It was July 2014, when I lead a group of 33 travellers to Anilao, a rugged steep peninsula clad in lush rainforest. Well known to the locals, Anilao is usually overlooked by International Tourists and is a well-kept secret, guarded by a faithful following of underwater photographers. It is located about 150 kilometres south of Manilla, across the strait from Puerto Galera and is regarded as the centre of biodiversity in The Coral Triangle. My research had indicated that this destination offered us a great deal of interest with many rare and unusual creatures to be found. And we were not to be disappointed.
Our venue, Aiyanar Resort was located on a hillside with panoramic views of the superb sunsets across the Verde Strait. We settled in quickly and were soon introduced to one of the best diving operations we have ever seen, with a level of organisation and efficiency that was quite reassuring. It took little time to get into the routine of early morning breakfasts; checking and preparing gear; diving until lunchtime, then spending the afternoon by the pool or snorkelling the housereef. The occasional game of volleyball in the late afternoon tested us in the heat and humidity. The rooms were fine - not huge but well finished and stylish. The real star is the landscaping design of the resort - the gardens; the pool and the restaurant area are first class - with the best dive centre I have ever seen.
The water was 30° celsius and the diving was superb, with an amazing array of weird and interesting ‘critters’. In fact, every dive yielded new discoveries and that is a rare experience for me after over 2000 dives. Our dive guides were quite expert at finding these well hidden rarities and we soon learned to stick close and pay attention. Highlights included some very rare mimic nudibranchs (sea slugs), tiny pygmy seahorses the size of your pinky fingernail and laconic Sea Turtles grazing in the shallows. The diving was so varied that this destination offered something for everyone. A unique experience was our dive on the wreck of a “floating casino” (which obviously no longer floats!) that teemed with friendly fish of all shapes and sizes. Other favourite sites included Sombrero Island and Beatrice Rocks, only 20 minutes from the resort, which presented us with healthy coral reefs, colourful crinoids and masses of Butterfly and Angelfish. The density of life was quite something to behold – movement and colour were everywhere. Further afield, Verde Island lived up to its name as one of the best dive sites in The Philippines, with Giant Trevally contrasting with masses of bright yellow sun corals and whip corals flailing in the gentle current.
Anilao is a ‘serious’ diving destination, though we did manage one sidetrip which involved an expedition climbing a volcano at Lake Taal. Here we discovered a ‘world within a world’ as we ended up looking down into a crater lake after climbing a volcano inside a massive caldera ringed with yet more volcanoes.
Anilao really has it all, from tiny macro miniature delights to blue water coral reefs teeming with fish life. We will return to this lesser known region of The Philippines. Aiyanar is a fine dive resort, though there are a few minor rough edges that could be improved. The meals are buffet and good...sometimes very good. And there was always ample for the heartiest appetites in the group. But I guess they lacked a little 'wow' factor. Breakfasts were very good, though fresh orange juice would be better than powdered "Tang" (or whatever). These are very minor issues - my whole group would go back there in a heartbeat as the diving and the operation are so good. The camera room; the brilliant dive guides; and the superb sunsets all make this a very worthwhile destination.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A Stylish Beach and Dive Resort Nestled in one of the world's Best Macro Photography Destinations. Aiyanar was designed with the needs of serious Underwater Photographer's, Fun Divers and even non-diver's alike. With 24 well laid out Rooms, Aiyanar gives a Botique feel even as a Dive Resort. Fully equipped with all the amenities you would expect from a modern day Sea-Side Resort, like watercraft and Water Bourne Toys of all kinds; to Resort Details Like the Beautiful yet functional Infinity Pool which doubles as a Dive Training Pool. Non Diving guests will surely appreciate a vacation at this mostly diving destination. The defining amenities of Aiyanar are the amenities focused towards Scuba Diving Support and Underwater Photography support services. With a Dive shop that is hard to match around most of the Philippines and Even Asia, A Dive trip with Aiyanar is definitely a well organized affair. Efficient; while at the same time exuding with the warm service the Philippines is so known for. Its a place where the Diver and Non-Diver alike can come and do as much or as little as they want. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Aiyanar Beach And Dive Resort Batangas/Mabini, Philippines