Negros was the 3rd step of my island hopping tour in the Visayas in the Philippines. Surprisingly, I found out on the ferry between Tagbilaran in Bohol and Dumaguete in Negros that most travellers were stopping on Siquijor, the island of the witches, and not visiting Negros. Let me assure you that even if you are not a scuba diver, Negros is really worthy to discover with high mountains and even a volcano covered by the jungle, lakes and waterfalls hidden in the heights, non-touristy villages within the sugar cane and corn fields, and quiet black sandy beaches.
the volcanic island off the beaten track
Located East of Cebu, Negros is the 4th largest island of the Philippines. It is divided into 2 provinces, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental by the highest point of the Visayas, the volcano Kanla-on at 2435m of altitude. This volcano is still within the most active volcanos of the Philippines and provides Negros with a very fertile land, a geothermal activity transformed into electricity and volcanic black sandy beach attracting scuba divers from all around the World for its amazing ecosystem.
Dumaguete, the regional capital of Negros Oriental, is an ideal place to start your discovery of this authentic island. With its really beautiful promenade along the sea, its huge market where you can find absolutely everything and the Silliman American University bringing students from all over the country, Dumaguete has a relaxing and easy-going atmosphere. From the nearby village of Valencia, you can also go exploring the mountains, lakes and waterfalls of the heights of Negros Oriental.
Just 20 minutes driving in the direction of the South with a tricycle or an easyride (the other name of the jeepneys in Negros), is hidden the scuba diving gem of Dauin and its fantastic muck diving. Apart from a couple of luxurious dive resorts, off the main road and hidden between the corn fields and the palm trees, it is not very obvious that Dauin is a touristy destination and it feels really good like this. So if you decide, like me, 5pmto only use the dive resorts to go diving and find accommodation by your own means, then you can experience Negros from a local perspective easily while diving there. I was staying in the village of Bacong, ideally located between Dumaguete and Dauin. I loved going to the fish market there every day 5 pm where I could find the freshest and tastiest tuna I ever tried, ideal to prepare with the family hosting me a delicious kinilaw (the Filipino version of the Peruvian ceviche).
What is muck diving?
Muck designates mud with a rich substrate. Do not worry, it is not as disgusting as it might sound. In quite unusual locations such as those deserted sandy slopes with old tires used as a reef, the substrate from the volcanic sediments, the dead coral and even particle from some waste create the perfect ecosystem to a very special fauna and a nursery for juvenile organisms.
If you are only in love with colourful coral reef, better to go directly to Apo Island from Dauin. Yet, I assure you should at least give one try to muck diving, you might be surprised like me how much you actually love it.
Muck diving is usually very shallow, rarely deeper than 15m, so it is really easy dives even for the beginners. The only point is to master as much as possible your buoyancy to avoid creating any cloud of sediments. A good Divemaster with experienced eyes will also make the difference. As muck diving is usually shore diving you can also go diving independently but even if you can spot yourself some species, it won’t be as awesome as with a guide who has dived his whole life in Dauin.
One of the great ways to enjoy muck diving is of course by doing underwater photography. No surprise that I saw almost every diver with a semi professional underwater camera.
You can also discover muck diving in Dauin with my video “the tiny underwater world of Dauin“
So many staggering species in the sand
Thanks to all the sanctuaries along Dauin coast where fishing is forbidden, the volcanic sandy slopes have become the nursery of the local underwater fauna. My favorite was the Masaplod sanctuary, 1km South of the village of Dauin, where I spotted the greatest number of species.
With our Divemaster Rocky from Liquid diving and Simon, underwater photographer and fellow scuba diving blogger, we could spot a couple of Baby frogfish including a hairy frogfish, 2 baby mantis shrimps, a small angry cuttlefish, 2 very shy seahorses, many magnificent ghost pipefish, all sort of nudibranchs and shrimps, a really big black frogfish and a candy crab. Simon could also spot on previous dives the day before bobtail squid, flamboyant cuttlefish and blue ring octopus. With some luck, it is also possible to observe Pigmy seahorse, Mandarin fish (if you do a sunset dive) and mimic octopus. If you want to have a look at his amazing macro pictures, here the link to his blog:
There is so much action on the black volcanic sand of Dauin, just the time to do the camera settings and to take couple of shots of each subject and here you reach 50 bars or you running out of battery (my fully recharged battery couldn’t make it until the end of the 3rd dive of the day)! Every dive of 70 minutes felt like it lasted only 10 minutes!
The best time of the year to go diving in Dauin is from November to June. The water temperature can be up to 31°C. At the time of my visit, end of December, the water was 28°C. I still recommend a full 5mm suit as you stay quite immobile when you are doing muck diving.
The other great muck diving sites in the World
- Lembeh Strait and Tulamben in Indonesia: Tulamben is the place where I started underwater photography thank to an unlimited dive package. I can’t wait to go back to Indonesia and explore Sulawesi.
- Mabul in Malaysia: A good friend of mine recommended this place while he was heading to Sipadan.
- Nuweiba in Egypt: my first encounter with a frogfish and the wonderful world of tiny critters while I was backpacking around South Sinai.
- Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea: Simply the birthplace of muck diving.
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