Incredible Snorkeling & Diving Balicasag Island, Bohol, the Philippines 2023
You should definitely go snorkeling or scuba diving on Balicasag Island in the Philippines. It is a little island off the coast of Panglao, off the island of Bohol, and is well-known for the exceptional clarity of its seas, the vivacity of its coral reefs, and the variety and abundance of its marine life. This includes dolphins, sea turtles, abundant species of tropical fish, and even Whale Sharks. It is one of the very best places to go snorkeling and diving in the Philippines.
I should know, because I am lucky to have a house on Panglao Island, not far from the stunning views of Alona Beach. All that you read below, I have personally done. It is exceptional in Bohol, and yes #Itsmorefuninthephilippines.
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The snorkeling opportunities on Balicasag Island are diverse and suitable for snorkelers of all skill levels. The shallow waters around the island are teaming with tropical fish and sea turtles that swim alongside you as they feed on the seagrass. It makes it a fantastic destination for snorkelers of all ages. The “House Reef,” which is only a few feet from the shore, and the “Dolphin House,” where friendly dolphins are frequently spotted, are two of the most popular snorkeling places.
Also, Balicasag Island is a must-dive destination for experienced divers seeking a more challenging dive. There are diving locations all over the island that are appropriate for divers of all experience levels. For experienced divers, the “Black Forest” is a must-see because of the complex coral formations and a wide variety of sea life that can be found there. The “Wall” and “Canyons” sites, on the other hand, are ideal for more experienced scuba divers because they feature a spectacular vertical drop-off and distinctive underwater canyons, respectively.
I have seen these drop-offs from above when snorkeling at Balicasag Island. It literally feels like dropping off the edge of a cliff. From 5-10m deep topaz seas, with coral, fish, sea turtles, and so on to the black depths of mystery.
Map of Balicasag Island Bohol, Map of the Philippines
How to get to Balicasag Island?
Fly into Panglao International Airport. Major airlines like Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, and Scoot all fly to the Philippines, and you’ll need to ‘bounce through’ via Manila or Cebu. You can also take a flight to Cebu and then catch a fast ferry to Tagbilaran.
There are buses, tricycles, and vans that will take you to Tagbilaran, or your chosen place of stay directly from the airport.
Alona Beach, on Panglao, serves as the launching point for excursions to Balicasag Island. In Alona Beach, you will also have the option to make arrangements for a boat transfer to Balicasag Island. You can book trips from most resorts and hotels though. We actually did this direct from The Bellevue Resort on our first trip to Balicasag Island.
The time it takes to travel by boat from Alona Beach to Balicasag Island is typically between 30 and 40 minutes. You can hire tour operators at Alona Beach to plan a boat transfer for you, or you can make arrangements for a private boat trip, using our BFFs Klook Philippines.
Balicasag’s marine sanctuary is a major draw for scuba divers targeting the Philippines
It’s home to hundreds of species of fish, hard and soft corals, sea urchins, starfish, and cucumbers. Parrotfish, butterflyfish, angelfish, and damselfish are the most frequently sighted fish species, while larger marine animals such as sea turtles, reef sharks, and even manta rays are occasionally spotted as well. Add to this that pretty much 365 days a year you have the chance to dive and swim with Whale Sharks at Lila on Bohol. This makes Bohol, Panglao, and Balicasag Islands some of the best diving spots on the planet.
Picture courtesy of Alona Divers, Scuba Dive Center
Note that Balicasag Island is a designated marine sanctuary, and as such, divers and snorkelers must adhere to certain rules to prevent any damage to the island’s delicate ecosystem. This includes not harming or damaging the coral or aquatic life.
In summary, Balicasag Island is a great place to visit if you want to go scuba diving. It is likely to be a highlight of any trip to the Philippines due to the abundance of marine life to observe while snorkeling or scuba diving.
The topic of Balicasag will come up in conversation if one were to spend time at Alona Beach, which is regarded as one of the most popular beaches in the central Philippines. You can’t avoid it as you’ll have the beach vendors constantly waving boards with their island hopping tours at you as you relax, dine and drink.
Balicasag Island is a tiny island, which is encircled by a coral reef and has the shape of a sphere, drawing a significant number of guests every day thanks to the boat trips that make the journey there. The reef is famous for the large number of green sea turtles that live on it and may be seen swimming around the coast of Balicasag. These are abundant and swim around you as they munch on seagrass. It really is quite breathtaking to have these beautiful creatures interact with you in the shallow crystal-clear waters.
Picture courtesy of Alona Divers, Scuba Dive Center
When is the best time to go snorkeling at Balicasag Island, and how can I get there?
The months of November through May, which are considered to be the dry season of Balicasag Island, are also the greatest months in which to go snorkeling on the island. When you go snorkeling during this time of year, you’ll have excellent visibility thanks to the weather, which is generally sunny, and the sea conditions, which are calm.
At this time period, the water temperature ranges from 25 degrees Celsius to 29 degrees Celsius, making it an ideal time for snorkeling. The visibility is much excellent, ranging from 10 meters to 30 meters, which enables you to see the many coral formations and marine life that can be found in the seas around Balicasag with ease.
Be aware, however, that the months of December through April fall within Balicasag Island‘s prime tourist season, and that it is possible for the island to get busy during these times. Visit Balicasag Island during the months of June and October, which is considered the off-peak season, if you want to have a snorkeling experience that is less crowded, less hectic, and more serene. But, during this time period, you should anticipate some rain as well as some occasional rough seas, both of which may influence the conditions for snorkeling.
The teeny-tiny island of Balicasag may be found roughly ten kilometers to the Southwest of Alona Beach. Alona Beach is the starting point for a multitude of tour providers’ snorkeling excursions to Balicasag Island. You have the option of renting a boat and making the quick trip over to the island in order to explore it on your own, or you can schedule a snorkeling tour directly from the beach, resort, or our mates at Klook Philippines.
The Balicasag Island Dive Resort is the only hotel that can be found on Balicasag Island. The resort can assist visitors in arranging a transfer to the island if they so desire.
Where to snorkel and dive at Balicasag Island?
The Gateway to Balicasag from the Waterfront
The reef that is located directly next to the beach where visitors arrive at the island is the destination of the vast majority of the island’s snorkeling trips. We’ll give you some links from our BFFs at Klook Philippines so you can book and get discounts. We strongly recommend that you make the journey around the island to the Western reef, as the circumstances there are superior and there are fewer people.
Insightful guidance for those planning to go snorkeling in Balicasag
One of the best places to go snorkeling in the area is along the coral reef that is located parallel to the Western coast of Balicasag Island. The reef in this location varies anywhere from fifty to one hundred and fifty meters in width.
When you initially arrive, you will be able to snorkel a shallow reef flat that ranges in depth from 0.5 to 2 meters and is made up of sand, seagrass, and small coral. The seagrass meadows are an essential feeding ground for green sea turtles, thus they make daily excursions there. The beach at Balicasag Island is an excellent place for viewing sea turtles.
A severe reef drop-off can be found in the depths between 6 and 10 meters once the reef flat comes to an abrupt stop. The drop-off is covered in stunning hard (leafy, tabular, and branching) and soft (sarcophyton, sea lilies, and sea fans) corals.
Large schools of anthias can be seen swimming all over the reef. These anthias include the purple queen anthias (Pseudanthias pascalus) and the red-cheeked anthias (Pseudanthias huchtii). Look for sea anemones if you want to view a variety of different clownfish, such as the pink skunk anemonefish, tomato clownfish, and ocellaris clownfish.
Moorish idols, sixbar wrasses, whitecheek surgeonfish, and pearlscale angelfish are just some of the other fish that are frequently seen on the reef. The fact that the shallow waters of Balicasag Island are home to a wide variety of nudibranchs and shrimp will likely come as a pleasant surprise to anybody who is interested in macro-life.
Picture courtesy of Alona Divers, Scuba Dive Center
Whale Shark Experience Bohol
Is such an exciting and unique experience that offers a glimpse into the world of these magnificent creatures. I will actually add that this, for me, was bucket-list stuff. Since being a very young kid I have watched countless National History shows, including many on whales and sharks, including Whale Sharks. We’ll give you some links from our BFFs at Klook Philippines so you can book and get discounts.
So, to have this chance to do Whale Shark snorkeling in Bohol was truly bucket-list ticking. The funny thing is that I am so fortunate to have had a house in Bohol for the past 5 years, and have been visiting Bohol for some 14 years now, but never knew you could do Whale Shark swimming and snorkeling in Bohol. I always thought you had to do Whale Shark swimming in Oslob, Cebu. But, no!!! This is literally about 30-45 minutes’ drive from my house on Panglao, to Lila Whale Shark. So, if you are staying in one of the amazing resorts or hotels in Panglao, this incredible adventure is less than an hour away.
What is a Whale Shark?
Found in tropical and warm temperate waters around the globe, Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the sea, reaching lengths of up to 40 feet and weighing as much as 20 tons. Despite their size, they are gentle giants and pose no threat to humans. In fact, they are often referred to as “gentle giants” due to their docile nature and willingness to interact with people.
The Whale Sharks are actually very curious and inquisitive and will give you a nudge or a brush purely from curiosity. In our experience, one tourist complained to the tour guide that he had to kick the Whale Shark because it got too close to the 4m suggested distance. I could slap people like this. It’s a wild animal you fool. Can they read our signs, and adopt that behavior of 4m separation? Seriously you stupid person. So, just to advise again, these creatures are curious and like to come to say hello and have a look.
One of the best places to go whale shark watching is in the Philippines, where the waters are warm and clear, making it easy to spot these giant fish. In Lila, Bohol, they’re pretty much able to be seen and swam with all-year-round, it’s only a cloudy or rainy day that could ruin your experience.
On our day we were so lucky, with the weather Gods shining down on us, literally. 7 am we were there and the skies were crystal clear like the waters, with no clouds and just sunshine. You have to go super early as Whale Sharks only surface and feed early before the sun hits peak time. These beautiful creatures can get sunburnt.
I personally noticed just how tiny the Whale Shark’s eyes are in comparison to the body, and the placement is on either side of their rather massive-wide head. So, when they ‘bump’ you it is an accident, not a sign of aggression. I had two behemoth Whale Sharks physically ‘interact’ with me as I swam with them and it was a wonderful moment. Despite the scale of them, there was no fear, just awe, and breathtaking amazement, despite the playful slap with its tail as it went past me. You’ll see that on our YouTube.
How to do Whale Shark snorkeling & diving in Bohol?
There are several tour operators that offer guided whale shark watching tours in Bohol, which typically involve snorkeling and/or diving in the open ocean to get up close and personal with the Whale Sharks. We chose Taug Whale Shark Watching and Snorkeling (you can find them on Facebook) which operates from Lila, which is about a 45-minute drive from Tagbilaran, the capital city of Bohol.
We’ll give you some links from our BFFs at Klook Philippines so you can book and get discounts.
We chose the snorkeling only option as I had all my kids, that includes some non-swimmers. So the option of having life jackets to float about with the Whale Sharks became massively attractive for my family unit. I was still able to take some incredible GoPro footage with just a snorkel and mask, but with hindsight, I should have also got a set of fins. Watch the video to see some Taiwanese tourists from our boat free-diving with the Whale Sharks. Yes, fins would have made a major difference.
You can also choose an official tour operator like Kayak. The Whale Shark experience will likely be a 2-3 hour section of a larger day trip, maybe incorporating other Bohol attractions such as Chocolate Hills, Tarsier experience, Blood Compact, visiting some of the massive arrays of waterfalls, white sandy beaches, sandbars and so on.
What’s the cost of Whale Shark watching and snorkeling?
Taug Whale Shark watching and snorkeling charging schema;
- Peso 1,000 for tourists
- Peso 750 for local Filipinos
- The price includes a guide, the boat to the Whale Sharks, life jackets, snorkels, and masks.
A few things to note;
- There are stalls nearby to rent fins if you so desire.
- You are allowed to take your own equipment – I’d suggest that for any children in your party, as the boat we were on had limited kid’s gear.
- I highly recommend buying or renting a GoPro, or other underwater camera. Check my YouTube, I need to say no more.
- Do not put on sunscreen as it impacts the Whale Shark’s feeding ability.
- It is mandatory to wear life jackets until you reach the Whale Sharks
If you are interested in Whale Shark watching, it is important to book a tour with a reputable operator that follows best practices for interacting with the sharks. This includes respecting the sharks’ space and avoiding any behaviors that could harm or stress them. It is also important to follow all safety guidelines and listen to the instructions of the tour guides.
We’ll give you some links from our BFFs at Klook Philippines so you can book and get discounts.
During the tour, you will have the opportunity to swim alongside the whale sharks and observe their behavior, which I’ll describe as cheeky. You’ll have a guide in the water with you to make sure all is OK and safe for both you and the Whale Sharks. It is an unforgettable experience to be in the water with these gentle giants, and it is a great opportunity to learn more about their habitat and the conservation efforts that the Philippines is instilling.
Even if you just sit in the boat, as my Wife did when we visited, you will still have quite an amazing view of the Whale Sharks alongside.
Where is Lila, Bohol?
Lila is a municipality located in the province of Bohol. It is located in the Eastern part of the province, about 45 minutes from the capital city, Tagbilaran, and is home to a population of around 18,000 people.
Lila is known for its beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters, which make it a popular destination for tourists. The municipality is home to several beaches, including Tawala Beach and Bool Beach, which are known for their white sand, calm waters, and nearby drop-offs ideal for snorkelling and diving.
In addition to its beaches, Lila is also home to several historical and cultural attractions. The municipality is home to the centuries-old Church of St. Francis of Assisi, which was built in the 1800s and is a popular destination for tourists. Lila is also home to the Lila Municipal Museum, which features a collection of artifacts and displays that showcase the history and culture of the municipality.
Lila is a great destination for those looking to relax and unwind, with its beautiful beaches and peaceful atmosphere. It is a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy the natural beauty of the Philippines. Plus, of course, it’s where those Whale Sharks are so close to shore, pretty much 365 days of the year. Yes, the Whale Sharks are this closve to shore in Lila. There is a big drop-off, right about where my finger is pointing, making it 15-20m deep, and deep enough for these huge creatures.
Map of Lila Bohol – Map of the Philippines
Conclusions of Whale Shark Watching, Snorkeling, and Diving in Bohol, the Philippines
Overall, whale shark watching and snorkeling is a thrilling and educational experience that offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures. If you have the chance to go, don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You’ll kick yourself if you have that “I wish I had done it moment…”
In addition to Whale Sharks, Bohol is also home to a variety of other marine life, including dolphins, sea turtles, and colorful coral reefs. I can vouch for this personally as I have seen them all during my travels to Bohol.
This was on my bucket list, and should also be on yours. It’s a game-changer. You’ll be talking about it for months afterward. Do it!!!
Why Bohol, the Philippines?
Bohol is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines. It is well known as the location of the world-famous Chocolate Hills. Those who are interested in history, beachgoing, and high-adrenaline activities may all find something breathtaking to do in this island province. Since the island of Bohol is made up of one large island and 73 smaller islands that surround it, you will have a wide variety of destinations to choose from during your time here. You won’t regret coming to Bohol since you’ll adore every minute of your time there and the variety of experiences it provides.
Without a trip to the Chocolate Hills, your time in Bohol will never be enough to satisfy your wanderlust. This natural marvel spans an area of fifty square kilometers and encompasses the municipalities of Carmen, Sagbayan, Bilar, Sierra Bullones, and Valencia in the province of Valencia. As a result of the grass on these hills turning brown throughout the summer, they were given the moniker “Chocolate Hills.” Visit the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in the town of Corella to get up and personal with the world’s tiniest primate, the Philippine Tarsier. This will give you the opportunity to experience something truly wild. These fuzzy little critters are around the size of an adult human thumb and are only active at night. They have a cute appearance.
Play with the dolphins that live on Pamilacan Island, or take a dive into the depths and explore the coral gardens of Panglao, Balicasag, and Cabilao Islands for an exciting marine adventure. Both of these islands are located in the Philippines. But if all you want to do is unwind in the warm rays of the sun, then head to the beaches of Panglao or Anda and either go for a swim or just lie about.
Danao’s Adventure Park is the perfect place for thrill seekers to indulge their need for speed and excitement. Danao provides the solutions for your pent-up energy; whether you want to float through the river, zip over a canyon, walk on air over a gorge, or just take a plunge over a ravine, Danao has everything you need. At the Chocolate Hills Complex, there are activities that are suitable for families, such as zip bikes, nature trails, playgrounds, and food centers. This makes for a full day of enjoyment for the whole family.
Those who have an interest in the past will value the heritage and cultural treasures that the island possesses. More than ten national and important cultural relics are dispersed across the northern and southern coasts of the island of Bohol. They include ancient stone churches, watchtowers, and dwellings made of stone that date back hundreds of years. Tagbilaran, the nation’s capital and largest city, is home to some of the most easily accessible of these.
How to get to Bohol, the Philippines?
To get to the International Airport at Panglao on the island of Bohol, you will need to take a flight from either Manila or Cebu City. There are flights departing on a daily basis with Philippines Airlines, and Cebu Pacific. If you are arriving from another country and wish to skip traveling to Manila, you have the option of flying directly to the airport in Cebu City and then taking a fast ferry to Tagbilaran City.
What are the best Bohol hotels?
Bohol is home to a diverse selection of Bohol hotels, hostels, and other sorts of lodging options across the island.
You can click the link above to get DISCOUNTS off hotel booking Bohol hotels from our BFF’s at Booking.com
The following are some popular choices of Bohol Hotels:
If you’re looking for a beach resort experience for your Bohol Hotels, Panglao Island is the place to be. The island is home to a number of beach resorts including the stunning Alona Beach. Panglao is home to a wide variety of beachfront resorts and Bohol hotels, each of which provides guests with breathtaking panoramas of the emerald waters and pristine beaches. I am so lucky to have a second home here. It truly is paradise found.
Family favourite Bohol Hotels would be;
If you would rather stay in the city, Tagbilaran provides a selection of Bohol hotels that are both affordable and moderately priced, in addition to a few options that are more luxurious. You’ll be in a convenient location for accessing the city’s eateries, retail districts, and historic sites.
Family favourites here would be;
Loboc is a sleepy town in the Philippines that is well-known for its gorgeous river cruises and surrounding scenery. In the town of Loboc, there are a couple of resorts and guesthouses that provide an environment that is more tranquil and laid-back.
Anda is an excellent choice if you are searching for a place to get away from it all in seclusion. This small town is home to some of the cleanest beaches in all of Bohol, and it also features a selection of eco-resorts and boutique Bohol hotels that are ideal for vacationers looking for a more private and secluded experience.
Family favourites here would be;
No matter where you choose to stay on the island of Bohol, you will definitely have the opportunity to experience the island’s rich culture, breathtaking natural scenery, and friendly people.
Philippines Travel Advisory 2023 – what you’ll need to know for Philippines Travel
The Philippines is excited and ready to warmly welcome all foreign tourists from all countries starting April 1, 2022! Fully-vaccinated tourists no longer have to undergo quarantine.
The Philippines has the Safe Travels Stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) because it has implemented international standards for health and sanitation and conducts extensive inspections and evaluations of tourism businesses to ensure that only those with proper accreditation are open for business.
The vast majority of those who work in tourist-oriented businesses like hotels and tour groups are up-to-date on their vaccinations.
Take care while you travel throughout the Philippines, but also HAVE FUN. It’s more fun in the Philippines. We’ll give you some links from our BFFs at Klook Philippines so you can book and get discounts.
What are the entry requirements for the Philippines;
or download the Travel Philippines app.
What are the details of the Philippines Embassy for Philippines Travel Advisory?
Where to get Philippines Visa Information?
To find more details about the Philippines Visa, please contact the Visa Division of the Philippines’ Depart of Foreign Affairs at; +63 2 556 000 or any Philippines Embassy or Consulate abroad.
What are the Philippines’ Travel Restrictions?
The Philippines is excited and ready to warmly welcome all foreign tourists from all countries starting April 1, 2022! Fully-vaccinated tourists no longer have to undergo quarantine
The Philippines are open to all foreigners, even their children. People who are fully vaccinated don’t have to show a pre-departure test.
When you get the second dose of a two-dose series or a single dose of a vaccine more than 14 days before leaving the country of origin, you are considered fully vaccinated.
The vaccine must be approved by either the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the World Health Organization (WHO). Even if they haven’t been vaccinated, children under 15 can also go to the country. They will follow the rules for the accompanying foreign parent who is already fully vaccinated.
What are the Philippines’ travel ban countries?
Get the latest information on what you need to do to get into every place in the country.
Go to www.philippines.travel/safetrip or get the Travel Philippines app on your phone.
Have fun and stay safe as you travel around the Philippines!
The Philippines is fully open to visitors. Filipino and foreign nationals, irrespective of their vaccination status, can now enter the Philippines. However, they will have to go through some entry requirements as mandated by the Bureau of Immigration, Philippines.