Diving Mactan Island

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Mactan Island, Philippines

Sardins-of-Mactan.jpg
Kontiki House ReefNalusuan IslandSan Juan Wreckjellyfish3

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Country: Philippines  Area: Philippines

Water Temp: 27 - 30°C (81 - 86°F)

Visibility: 10 - 20m (33 - 66 ft)

Depth Range: 1 - 100m (3 - 328 ft)

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Mactan Island is located in Central Visayas. All dive sites are on the east side of the island and can be reached by boat or shore, depending on which dive center. Shore diving is popular with deep walls with reefs starting at 5m and continue beyond 100m. By boat all dive sites can be reached in under 15 minutes.

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Majority of Mactan dive sites are suitable for recreational, technical and snorkelers or people wanting to try diving. Mactan International Airport is only 25 min away from most of the dive centres and resorts and Cebu City is only 45 min away for those who like to enjoy night life, do some shopping or watch a movie.

Mactan dive sites are suitable for beginners, experienced and technical divers of all levels. Nice corals in shallow water attract snorkelers and people wanting to try diving. For more experienced divers there is a Marigondon Cavern (Advanced level and higher) and San Juan Ferry wreck only 45 min from Mactan Island which is a paradise for technical divers. Generally diving on Mactan is easy, good visibility, warm water, easy access from boat or shore.

 

Cypraea (Talparia) talpa, Credit

Marine Conservation

Project Baseline was initiated by Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) to monitor underwater environments by taking pictures over the years (timeline) to actually see the changes for good or bad. This documentation is probably the only effective way to actually compare reef condition over the time.

Climate

Diving season on Mactan island is year round. Water temperature never drops bellow 27C and the warmest is 30C. Visibility on average is 10-15m all year, sometimes it can get up to 20m. Rainy season does not affect diving much, sometimes it rains for a few days then and then is back to sunny days which, in other words, means that rain can be expected any time during the year but it does not affect diving conditions too much. Once in a while you can experience strong winds but even then generally diving operations operate as usual with exception of day trips to nearby islands.

Pipefish in Mactan, Credit

Other Year Round Marine life

School of Sardines, Nudibranchs, Frogfish, Ghost Pipefish, Blue Spotted Ray, Crabs, Shrimps, Barracuda, Grouper, Sweetlip, Octopus, Pipefish, Tigerfish

School of Sardines, Nudibranchs, Frogfish, Ghost Pipefish, Blue Spotted Ray, Crabs, Shrimps, Barracuda, Grouper, Sweetlip, Octopus, Pipefish, Tigerfish

Information & Photos kindly provided by: Kontiki Divers 

 
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Shore Diving

All Mactan dive sites are accessible from shore. Drop offs usually start 50-80m from the shore/beach entry. Shallow areas 5-12m has nice corals where school of sardines can be seen on many occasions. Technical divers love it because of easy access, short surface swims to the wall. Beside sardines, barracudas can be spotted and of courses there is plenty of nudibranch, pipefishes and crabs during the night dive.

Mactan Peir, Credit

Boat Diving

Tambuli Plane Wreck dive site can be reached by boat or shore entry (depends from which dive centre). From Kontiki Divers it only takes 10 min by boat.The plane is small, 10m long and lies down between 18-22m on a steep slope. This dive site is good for entry level and advanced divers. Beside the plane, steep slope continues down bellow 80m++. In shallow water, 5m there are some nice corals and lots of makro life.

Shangri-la Sanctuary is located in front of Shangri-la Resort. This is a very nice dive site, very well maintained by Shangri-la staff. All levels of divers and snorkelers will enjoy this site. From Kontiki Divers it takes 15 min by boat to get there. Shallow part, 5m is covered with beautiful soft and hard corals, plenty marine life including sweetlips, snapper, barracuda and spadefish. Lots of nudibranchs and watch out for a Giant Green Frogfish. Steep slope continues way bellow 80m++ mark which will attract technical divers.

Puff! Credit

Marigondon Cavern is located in front of Plantation Bay Resort, only 50m from the beach front. It takes 15 min by boat from Kontiki Divers to reach the dive site. Entrance to the cavern is in 30m. To get down there divers follow a wall which starts at around 7m. Entrance to the cavern is very wide, around 15m in diameter and continues in for around 60m up and down with an average depth of 25m. Recreational Advanced Divers and above can access the cavern. Nitrox is very much recommended. Technical divers will love this dive site. On the way out from the cavern there are very nice fan corals on the sealing where you may find some lion fishes or even a comet fish. After exiting the cavern divers continue to ascend along the wall finishing the dive in 5m surrounded by nice soft corals with lots of makro life.

Talima, Hilutungan and Nalusuan are one of the most recommended and popular day trip diving/snorkelling destinations to nearby islands of Mactan island. They all around 45min -1hr away from Mactan Island and can be reached by boat. Majority of dive centers from Mactan conduct regular day trips to these sanctuaries. Usually every day trip includes one island at the time with 2 dives and lunch. All mentioned sanctuaries are good for entry level, experienced and technical divers. Since it is all under protection, corals are very nice and there is more medium sized fishes like sweetlips, snapper, needle fishes and jackfish around. Trips usually start at 9am and back to Mactan around 3pm.

Sardines! Credit

San Juan Ferry Wreck - Liloan is located north of Mactan island, 1 hour by boat from Kontiki Divers. This sunken ferry lies down in between 35-50m on a flat bottom in a perfect condition. This wreck is strictly for experienced and mostly technical divers because of the depth. Descent to the ferry starts with the mooring line all the way to the ferry that is overgrown with soft corals and on a good day with a little current, lots of spadefishes are hanging around. Penetration is possible but must be careful, many sharp objects. Proper technical diver training is required to fully explore this wreck. Usually dive centers conduct day trips to this site including 2 dives with lunch, pretty much all year round. 

Liveaboard Diving

A number of liveaboard trips include dives at Mactan Island within a larger tour of the Philippines. For many, Cebu is one of the primary departure points for tours that go on to explore famous places including Daiun, Apo Reefs, Coron Wreks, Tubbataha and Anilao. 

Frogfish, Credit

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How to Get there

Mactan International & Domestic Airport is located in the centre of the island. It takes 20-30min from the airport to reach most of dive resorts and hotels on Mactan Island and 45min-1hour to reach Cebu City. Domestic flights to Manila are every hour.

Cebu Port (Pier 1-4) on Cebu main island is 45 min away from Mactan island. Ferries and fast crafts depart every few hours to Bohol, Manila, Leyte and other small islands.

Supercat Ferry, Credit

Northern Bus Terminal located in Cebu City (around the corner from SM Mall) is only 45min away from Mactan Island. Divers seeking adventures in Malapascua island often use buses as a cheeper alternative of transportation.

Southern Bus Terminal in downtown of Cebu City can take you all the way to Dumagette in Negros.

It takes more than 1 hour to reach this terminal from Mactan island. Buses depart every 30 min, mainly in southern directions.

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Where to Eat & Drink

There is a huge variety in the type (and price) of restaurants and bars on Mactan Island. Some of the most high and exclusive resorts include: the Shangri-la Resort, Movenpick Hotel, Crimson Resort, Maribago Blue Water Resort and Plantation Bay Resort. On the budget end, places like Club Kontiki Resort, Green Gate Lodge, Haruhay Resort are all very popular.

No matter where you stay, be sure to visit a local restaurant – a sutukil – where you can taste impossibly fresh seafood, which is either grilled, stewed or served raw, depending on your preference.

Cute puffer fish! Credit

For those who like the night life, we recommend to stay in Cebu City where Marriot Hotel and Waterfront Hotel are among the favourite. Cebu City offers many night clubs and restaurants. There are also a few beachside bars, however clubs and discos are somewhat more limited. Chicago Joe’s Beachside Bar and Bump is definitely a local favourite, and gets increasingly lively at night.

 

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Other Activities

While diving is the primary draw to Mactan, there are several on land activities as well.

The Mactan Shrine is a popular destination, where you can buy a number of local souvenirs. Within Cebu City, there are a number of Spanish colonial buildings, including the catholic churches and the Ford San Pedro, which provide insight into the island’s past. Malls including SM Mall and Ayala Mall are great for more commercial shopping. The area is also world-renowned for their guitar making abilities, which you can witness first hand in Lapu-Lapu city.

Dive tanks, Credit

Non-divers may be interested in popping by the only aquarium in the Visayas, while more active visitors might enjoy setting out on a mountain bike or hiking trail. Water sports are also popular here, with plenty of opportunities to try out kite surfing, windsurfing, parasailing and jet skiing. Tanning and relaxation on the stunning beaches are also always an option.

If you’re interested in birds, you have to visit the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, where over 60,000 migratory birds pass through annually. Species come from as far as Siberia to rest in these mangroves between July and November. 

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Insider Tips

People are very Friendly on Mactan island and Cebu City.

Most of the establishments accept major credit cards but cash is always welcome where you could bargain. There are ATMs at the airport, all the malls and some of the top end resorts.

Most of the dive centres offer equipment rental, it is recommended to bring your own dive computer. There is a Hyperbaric chamber in Mandaue, which is approximately a half hour from Mactan Island and Cebu Port.

When it comes to local transportation the cheeps way around is with the jeepney where minimum fare is PHP8.00. There are also metered taxi all around.

Lissocarcinus Laevis Crab, Credit

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