Anilao – vibrant reefs and crazy critters


Ann Karin Matberg • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO • PT-EP14 • PPO-EP02 • 2 x UFL-3

Anilao is famous amongst divers for several reasons, but mainly for a unique diversity of macro stuff, and lately also for so called black water diving (night diving in extremely deep waters, hanging from a rope and just waiting to see what drifts by). Before my trip there, not too many divers had mentioned the incredibly rich reefs in the area, and so the beauty of this place came as a very, very pleasant surprise for our group and definitely deserves to be mentioned!

As Anilao is one of the real hotspots for weird, strange and bizarre marine animals you can spend many, many dive trips there without the need to go elsewhere. Ten days was way too little for me, so I am definitely going to return.

We were in the Philippines, in the Batangas area, on the island of Luzon, around a 2 ½ hour drive south from the busy capital of Manila. Nothing here reminded us of the crowded city we had just left. When we turned one way, we could overlook the ocean, when we turned the other way, we could see jungle and a small number of bungalows that belonged to the resort. No roads, no cars, no noise. Only crickets, birds and happy divers talking enthusiastically about their last dives. A perfect setup for our next ten days.

  
Ann Karin Matberg • Tough TG-5

Beautifully placed in a vibrant green hill, the brightly colored yellow bungalows of Buceo Anilao overlooked the bay offering their guests stunning views and memorable sunsets. As we were arriving by boat with all our luggage, we could already get a perfect impression of the place, and could hardly wait to get settled and dive into the clear water we were slowly gliding through.


Ann Karin Matberg • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm F2.8 Macro • PT-EP14 • PPO-EP02 • 2 x UFL-3

In this area you usually start your dive from small local boats called bangkas. These are outrigger canoes that can normally take up to 8 divers. The experienced crew carries all your equipment into the boat. You only bring yourself, a great smile and a good attitude. This is diving the easy way: Back roll out of the boat, let the crew hand you the camera and simply enjoy your dive. When back at the surface, give the crew your camera, then your equipment and climb up the ladder. Enjoy a dry towel, a drink and a snack before the next dive, or head back to the resort. Rinse and hang your equipment, or get someone to help you if you need - it is all up to your own preferences.

Even though Anilao is situated in a tropical region, the water temperature varies throughout the year. Optimistic as we were, we had dressed for the average 27-29 ºC, and got a chilly surprise when the temperature was below 25 ºC. This can happen between December and February, which is when we were there. I have to say that even though it was colder than expected, the sight of one of my Scandinavian buddies, supposedly a viking, dressed up in a wool sweater and a winter jacket after the dive was slightly surreal, but put a great big smile on our faces.


Ann Karin Matberg • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm F2.8 Macro • PT-EP14 • PPO-EP02 • 2 x UFL-3

Luckily the sun came out after a couple of days, helping with the surface intervals. But what was even better was the amazing stuff we saw under water! Literally just around the left corner from Buceo Anilao is an incredibly rich dive site, Mainit corner. A drop off and huge stone blocks packed with vibrantly colored corals, feather stars forming the whole rainbow and huge schools of antheas surrounding them. Giant sponges and equally giant pufferfish, and a couple of bright blue and yellow ribbon eels tucked in the same hole. Fan corals and bush corals, hard corals and soft corals, and of course lots of small stuff living and feeding in the area. This richness comes with a drawback though, sometimes the current can be strong. But your guides should help you stay away from the hours when the tide is making the water rush past this area. We dove at this place the last days of our stay, and only got a single dive there. It is such a great site, and offers so much for divers on all levels that it deserves to be visited again and again.

Ann Karin Matberg • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO • PT-EP14 • PPO-EP02 • 2 x UFL-3

On the other side of the dive center there were two small pinnacles just below the surface. Twin rocks is another great wide-angle site. As there was another huge stone formation just nearby, this was a great place to split the group in two. Half of the group started the dive on the single stone, the other half on the pinnacles, then during the dive we just switched. This gave us plenty of time to explore the area, and also helped us not to have unwanted fins, legs or bubbles in our pictures.

You are not interested in wide-angle? No problem! There is also plenty of macro stuff to see. One personal favorite was a young male ribbon eel on an almost completely white sandy bottom. Since it was very cooperative I could not resist playing around with it creating a, for me, completely new look – a picture where I have blown out the background completely with my flashes.


Ann Karin Matberg • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm F2.8 Macro • PT-EP14 • PPO-EP02 • 2 x UFL-3

As mentioned earlier, Anilao is famous for its collection of strange creatures. Nudibranchs are amongst them, with the large pink, lumpy, weird looking Miamira allenii on the must-see-list. But for those of you that are not a fan of these colorful animals there are plenty of other gems to tick off your list. What about a rhinopia just as vibrantly yellow as the bungalows of the resort, or a huge sea snake winding its way along the bottom searching for food? You might find them at Red rock.


Ann Karin Matberg • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm F2.8 Macro • PT-EP14 • PPO-EP02 • 2 x UFL-3

Not satisfied? Maybe a mimic octopus or a flamboyant cuttlefish will make your day? If you are more into fish, then a huge spotted soap fish or a giant frogfish might be on your wishlist. Then you should dive Kirby’s, a steep wall with a pinnacle close by, where every centimeter is packed with life. Small or big – everyone can find something of their taste there. It even offers a small overhang. But always keep an eye out in the blue, since you never know what huge animals might pass by. It might be your first turtle or even a shark. In the Philippines you just never know, and Anilao is absolutely ready to fulfill your diver’s and photographer’s dreams.


Ann Karin Matberg • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO • PT-EP14 • PPO-EP02 • 2 x UFL-3

The resort holds everything you need. With experienced guides and boats that can take you wherever you want, the only drawback about the place is that it has stairs. Many stairs. So, if you are up for getting fit, this is an added bonus after lazy dives!