Scuba Diving Cabilao Island

Scuba Diving Cabilao

With over 7,107 islands, scuba diving in the Philippines really does have something for everyone and every level of diver. The more advanced divers are able to enjoy the wonderful wrecks this country has to offer, meanwhile entry level divers will benefit from the easy beach entries!

After spending our first couple of weeks in the Philippines in Palawan, we decided to venture to the small, remote Island of Cabilao. And it’s on this beautiful island, where we did our first bit of Scuba Diving.

Cabilao Island, Bohol

Cabilao Island is a small triangular shaped island just 7.2 square kilometers in size. It lies off of the west island of Bohol, and comes within the region of Loon.

Bird hunting is forbidden in Cabilao Island, and, as a result, you can see more birds on this small island than you can in most of Bohol. The island is also home to Bohol’s only natural lake, Lake Lanao. Lake Lanao is located near the barangay Pantudlan, and also serves a bird sanctuary.

The island itself is beautiful. But the main reason that most visitors come to Cabilao Island is for the Scuba diving that Cabilao island has to offer.

PADI Dive Centers Cabilao

One thing to mention is that there are only two PADI Dive Centers in Cabilao Island. Being a PADI Rescue Diver myself, Ryan wanted to complete his PADI Open Water course during the week that we were in Cabilao. Unfortunately, the resort we were staying at only offered SSI courses.

When we approached the resort and asked if they could recommend any PADI dive centers on the island, explaining that Ryan wanted to complete his PADI OW course, we were surprised to hear their response – There wasn’t any.

Having recently already done my research, I knew that there were PADI Dive Centers in Cabilao. After a short 2 minute walk along the beach, we came across La Estrella Beach and Dive Resort. And sure enough, there we found the PADI logo, PADI flag, and two lovely PADI dive instructors.

After a warm welcome from David and Clara, we signed Ryan up for his PADI OW and 4 dives for me.

Scuba Diving in Cabilao

The Philippines is the perfect destination for gaining and perfecting new scuba skills while being able to enjoy a wide array of underwater life. I knew that Cabilao island was popular for scuba divers, but little did I know just how beautiful the marine life and diving was here. With most of the dive sites being just a short boat ride away, we were spoilt for choice.

We started our trip off by snorkeling on the reef just outside of our resort, the Polaris Beach and Dive Resort. As soon as we put our towels down on the beach we spotted our first banded sea snake hiding in the rocks. I couldn’t believe it, not even in the water yet and I had already seen some new marine life! It wasn’t long after we got into the water, that we saw another swimming through the seagrass.

The tide changes very often in Cabilao Island, but the reef is very easy to swim to from the beach. I recommend wearing booties or water shoes as there isn’t much sand on the way to the wall. Watch out for chocolate chip sea stars, they’re everywhere!

After Ryan had finished his first day of diving, it was time for me to join him. Excited was an understatement! I hadn’t been diving for a couple of years and couldn’t wait to get my BCD on and get in the water.  Due to the island’s reputation for scuba diving, my expectations were high, but little did I know just how lucky we were to be able to dive here.

Diving at Lighthouse

Our first dive together was to the Lighthouse dive site in Cabilao. Only a 5-minute boat journey from La Estrella Beach Resort. The slope here is covered with seagrass and an abundance of corals going down to about 15 meters.

Although this dive spot is known to be a highlight for underwater photographers because of its variety of rare marine macro life, it was along the slope where we saw our first ever green turtle, gliding through the blue ocean. And what a sight it was! We were also lucky enough to spot a huge frogfish perched on the seabed, looking as grumpy as ever! Different kinds of scorpionfish, ghost pipefish, sea snakes, and many different kinds of shrimp and crabs are all regularly sighted here.

Diving at Fallen Tree

We spent our second dive at Fallen Tree, a short ride by boat from the resort. This dive site is a gradual slope from the shore to around 18 meters. It’s here where there is then a steep wall reaching to about 50 meters deep. Making it a perfect drift dive for advanced divers.

Myself and Clara swam into the current here for a few minutes before turning back and drift diving towards to boys to continue our dive together. Off of the wall and towards the dark blue you can sometimes spot large schools of barracudas. The coral walls are thriving with beautiful pyjama cardinal fish and other colorful fish hiding within the hard corals. Look out for Nudibranch!

Diving at Chapel Point

Chapel Point is the furthest dive site we went to with La Estrella Beach and Dive Resort, although this still only took about 15-20 minutes to get to. The best dive spots really are right on your doorstep in Cabilao! On the way to Chapel Point, there is a marine sanctuary, where the island prohibits snorkeling, diving, and fishing in order to preserve the coral reefs and marine life.

Chapel Point is an excellent spot for afternoon dives, where the sun is set at just the right angle. Here we found lots of hard corals and caves in the shallower part of the dive where you can see so many different coral fish. It’s here where you can find a big area with huge table corals. The steep wall is covered with soft corals and gorgonians, perfect places for small frogfish and nudibranch to call home.

Diving the Gorgonia Wall

We took to the Gorgonia Wall for our last dive together. The wall runs to about 100 meters out from and parallel to the shore, which can be clearly seen in different shades of beautiful blues from our drone footage. The wall starts at 5 meters and goes down to about 60 meters deep. It’s covered with all different types of corals, gorgonian fans and sponges. Some of my favorites bubble coral, elephant ear corals, and daisy corals.

Here we saw plenty of coral fish and colorful nudibranch. Unfortunately, me and Clara couldn’t find any pygmy seahorses but they are there somewhere! Being surrounded by undisturbed reefs and with no other divers in sight, the peaceful atmosphere really makes this dive special.

Some dives with many firsts, but this will certainly not be our last time diving here.

Cabilao Island Marine Park and Scuba Diving Fees

Cabilao has been declared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as a Marine Park/Reserve and therefore the following fees apply. The collected fees are used for the conservation of the Marine Park.

One time entrance fee for divers and non-divers (DENR) Php 100.00
Scuba Diving Fee per Person and Day (Municipality of Loon) Php 150.00

How to Get to Cabilao Island

Getting to Cabilao Island isn’t as tricky as it looks. Like most places in the Philippines, traveling to these amazing destinations can take some time! But believe me, they are worth it!

Many of the resorts in Cabilao Island will offer to arrange transportation to the island so that you don’t have to! But, if you plan on doing some exploring around the area or like us, are a little more adventurous, why not make the trip yourself? Below I have listed the easiest options.

Internal Flights

(Cebu / Manila to Tagbilaran City Airport)

If you are coming from outside of the Philippines, you will most probably be arriving at either Mactan Cebu International Airport or Manila Airport, the main airports in the Philippines. Both airports offer internal flights to the nearest airport to Cabilao Island, Tagbilaran City – Bohol.

Once in Tagbilaran City, you will find a variety of taxis ready to take you to Mocpoc Wharf, Sandigan Island. In Mocpoc local outrigger boats will be able to take you across to Cabilao Island where you can either walk or take a motorbike transfer to the resort.

Alternatively, contact your resort to see if they have their own boat which can pick you up from Mocboc and take you directly to your hotel.

OceanJet and FastCat Ferries

(Cebu to Tagbilaran City)

The OceanJet and FastCat services from Cebu Port offer direct routes to Tagbilaran City several times a day. These journeys take just over 2 hours. From Tagbilaran City, you can get a taxi to Mocpoc Wharf, Sandigan Island, where outriggers are available to take you to Cabilao Island. The taxi journey takes about 40 minutes to 1 hour.

Many of the local boats in Mocpoc will wait until there are sufficient people on board before setting off.  You can, however, pay the difference to leave straight away. Once on Cabilao Island, you can either walk or take a motorbike transfer to your resort.

Alternatively, contact your resort to see if they have their own boat which can pick you up from Mocboc and take you directly to your hotel.

We recommend that you allow a full day for all of the trips detailed above. 

My Experience of Getting to Cabilao Island

As an ex Exec Assistant, I pride myself in my organizational skills, so this trip was an opportunity for me to work my magic, unfortunately, that didn’t go as planned!

All in all, me and Ryan spent around 10 hours traveling to Cabilao Island from Puerto Princesa. We made the mistake of not booking an earlier flight into Mactan Cebu International Airport, so when it was delayed, (unsurprisingly), we didn’t reach Cebu until around 17:00 pm.

This meant that we had about an hour or so to catch the last OceanJet ferry from the port, get to Tagbilaran City and then grab a taxi to Sandigan Island and hope there was an outrigger boat to take us to Cabilao Island.

Luckily for us, everything worked out! Apart from getting to our resort around 10:30 pm that evening, overpaying for the late night outrigger boat from Sandigan to Cabilao (1700php) and having to do that crossing in the pitch black during a storm, we made it!

Needless to say, this little adventure doesn’t exactly sound like a dream, but by learning through my experience you will have no issues in getting to Cabilao Island!

Here are my recommendations and tips for traveling to Cabilao Island!

AirAsia flights are almost always delayed – Opt for an earlier flight if that’s an option.

Always use a metered Taxi – Be safe and avoid being overcharged.

Check-in Luggage for OceanJet – You are only allowed one piece of carry on for this ferry, check in larger items. This cost us around 50php each. for our 60L backpacks.

Challenge prices – It may not be a lot of difference but tourists are often given much higher prices.

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