Dumaguete is a coastal city and the capital of Negros; the fourth largest island of the Philippines.
Located along the shores between Dumaguete and it’s small, neighbouring town: Dauin are some of the most unique dive sites in all of the Philippines.
Whereas most scuba diving in the Philippines is characterised by epic coral, endless fish and turtles, Dumaguete diving – aka Dauin diving is different.
Most dive sites are instead defined by muck diving. And few divers make it here, so you’ll mostly have these areas to yourself!
What is muck diving you ask? It’s a term coined by scuba divers to describe dive sites with silty / sandy bottoms that at first appear like barren desserts.
However, look closely and you’ll quickly start to discover all manner of quirky macro critters – colour changing cuttlefish, seahorses, pipefish and all kinds of nudibranch and crustaceans!
In this guide, I’ll talk about my own experience diving Dumaguete / Dauin in 2023 and provide you with handy tips such as where to stay, when to go and more. Let’s do this!
Dumaguete diving is mainly defined by muck diving with macro critters. Although a few dive sites have decent hard coral reef, without a doubt the main thing you’ll be looking for are macro critters.
If there’s a macro species in the Philippines worth knowing about it can be found in Dumaguete. It’s an underwater photographers dream! Let’s discus a few of the awesome creatures you can see:
If you were to take an LSD trip and place it in organic form you would have a Flamboyant cuttlefish – aka Metasepia Pfefferi (try saying that after a few red horse beers!).
It is a small species of cuttlefish measuring 2 – 3 inches long that in neutral mode sports the vibrant colours of yellow, pink and orange. However upon being approached by divers, they often begin to change the colour and even texture of their skin, pulsating psychedelic patterns across their entire bodies like some sort of miniature alien spacecraft.
Over the course of just five dive around Dumaguete I saw two of these most far out little dudes. I also saw two other, slightly larger cuttlefish of other species, plus a huge school of squid!
A distant cousin of the land-horse, seahorses capture people’s hearts with their calm, elegant mannerisms. Like regular-horses they are also extremely awkward beings – every time I tried to line my camera up to photograph one, it would turn it’s head to look in the opposite direction. Oh neigh – not again!
There are a variety of small and medium sized seahorses around Dumaguete, during my five dives I saw three different individuals!
Frogfish are curious little beasts; related to angler fish, they are ambush predators that mostly remain motionless upon the seafloor, occasionally using their feet-like pectoral fins to “walk” along it and sneak up on unsuspecting prey that they then engulf whole with a mouth that swells up to be bigger than the rest of the fish itself! (I’ve met people like that…).
The smallest pygmy frogfish measure less than a centimetre across but with a good pair of eyes – or a good dive guide, you’re likely to spot quite a few of these – often at least one or more per dive!
Close relatives of seahorses, pipefish are long, slender fish covered with rings of bony armour and with long tubular mouths, singular dorsal fins and small tail fins.
They form pair-bonds and subsequently are often found in twos. They also come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and colours, some look like blades of seagrass, others are orange and spiky, some are stripy…and so on. During my five dives in Dumaguete I saw many different variaties of Pipefish.
It’s a well known fact that the Philippines is an excellent place to SEE Nudibranch and in fact at most of the country’s dive destinations you can see these vibrantly colourful sea-slugs.
However, Dumaguete is an especially great place for spotting some of the rarer Nudibranch species including the more tiny such as those that measure less than 5mm long. I saw countless nudibranch in seemingly every shape, size and colour during my five dives around Dauin and Dumaguete.
There’s over a dozen dive resorts and centres to choose from around Dumaguete and Dauin. Most are located within Dumaguete.
Unlike most Philippines dive destinations which are small towns, Dumaguete is a hustling and bustling city so be prepared for more noise, traffic and crowds than elsewhere. That said, there are a lot of excellent, luxury-feel hotels that you can stay in for very reasonable prices.
On the other end of the spectrum, you could choose one of the dive resorts in Dauin, a more quiet town. I did this myself, however I found Dauin to be kind of frustrating – it’s rather long and sprawling, stretched into an almost thin line along a busy highway and your food and accommodation options there are extremely limited and more expensive. In hindsight I feel it would have been cheaper and less complicated to just stay in Dumaguete!
I actually wrote a separate article about where to stay / who to dive with in Dumaguete (and Dauin) for divers and you can CHECK IT OUT HERE.
Like almost all of the Philippines, Dumaguete / Dauin can be dived year round! That said, most locals will tell you that the dry season between December – April offers the calmest conditions and the best visibility.
Also, it’s during the dry season that you can go trekking; with Negros island (on which Dumaguete) is situated offering some of the best mountain and volcano treks in all of the Philippines (rivalled only by Luzon in the north and Mindanao down south).
However, rainy season still offers some kickass diving; for example it’s during this period, over October, that octopus mating season occurs!
It’s super easy to get to Dumaguete. Most folks arrive via ferry, which from nearby Bohol, takes just two hours, although you can also get there via ferry from other nearby islands such as Siquijor, Cebu etc.
You can also fly in via Dumaguete airport – also known as Sibulan airport. As Philippine destinations go, Dumaguete is one of the easiest and quickest to reach! From Dumaguete it’s about a thirty minute triycle ride to Dauin.
I actually found that there was less other stuff to do around Dumaguete / Dauin compared to other parts of the Philippines.
Dumaguete city does have plenty of restaurants, hotels and malls plus a few historical churches….but I’m really not much of a city guy and even if I was, it’s a far cry from kickass cities such as Chiang Mai (Thailand) or Kuala Lumpur (Malyasia), being a fairly poor place. Basically I would never consider a stay in Dumaguete city unless I was scuba diving or trekking!
All the same, there are a few other things to do nearby, most notably:
There’s a whole load of falls (as well as some hot-springs) in nearby Valencia, roughly a 30 minute scooter ride away from Dumaguete. My favourite waterfall was Katangan falls and the nearby Pulangbato falls but you also have a whole bunch of other options such as Casaroro, Olayan and Pasalan falls. You can easily bust out all of the best ones over a day.
Negros is one of the Philippines most mountainous islands and it also has a variety of volcanos. Subsequently if you have a decent level of fitness and several days and nights to spare you can engage in some truly kickass trekking. Treks range in length from just a half day to up to a week long so you really have a great range of options.
Check out this resource for info on treks starting in nearby Valencia.
Okey dokes Squad of the Diving! We’ve been through all the stuff you’ve gotta know when it comes to diving Dumaguete / Dauin; one of the best and most unique scuba diving destinations in all of the Philippines
First we covered what you can see when diving Dumaguete / Dauin. This was accompanied by original photos and a movie from my time diving there in April 2023.
Next we went over the best accommodation and dive centre / resort options with a link to a more detailed article listing the all time best picks. We linked to a more detailed article on this, which I strongly recommend checking out when deciding where to stay.
Then we went over when to go, how to get there and other things to do.
And finally you’re reading this squad debriefing. Your next step? Check out my main page on Dumaguete accommodation options and make the final plans to booking your trip there. Diving Squad dismissed!