The heartbeat of Anilao

Is it possible to fall in love with a place?

My first trip to Anilao proved that falling in with a place is totally possible as it happened to me. Sometimes i think if i just did a few more dives the feeling would dissipate, or if i visited more places i might see something else that grabs my attention. 

Reef scene in Anilao

Coming to Anilao for the first time was an adventure that had me scratching my head as the van “stop’n goe’d” through traffic in Bauan. Finally feeling a sense of relief, breaking free and being greeted by the scuba diver in Mabini town.

As the feeling of “what did i get myself into now” began to subside the van made that last left turn and we headed down the peninsula. My first glimpse of the sun glistening on the water nearly took my breathe away,  instantly i heard myself say “wow”.  The flat calm glassy water, Sombrero island in the distance, the blue of Balayan bay. Remarkably, I still get the same feeling, even after traveling through that same stretch of road countless times. So much has changed yet so little is different and each time i arrive in Anilao, i finally feel at home.

Mabini town's triangle greets divers on their way to Anilao and Crystal Blue

Anilao isn’t the true name of this area though. Back in the day, when locals came out to dive, they would park their cars, find a rest place and a dive boat in the Anilao township or Barangay, the road actually ending near the bay. In time, the road extended completely around the peninsula as did the name and now the entire area including the local island is known as “Anilao” to the local and global diving community.

The view from the top of our peninsula. Balayan Bay on the left and the port of Batangas on the right

Dive boats in Anilao are called Banca's. The design is unique to the Philippines 

What makes Anilao so special is the biodiversity and abundance of marine life all packed into such a small area. The peninsula is surrounded by two large deepset bays. On the eastern side the international Bay of Batangas and on the western the Balayan Bay. Along the mouth of those two bays runs the Maricaban straight which converges with the waters from the Verde Island Pass. This sometimes fast moving body of water is a constant source of food for both bays and supplies the local reefs and sandy slopes with its incredible animal life. Nowadays, Anilao is popular, but then there was very little known about the area and getting any information on it was very challenging. 

Diver, exploring just under the boat

Of course i like critters so my focus revolves around our macro dive sites but once you begin to look around, its easy to discover that there are many more layers that exist here and that a lifetime of exploring would be needed to see it all. Beauty like this comes at a price though and Anilao can be a bit bi-polar in its seasonal changes.

The Queen of Macro

7-8 months of bliss can quickly give-way to 4 months of powerful storms. Our weather pattern is very much like the Atlantic Ocean with its hurricane seasons except our storms are called typhoons. There are 2 seasons mainly in all of South East Asia, Dry Typhoon and Wet Typhoon. The reality is that most of the year the water is flat and somewhat calm.

Anilao's, plankton rich waters support a myriad of marine life

Anilaos best kept secrets aren't the critters

Unlike most of the Philippines, the water in Anilao remains cooler, infact the water can be downright cold during certain times of the year. The cold water upwellings and topside winds also compete, turning the water over, transferring the warm water at the surface with cooler waters down deep, refreshing the corals and replenishing the divesites for the next season.

Hairy Frogfish, one of my favorite critters

We know the season is on when hairy frogfish begin to show up on the dive sites. Each season, they tend to settle at some locations before others but eventually several of the sites will have them. Their animated personalities are hard to resist and just watching them is fun to do, especially when they are on the hunt, creeping along and luring.

Diver at Kirbys

I’ve always enjoyed diving the same divesite in California and having the ability to watch it change with the seasons. Already in-tune with that rhythm, it was easy to connect with the similar seasonal pattern here but in a slightly larger sense of the idea. Watching the various divesites populate with soft corals and sponge pushing up from the substrate then the slugs that follow them. Frogfish, sea horses, octopus, blennies, gobies, cuttlefish, mantis shrimp oh my! the macro life begins to explode!

Frogfish at Kirby's

Frogfish are somewhat common in Anilao and if you look closely and move slowly, you will begin to see them. Frogfish use their colorations to mimic sponges, crinoids even urchins. They lie and wait for their victims, hunting in place to conserve energy.

Scarlett colored Scorpionfish, pinnacle area of Kirby's

Nudibranchs of over 1,000 different kinds call Anilao home

The Ghost known as Melibe colemani resembles threadlike algae and soft coral

Miamira alleni is one of Anilao's iconic macro subjects

Some of my favorite areas to dive are really on the coral reef areas such as Beatriz, Apohls, Kirbys, Kuala and our resorts house reef, Arthurs and Arthurs wall. The corals and busy fishlife are visually impactful while the heavy Anthae population adds to the color. Diving on these reefs one can almost feel the heartbeat of the entire area pulsing and moving.

Diver at Beatriz

In love with a place, yes, in love with the people, yes, in love with Anilao, indeed. Anilao is much more than just a dive destination and when your ready to come out and see the best of Anilao, we will be here to welcome you.

Incredible colors of Anilao's reefs are unmatched and truly remarkable

Exploring different areas of the island and peninsula can yield in some very special moments and finds. Cabbage coral is extremely delicate and thrives in some of the protected more areas.

A secret hidden patch of Cabbage Coral

Table corals and barrel sponges adorn almost every reef.

Reef scene, Sombrero island

Anemone fish

The pulse of Anilao is palpable but don't take my word for it, get out there and see for yourself!

Me and my buddies (resort guides) on a day of exploring

CBR from the waterfront

All images were shot with either Nikon D850 or D500, Sea and Sea Strobes

More information regarding the resort and workshops can be found here:

Crystal Blue Resort