Apo Island and the Dauin coast is our diving playground

Atmosphere boasts some of the best diving in the world, mixing world class muck diving with lush reef diving, walls, and macro diving. The Philippines is situated in the coral triangle – a marine area located in the western Pacific Ocean. It includes Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Solomon Islands. Named for its staggering amount of corals (nearly 600 different species of reef-building corals alone), the region nurtures six of the world’s seven marine turtle species and more than 2000 species of reef fish.

Reef diving at Apo Island

Apo Island – only 40 minutes by boat from Atmosphere Resorts & Spa – is home to the longest continual marine sanctuary in the Philippines and has among the world’s best hard coral gardens. The tiny island is surrounded by hard and soft coral to such an extent that it is difficult to find a sandy patch! Blessed by no mass coral bleaching, it truly is a coral wonderland. Also present around Apo Island are a multitude of green and hawksbill turtles, schools of big-eyed trevallies (jacks), lots of colorful reef fish and beautiful black and white sea kraits (sea snakes). Parts of Apo Island have volcanic activity and it is always fun to watch the bubbles stream from the ocean floor.

There are ten dive sites around the island, each offering something different, from exhilarating drift dives to gentle shallow dives over hard and soft corals, often with vast schools of jacks to steep walls with cracks and crevices where you can find frogfish and nudibranchs.

Muck diving along the Dauin coastline

The coast of Dauin, where Atmosphere is situated, has excellent macro diving with many of the most interesting critters in the world. Often called “muck diving” the usually small critters are often found at dive sites with nutrient-rich volcanic sand. We are fortunate in Dauin to have pristine brown sand dive sites with very little trash. Many of the coveted animals here are masters of camouflage, making each dive a treasure hunt, and the use of great dive guides a must. Many underwater photographers come here to photograph some of the world’s most unusual critters.

Many of our favorite critters, like frogfish or devil scorpionfish, don’t swim… they walk. Others, like seahorses, hang on for dear life with the tail and we are pleased to have both the tiny pygmy seahorse and the much larger thorny seahorse here in Dauin.

The list of rare critters you can see in Dauin can be very long, but a few favorites are: Blue-ringed octopus, hairy frogfish, pygmy seahorse, Ambon scorpionfish, mandarinfish, orangutan crab, mimic octopus, ribbon eel, ornate ghost pipefish, halimeda crab, flamboyant cuttlefish, nudibranchs, wonderpus, velvet ghost pipefish, thorny seahorse, stargazer, leaf fish, harlequin shrimp, squat lobster, sargassum fish, jawfish, mantis shrimp, giant frogfish, candy crab, tiger shrimp and many more. A muck-divers paradise!

The House Reef at Atmosphere Resorts & Spa

Step directly from the resort into one of the largest coastal sanctuaries in Dauin. Our house reef offers the chance to encounter a huge diversity of marine life – enough to keep divers happy over multiple dives. Green turtles can often be seen munching on seagrass in the shallows which gives way to patchy reef at 6-7 meters depth. Trevally and emperors scour the reef in packs searching for their next meal while up to six species of anemonefish fiercely protect their latest brood of eggs.

For macro lovers, critters can be found in the cracks and crevasses of the main reef extending down to 20 meters. Mantis shrimp, ghost pipefish, frogfish, and nudibranchs as well as mouth-brooding jawfish, pipehorses, flamboyant cuttlefish, and hairy shrimp can be found with the expert eye of our dive guides.

Head north and you’re in with a chance of catching a large school of barracuda hanging in the blue over an expanse of soft corals. Head further south and the reef continues after a sand patch where (non-venomous) turtle headed sea snakes can be seen searching the reef for an easy meal or coiled around coral bases and resting in the sand.

Critter seasons in Dauin

Some critters are seasonal, if there is a specific animal you’d like to see during your stay; you may want to know when you have the best opportunity to see it.

The baby boom, the fabulous time when most critters have eggs or babies, typically extends from February to May. You have the chance to find cuttlefish eggs, pipefish with eggs and a lot of juveniles.

Frogfish February has been given its name for a reason – frogfish are extremely abundant! To begin with there are lots of babies and you’ll find yourself scouring the sand for small orange dots for frogfish the size of a needlepoint. Over the next few months they’ll begin to grow, and by the end of June we start seeing a little less of them. However, frogfish are always common in Dauin, these are just the months when we see more!

Octopus season typically begins in October and usually lasts for a couple of months. This is when octopuses mate, which means that they are more visible on the reef and on the sand. You can see mototi, mimic, wonderpus, hairy, blue-ringed, algae and many more. If you’re lucky you may even catch them mating!

Please understand this is just a guide, and depending on water temperature and other factors, seasons can vary.

Click on the button below for some of our favorite critters…

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