Underwater Photography Philippines: A review about two amazing dive sites for macro shots , written by biologist and underwater photographer Klaus Stiefel.
The Philippines would be a really nice travel destination if they were entirely land-locked.
Volcanoes, fun people and a bunch of old churches would be worth visiting, but for me, the real magic in this country starts underwater.
The Philippines are located in the famed coral triangle, the part of the world between eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines with the highest marine biodiversity on the whole planet. A good triangle to be in!
Unfortunately all over the world the oceans have suffered from overfishing. This is also the case in Southeast Asia, with many millions of people depending on the ocean as a source of food, so you won’t necessarily see lots of sharks and tunas when diving in the Philippines – but you will see an incredible amount of unreal-looking tiny marine animals.
For me, Dauin on the island of Negros and Anilao in Batangas are the top spots for underwater macro photography, especially for shooting these small but absolutely fascinating critters.
Underwater Photography Philippines : Dauin
Dauin, is located on the foothills of the great volcanoes of Negros, and the volcanic sand on its beaches is dark brown. You will also dive a lot above sand in Dauin. Occasionally coral reefs grow in the more protected bays on the Dauin coast, and in some locations artificial reefs made from concrete structures or old tires were laid down, sometimes several decades ago. These artificial structures give corals and sponges a solid underground to grow on, and the corals in turn are homes for reef fishes and invertebrates.
To me Dauin is one of the most exciting spots to dive in if you are interested in small fishes and shrimp. I have seen so many gobies, seahorses, pipefish, dragonets, sand divers and triple-fins here, and after several hundred dives in the area I am still amazed by the fish diversity every time I dive. Pretty much every anemone you encounter will have at least one type of tiny translucent shrimp or porcelain crab living in-between its tentacles. Saw-blade shrimp and spider-crabs populate the soft-corals. At night between the coral rubble you will have the chance to see the extremely pretty marble shrimp. It’s a real crab-lover’s paradise.
Underwater Photography Philippines : Anilao
Anilao is one of the oldest diving spots in the country, only a few hours south of the huge city of Manila, but its gentle hills and calm bays give it a very different vibe than the traffic-crazed capital of the Philippines.
Some of the dive sites in Anilao are coral reefs, others are classic muck diving sites, with seemingly only sand or coral rubble, but lots of unusual animals to discover for those who swim slowly and look carefully.
I have never, ever dived in a place with nearly as many different sea slugs. These nudibranchs are the darlings of every diver and underwater photographer. With their fantastic shapes and appendages, and their striking colors and patterns they look more like the aliens in a SciFi movie or like something Picasso on LSD would see than like real animals.
Some of them mimic soft corals or algae and are very hard to spot – the great Filipino dive guides who will take you on your underwater tour of Anilao will point them out to you.
The type of diving involving the hunt for rare small animals as it’s done in Dauin and Anilao might seem less spectacular at first, but to the real marine life aficionado it does not get any better.
About the Author:
Dr. Klaus M. Stiefel is a biologist, writer, underwater photographer and scuba instructor currently based in the Philippines. His blog is found at www.pacificklaus.com
Klaus recently published “The Camera and the Brain”, a book about brain research and photography. You can buy it here.