A quick google search will show that most guides for diving Bohol talk exclusively about Panglao; the most touristic, easily accessible and well-known scuba diving region of Bohol.
However, for those willing to travel a few extra hours in pursuit of something different; Anda is a unique place to visit; with truly off-the-beaten-track diving and laid-back, bohemian vibes.
Very few divers make it to Anda but those who do will be rewarded with both awesome coral reefs and muck dive sites home to giant cuttlefish, giant mantis shrimp and all manner of nudibranch and other critters.
There’s also several kickass land activities: namely cave-pool jumping, epic viewpoints and best of all a visit to the ancient cave paintings of the mysterious Lamanok island.
However; because Anda is so undeveloped; there’s a few useful things to know – and pitfalls to avoid, before going!
But if you plan it well, Anda is one of the best off-the-beaten-track dive destinations of the Philippines.
I’ll cover these in the following guide; based on my dive trip to Anda over August 2023; get ready to find out all about diving Anda; when to go, how to go, the best dive sites and more!
Anda Dive Sites can be divided into 2 categories:
Consisting of around 30 dive sites, these are the easiest Anda dives to access and are defined by the extensive coral reef along the western half of Anda’s coast. They are mostly shallow coral gardens, deep wall dives and sloping reefs ; some are sheltered from currents whilst others are exciting drift dives. Visibility is good especially from January – April.
The condition of the coral reef here ranges from good to excellent and is home to many turtles, nudibranch, sea snakes and all manner or reef fish.
Over the course of just one days diving, I was also lucky to see a pair of pygmy seahorses; these are apparently a pretty common sight around several of the dive sites. From December – April, super lucky divers can even see whale sharks.
Generally accessible within around 1 – 5 minutes boat ride, the local dive sites of Anda are those that are most commonly operated by dive resorts and are much quicker to reach as well as a little cheaper than the other category of dive sites (Lamanok island), which we’ll cover next.
2) Lamanok Island Dives
These are the most unique dives; in my opinion they are what really defines Anda, being the most off-the-beaten-track of all its dive sites.
To access these dive sites, requires a 30 minute van ride from your chosen dive resort / centre and then a 30 minute boat ride to the dive site known as “Lamanok Island”. In truth; this tiny islet is not the true Lamanok Island which can visit the cave paintings on; but it is within close proximity of it.
There is some pretty nice coral reef around here; however due to the dive sites closeness to mangrove forests; visibility is always pretty low at around 33ft / 10 meters: no matter as the stars of the show are actually the quirky critters you here; namely giant cuttlefish, giant mantis shrimp and all manner of nudibranch of every size and shape.
After diving the “Lamanok Island” dive site you can then dive the dive sites known as “muck 1” and “muck 2” which have little coral to speak of but even more in the way of nudibranch and frogfish as well as mighty herds of large black sea urchins that amazingly “run” along the seafloor at a speed much greater than any sea urchins I’ve before witnessed; some could easily cover a few feet in a minute! When I dived these two sites, muck 1 was far better than muck 2.
BUT LISTEN UP;
Anda is a small seaside town (more like a village) with just a handful of accommodation options. However, the good news it that this means wherever you stay you’ll be within close access to the several Anda dive resorts (which you can go diving with even if you’re not staying there).
Despite the limited supply of Anda accommodation options, they still vary from affordable backpacker style hostels to luxury resorts meaning there is something for every budget.
Here’s what I consider to be the Best 5 places to Stay in Anda for Divers:
(Click the blue text to check these places out on booking.com!).
Anda can be dived all year-round! That said, unlike Panglao for which rainfall can be pretty consistent throughout the year, Anda experiences more of a pronounced wet and dry season.
One of the reasons why Anda is so much more off-the-beaten-track compared to Panglao (both of which are on Bohol) is because Anda takes longer to reach.
To get to Anda; first you must reach Bohol island – either by flying into Panglao airport or by catching a ferry to Tagbilaran port; (which is a 15 minute tricycle ride from Panglao). Because Panglao is so close; many folks choose to go straight there and it does indeed have some awesome diving.
But for those of you wishing to venture where few other divers have ventured before; i.e. Anda; it’s a roughly 3 hour bus or 2 hour van ride from Dao Bus Terminal in Tagbilaran to Anda Integrated Bus Terminal. From Anda Bus Terminal, it is a short tricycle ride of the various dive resorts and hostels of Anda.
Of course, if you’ve been staying in Panglao and are going back, you can hire a scooter and ride there yourself, it’ll take 3 hours. Just be wary of doing this over wet season as you could quite possibly get totally drenched (as I did!).
This was not only the best land excursion I took in Anda but also one of the coolest thing I’ve done in all of the Philippines! A tour to Lamanok Island lasts just 90ish minutes but during that time you’ll see epic limestone formations, ancient trails and bat-filled caves with abstract cave paintings and a five hundred year old wooden Spanish crucifix.
There are many legends and myths surrounding Lamanok island; many believe it was the cradle of civilisation in the Philippines; the abstract cave paintings date back tens of thousands of years and there is also an ancient marketplace and even a shamans cave for sacrifices and healing potions.
To get there; take the incredibly scenic 25 minute scooter ride eastwards out of Anda, hugging the coast until you see the sign for “Anda Mystical Experience”, walk down the steps and pay the 400 pesos to catch a short kayak ride over and get toured around.
This is an awesome adrenaline blast; located just 5 minutes scooter ride from the centre / marketplace of Anda, Cabagnow Cave Pool lets you jump from 25ft into a refreshingly cool cave pool. It’s extremely deep and totally safe. There’s also a ladder down in case you want to just climb in or jump from a smaller distance.
I loved this; it’s really fun and takes less than an hour to do; you can also swim around. If you take a scuba mask as I did, you’ll realise that there are actually a bunch of reef fish and even a few crabs down there. Noice!
On the 3 minute walk to Cabagnow Cave Pool from the car park, you’ll also notice a sign to the left that takes you to another cave pool; Tibaw cave pool; which is a 5 minute walk through some pretty dense jungle. This is also nice, but much shallower and nowhere to jump from so you just kind of wade in. By far, Cabaganow Cave Pool is the best!
From Anda it’s just a 20 minute scooter ride up a mountain to Blue Heaven Viewpoint; from which you have a truly epic panoramic view of Anda and the surrounding coastline; amidst jungle that cracks and gives way to spectacular blood red dirt at your feet that crumbles like dark chocolate as you walk on it.
This was one of the coolest (and also quietest) viewpoints I enjoyed in all of the Philippines. It would make an amazing place from which to catch the sunset.
On the way up the mountain, you’ll see signs for Anda Falls, you may want to check these out as well although when I went they were totally dried up.
Blue Heaven Viewpoint is not to be confused with White Heaven Viewpoint; which isn’t so much a viewpoint as much as an enclosed garden atop a hill; it’s still nice but not nearly as good as Blue Heaven.
At 60ft high, Can Umantad is the biggest waterfall in all of Bohol and is said to be quite epic; although I didn’t make it there myself as it’s not actually in Anda but lies 40km away, taking about 70 minutes to reach via scooter. However; if you’ve got the time to spare this is a fun half-day excursion – lemme know how it is!
Perhaps the most famous thing about Bohol is the legendary chocolate hills; a series of over a thousand conical shaped hills covered in neon green grass that turn brown during the dry season hence the name “chocolate” hills.
They form a spectacular and unique looking landscape, which is most easily observed from the main Chocolate Hills Viewpoint; which lies exactly half way between Anda and Panglao; meaning you can visit it from either. Either way, it takes about 2 hours to drive the 80km from Anda to the chocolate hills. To avoid the crowds, aim to get there for sunrise.
Cast your eyes southwards out to sea from Andas beaches and you’ll spy a spectacular volcanic island off in the distance; this is Camiguin and it’s another rarely visited Philippines destination with off-the-beaten-track diving and incredible volcanoes, several of which can be trekked.
The access point to Camiguin is Jagna Port; which you’ll actually have passed on your way to Anda from Tagbilaran / Panglao. Head back there (it’s 43km from Anda) to catch a 4 hour ferry over to Camiguin which makes a very nice alternative Philippines dive destination to explore for a few days. For more info, check out my Guide to Diving Camiguin!
Here’s a few ultra handy tips that are mega useful to know before you go to Anda!
Noice! We’ve just finished this short but sweet guide to diving Anda; one of the most off-the-beaten-track, underrated and cool destinations of all of the Philippines – not just for the awesome diving but also the incredible land excursions and laid-back, bohemian vibes it has to offer.
I really enjoyed my trip to Anda; honestly the 2 – 3 extra hours that it takes to reach are totally worth it (it’s also a very scenic ride), and it makes a refreshing break from the hustling bustling crowds of Panglao.
Don’t get me wrong…Panglao diving is still awesome; there are some amazing reefs at Panglao as well as whitetip reef sharks and giant barracuda, something Anda ain’t got.
But Anda does have muck diving (which Panglao doesn’t) as well as pygmy seahorses, giant cuttlefish and much quieter dive sites all-round devoid of crowds. And the incredible, mystical Lamanok Island. I really loved this place. I’ll be back!