Many people go to Donsol for only a couple of days to snorkel with the whale sharks but there are plenty of opportunities to do a lot of great diving as well, it’s not just about he whale sharks and the mantas! So why not stay a few extra days and check out their other amazing dive sites?
There are two main areas to dive near Donsol – Manta Bowl and San Miguel Island.
Manta Bowl Shoal
This is an underwater atoll which covers a 7 to 8 hectare flat area. The shoal is in the middle of the ocean and does not have much protection from the winds or waves.
This is what it’s all about – this is what you’re coming for! Manta Bowl is a depression in the Shoal and when you first descend, appears to be without life, but with the number of cleaner wrasse and remora, this becomes an ideal cleaning and feeding ground for big ocean creatures. This area is where you get the most sightings of Manta Rays and Whale Sharks, with occasional Hammerhead Sharks and Thresher Sharks.
A favorite site of divers, RAC Point is a gorgeous mix of coral, rock and sandy bottom formations. It is an exciting place to dive because of the many areas to hide from the current and to watch the reef in action – like sitting in the cinema, watch the reef fish play and feed in the current. You can see schools of reef fish like surgeons, fusiliers, butterfly fish, and damsels. This is a playground for manta rays and because you can hide behind rocks, it is common to get a very dramatic encounter with a manta ray.
Full grown white tip sharks lie amongst the big boulders scattered on the sandy bottom. Hovering above are reef fish including banners and angels. With the boulders, this area has become a paradise for bottom dwellers like groupers.
Here you find a school of sweetlips that live in peace under a mushroom shaped rock. The sweetlips here seem oblivious to divers. It is amazing to how close one can get to the fish. Smaller and colourful reef fish play near the sweetlips’ home.
A busy highway for skip jack tuna and barracuda. With their sheer quantity, they build a thick wall of fish which can run for a kilometer. Excitement comes to the ocean predators when a school of sardines travel by. Think of it as a mini version of Africa’s sardine run. See Tuna feeding on Sardines and Reef Sharks feeding on the Tuna.
San Miguel Island
San Miguel is located on the northern part of the main Ticao Island, about 45 minutes by boat away from Manta Bowl. Several dive sites are found around the island and each dive site is very different.
A dive site found at the corner of a pristine white sand beach. Upon entering the water you are enveloped by a variety of soft coral creating a beautiful pathway which is reminiscent of a flower garden. Much of San Miguel Island is made of limestone and at Tres Grace, you get to admire limestone formations under the sea and have the chance to go through several swim throughs and mini caves.
Bobby’s Wall A steep slope facing the east. Here you find encrusted corals, sponges, and soft coral. Hidden along the wall are creatures like moray eels, scorpion fish and stone fish.
Found at the tip of San Miguel Island where currents meet. Expect moderate to strong currents and find sharks and rays surfing along. Enjoy various views of the ocean and the surface as you move through many ledges and discover the marine life that dwells at the different depths.
This is another site at the tip of San Miguel Island where you have rushing currents. This dive site is also frequented by sharks, manta rays, and eagle rays. However, as compared to Parola, the point has caves which divers can peek into. Lion fish, banded boxer shrimps, lobsters and groupers have made the cave their home.
Lapus Lapus West
A gradual slope with soft coral draping the rocks. Hidden in between the rock and the coral, you are likely to find squid and cuttlefish eggs. If the time is right, see the squid and cuttlefish swimming in their safe abode oblivious to the world outside the shell of the egg. Find many colourful critters like nudibranches and Spanish dancers.
Lapus Lapus East
As compared to its western twin, Lapus Lapus East has a steep slope and goes down to an average depth of 20 meters. The bigger boys of the sea hang out here. Facing away from the wall, catch a glimpse of pelagics like Tuna and Mackerel. Lapus Lapus East has its share of critters like nudibranches and the more camouflaged creatures of the sea like the frogfish.