Philippines Dive Report
Copyright Ken Knezick - Island Dreams Travel
Following another excellent group tour to El Galleon Resort, Puerto Galera, Island Dreams' owner Ken Knezick brought a group of 14 guests to check out Crystal Blue Resort in Anilao. It turned out to be an excellent visit, and resulted in some great dives and cool underwater photos. Big thanks to Crystal Blue's manager and photo pro, Mike Bartick, for helping to insure a great experience for us. This report will strive to give you an idea of Anilao's unique diving opportunities, and review the resort as well.
The ANILAO REGION, Mabini, Batangas, Philippines -- Located south of Manila, on the southern tip of the large Philippine island of Luzon, this unique region takes its name from the coastal town of Anilao. Stretching along a hilly coastline west of Batangas, Anilao is actually comprised of a couple of small municipal districts lining the shore of the Calumpang Peninsula. Anilao is easily accessed by car from Manila and is about a 2 ½ hour drive from Manila International Airport.
ANILAO LODGINGS -- Due to its location and ease of access, Anilao has long been a rural, weekend getaway for the wealthy people of Manila. Many private villas line the hillside along the coast, plus an increasing variety of hotels and resorts, most aimed at serving Filipino guests rather than international tourism. Over time, a few lodgings have come online with scuba divers in mind. But until recently, most of these were not successfully catering to our western standards of accommodations and service.
CRYSTAL BLUE RESORT -- After years of searching for a suitable Anilao lodging, I'm very pleased to finally have come upon Crystal Blue Resort. Following my recent stay, with a group of 14 guests, I believe that Island Dreams' divers will be pleased as well. This is a modern and exceedingly well-designed property that is matched with an American manager and top-notch dive guides and boat operators. What follows is my analysis of the assets, and potential liabilities, of Crystal Blue Resort:
Assets of Crystal Blue Resort, Anilao:
- Oceanfront location right in the middle of Anilao's best dive sites
- Very well-designed property, clearly planned by a talented architect and builder. Entire property lushly landscaped
- 17 comfortable, air-conditioned lodging rooms, with modern, spacious tiled-bathrooms and plenty of hot water
- Comfortable oceanfront dining room, served by a top-notch cook and professional-grade kitchen
- Excellent camera room, designed by and for underwater photographers
- Purpose-designed dive deck with plenty of soak and rinse tanks, drying tables, hanging racks for wet suits, etc.
- Well-trained dive crew who handled tanks and gear efficiently
- Nitrox is available and well-suited to the dive profiles
- Diving is done from local Bangka boats, 4 divers and one guide per boat
- American Mike Bartick is living on site, serving as resort manager and its underwater photo pro
- Crystal Blue's pricing a good value, commensurate with the quality and service provided
- Like most of Anilao, Crystal Blue Resort is built into a steep hillside. All access is up and down stone stairs. I took this as a means of maintaining personal fitness and honestly enjoyed it. People not in good physical condition might not be as pleased with the situation.
ANILAO DIVING -- Anilao is known as a critter diving destination, and this is certainly true as far as it goes. You will have the opportunity to see an amazing array of unusual marine life from myriad nudibranchs to hairy frogfish, and ghost pipefish to blue-ringed octopus. In all of this, Anilao compares very well to the creatures you might find in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia. But the fact is that, in addition to pure muck diving sites, Anilao has many dive sites with beautiful hard and soft corals, the full array of tropical reef fishes, blue water, and pelagic marine life as well. Kept alive by good current flow, Anilao is a wonderfully healthy and comprehensive dive destination with much to offer all divers, snorkelers, and underwater photographers.
ANILAO DIVE BOATS -- The typical Philippines dive boat is called a bangka, a narrow-hulled, wooden boat with outriggers for stability, and a small inboard engine. Crystal Blue Resort puts a maximum of four divers and one guide per bangka. With such a small party, there's plenty of room and the bangkas make for a good dive platform. Water, coffee, tea, and cookies are provided, and a welcome cup of hot chocolate after a night dive. Just remember to wear sun block and bring your hat.DIVE PROFILES -- At Crystal Blue Resort, the dive boats go out in the morning for two dives. After lunch a single-tank afternoon dive is offered, with the option of a night dive. The night dives are excellent, and I recommend them highly. Most of the diving is to 70 feet or less, and we were routinely allowed dive times of 70-minutes or more per dive. As always, it is strongly advised that the last five minutes of each dive be devoted to a very slow ascent and preventative decompression stops. The profiles are perfect for it, and the cost very reasonable, so I strongly suggest that you dive Nitrox here. There is no shore diving.
ANILAO SEASONALITY -- The best diving in this region will be found November through May. July and August is wet monsoon season, and probably best avoided. If you have a choice, I'd say that April and May would be the prime months for best diving conditions around Anilao. During my most recent stay, in the later half of April, water temperature varied from 78-82 degrees F. Air temperature was perfect in the low 80s. All in all perfectly pleasant on both counts... especially if you bring a good 3-5 mil wetsuit and a hooded vest.
COMBO TRIPS -- Because of its proximity to Manila, Anilao is easily combined with a second Philippine dive destination. For instance, it could be matched with Atlantis Resort in Dumaguete, or Kasai Village in Cebu. Just keep in mind that both of those destinations would require a domestic flight connection. Easiest option is to combine Anilao with El Galleon Resort in Puerto Galera. That requires only a one-hour boat transfer from Anilao, and would add the excellent blue water diving of Verde Island, the great Alma Jane wreck dive, and additional variety of reef diving sites. Island Dreams can assist you with any of these options, creating a customized itinerary to meet your specific requirements.
THE BOTTOM LINE -- Anilao is an excellent destination for divers, snorkelers, and underwater photographers. It's definitely not just muck diving. In addition to lots of amazing critters, there are plenty of blue water dives, nice corals, schooling fish, etc. Like many options in the Philippines, Anilao is also a great dollar value. I encourage you to come and visit Anilao and Crystal Blue Resort, and see for yourself.
Dive it!: Pricing for Crystal Blue Resort, Anilao
Learn more about Philippines Diving: Philippines Dive Report
Book a dive trip to the Philippines: Philippines Scuba Diving Packages
Dive the world from your desk. Explore Island Dreams' other: Destination Photo Galleries
Make some pictures of your own: Join Ken Knezick on an upcoming Conducted Group Tour