Most of the diving around General Santos is directly off the beaches as many of the reef structures are only 50m from shore or closer!
Sarangani Bay is not only excellent for Scuba but with fresh winds most of the time should also be good for Wind Surfing and Sailing.
GenSan, as it is affectionately called, is a charming blend of cultures from around the Philippines. Christian pioneers, led by General Paulino Santos, settled here in 1939. It became the Municipality of Rajah Buayan in 1948 until the City Charter was passed by Congress in 1968.
The mellow, provincial temperament of the region’s population and their traditions of hospitality and cultural diversity guarantee a warm welcome for travelers.
General Santos Dive Sites
TAMPUAN/TINOTO WALL COMPLEX (The Wall)
The Tampuan/Tinoto Wall runs for about 10kms with a reported depth of around 200m. It is situated about 50km from Gen. San. in the vicinity of Tinoto Village. It is easy to reach via the US Aid funded road so the journey takes only about 45m minutes. From the road to the waters edge is only 25 meters or so making access very easy. From the High Water Mark to the top of the wall is no more than 50 meters with Coral Gardens in between. In some areas, these Coral Gardens have been viewed as equal to any in the world by Jack Jackson, the Author of “The Dive Sites of the Philippines”.
The corals are fine but the wall itself can only be described as awesome. The wall is well covered with sea fans, hydroids, sponges, tunicates and many other life forms that are home to nudibranchs, cucumbers, crustaceans and reef fish.
Off the wall, larger species such as Napoleon wrasse, bump head parrotfish, eagle & manta rays, tuna and others can be seen along with many different kinds of shoaling fish. Hammerhead sharks have also been reported in the area. The deeper you go, the bigger the fish!
The currents can be strong at times but usually only for short periods. The visibility is normally from 10m to splendid, making snorkeling excellent. The Coral Garden is good for all levels of diver if the current is slack but diving over the wall is definitely not for the faint hearted.
AMADORA’s Diving Resort
This is just a single cottage at the edge of the road but is situated in probably the best place for diving on the whole Wall and is therefore well used. The diving here is described above.
Just 300 meters along the wall, Partridge Point again has the same features but unfortunately, blast fishing caused damage to some areas of the Coral Garden. The shore land is owned by an American who has a very comfortable weekender set up and is very receptive to careful divers.
LAU-TENGCO POINT/BARRACUDA POINT
Just after Partridge Point, the Wall does an “S” bend, which creates a totally different environment. Again, at the top of the wall is a Coral Garden, which is recovering from blast damage. The reef fish congregate in large numbers and can be very spectacular. Large barracuda are seen but usually at depth. The currents are very washing machine like at times and throw you in any direction and can be very strong but they usually give a few minutes warning before gaining strength giving divers time to get out of the water.
This is set in a small bay and does not get many problems with currents but visibility can drop off especially after rain. There has been damage to corals in some areas but it’s still worth a dive.
As the name suggests, this is a small resort on top of a cliff. The view is excellent but the path to the dive site is more for a mountain goat rather than a diver in full gear! The dive is good but it is better to make this a boat dive.
From the shore, you are on the wall, there is no more than a few meters of shallow water before you go over the edge. The cliffs usually shade this wall area so the dive is darker than other areas but still good. Tunicates, sponges, hydroids and nudibranchs are abundant. Again, because of access difficulties, this dive is better from a boat.
VETERANS BEACH (Sulifman Diving Site)
This is situated at the very end of the wall. At the entry point, the seabed slopes off gently but as you go further into the dive, you are on the wall but not as deep. There are a few pinnacles here and lots to see but unfortunately there has been the odd piece of blast damage in the upper areas. This site is the guaranteed no current site but the visibility can drop off at times. This is always an interesting dive especially the 20 or so uneven steps leading down to the dive site.
All of the above locations have very cheap day cottages for rent, Php 150.00 is average. Site Security has not been a problem so far.
4ML STRAND RESORT
This is the first dive spot off the wall. Access is easy, as the area has been developed into a small resort with sandy beaches. The diving is simple and shallow, 15m. The top in places has been damaged by destructive fishing methods but not too much. The main interest on the dive is the expanse of branching corals which probably runs for an unbroken 300m and is home to many species of reef fish.
THE BEACH RESORT AREAS
The main Beach Resort area of General Santos has some very Interesting Diving and is not really affected by the volume of tourists using the area. Access to all the sites is very easy along good roads.
PALALISAN REEF RESERVE
This is a new Reserve Area and has been designated as such by the local village people. The dive is nothing special really but for a huge coral outcrop in one area. The principle of the Reserve is good and shows that the local population is interested in preservation.
LONDON BEACH RESORT
This is probably the best-laid out Resort in the area with good accommodation. There is a bamboo safety boom enclosing the swimming area.
Over the years, this boom has been replaced as the old ones have sunk forming an artificial reef, which is home to many creatures which like a place to hide. Moray eels, lion and scorpion fish along with juvenile sweetlips are abundant. Shoals of mackerel are seen on most dives along with many other species.
T’BOLI BEACH RESORT
A good location with a small reef but watch for the current.
Cheap group type accommodation is available here.
RAJAH BEACH RESORT
Another good location with a sand and small coral outcrop type of U/W environment
MAHARLIKA BEACH RESORT
This is by far the best site in the local Gen. San Area. The site is the biggest resort in the area and has a natural fresh water swimming pool on shore.
There are large staghorn corals in one area that are home to a huge verity of fish including: sweetlips, groupers, snappers, parrotfish, wrasse, emperors, moorish idols and many more. A resident shoal of yellowtail barracuda patrols the area and shoals of mackerel and jacks are regular visitors. Cow fish, turretfish and filefish are seen and large congregations of shrimpflsh are not uncommon. In June/July, Large squid come by the hundreds to lay eggs on the staghorn corals and do not seem to mind divers too much. Turtles are also regular visitors. This is a good place to dive especially for the new diver as it gives a really good insight into a busy marine community.
TROPICANA BEACH RESORT
Another quality resort with accommodation. The diving is OK with a sandy bottom and small coral outcrops. It is also only 50m from the Maharlika Resort.
This is a new pier, only 2 years old but is interesting to some who want to see the development of marine life grow ing on the legs.
BAWING OFFSHORE PINNACLE
About 500m offshore, there is a large pinnacle which is only 5m below the surface at low tide. The top has been blasted flat by local fishermen but below 12m there are large sea fans and sponges etc. The actual depth to the base is not known, as this pinnacle does not appear on the charts. Access is by small banca from one of the beach resorts.
All the above Dive Sites are on the West Side of the Bay. Entrance to the Resorts is around Php 10.00 per person plus a table/cottage charge of around Php 150.00 per group. The West Side of the Bay does not get too much rain so the water conditions are usually better than the Eastern Side.
THE EASTERN SIDE OF THE BAY
This is a Private area, which is being developed at great expense to be like a small Club Med, an enclosed holiday location. The reef is directly in front of the resort and is mostly in good condition. The currents can be strong but are easily predictable. There is an excellent coral garden where snorkelers will really enjoy as it is in a sheltered area.
This will definitely be an international dive destination in the future.
The top end of this dive is covered with recovering Soft & Hard Corals. At depth on the pinnacles you find large fish such as sweetlips, snappers and wrasse. It’s a good dive but can be prone to strong currents and poor visibility. This dive requires a boat.
Lago is a small fishing village where the corals have been spared from destructive fishing methods The diving itself is very good as most things are available from gentle slopes, coral outcrops, Pinnacles, Huge expanses of branching corals and plenty of fish. Turtles are regular visitors. Mindanao State University Marine Biology Students use the area for research.
This is a Private Reef and the Home of Sarangani Divers. It has been protected over the years by the owners and gets little damage except natural. This, like Lago has everything except in better condition. The fish life is excellent with resident snappers and giant clams and is good for all levels of diver. Permission must be requested and approved by the owners to use this facility.
KABOG MARINE RESERVE
This is another reserve which has been protected after the main damage had been done. There is potential for this site in the future as there are still plenty of corals and fish in good condition. The Zillion Fish Rock, like its nickname suggests is covered with small fish. Turtles are regular visitors.
MALAPATAN OFFSHORE PINNACLE
Again about 500m off shore, this pinnacle is of small diameter with sheer sides The top being only about 5m under the surface at low tide and is covered with fishing nets, which are now integrated into the reef top. If the visibility is good then all kinds of creatures are seen on and around the structure including turtles who seem to use it as a resting-place.
General Santos Travel Guide
The surrounding SOCKSARGEN Growth Region (South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City) is a tropical treasure trove of exciting opportunities. Spring water pools and abundant beach resorts vie for a visitors attention withtrekking and climbing up to the cloudy summit of the 2,293 meter Mt. Matutum, the region’s highest peak, or the breathtaking views from Mt. Parker, a 1,600 meter trek that affords stunning views of the 256-hectare Lake Maughan. Spelunking and rock climbing can be arranged with local enthusiasts. Fishing on Lake Sebu, home to the T’boli and B’laan tribes, is a great option, or you could choose to visit the seven waterfalls tumbling into the lake or explore some of its many caves.
There are several commercial shopping centers with a wide range of goods and the local crafts, such as T’boli,and T’nalak weaving and brassware are world renowned.
GenSan, sometimes known as ‘Tuna City’ for the many tuna canneries in the area, has plenty of restaurants. Fresh seafood is always on the menu especially blue marlin and tuna, and locally grown Australian beef is widely available. The city is famous for its kinilaw (fish marinated in vinegar, shallots, ginger and chili pepper) and sinugba, tuna charcoal broiled in a special sauce. There is a good choice of hotels catering to all budgets and you can sing and dance the night away and meet new friends at one of GenSan’s karaokes, cafes, cocktail bars and lounges.
GenSan has three major festivals every year, Kalilangan Cultural Festival every February 20-27 and the Tuna Festival and Charter Anniversary every September 1-5 and the Lemlunay Cultural Festival at Lake Sebu every last week of November.