Diving in Dauin in the Philippines is known for "muck diving". Diving in sand and pebbles. As you look around you really wonder what you are actually supposed to see on that seemingly barren plain. Until you start swimming slower, looking closer and with a little help from your dive guide, you start seeing the most extraordinary animals underwater. I like to tell you more about this surprising and versatile diving destination in this article.
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DIVING IN DAUIN IN A NUTSHELL
Information about Dauin. Dauin is located in the southeast of Negros island, just below the larger city of Dumaguete. Diving is the big tourist attraction in this place and you will find many diving schools and diving resorts along the coast. You can dive beautifully from the shore, most diving schools offer boat dives and Apo island with its beautiful coral reefs is nearby. Large parts of the coast are protected in natural parks, making the marine life there varied and exuberant.
How to get to Dauin?
You will probably arrive on Negros by boat in Dumaguete. From there, you can take a taxi or moped to the bus station from where you can take any bus heading south. (Bayawan, Sipalay or Hinobaan) Tell the conductor where you want to go and they will drop you off closest to it. You buy a ticket on the bus, so you don't have to find a ticket office first.
I took a taxi straight to my accommodation in Dauin. I arrived later than planned due to circumstances, I was tired and sweaty and I wanted to continue in one go. I paid 1,200 php for the taxi from the port in Sibulan to Dauin, which converted to about 21 euros. (2023)
You can also fly to Dumaguete from Manila or Cebu. You will then arrive at the airport in Dumaguete from which you will continue your journey the same way as from the port.
BOAT DIVING VERSUS SHORE DIVING IN DAUIN
A number of dive resorts offer both shore dives and boat dives. You then dive in slightly different places off the coast of Dauin. Sometimes you also dive at the same places, but you don't have to swim out as much and you don't have to take a van to the dive site, but instead sit comfortably on a boat. I dived at Bongo Bongo diverse and they offer both for the same rate. I loved both the shore dives and the boat dives and could not distinguish between quality dives. Despite the shore dives being easy, I found it even easier from the boat. This is mainly because I dive with two tanks, from the boat I just don't have to lift as much.
What is Muck diving anyway? The translation of the English word "muck" is: muck, filth. In the context of muck diving, it is more likely to mean sand or mud. You dive on a sandy plain, with pebbles or (dead) coral pieces. Occasionally you come across a "pile" of live coral or an anemone. This seemingly empty stretch of sand is home to a huge diversity of animals. For instance, different species of octopus, the blue-ringed octopus, the wonderpus, the mimic. But also flamboyant cuttlefish, Ambon scorpionfish, frogfish, seahorses and lots of nudibranchs.
If you are looking for great coral reefs, Dauin might not be your best diving destination. Although they certainly have beautiful patches of coral there, it is still mostly muck. For beautiful coral gardens, you need to be on Apo island, a 30-minute boat ride from Dauin.
How difficult is diving in Dauin?
Diving in Dauin is fairly easy, both from the shore and from a boat. Most dive centres are directly on the shore, so you can walk with your tank across a small stretch of sandy beach into the water. The boats also moor on the beach, you walk onto the ship via a narrow gangway. That seems more exciting than it is, the boat staff will give you a hand and take your diving gear if you want.
The bottom slopes gradually underwater, allowing you to choose how deep you want and can dive. Depending on your dive training, of course. You can thus easily start your dive at depth, and once the end of your bottom time is in sight, continue diving on shallower sections.
They told me there can sometimes be current, but in the three weeks I dived there, I hardly experienced it, if at all. If there was current at all, it was very light.
All in all, I found the diving very easy and manageable. Spotting the animals was not always easy, the experienced local divemaster was a great help. He was very experienced and could easily show me animals I would not have found on my own.
What is the water temperature in the water around the coast of Dauin?
The water temperature averaged 29 degrees, sometimes a degree colder and sometimes a degree warmer. I dived in a long suit and 3 mm thick. I found that warm enough, after many and long dives, I do get colder after a while. So despite some divers entering the water with a shortie, I was very happy with my long suit. In general, I saw that the people who dived more than "once" wore long wetsuits.
SCUBA DIVING AROUND APO ISLAND
A 30-minute boat ride from the coast of Dauin is Apo Island. This island is known for its beautiful coral reefs; you can do some great diving on each side of the island. It gives you a wonderful change from muck diving along the coast of Dauin. Large coral structures, lots of fish and even the banded seasnake can be found here. The area around Dauin and Apo island is volcanic and at one of the dive sites around Apo island you can see volcanic bubbles rising from the sand. Super interesting to swim through once.
Around Apo island there is a current, sometimes very strong. If this bothers you, consult your diving school or divemaster. There are several dive sites, so perhaps this can be taken into account. Because you dive by boat at Apo island, the current dive is relatively easy. You jump in, float along on the current for a bit after which the current subsides. The boat then picks you up there, making it still a relatively easy dive. I do not like currents very much, partly because I cannot photograph very easily with currents, but I still found these dives very doable.
DIVING SCHOOLS IN DAUIN
There is plenty to choose from. From superdeluxe to suitable for a backpacker's budget. Diving ansich is not very expensive, I paid 22 euros for a guided (boat) dive, including sanctuary fees. I dove with BongoBongo A super dive school with fine accommodation. I generally dived there alone with a divemaster, three at most. Really small groups and people of the same level were always put together. I think even divers with similar desires, because I by always with other photographers or people who liked slow diving.
Most dive companies dive in Dauin from various spots along the coast, with or without a boat.
ACCOMMODATION IN DAUIN
Recommending accommodation where I haven't slept myself I always find a little tricky. In any case, I can tell you that there is plenty of accommodation, I saw several (dive) resorts there. The couple I occasionally dived with had a small private flat nearby via Airbnb and the divemasters in training had booked a cottage together in Dauin. There is plenty of choice in that respect. I stayed overnight at the dive centre BongoBongo diverse and found it a perfect location.
As I was on my own, I rented a small single room with shared bathroom and shared toilet. Everything was fat, clean and tidy. And that for less than a tenner a night. They have different types of rooms, also with private toilet/shower. The pool and lounge are cosy and also serve a bit as a living room. I met nice people there and the wifi was good enough to do some work on the computer in the evening. The pool is great to cool off in and they give diving courses.