three hours is as interesting as the hills themselves, as it also provides an opportunity to visit the oldest church in the Philippines (circa 1595) and to enjoy the intense green of the rice-fields
- Tarsier Sanctuary, a protected habitat for Philippines tarsier, considered to be the world’s smallest primate. They are endemic to the country and are also an endangered species. From toe-to-head, tarsiers measure only 8-16cm/3-6in but can do amazing things like giving their heads a 180 degree spin and jump to an height of 5m/16ft
- Island hopping / Dolphin and whale watching: animals are there most of the times, however, dolphin and whale watching tends to end up a little too much as a tourist attraction, with too many boats. We'd rather recommend hiring a traditional fishing boat to get away for a picnic on a white sand island and cross your fingers to spot dolphins and/or whale on the way
- Mag-Aso Falls, only 20km away from Tagbilaran, this 8m/25ft tall fall is situated on a nice backdrop of lush greens composed mainly of towering trees
- Hinagdanan Cave, located on the Panglao peninsula, this cave features a beautiful collection of limestone structures and interesting formations of stalagmites and stalactites
- Butterfly Farm
- Punta Cruz Watchtower
- Spa: the resorts have local therapists with very experienced hands who provide a mix of local and imported massages
- Parlour games (chess, backgammon and darts)
The Kids' Corner
Baby sitting service can be arranged, so divers can feel comfortable while enjoying their passion.
Most of the excursions and activities available at Alona Beach are suitable to children and teenagers. They will have a great time!
The Oasis Resort
The Oasis Resort is located on a 5,000sqm lot right next to the dive center and consists of eight native style cottages, each featuring two spacious rooms independent from one another. Of the 16 accommodations, six are family rooms with one double bed, one single bed, and one pull-out bed; the remaining 10 rooms are with two single beds and one pull-out bed. All rooms boast a small balcony overlooking the pool and the garden that is teeming with flowers and trees.
Five new duplex accommodations have just been completed, and are particularly convenient for families, as they feature a living room on the ground floor and a big bedroom upstairs. They are almost on the beach and less than one minute away from the swimming pool.
All 21 units feature private bathrooms with hot shower and are equipped with A/C. All rooms are serviced daily, and towels are provided.
The restaurant opens up on three sides to offer a great view over the pool and gardens. A dining area has been recently built right on the beach. The restaurant serves “à la carte”, a mix of Filipino and western food, or buffet style meals for groups from four people-up. Special requests such as Chinese food and vegetarian meals can be accommodated.
The resort also provides free Wi-Fi internet service, laundry service, hairdryers, international and domestic phone service and safety boxes to keep valuables.
La Pernela Beachfront Resort
La Pernela is a contemporarily-designed hotel that opened at the end of 2008. It is located in a remote area, less than 20 minutes away by car from
The resort features 4 standard rooms and 7 deluxe rooms, all equipped with A/C, private shower, a double bed and a pull-out double bed. Deluxe rooms have hot showers and a TV. 6 of the 11 rooms have sea-view. Rooms are serviced daily and towels are provided.
The restaurant, located on the wonderful rooftop terrace overlooking the sea serves Asian menus and, once a week, French cuisine. The resort also provides free internet service, laundry service, and safety boxes to keep valuables.
A car/mini-van will pick up divers at the hotel to go to the
Required and Recommended Equipment and Documents
In addition to your documents related to your repatriation insurance (and for divers: your logbook, dive certification card and a medical clearance for scuba diving), you will need:
- your passport, which must be valid for a minimum of six months beyond intended date of return
- a visa is required for stays longer than 21 days
- sun cream
- mosquito repellent
- a flashlight, which might be helpful to find your way back home at night
How to get there / Flight information
From Manila airport, either fly directly to Bohol/Tagbilaran airport (recommended), or to Cebu where you need to reach the ferry terminal to get onboard a fast craft to get to Tagbilaran’s pier. It takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes and costs about 500 PHP (7.5 EUR/11 USD) to reach Tagbilaran by fast ferry, leaving from Cebu. For detailed schedule information and exact rates, please visit www.supercat.com.ph or www.oceanjet.net.
Whether you arrive at Tagbilaran airport or ferry terminal, our local partner will be waiting for you. From there, it takes approximately 30 minutes to reach your resort.
Although we recommend you carefully compare airfares, Cebu Pacific's airfares are usually competitive. The information provided below is non exhaustive and for information purpose only. For more details, please visit www.cebupacificair.com
From Shanghai: overnight flights to Manila
From Beijing: overnight flights to Manila
From Guangzhou: overnight flights to Manila
From Hong Kong: direct overnight flights to Manila and Cebu
From Macau: direct overnight flights to Manila
From Singapore: direct overnight flights to Manila and Cebu
From Osaka (Kansai): evening flights to Manila
From Kuala Lumpur: overnight flights to Manila
From Taipei: overnight flights to Manila
From Saigon: overnight flights to Manila
From Jakarta: overnight flights to Manila
From Seoul/Incheon: direct overnight flights to Manila and Cebu
From Busan: late night direct flights to Cebu
Health and Safety
Alona Beach is located outside of malaria-endemic areas. The only vaccine required by international regulations is yellow fever if you have visited a country in the yellow-fever zone within the six days prior to entering Southeast Asia. Travelers to Southeast Asia should be up to date with vaccinations against polio, tetanus and diphtheria. You may also consider a hepatitis A shot.
Full medical insurance, including medical evacuation outside of your country of residence, is mandatory. We also recommend scuba divers to ensure their personal insurance covers dive related injuries. Should you consider becoming a member of DAN Asia-Pacific, please click here
The Philippines is generally safe. However, the normal precautions apply, and in particular be wary of any overly friendly stranger offering you food or drinks, as the most common scam involves drugging and then robbing tourists.
History and Culture
The Philippines has a long history combining Asian, European, and American influences. Before the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, and the Spanish colonization which began in 1565 with the first permanent settlement of Spaniards on the island of Cebu, the Filipinos had a rich culture and were trading with the Chinese, the Indians, and the Japanese. During the Spanish period, numerous towns were founded, infrastructures built, new crops and livestocks introduced, and trade flourished. Spanish missionaries converted most of the population to Christianity and founded schools, universities and hospitals across the islands. In 1898, after 350 years and 300 rebellions, the Filipinos succeeded in winning their independence. However, the Treaty of Paris, at the end of the Spanish-American War, transferred control of the Philippines to the United States, making the country the first and only colony of the United States. The treaty was not recognized by the Philippine Government, which proclaimed a declaration of war against the United States. Following the Philippine-American War, officially won by the United States in 1902, the United States brought widespread education to the islands. Filipinos fought alongside Americans during World War II, particularly at the famous battle of Bataan and Corregidor which delayed Japanese advance and saved Australia. They then waged a guerilla war against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. The Philippines regained its independence in 1946. Filipinos are a freedom-loving people, having waged two peaceful, bloodless revolutions in 1972 and 1986 against what were perceived as corrupt regimes. The country is now a vibrant democracy, as evidenced by 12 English national newspapers, 7 national television stations, hundreds of cable TV stations, and approximately 2,000 radio stations.
The Filipino is of Malay stock with a sprinkling of Chinese, American, Spanish, and Arab blood. From a long history of Western colonial rules, interspersed with the visits of merchants and traders, evolved a people of a unique blend and the Filipino character is a mix of all these influences put together. The bayanihan or spirit of kindship and camaraderie that Filipinos are famous for is said to be taken from Malay forefathers. The close family relations are said to have been inherited from the Chinese. The piousness comes from the Spaniards. Filipinos are probably one of the few, if not the only, English-proficient Oriental people today.
The Filipinos are divided geographically and culturally into regions, and each regional group is recognizable by distinct traits and dialects. Tribal communities can be found scattered across the archipelago, where more than 111 dialects are spoken. The Spaniards converted the overwhelming majority of Filipinos to Christianity. The Muslim community represents approximately 15% of the population and can be found primarily in Mindanao. The rest of the population is made up mostly of smaller Christian denominations and Buddhists.
Filipinos are out for fun where-ever possible. Throughout the islands, there are fiestas celebrated everyday and foreign guests are always welcome to their homes. Hospitality, a common denominator in the Filipino character, makes them legendary in Southeast Asia. Perhaps due to their long association with Spain, Filipinos are emotional and passionate about life in a way that seems more Latin than Asian.
Country Facts and Practical Information
Climate: due to its proximity to the equator, the Philippines enjoy a tropical climate, with a relatively constant temperature year-round. The country has two main seasons: the dry season, from November to May, and the rainy season, from June to October.
Population: 91 million
Language: Tagalog and English are the official national languages. The Philippines is the 3rd largest English speaking country in the world. There are also 8 other major dialects.
Religions: Christian (over 85%), Muslim and others
Electricity: electric current is 220 V, 60 Hz, and uses the American shaped plugs
Time difference: GMT +8 hours (excluding daylight saving time considerations)
Telephone: international access code 00, country code 63. Mobile phone can be used throughout the Alona area. Local prepaid SIM-Cards can be purchased.
Internet: it can be accessed from the resort (free Wi-Fi) and from internet cafes in Alona Beach
Currency: the official currency is the Peso. USD, EUR and HKD can be changed at local banks. It is recommended not to rely on local moneychangers.
ATM & cash: there is a bank with ATM machine in Alona Beach