Dauin is a small town on the southcoast of Negros Oriental in the Philippines and mostly known for scuba diving. It’s a favorite destination for underwater photographers, both professionals and amateurs. But famous as the dive sites of Dauin are today, it hasn’t always been like that.
Originally, the southern coast of Negros Oriental was mainly used to hop on the boat to Apo Island, a world class dive destination with pristine coral reefs and many turtles. Dauin’s coast, with its brown sand and lack of corals did not seem that interesting for scuba divers. That is, until people decided to take a closer look and discovered muck diving.
What is muck diving?
The name muck diving comes from the sediment that lies on the bottom of many dive sites. It’s usually a muddy or ‘mucky’ environment. A typical muck dive site would consist of sand… and only sand. That might sound boring, but that sand is the home to some of the most fascinating and weirdest creatures on this planet.
These critters are the closest you’ll get to aliens on this planet. But since they’re often miniscule in size – or masters of camouflage, they do not give themselves away easily. To spot them you need to know what you’re looking for, get close to the bottom and go slow… very slow. Patience is key, but once you spot one of these crazy looking things, the satisfaction is big. You can compare muck diving to a treasure hunt: you have to focus and work for it, but when you finally find your treasure it is so rewarding! This is exactly why muck diving can be very addictive!
Muck diving in Dauin
So what makes muck diving in Dauin so exceptional? You’d think that you could muck dive anywhere with a sandy bottom, right? I guess you could, but some sandy bottoms are richer in nutrients than others and therefore attract more or different types of marine life. The coast of Dauin consists of dark brown volcanic sand, creating the ideal environment for a large variety of crazy critters.
The huge variety of critters is exactly what makes muck diving in Dauin unique, so the list is way too long to name all of them here. Some of my favorites that are regularly spotted around Dauin are frogfish, many types of octopus, (flamboyant) cuttlefish, seahorses (including the super cute pygmy seahorse), candy crabs, stargazers, mantis shrimp, harlequin shrimp and many, many nudibranchs. You could dive the same dive site twice or thrice a day, and still discover new things. Combine that with a great variety of dive sites, and you could spend weeks (if not months) diving in Dauin without getting bored.
Scuba diving in Dauin is enjoyed most by more experienced divers. This is not because the conditions are so challenging, but because of the skills needed for muck diving. Because you need to get very close to the bottom, your buoyancy skills need to be on point. If you stir up the bottom, you not only disturb the marine life, but also ruin the visibility for other divers. Especially when diving with photographers, this will not make you very popular. Another reason why muck diving is less suitable for new divers, is that they simply don’t know what they’re looking at. Part of the fun of muck diving is knowing interesting facts about the fascinating and alien-like creature you’ve just found. The curiosity about marine life usually starts to exist after divers get more comfortable in the water, and start shifting their attention from themselves to their environment.
Having said that, if you are a new diver, yet super interested in muck diving, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t give it a try! Dive conditions in Dauin are often very beginner-friendly. There are many good instructors and dive masters around who will be more than happy to help you with your buoyancy skills and critter knowledge. Drop me a message for recommendations!
Most of Dauin’s dive sites are easily accessible by shore, giving you lots of freedom, variety and options that are suitable for all budgets. Most resorts have amazing dive sites right on their doorstep. Because you can just walk into the ocean and don’t need any transportation, this is often cheaper than a boat dive – and will also save you lots of time. To visit other dive sites in the area, jeepneys are often the choice of transportation. For those who enjoy boat diving, this is of course also still an option!
When diving around Dauin, you are required to pay a sanctuary fee. At the moment of writing this is 140 PHP per dive without a camera and 200 PHP per dive with a camera (a GoPro is not considered a camera here). When diving with a dive center, this may or may not already be included in the price.
Most of Dauin’s dive sites consist of sandy bottoms, making it amazing for muck diving, but not that great for snorkeling. There are a few exceptions, like the Marine Sanctuary dive site that has a nice reef, and is easily accessible from the beach. However, for a truly great snorkeling experience, Apo Island is only a short boat ride away. Here you will find magical corals, colorful reef fish and many turtles all in one location!
How to get there
To go to Dauin, most people go through the city of Dumaguete. To get to Dumaguete you can either travel by plane or ferry. There are daily flights to Dumaguete airport from Manila and Cebu. Traveling by ferry is cheaper, but takes longer. There are ferry rides, long and short, from pretty much all neighboring islands. It can be a bit tricky to find information about schedules online, so your best bet is to just go to the ferry terminal to buy tickets.
Tip: the overnight ferry from Cebu to Dumaguete (and vice versa) is a nice and much cheaper alternative to flying. It leaves at 10:00 PM and arrives early in the morning around 06:00 AM. For under PHP 1,000 you get an air conditioned bunk bed, where you can dream the night away while saving money on transportation and accommodation.
Once you’ve made it to Dumaguete, getting to Dauin is easy peasy. You can either get a tricycle (the Filipino version of a tuktuk) for PHP 300 – 500, or take a bus at the Ceres bus terminal. There are no bus stop, the driver will simply drop you off anywhere you like along the highway. Another option is a private transfer in a comfortable, air conditioned van. Contact me for more information.
When to go
Dauin can be visited year round, but some months offer slightly better weather and conditions than others.
June to September are the hottest months, but usually also bring some storm and rain. You can have a whole week of perfectly sunny weather, but you can also get unlucky as these months are just unpredictable. Don’t let this stop you from visiting Dauin, as diving conditions are still amazing! And because this is low season, you will get the best bang for your bucks.
From October to January the temperature will drop slightly, and the ocean is usually a bit rougher during this time of year. If you are prone to getting sea sick, it’s advisable to take some medication before getting on a boat!
From February to May, the conditions are most favorable. Sunny days and calm seas make this the perfect time to visit Dauin. It is also considered high season, so prices will be higher and you may want to book ahead.
Do you still have questions about Dauin or need a recommendation? Do not hesitate to leave a comment or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.