Sipalay Diving: Must Read Guide

Last Updated:

21 February 2024

Sipalay Diving - Guide for Scuba Junkies

Located on the southwest of Negros island in the Philippines,  Sipalay offers some of the most off-the-beaten-track dive sites in the country.

That’s because to go Sipalay diving, travellers must first enter Dumaguete, (which has incredible muck diving!) via plane or ferry and then catch a four hour taxi ride to Sipalay. 

Coincidently, because it’s harder to reach, Sipalay sees less travellers compared to other Philippines dive destinations and you probably won’t have to share your dive sites with anyone at all. 

Sipalay itself is more known for macro diving amidst coral reef; there are also a couple of ok-not-great shipwrecks as well as a nice deep dive site haunted by whitetip reef sharks. 

But here’s the thing – is scuba diving Sipalay really worth it? Having been there myself, I can tell you that not all Sipalay dive sites are equal – you’ll definitely want to visit some and avoid others!

Although classed as a city, Sipalay is actually more like a small beach town; set amidst pristine nature and with many stunning viewpoints, beaches and scenic bike rides nearby. 

In my opinion, visiting Sipalay to explore the surrounding area – so sparsely inhabited and free of tourists is as good a reason to go there as the actual scuba diving. 

So in this guide, we’ll cover cover everything there is to know about Sipalay: the diving and the exploration – where to stay, when to go, how to get there and everything to do! Let’s begin:

Alex playing guitar at a viewpoint in Sipalay.

^ That’s me! There I am in Sipalay, belting out a scuba song off the top of my head. I dived Sipalay over October 2023; towards the end of my longest Philippines dive trip yet!

Sipalay Dive Sites

There are some 40 dive sites around Sipalay; most lie within close proximity to the shore as well as eachother. The majority of Sipalay dive sites are beginner friendly – however a few are for experienced divers only. 

I really wish I’d had the guide you’re now reading before I dived at Sipalay. If I had; I’d have definitely given some dive sites a miss whilst insisting on going to others!

Check out 5 of the most notable Sipalay dive sites below and what I have to say about them:

1) Toscana Reef

Scuba diver next to turtle and coral at Toscana Reef dive site of Sipalay.

In my opinion, Toscana Reef is the best all-round dive site of Sipalay. It starts at a depth of 5 meters amidst a healthy and lush soft coral garden; you then swim further out to sea where there are many intricate and vibrant hard corals around a variety of ridges, pinnacles and slopes. 

There’s a great many reef fish here as well as various species of nudibranch, frogfish and crustaceans; furthermore Toscana Reef is one of the best Sipalay dive sites for spotting turtles; which I saw a couple of during my dive here. 

Lucky divers may also witness sea snakes (banded sea krait), pygmy seahorses and schooling pelagic fish such as barracuda and jacks. This is a varied and easy dive site; there’s a variety of depths to enjoy it at and virtually no current at all.  

2) SS Panay & other Wrecks

Scuba diver in murky waters at the SS Panay dive site of Siapalay.

Lying within Camponmanes Bay, the SS Panay is an American Warship that was sunk by Japanese torpedeos in 1942. Because it starts at 30 meters deep and drops all the way down to 43 meters, this dive site is for experienced divers with at least advanced open water certification. There is a lot of coral growing on the wreck and the stockroom is still full of gasmasks. 

Sounds like an epic dive right? Indeed it was one of the reasons I travelled to Sipalay in the first place. However; I quickly learned that visibility at the SS Panay is highly variable – but generally terrible and for this reason it is rarely visited by most dive centres. I insisted that we went all the same and lo and behold when we dived down there, I couldn’t really see shit. 

There is another wreck nearby in Camponmanes Bay – the MS Jojo (a cargo ship sunk in 1980)l lying at 26 – 33 meters. However, like the SS Panay, the visibility is variable but generally bad, meaning it’s rarely dived and never penetrated. Same applies to the “Coca-Cola” wreck. 

Conclusion: If you’ve heard of the “off-the-beaten-track wreck dives” of Sipalay – this is not a reason to go! The poor visibility means your dive centre will try to avoid taking you all together and if you do go, you’ll probably be underwhelmed as I was. 

3) Habok Habok

Habok Habok Dive Site coral reef.

Suitable for beginners, this is a nice wall dive lying at 3 – 16 meters and with several big cracks and canyons that make for awesome exploring and a nice place to find various critters such as nudibranch, scorpionfish and sea horses.

You’ll see all manner of reef fish: the usual suspects including lionfish, parrotfish, clownfish, wrasse, barracuda and pipefish and if lucky you could also spot turtles and garden ribbon eels. 

There is practically no current here and visibility remains good year-round; in contrast to the wreck dives which actually lie pretty close by. 

4) Da West

MICR0268

Da West is an impressive deep dive: a healthy coral reef that starts at 34 meters and drops down to 45 meters. It is perhaps the best Sipalay dive site for seeing hundreds of bigfish like tuna, barracuda and jacks. Lucky divers also have the chance to spot reef sharks and stingrays; although both are fairly skittish around here. 

Because of the depth as well as the fact that there can sometimes be a current here; this dive site is for experienced divers only; however ask around with the local guides and many will tell you that Da West is one of their favourite dives. 

I enjoyed this dive site; it was certainly impressive for big fish and deep coral; my guide saw a whitetip reef shark zip past but I did not. I would have liked to of spent longer down here than we did – this was a very short dive and I finished with a lot of remaining air, however your experience may differ!

5) Manta Drop

Manta drop dive site of Sipalay.

This is a popular drop-off at 15 – 35 meters with many huge sea fans and other hard corals  as well as scores of reef fish and occasional turtle sightings. 

More importantly, very lucky scuba divers sometimes see manta rays here – however it is by no means guaranteed and it’s more likely that you won’t see one than you will. However it does happen from time to time so the question you have to ask yourself is “do ya feel lucky punk”?!

Where to Stay in Sipalay for Divers

 1) Top Pick: Sipalay Easy Diving Resort ($$$): I stayed here and although it was expensive, everything was super luxurious and the location unbeatable. 

Guest rooms are up steep steps (a great mini-workout!); surrounded by lush gardens and with epic ocean views.

Down along the beach is a very nice resto-bar (daily themed cocktails anyone?) and heading out into the waters from here lies awesome snorkeling. 

The dive centre was very good with high quality rental gear; I also really liked the funny-as-hell guides!

Located a couple of km out of town; it’s close to everything but feels away from it all. 

Sipalay Easy Diving also offer dive safaris at their Cagayan Islands eco resort, which lies some 120km out to sea from Sipalay. 

Of these 31 off-the-beaten-track islands, only a few are inhabited. It’s supposed to be awesome for coral reefs and sharks. 

To get to the Cagayan Islands, Easy Diving Resort arranges a VIP flight in and out of Sipalay. 

Easy Diving Resort in Sipalay - Beautiful Filipina lady walking along the private beach.
Easy Diving resort 2

 2) Budget Option:($): Sealey’s Inn: Whereas Sipalay dive resorts are all pretty expensive… Sealey’s Inn is super cheap!

You can get a comfortable double bed room with aircon, TV and ensuite bathroom for slightly under $25 a night. There’s a garden and 24 hour help desk. 

Because Sealey’s Inn lies in the town centre; you’ll be close to cheap dining options – but to dive, you must ride a scooter for 15 minutes to a nearby dive resort. 

Sealey's Inn

 3) Best Value for Money:($$): Nabulao Beach & Dive Resort: With a private beach, two swimming pools, restobar and super spacious rooms, Nabulao Dive Resort offers awesome value for money. 

There is an in-house dive centre with experienced guides and high quality rental gear. They can take you to any Sipalay dive site. 

Furthermore, guests can also arrange kayaking, banana boat riding and island hopping. 

If I was to go back to Sipalay again, I would definitely choose to stay here! Just be aware that it’s a little farther from town centre at 13km away. 

Nabulao Resort

 4) Coolest Rooms: Takatuka Beach Resort ($$): Oh boy – if you’re looking to stay somewhere with attitude, look no further than Takatuka Beach Resort!

The rooms are truly unique; each has a special theme with beautiful ornaments and decor as well as spacious beds, ensuite bathrooms & private balconies. 

As well as a restobar and games room there is also an in-house dive centre for all your scuba excursions!

Takatuka Room

 5) Most Luxurious:($$$): Punta Bulata White Beach Resort: The things you’ll notice first are the in-house spa, dive centre, gorgeous rooms and awesome customer service. 

Next you’ll realise how incredible the location is; with stunning views; lush gardens and a private white sand beach. 

As cited in many guest reviews, cuisine from the restobar is truly next level and the dive staff are highly professional, encouraging and friendly. 

Punta Bulata Sipalay Resort

Sipalay Diving Season

Reef fish and coral in Sipalay.

Excellent news – you can dive Sipalay all year round! However, that said:

  • January – April = Dry Season: During these months, waters are at their calmest and underwater visibility at its greatest. This is also “tourist high season” but you’ll still see a lot less travellers in Sipalay compared to most other Philippines dive destinations. This period is your best bet of diving the wrecks with good vis. 

  • May – November = Wet Season: During periods of heavy rainfall, water visibility can be reduced and some of the deep dive sites may experience stronger currents during this period. However most dive sites remain accessible. 

Of course, climate change is making seasons and weather patterns harder to predict; throughout my travels, I’ve dived at places where its supposed to be dry season but was raining a lot and where it was supposed to be wet season but was bone dry. The above information is just a rough guide.  

How to Get to Sipalay

On the highway to Sipalay.

Part of Sipalays charm lies in the fact that you’ll see less travellers here as it is more off-the-beaten-track than many other dive destinations in the Philippines. This is actually because Sipalay is a little a more complicated to get to – but by no means impossible!

Sipalay lies on the southwest corner of Negros Island which itself is located in the Visayas Region to the south of the Philippines. 

The nearest airport and ferry port to Sipalay is Dumaguete. Dumaguete itself is actually an amazing scuba diving destination with the best muck diving in the country so you can and pair it with Sipalay in your dive itinerary (and if you can only do one, go to Dumaguete / Dauin). Anywhom, I digress. To get to Sipalay:

  1. Either fly into Dumaguete or catch a short and cheap ferry ride there nearby Philippines dive destinations such as Bohol and Siquijor.

  2. Next catch a taxi from Dumaguete to Sipalay. This will take about 3 and a half to 4 hours and cost around 5000 Pesos. You can arrange a taxi from Dumaguete to Sipalay here.

Other Things To Do in Sipalay

1) Tinagong Dagat Abandoned Resorts

Tingaong Dagat Viewpoint.

Located a couple of km out of town centre, Tinagong Dagat is a pair of abandoned resorts that can still be explored and offer many stunning views of the various surrounding islets and peninsula’s stretching out to sea from Sipalay. 

At the first resort, there’s a small swimming pool looking in an ocean facing viewpoint – it’s kept clean so that people can still go in it; this is a very popular place for pictures. 

The second of the resorts is actually on a tiny islet itself and can easily be reached by crossing over a long wooden bridge which passes over shallow waters where you can see coral reef and fish. It’s definitely worth doing this and continuing up the steps on the other side to the top of the islet as this offers the very best views. 

There’s a small entrance fee and it takes less than an hour to explore the area although you could easily stretch it out to several and perhaps even take a picnic to enjoy at the furthest viewpoint across on the bridge. 

2) Scenic Scooter Rides

Yen by side of road on break from scooter ride around Sipalay.

The countryside surrounding Sipalay is incredibly beautiful and well worth exploring by scooter.  As soon as you get out of the town centre, you’ll find yourself riding past ride paddies and jungle with many small conicle hills (a little like Bohol’s chocolate hills!) and following the main road, you can ascend upwards into the mountains with spectacular views back towards the low lying plateu on which Sipalay town lies. 

There’s a whole different bunch of places you could try riding to – some folks try and make for HuyopHuyop waterfall which is supposed to be pretty inaccessible.

I attempted to go to Lover’s Waterfall; it was about a two and a half hour ride from Sipalay town to where lover’s waterfall was meant to be; the whole way there were spectacular views around winding hills coated in tropical forest before I found myself up in the sugar cane fields around Candoni.

After much asking for directions (most folk had never heard of Lover’s Waterfall) we were finally pointed in the direction of a very muddy track (it was rainy season) near the sugar cane fields but it looked extremely slippery, apparently went on for over a km and only “maybe” led to the waterfalls so I bailed and rode back. 

It mattered not. The sunset ride back down from the hills into the low lying coastline was even more spectacular; riding through and alongside incredible jungle coated hills, valleys and rivers, past simple tin house villages of grinning Filipinos and back to my Easy Diving Resort. It’s the journey, not the destination. 

3) Island Boy Cafe

Alex playing guitar at a viewpoint in Sipalay.

If you fancy a much easier viewpoint; Island Boy Cafe only lies about a fifteen to twenty minute scooter ride from Sipalay town and offer gorgeous views of the surrounding jungle coated hills and peninsulars and beaches beyond. 

It’s only a fairly short distnace away from both Campomanes Bay and Punto Ballo Beach: both of which are some of the most scenic beach areas around Siplay.  

4) Mamara Cave

Mamara Cave

Another easy to reach activity, Mamara Cave is just a couple km out of Siplay town but for fifteen minutes of trekking to it, you’ll find yourself in deep jungle along a pretty battered and overgrown path with a little climbing so make sure you have good footwear.

I tried to go here during rainy season and almost made it but then the heavens opened and it began to pour. Some local woodsmen told me to turn back as apparently Mamara Cave floods ridiculously fast when it starts to rain. However, go when it’s dry and it’s supposed to be an awesome little cave to check out!

5) Danjugan Island Sanctuary

Looking otu to sea from Danjugan Island Sanctuary

I saved the best for last! Danjugan is a small, 43 hectare island that lies 3km out to sea from Sipalay. A special protected area, it is filled with biodiversity and makes a fantastic day trip or even an overnight stay. There’s nature trails, several lagoons to kayak in, a big ol’ bat cave, empty white sand beaches and great snorkeling. 

This is a very romantic and tranquil place to visit for a day or even a couple of nights; you might not see any other travellers at all whilst here and the money you pay goes towards the upkeep and continued conservation of Danjugan Island and i’ts surrounding waters. You can even scuba dive here, with some dive sites occasionally seeing manta rays.

It wasn’t exactly cheap but spending a day at Danjugan Island was one of the coolest things I did in the Philippines. It would have been cheaper if rather than arrange it through my resort who cheekily took a massive commission, I’d simply contacted the reserve on their main website here. 

Sipalay Diving - Squad Debriefing

Sipalay coral reef against crystal blue water.

And thus we do conclude this here Diving Squad guide to diving Sipalay! 

Sipalay is, in my opinion, a nice place in the Philippines if you really want to escape from the crowds both on land and beneath the water. It’s a very peaceful place to stay with some great viewpoints and land excursions, many of which are best done during the dry season (such as cave and bike trails). The highlight of these is definitely Danjugan Island Sanctuary. 

The scuba diving is pretty decent – there is some very nice coral reef home to plenty of macro critters and fish as well as turtles and lucky divers might see other marine animals such as reef sharks or possibly even manta rays. An added bonus is that you’re unlikely to see many if any other divers in the water.

As for the wreck dives – these are pretty underwhelming; this is due to the poor visibility normally encountered at these dive sites which is why most dive centres are usually unwilling to go here. 

Overall Sipalay was a nice little trip but I wasn’t blown away by the diving there like I was for nearby Dumaguete, Bohol and Siquijor – however I still enjoyed going – I especially enjoyed the dive site Toscana Reef for epic coral, fish and critters and Da West was a very impressive and exciting deep dive to go. It would have been very cool to go on a dive safari to the Cagayan Islands with Easy Diving Resort. Guess I’ll have to do that next time. For now, peace out!

Psssttt! Check out my main page on Scuba Diving the Philippines like a BOSS!

We love Sipalay sign in town centre.

Written by:

Alex

Alex

Scuba fanatic, travel ecstatic and loveable rogue. A rootless divemaster and perpetual adrenaline-junky, Alex holds the esteemed rank of Grand Admiral of the Diving Squad; a title he most nobly awarded to himself. A scuba-junky since 2014, he's dived much of the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives, Red Sea, Ireland, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. It's hard to say where he'll pop up next for he never settles; forever a leaf on the wind... or perhaps a lone bubble blasted along on the current.