What travel costs 3: Scuba diving in the Philippines 2

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ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony  30 June 2015

   Trip to the Philippines, 14 to 29 April 2012

Ranger Station, North Atoll, Tubbatha Reefs NP, Sulu Sea
Ranger Station, North Atoll, Tubbataha Reefs NP, Sulu Sea

The first trip to the Philippines was so good we planned another one a year later to dive the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park in the middle of the Sulu Sea. We booked with the Expedition Fleet for 4 days diving.

Jeepney Manila
Jeepney Manila
At the dock, Peurto Princessa
At the dock, Peurto Princessa

This time there were Paul, Nic and myself on a boys’ trip. We drank but moderately, as I only remember one hangover. Nic was interested in dining at special restaurants when possible. The hotels were much the same but slightly better quality. The resort we stayed at in Donsol was excellent. And, unlike the first trip we each had separate rooms, which doubled the accommodation cost. We also did some tourism around Manila.

The Expedition Fleet boat Sulu Sea
The Expedition Fleet boat
Sulu Sea

We flew to Puerta Princessa in Palawan and boarded the Apo Explorer in the afternoon. We were taken around town to buy things we might need and to be kitted out for diving. We left port in the evening and arrived at our first dive site next morning.

We did 17 dives in four days (Max depth 28m). There was a diverse group of people on board all very pleasant. The dive instructors were a mix of Filipinos and westerners and all of high standard.

The diving was fantastic because the area is protected and relatively pristine. We saw endless reef fish, sharks, (mostly white-tipped reef sharks), eels, manta rays, eagle rays and turtles. We also saw any magnificent coral gardens and coral reefs. In a few places in my log book, I noted swimming along the sides of stunning walls going down to 60m, very zen-like and the big blue. I remember huge shoals of large fish spiraling around you.

Sulu Sea Photo: Mr Kim
Sulu Sea
Photo: Mr Kim

On the night we arrived back, we went with the crew to a really good night spot the Tiki Resto Bar and listened to an excellent Manila band called the Winegums until the wee hours. Filipinos are very musical even the amateurs who got up to sing from
the audience were quite talented. We stayed on the boat that night and moved to our accommodation the next day. The one hangover. We met the band that night and went one other night. Nic and Paul kept in touch with the lead singer Ivory.

Sulu Sea Photo: Mr Kim
Scorpion fish, Sulu Sea
Photo: Mr Kim

We had three whole days in Peurto Princesa. The town was pleasant. One night we went to the best restaurant in town approached by a long pier and built out over the mangroves. The other international tourists had gobbled up the lobster, so we had swordfish steaks. The best swordfish I’ve eaten by a long way. On one of the days we managed to get tickets from our hotel for the trip to the underground river the major tourist attraction and really special. Despite the bureaucracy involved at every stage, because the local mayor thought he was being dudded out of his fair share, the trip was magnificent and well-worth doing.

The three amigos Photo: Mr Kim
The three amigos
Photo: Mr Kim

Palawan is a backward province with beautiful natural environments. A boat trip, with snorkeling and island hopping for days or weeks would be well-worth doing. You could go all the way to Busuanga Island.

There are also hidden resorts all over the place. We saw several flying in to Busuanga on the last trip.

Team Korea North Atoll
Team Korea
North Atoll

We flew back to Manila stayed one night and flew to Legazpi City in Albay Province. As you fly in you circle this huge and wonderful cone volcano called Bulkang Mayon, which towers over the airport. You can walk up it from Tobaco City and the whole area around is good for tourism. Legazpi City seemed to have nothing to recommend it, but then we only drove through quickly. We caught a taxi from the airport for the 47 km 45-min to 1h drive to Donsol. The price was very reasonable and we organized for the driver to pick up again for the trip back.

Elysia Beach
Elysia Beach
Legazpi airport and volcano
Legazpi airport and volcano

We stayed at the Elysia Beach Resort (http://elysia-donsol.com/) in Donsol for 3 nights, which was fantastic. The main reason to go to Donsol is to swim with whale sharks. We went out four times on the boats but didn’t see any whale sharks, which was disappointing. We were a week late or they had left early. Maybe, next time. Paul and I took an expensive outrigger diving trip, three hours each way from memory, to the Manta Bowl. The visibility wasn’t great and the current was very strong, but we did see a manta ray close up and for about ten minutes on the second dive, which made it all worthwhile.

We flew back to Manila for one night and then back to Australia. It is not really possible to describe what a great trip it was. Nic said that trip was one of the best in my life. Great diving, excellent food, good company and magic places!

Travel expenses


Airfare (Sydney Manila return)                                                              $1004

 Worldcare travel insurance                                                                         $73

General Expenses Total                                                                    $1077

Philippines Expenses

Domestic Airfares (4 flights)                                                                     $178

 Accommodation (10 nights)                                                                     $628

Tubbatha Expedition Fleet                                                                       $1550

(6days/5nights, food, accommodation & diving)

Diving at Manta Bowl                                                                                   $125

Cash                                                                                                               $1000

(Included food, drink, transport)

Philippines expenses Total                                                               $3356

Total Cost (USD still at parity)                                                         $4433

Philippine expenses

(not including international airfare & insurance)

Time spent: 15 nights (10 nights not on board)

Total cost per day all up for 1 person                                   $224

Total cost per day

(not including live-aboard diving)                                         $174

Accommodation cost per person (10 nights):                    $628

Accommodation cost per day per person                               $63


1 Breakfast normally came as part of the accommodation.

Elysia Beach Resort
Elysia Beach Resort


The team
The diving team

This was also a fantastic trip and it was not only Nic who thought of it as one of the best trips of a lifetime. The luxury and striving for better restaurants were important as were the company both on the live-aboard and on the whole holiday.

One can travel much more cheaply in the Philippines, but live-aboard diving is like going on an up-market tour, moderately more expensive, but worth every penny.

Key words: travel costs, scuba diving, Philippines, Tubbataha Reefs National Park, Sulu Sea, Peurto Princesa, Donsol, Manila, Expedition Fleet, Elysia Beach Resort


Paul made a video on his iphone of Ivory & The Wine Gums.

Photos and Slides

Tony’s photos

Nic’s Fantastic Holiday Photos

For slides with captions see Slideshows

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2 thoughts on “What travel costs 3: Scuba diving in the Philippines 2

  1. vanessa says:

    I love scuba diving not only for the adventure, but also for the worderful and unique thing you get to see below the water surface. In the past years I’ve taken a lot of interesting and amazing pictures which I like to store in the https://dive.site logbook, along with all my diving logs.


    1. Hi Vanessa

      Thanks for the comment. I looked at the dive.site though I have not registered. I found it almost impossible to use. The dive locations are in light blue writing on a white background and very difficult to navigate. Great idea but still seems in construction site phase.



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