If you’re looking for a quiet dive destination away from the crowds that descend onto popular places like Anilao, Cebu or Bohol, you might want to go the extra mile and venture to Sogod Bay in Southern Leyte province. Due to its relative remoteness, this part of the Philippines sees far fewer tourists, guaranteeing that your dive group will often enjoy the dive sites all to yourselves!
There are only a handful of dive centers in the entire area, with Peter’s Dive Resort being one of the pioneering establishments since 2000. The five-star PADI dive resort – equipped with two outrigger dive boats – is located at Barangay Lungsodaan, Padre Burgos, along the western side of the bay. From here, you can enjoy panoramic seascape views with Mt. Cabalian, an active volcano, peeking behind Panaon Island across the bay.
A three-hour drive south of Tacloban Airport (which has flights from Manila and Cebu), Sogod Bay is a large bay surrounded by 10 municipalities of Southern Leyte province. Around two dozen dive sites dot the bay area, including Panaon Island to the east and Limasawa Island to the south.
Sogod Bay offers encounters from tiny pygmy horses to whales sharks! There is an excellent mix of reef diving along deep walls and gentle slopes, as well as muck diving that would appeal to macro photographers searching for fascinating critters to photograph. In between dives, the resort also arranges sustainable whale shark snorkeling trips to Panaon Island when the ocean’s largest fish visits the bay to feed between November and April.
Napantao Marine Sanctuary
The most popular dive site in Sogod Bay is Napantao Marine Sanctuary off the coast of San Francisco, Panaon Island – an hour’s ride away from the resort across the bay. Napantao features a coral wall that drops to down 50 meters. A morning trip here involves diving at two different sections of the wall: Napantao North Wall and Napantao South Wall.
Currents are frequently strong here, nourishing a vibrant reef characterized by large black corals, sea fans, and green branching coral (Tubastrea micranthus). Like most dive sites in the area, Napantao was affected by Supertyphoon Odette (Rai) in 2021. Much of the top reef sustained damage from storm surges, however, the wall is beautifully intact.
Fortunately, the current was mild during our dives, so I especially enjoyed photographing nudibranchs our guide Ariel was pointing out. Among the common nudibranchs we spotted were Chromodoris magnifica, Chromodoris elisabethina, and a mating pair of Nembrotha chamberlaini. On the other hand, the not-so-common ones I saw were Goniobranchus reticulatus, Halgerda batangas, Diversidoris crocea, and Nembrotha cf. guttata (listed as “undescibed” in the reef guide).
Bigger creatures we came across included lionfish, scorpionfish, and two species of moray eels – yellow-edged moray (Gymnothorax flavimarginatus) and greyface moray (Gymnothorax thyrsoideus). A school of longjawed mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta) swam next to the wall in the deep blue, filter-feeding on plankton with their mouths wide open. Sea turtles are often spotted in the area. Other groups on our boat spotted a couple, however, my group didn’t encounter any during our dives. My favorite sighting was a black-colored giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) perched atop branching green coral towards the end of our dive at North Napantao.
Another location known for great wall diving is Limasawa Island, just south of Sogod Bay, which has a handful of dive sites. It takes at least 45 minutes to reach the island from the resort. A morning trip to Limasawa typically involves diving at two of its most-visited sites: Gunther’s Wall and Adrian’s Cove.
The walls here are not as deep as Napantao’s but they’re also festooned with hard coral, soft coral, sea fans and black coral. The top reefs, though they were also damaged by Supertyphoon Odette, look better here than in Napantao. Along the wall, we spotted scorpionfish, Nembrotha lineolata, and bubble coral shrimp. Everyone’s favorite encounter, however, was another species of frogfish: a warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) tucked in a large branching coral.
If you wish to do more reef diving, two reef sites that was largely spared by Supertyphoon Odette are Medicare North and Medicare South.
Muck Diving in Malitbog
My final dive was a muck dive off the coast of Malitbog, the municipality just north of the resort. Dive sites here can either be accessed by land transfer then a shore-entry dive, or a boat dive from the resort, which takes 30 minutes travel time. The shallow dive sites here are characterized by slopes of dark-colored sand, where critters abound. Muck diving involves diving in sandy, muddy or silty environments in search of small, fascinating creatures.
The most popular muck site here was Malitbog Lembeh (or Little Lembeh), named after the top muck diving destination in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Since Supertyphoon Odette (Rai), however, this site has lost many of its sough-after critters, and Peter’s Dive Resort often takes their guests to a newer site called Caaga – after the barangay (village) where it’s located – just south of Little Lembeh.
Hiding amidst algae-covered stones and some garbage are perfectly camouflaged animals like broadclub cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus) spiny devilfish (Inimicus didactylus), straightstick pipefish (Trachyrhamphus longirostris), estuary seahorse (Hippocampus kuda), and numerous robust ghost pipefish (Solenostomus cyanopterus)! Aside from a Halgerda batangas (which we also spotted at Napantao), it was my first time to spot two unusual nudibranch species: Hypselidoris infucata and Mexichromis multituberculata.
Upon inspecting certain anemones and urchins, we also observed tiny crustaceans like squat shrimp (Thor amboinensis), porcelain crab (Neopetrolisthes maculatus) and crinoid squat lobster (Allogalathea elegans). With all the critters we found in a single dive, this was my favorite one in Sogod Bay, and a wonderful finale to a great diving trip to one of the most underrated destinations in the Philippines.
Aside from the Malitbog sites, another excellent muck site is Padre Burgos Jetty, which is often scheduled by the resort as a shore-entry night dive.
HOW TO GET THERE
Peter’s Dive Resort is located at Barangay Lungsodaan, Padre Burgos, Southern Leyte – a three-hour drive from Tacloban Airport, which serves regular flights from Manila and Cebu.
Alternatively, from Cebu City, you can take a ro-ro ferry or fastcraft to any of the ports along the southwestern coast of Leyte island (ie. from north to south, Ormoc, Baybay, Hilongos, Bato or Maasin), then travel southwards by bus or van to Padre Burgos. (Tip: Cebu-Ormoc route has fastcraft options, while Hilongos has daily ro-ro ferry trips).
I took a Roble Shipping ferry (₱680 for tourist class, 6-7 hours), which departed Cebu City at 9pm and arrived at Hilongos Port at 4am. While onboard, one can purchase bus transfer tickets to other places on Leyte island. I bought a bus ticket for Maasin City Terminal (₱150, 1 hour), where I transferred to a Sogod-bound van (₱100, 45 minutes), which dropped me off at Peter’s Dive Resort in Padre Burgos.
Check out the Facebook pages of the ferry companies for the latest schedule:
- Roble Shipping (Cebu-Hilongos) – Ro-ro ferry, 6 hours
- KHO Shipping Lines (Cebu-Maasin)* – Ro-ro ferry, 6 hours
- OceanJet & SuperCat (Cebu-Ormoc) – Fastcraft, 3 hours
Peter’s Dive Resort offers an assortment of rooms, starting at ₱400 ($7.25) for a fan-cooled dorm bed or ₱1,440 ($26) for a private economy room. Find discounted rates and check room availability here!