Ahh Camiguin. Wait…what’s a Camiguin?!
Whereas most dive destinations in the Philippines are pretty well known, Camiguin; a small, 229km squared island 10km off the northeast coast of Mindanao is somewhat obscure.
Camiguin actually has the highest volcano density of any island in the world; boating 7 volcanos: which makes it a visually spectacular place to visit, with some epic treks.
There are also some next level dive sites here with awesome coral, schools of giant jack, turtles and reef fish.
However, I’ll tell you a secret: not all Camiguin diving is equal and some dive centres try to sell you the less good dive sites!
What to know where in Camiguin you should really opt to dive as well as how to reach this obscure destination, where to stay and what else there is to do there? Then read the f*ck on!
#1 Amazing Soft Coral Gardens
Some of the best dive sites around Camiguin are those featuring extensive soft coral gardens such as “coral garden” with enormous neon green and bright orange sea fans as well as frogfish, seahorses, pipefish and nudibranch.
In some of the soft coral gardens further out to sea (like the sometimes drift dive “black forest:), you also have a good chance of seeing larger pelagic fish.
#2 Volcanic Rock formations
Known as “the island born of fire” Camiguin has seven volcanos (the highest volcano ratio of any island in the world!). It’s therefore not surprising that there are some awesome underwater rock formation on several of the dive sites, especially round the dive site “old volcano” where divers can see many sharp pinnacles formed by volcanic lava.
#3 Larger pelagic species
Although far from guarenteed, larger pelagic species are sometimes seen around some dive sites including eagle rays and whitetip reef sharks – and very rarely manta rays and whale sharks as well!
#4 Schooling Jackfish
Around the dive site Mantigue Island, it’s very common to see large schools of jackfish: a large species of pelagic fish with shiny silver bodies and powerful, muscular bodies.
There’s quiet a few turtles to be spotted around Camiguin including green sea turtles and the rarer hawksbill turtle species. You can usually see at least one on most dives.
What I will also tell you about diivng Camiguin, is that there are a few dive sites that in my opinion are overhyped and not worth it. Namely these are:
Because there is less tourist development around Camiguin, accommodation is both more limited and more expensive.
There’s a small selection of places you can stay. Bear in mind that most accommodation options, restaurants and dive centres / resorts are situated along the north side of the island within close (ish – still up to thirty minutes away) proximity to Mambajao, the islands’ only city.
There’s also a few dive resorts along the east side of the island and they are cheaper but further from restaurants.
I strongly recommend you check out my main article on the List of Best Camiguin Accommodation for Divers
Also, let me give you another vital tip: If you’re staying somewhere that doesn’t’ do breakfasts, realise that virtually all cafes and restaurants only open at 9… whereas the dive centres have meet times between 8 and 8:30. Your only option for food will be the CHECKPOINT: a double story, wooden block of small shops and restaurants, where you can buy cheap filipino food (rice, eggs, tocineta etc) both to eat there or take as a packed lunch with you. When looking for the checkpoint on google maps, just don’t confuse it with the military checkpoint all the way in mambajao!
Camiguin, being Camiguin is a little different from the rest of the Philippines and has its own distinct dive season.
Generally speaking, dry season runs from April to November (which is rainy season in many other parts of the Philippines) and during this time divers will experience the calmest conditions and best visibility.
Between the months of December to March is monsoon season – heavy rainfall and rough seas can make dive conditions far from adequate although not impossible.
One of the reasons that Camiguin is so obscure as a traveller destination is because it’s kind of a b*tch to get to if you don’t fly!
If you are willing to fly, Camiguin does have an airport, which can most easily be reached reach from Cebu airport.
However if you’re taking a ferry, your options are more limited.
You can reach Camiguin from Bohol; however to do so you must get to Jagna port which is a two hour bus ride from Tagbilaran (which is right next to Panglao). After reaching Jagna port, it’s a four hour ferry ride, which currently goes daily at 13:00 – but in the past has only departed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday’s so check the ferry schedule in advance!
Camiguin can also be reached via ferry from Cagayan de Oro on mainland Mindanao.
Camiguin has stricter health security than other parts of the Philippines so make sure to have downloaded and filled out your Camiguin health pass before you arrive to avoid hassle
As you’ll soon discover upon arriving in Camiguin, it is a visually spectacular island with seven mighty volcanos covered in dense jungle, waterfalls, white sand beaches and volcanic rock formations. It is a great place for mini-ventures! Here’s a few of my favourite things to do in Camiguin besides dive:
#1 Mt. Hibok-Hibok
Mount Hibok-Hibok is the largest of Camiguin’s 7 volcanos and at 1,132 meters it towers over the island offering superb panoramic views. It’s a 6.6 mile trek there and back; one which starts off deceptively easy but soon becomes moderately challenging as it get ever steeper and you climb and haul your ass through dense, humid jungle.
As well as the main viewpoint from Mount Hibok-Hibok there is also a crater lake which is a very serene and mystical place indeed – you can even camp there over night to catch the sunrise the next day.
It generally takes around 5 hours to go there and back and you have to take a guide – trust me on this, you’ll be glad you did as the “trail” becomes totally obscure through thick, dense jungle. This trek is best started early in the day to avoid the heat!
Without a doubt, this was the coolest thing I did on Camiguin, besides dive although it left me totally wiped out. Remember to hydrate!
#2 Mount Vulcan
A much tamer trek, which takes around an hour there and back again is Mount Vulcan, a series of steps leading up to mount Vulcan aka the old volcano. It’s relatively easy and you get some decent views from the top, although not so spectacular.
There’s also a bunch of statues depicting Jesus’ cross-burdened trek which are of fairly high religious importance for the loca.s.
To be honest, when I did this trek I was under the impression that you could get to the top of Mount Vulcan as were several other travellers I met along the way, but this is no longer possible so you don’t get any panoramic view and there’s quite a lot of tree coverage as well so you only get a decent view from a few small places in the route.
Still, it’s a semi-decent place to go around sunset time and whilst a fairly easy trek, it’s still a great calves-blasting workout!
Falls, falls, falls! It seems that every part of the Philippines has them. If you’ve already been to loads of waterfalls elsewhere in the Philippines you may be tempted to skip them here in Camiguin , however I strongly recommend that you at least make it to Katibawasan falls which was one of the largest and most impressive waterfalls I’ve seen in all of Philippines.
There’s also the smaller, in my opinion less impressive Binangawan and Tuasan falls.
#4 Ardent Hot Springs
If hot springs are yo’ thang, then you’ll definitely wanna check out Camiguins! Set at the foot of Mount Hibok-Hibok, the ardent hot springs are a popular location with tourists and locals alike, being just a ten minute drive from Mambajao.
They are a series of four man-made pools and natural springs at around 40 degrees celcius and surrounded by lush forest. The warm water and relaxing location is an ideal place to sooth any aching muscles after say, a trek up Mount Hibok-Hibok or an intense diving course. There’s also a cafe there to grab a snack and a drink.
#5 Sand Bar
A tiny spit of sand that you can reach via boat for 450 pesos, the main appeal here is the awesome view it gives you back towards Camiguin island and the decent nearby snorkeling. There’s not a single tree or umbrella for shade, so make sure you’ve doused yourself in plenty of sunscreen, if like me, you burn at the nearest whiff of UV – hisssss!
Staying healthy on the road is important…m’kaaaaay? You never known when flying saucers might descend upon the earth en-masse, blow up the Whitehouse, lay waste to humanities most iconic cities and structures and then just float about in a totally half-assed job of not wiping out the remainder of us.
Now, if you’re one of those humans whose not broken a single sweat in months of travel and beer consumption, your chances of out-running those continent obliterating laser beams of death will be even slimmer than the rest of ours! However it ain’t gotta be this way! There’s a few gyms on Camiguin.
My favourite one was Island Gym, which I had virtually all to myself and was decked out with just about every kind of gym gear and machine you could ever imagine all in bright colours across a huge space. There’s no ac, but there is a speaker you can connect your phone to via bluetooth. Nice touch.
And so the sunsets on yet another Diving Squad destination guide article; in this case the mysterious and seldom travelled Camiguin…the island born of fire!
We’ve covered a lot in this article. First we talked about what divers can see in Camiguin and I also gave a few secret tips on dive sites to avoid being sold by dive centres.
Then we went over the best divers accommodation in Camiguin, which I’ve expanded upon in a separate article that you can find a link to below.
After this, I went over when to go, then how to get there and other things to do in Camiguin. This was followed by info on gyms and places to eat. And now we’re done!
If you’re serious about going to Camiguin and you want to find the best accommodation and dive centre for your budget and travel style I most heartily recommend you check out this separate article I wrote about the best Camiguin accommodation for divers. Go, go, go – check it out now!