Thanks to its world-class international airport, Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island, Cebu is the most accessible scuba diving destination in the Philippines. With scuba diving having started here in 1970s, it’s also one of the first dive destinations in the country. The highly urbanized island is ideal for quick getaways, and is an excellent place to review or upgrade your diving skills upon arriving in the Philippines before heading out to other dive destinations in the country.
The dive sites here are concentrated along the eastern coast of the island – many of them are shore-entry – and around the Olango Island Group, across the Hilutungan Channel. This cluster includes the islands of Olango, Gilutongan and Nalusuan, which feature marine sanctuaries.
Established in 2017, E & Z Diving Center is relatively one of the newer shops in Mactan. The SSI (Scuba Schools International) facility is located at Marigondon Beach, offering shore-entry dives to Marigondon Cave, one of the famous sites in Mactan for advanced scuba divers at 30 to 40 meters deep. Their shallow house reef, on the other hand, is ideal for macro photography, especially on night dives.
The dive center also offers scheduled boat dives, inclusive of lunch and environmental fees, to visit other dive sites along the Mactan coast or the offshore islands. They also have a 9 ft-deep swimming pool for dive training (currently under renovation), a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, and a few rooms for overnight guests.
Last weekend, I spent a day with E & Z Diving Center, joining three boat dives at Olango Island and along the Mactan coast. From Attic Capsule Hotel, a new budget accommodation at Marigondon Crossing (full review here), I chartered a tricycle to the dive center since I brought some dive gear with me like my fins, booties, and underwater cameras. I arrived at the beachside facility a little past 8 am, early enough to eat a light breakfast, get my camera gear ready, and try on my wetsuit.
By 9:30 am, our big bangka departs the dive center for Talima Marine Sanctuary, off the northern end of Olango Island. This was my second time to dive here. In 2017, I enjoyed a shore-entry dive here from Talima Beach Villas.
Our big group of around 20 divers and guides was comprised of DSD and licensed divers, including a family of Russian expats with their 10-year-old daughter. The whole family received their Open Water certification two weeks earlier in Puerto Galera, and were exploring Cebu and Bohol for their next dive trip. We arrived at our first dive site after half an hour, just time for the overcast sky to let some sunlight through.
The boat first dropped off the beginners at the shallow topside reef closer to shore, before moving over next to the drop-off for our group. After gearing up, we plunged into the water at 10:30 am. Led by dive guide Jekoy, our group of four included an American and a Russian diver. As with all my first dives, I descended slowly to help my right ear equalize better. Finning past a huge boulder, we reached the edge. As I waited for proper equalization, I lagged behind at the beginning of the dive, hovering over my dive mates when we reached the wall. A light current picked up, and the water was somewhat turbid – probably because it has been raining over the previous days.
We drifted along the wall, allowing the current to carry us away. Now and then, we swam against the flow to take a closer look at interesting subjects for macro photography. Along the way, I spotted freckled hawkfish (Paracirrhites forsteri) – one of the easiest fish to photograph – perched on a coral, and ocellaris clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris), which are always appealing to shoot.
On a small patch of bubble coral, I found bubble coral shrimp (Vir philippinensis), a tiny, translucent species described in 1984 with specimens collected from Cebu. Later on the dive, I found a hairy red hermit crab (Dardanus lagopodes), with an algae-covered shell that blended perfectly on the algae-covered rock it was crawling on.
Moreover, there was also an abundance of Chromodoris willani, an inch-long, periwinkle-colored sea slug named after renowned Australian nudibranch taxonomist Dr. Richard C. Willan. This was the only nudibranch species I spotted throughout the entire dive, until I found a smaller one over on the topside: Thuridilla lineolata, a tiny, light blue and orange sea slug feeding on algae. I spotted the same two nudibranch species at this dive site five years ago.
Our second dive was supposed to be at Talima, but since the dive site was crowded with more than a dozen other dive boats, our dive guides decided to take us to another site off Mactan island called Coral Reef, named after an abandoned beach resort. We reached our next dive site in half an hour, and after waiting for the required surface interval, plunged back into the water. Unfortunately, despite its name, this dive site was more barren than Talima. It consisted mainly of algae-covered rubble, and was more of a muck diving site.
According to Jekoy, this dive site suffered from decades of overfishing and blast fishing. Furthermore, in December 2021, Super Typhoon Odette (Rai) – the strongest cyclone to hit the country last year – devastated Central Philippines, damaging the dive sites off the coast of Mactan.
While the American diver, who was macro photographer, spent minutes shooting a microscopic sea slug, I looked around to find interesting subjects. I only found typical sandy bottom-dwellers like messmate pipefish (Corythoichthys haematopterus) and sharpnose sandperch (Parapercis cylindrica). Later on, I came across a different species of nudibranch, Goniobranchus geometricus. After spending around 15 minutes on the topside looking for macro subjects, we swam along the wall. Unfortunately, the drop-off was dead and gloomy. It didn’t also help that the water here was also turbid.
Honestly speaking, I wouldn’t recommend this dive site, unless you’re a macro photographer or out for night dives when you’re bound to encounter more interesting nocturnal critters. After 50 minutes of bottom time and even with 80 bars of air left in my tank, we had to surface from our shallow dive – with no safety stop necessary – since it was already 2 pm, and we had haven’t eaten our lunch! So headed back to the dive center to enjoy the lunch prepare at the restaurant. We had a generous lunch of barbecued pork and chicken, pancit bihon, and gusô (Eucheuma seaweed) salad. There was also raw suwake (collector urchin) and shellfish.
After our lunch break, we returned to our boat at around 3:30 for our third and last dive of the day at PCR, fronting the accommodation from which it takes its name: Pacific Cebu Resort. With the sun retiring in the late afternoon, the visibility worsened on the last dive. The topside was murky, but water clarity slightly improved when we descended along the wall. This dive site is known for its underwater concrete sculptures like big letters that spell “LOVE” and giant twin hearts. The most popular sculptures are life-size statues of the 12 astrological signs.
Unfortunately, most of the sculptures have toppled over or disappeared since Super Typhoon Odette. Along the wall, we found only six figures remaining: Gemini, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Sagittarius and Aquarius. This is a good spot for wide-angle photography, so I brought along only my GoPro. Instead of looking for critters, our group enjoyed taking turns posing next to the statues. Like the previous site, there was nothing much to see here in terms of marine life. The underwater sculptures and enthusiastic company, however, made it a fun and interesting dive.
For licensed divers, guided fun dives start at ₱1,000 per shore-entry day dive, while shore-entry night dives are ₱1,200 each. Boat dives are ₱5,000 per diver (minimum of four persons), inclusive of three guided dives, lunch and drink, boat rental and sanctuary fees.
Guests who wish to try scuba diving can avail of the Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) program at ₱2,500, inclusive of two dives and lunch, while those who wish to be certified may take their SSI Open Water Course for ₱14,000. For a full list of their diving services, please visit their Facebook page.
How to Get There
From Mactan-Cebu International Airport: E & Z Diving Center is a 30 to 40 minute drive away (11 km), depending on the traffic. The most convenient way to get here is by booking a car or taxi with the Grab mobile app.
From Cebu mainland: a taxi ride from Cebu City to Marigondon can cost ₱350 to ₱450, depending on the traffic. Alternatively, you can take public transportation, however, there are no direct trips. One can take a jeepney from Parkmall (Mandaue City) to Tamiya Terminal (Lapu-Lapu City), where you can transfer to a jeepney to Marigondon Crossing. Finally, from this junction, take a tricycle or habal-habal (motorcycle taxi) to the dive center at Marigondon Beach.
Caution: The dirt access road from Marigondon Beach to E & Z Dive Center, passing by Vaño Beach, can get badly flooded when it rains. An entrance fee for vehicles is collected here (₱10 per motorcycle and ₱20 per car) by Vaño Beach Resort. The money collected is reputedly used to improve this private road. Sometimes, tricycle drivers would refuse to enter this road when flooded. If you get stuck, you may contact the dive center to pick you up by motorcycle from Marigondon Beach.
Where to Stay
E & Z Diving Center has two large rooms for overnight guests at ₱3,000 per night, good for four persons. There are other middle-range and high-end resorts in the vicinity, with the most well-known being the upscale Plantation Bay Resort & Spa. Alternatively, you can stay elsewhere on Mactan island, which offers several options that can fit any budget.
Address: Sitio Mahayahay, Barangay Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, Philippines
Contact numbers: +63 9275259838