Dauin is a small coastal town in the province of Negros Oriental in the Philippines. It boasts a number of popular beach resorts and plenty of fantastic diving opportunities for all levels. Perhaps the greatest selling point for Dauin is the muck diving opportunities it presents. Hidden in the black volcanic sand is an impressive range of macro life comparable to the world-class muck diving at Lembeh Strait and Sulawesi in Indonesia. Together with the surrounding areas of Dumaguete and Apo Island, this whole region is a macro diver’s paradise, however the area is also well-known for larger marine life sightings. In addition to the fantastic muck diving and the great underwater photography opportunities it presents, the region also offers wall dives, wrecks, drift dives and relaxed reef dives to truly satisfy every diver’s fascination with our magnificent underwater world.
Marine Conservation in Dauin
Marine sanctuaries were first established in the Philippines in the 1980s. Dr Angela Alcala from the Silliman University was deeply troubled by the major decline in fish population as a result of aggressive fishing techniques in the area, and so established the first sanctuary off Sumilon Island. Due to the high successes of this small sanctuary, additional sanctuaries were established to restore, protect and conserve the fantastic array of unique marine life in the area. The sanctuaries use simple but effective methods to protect the underwater life: reefs are clearly marked by buoys and no fishing is permitted within the area. Other activity in the region, such as scuba diving, is also closely monitored for the impact it might have on the region. Many of the local dive operators now contribute to conserve the marine areas by establishing themselves as 100% Project Aware. Dive and beach clean ups are done on a fairly regular basis to help limit the damage to the environment.
Apo Island is considered by many to be a model of conservation for other islands in the Philippines as it is one of the best functioning marine protected areas. Thanks to these sanctuaries, the reefs surrounding Dauin are some of the best preserved in the whole of the Philippines.
Best Diving Destinations in Dauin
Diving around Dauin and the university town of Dumaguete offers a wide variety of experiences. Located only 14 kilometres apart, these two areas are easily explored on the same holiday, with plenty of time to visit the famous Apo Island too. In recent years, the municipality has given ‘protected’ status to a number of areas, establishing several marine sanctuaries where boating and fishing are prohibited. The sanctuary sites offer great varieties and quantities of marine life and include Dauin sanctuary, Mainit sanctuary, Luca sanctuary and Masaplod sanctuary.
Dauin is a fantastic diving location for a number of reasons. World-famous for its muck diving, that’s definitely not all that this small coastal town has to offer. Dauin has a number of wreck sites and drift dives too and is often less crowded than some of the other areas. Shore diving is possible all along the coastline, with many of the local sites suiting all levels of divers. The sites can also be reached by boat, with many divers opting to use a boat to visit the islands further afield from the shore such as Apo Island which is a 30 minute boat ride away. Most boat journeys are within the region of 5 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the location.
Muck diving in Dauin is what many visitors come to this region for, as the muck diving here has been compared with the likes of Lembeh Strait in Indonesia, considered by many to be the best muck diving location in the world. With amazing biodiversity and everything to see from ambon scorpion fish and flamboyant cuttlefish to frogfish and nudibranchs, macro divers will be in paradise. The area is well-known for hosting a number of weird, wonderful and highly dangerous species of octopus including the mimic octopus, the wonderpus, the deadly blue ringed octopus and the poison ocellate octopus.
The wreck dives in Dauin consist of a series of sunken jeeps which are now home to a fantastic array of underwater life and make for great underwater photography subjects. Another great spot for photographers is the Pier, however this is sometimes closed due to heavy boat traffic in the area. No matter where you decide to dive, if you are an underwater photography enthusiast it is best to bring both macro and wide angle lenses, as you’ll be lucky enough to need both when diving in Dauin.
Apo Island is extremely popular with scuba divers, and for good reason. This entire island is a dive site completely surrounded by beautiful and well-preserved coral reefs and an abundance of colourful marine life in all shapes and sizes. It forms part of only a few properly functioning marine protected areas within the Philippines and is certainly a highlight of any visit to this region. Divers are almost guaranteed to spot sea turtles when diving at Apo Island, not to mention bumphead parrotfish, triggerfish, lionfish, wrasses and sea snakes. Apo Island is only a 30 minute boat ride from the mainland and also presents the chance to see blue spotted rays, sharks and even whale sharks on occasion. Some of the more popular dive sites around Apo Island include Rockpoint, Chapel and Coconut Point. From Apo Island it is also popular to explore the islands of Bohol, Siquijor and the Sumilon Islands. Siquijor is well-known for its pristine coral reefs and the many wall dives on offer where divers have the chance to see eagle rays, turtles, snappers and whitetip reef sharks. The Sumilon Islands are on the outskirts of the region and are also great for wall diving and also for drift diving. Here divers are likely to see schools of anthias, sharks and fusiliers.
For drift diving in Dauin, the marine sanctuary of Masaplod is worth a visit when currents are strong. Large coral beds are home to an array of marine life including jacks, snappers and the occasional barracuda. As always, the region is lucky enough to boast regular sightings of laid back sea turtles, so these are an almost guaranteed entry into your log book no matter where you dive in the area.
Getting to Dauin
Dumaguete has a small airport that receives daily flights from Manila and Cebu, but these are limited to only one or two a day. A number of international operators will fly into Manila or Cebu from international destinations and both Philippine Air and Cebu Pacific will operate the domestic flights to Dumaguete. It is possible to take a bus from Cebu south bus terminal to Dumaguete which will take around 3-4 hours. Travelling by ferry is also a possibility, with daily ferries taking 3-4 hours and travelling via Tagbiliran in Bohol to get to Dumaguete. This ferry service is operated by Ocean Jet.
If Dauin is your final destination, a tricycle or Ceres Bus from Dumaguete will get you there. Any of the busses towards Hinobaan, Sipalay or Bayawan will also go via Dauin, but it is always a good idea to chat with the bus driver before boarding. When travelling by taxi, ensure that the taxi driver turns the meter on to get the most accurate fare. Similarly when travelling by tricycle, always aim to agree the price before getting into the tricycle. The local Philippine people can usually speak or understand English, but of course this is not always the case. It is also possible to arrange a transfer to Dauin with your hotel, lodge or resort.
Where to Stay in Dauin
Many visitors choose to stay in the nearby university town of Dumaguete and travel to Dauin and the surrounding areas on short, enjoyable day trips. As Dauin is only 14 kilometres south of Dumaguete, travelling between the two is easily done. Referred to by the locals as the ‘city of gentle people’, Dumaguete has a number of entertainment and nightlife options as well as accommodation options to suit every traveller’s budget. It has a pier, an airport with good connections to other areas of the Philippines and a number of activities available to the adventurous traveller. Visitors can enjoy city tours, canyoning, trekking or even choose to explore the hot springs and waterfalls in the area. There are also two crater lakes nearby, known as the Twin Lakes of Balinsasayo. Situated between four mountains and home to an array of birdlife and wildlife, visitors can enjoy an entire day in these stunning surroundings and try their luck at fishing, kayaking and boating on the lake.
For a more relaxing day, why not try out one of the many local spas, offering beauty treatments, massages and yoga classes too. A worthwhile visit when in the area is Baslay Hot Spring. Located in Barangay Baslay, many consider this hot spring to contain health benefits due to the sulphur that naturally occurs in the spring, and is one of the best ways to wind down after an exciting day of diving.
Due to its large concentration of students, there are a number of bars and nightlife options in Dumaguete as well as many restaurants serving a wide variety of food types. The Hayahay Treehouse Bar and Restaurant is popular thanks to its cheap drinks, great live music and good seafood options, whereas Guiseppes offers delicious Italian fare. Mamia’s on the boulevard is famous for its tasty Australian steaks as well as its cheap beer, and the boulevard is also where you’ll find plenty of lively bars popular with both locals and tourists. Dumaguete boasts all types of food from student favourites to traditional Austrian dishes, and Casablanca’s located right by the water is the top choice for Vienna schnitzel and roasted pork.
Dumaguete also boasts a zoo and a marine lab featuring some of the many rare and endangered species from the surrounding areas.The area is easily explored by motorbike, which you can rent from a number of places locally. If you plan on shopping in the small local shops in Dumaguete and its surroundings, it is recommended to have a number of small bills and change to make your purchases. These small shops do not tend to carry change for higher bills.
Dumaguete is a fully-functioning town with hospitals and other health care facilities, immigration offices, supermarkets and plenty of tourist offices to help arrange a variety of land and water-based activities. Although there are plans for a hyperbaric chamber to be installed at the Negros Provincial Hospital in Dumaguete, currently the closest chamber is 170 kilometres away at the military base in Lapu-Lapu City, so always ensure that you are obeying your dive instructor’s safety warnings and completing your necessary safety stops.
Many dive shops in the region also offer dive training, and even younger children can enjoy some dive training thanks to a number of centres offering the Junior Open Water and Junior Advanced Open Water qualifications.
When to Visit Dauin
Although each region of the Philippines has its own unique micro climate, many follow the same general climate pattern. Hot, wet summers occur between May and September, whilst winter is generally dryer and occurs from October to January. Spring is a short season between February and April.
Dumaguete in particular presents two distinct seasons: the dry season from December to May and the wet season from June to November. The hottest months tend to be April and May with temperatures reaching highs of 34°C, and in the cooler months temperatures tend to drop to around 23°C. Although Dumaguete does not generally experience typhoons, the typhoon season for the Visayas region is from June to October.
If you’re looking to explore the area by liveaboard, a number of companies offer routes between the months of June and September. Some routes will run for only 3 days, exploring the sites around the islands of Apo, Sumilon and Siquijor, whilst other routes will be a week long and stop off at these islands before heading further afield to the Visayas.