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In the Philippines, Romblon is known for its marble production, beautiful white beaches, and clear blue waters. Unknown to many, even the locals, its best-kept secret lies in the depths of the ocean. Scuba divers and underwater macro photographers have gone to this quiet island in search of the tiniest and rarest creatures they can find. In this post, I will share with you my experience of diving Romblon.
After hearing whispers about what this island has to offer, I decided that the long 18-hour trip from Manila would be well worth it.
I have gone scuba diving in Romblon twice in a span of a year. My first trip was with my friend, Jem, in April of 2018. I decided to come back on my own in October of 2018.
My first trip was cut short due to poor logistical planning. Long story short, it was Holy Week and we ran out of tickets for the ferry we originally wanted to take back home. We ended up leaving a day early, so Jem could get back to work on time. This meant less diving than we planned.
Since I didn’t see the nudibranchs (sea slugs) that we came for, I decided to make a second trip. Yes, you read that right, I was going back to Romblon for sea slugs!
Location of Romblon
The province of Romblon is located in the middle of the Sibuyan Sea, which separates Luzon from the Visayas Region. The province of Romblon is made up of islands so traveling can be a bit tricky. The main islands of Romblon province are Tablas, Sibuyan and Romblon. There are many white-sand beaches, mountains, rainforest, waterfalls you can visit within the province but if you want to go scuba diving, you need to head out to Romblon Island.
Romblon Island is also located at the end of the Verde Island Passage. If you haven’t heard of Verde Island Passage, the scientific community dubs it as the center of center of marine biodiversity. Verde Island Passage is known to be one of the richest areas when it comes to marine species. So it is not surprising to find many rare sea creatures in Romblon.
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Romblon is a quiet and peaceful province and the same can be said about its underwater environment. You will find a serene underwater haven in Romblon.
Romblon is still not that well-known as a dive destination in the Philippines. I’m kinda hoping it stays that way!
There are only 2 dive shops in Romblon Island and they can only accommodate a certain number of divers at a time. The great thing about this is that most likely you won’t be bumping into any other dive groups!
Most dive sites are suitable for all levels of experience.
Season for Romblon Diving
You can scuba dive in Romblon the whole year-round. The best time to visit is October to June. There’s a higher chance of rain in the months of July-September, but you can still dive during this time.
If you want to book your trip in January, you might want to consider if you want to go or avoid the Biniray Festival of Romblon. This is on every second week of January in honor of Señor Santo Niño or baby Jesus. It is a huge Roman Catholic celebration for the people of Romblon. Often there will be more tourists in the area because of all the festivities.
Water Temperature and Visibility
Water temperatures are usually between 26 °C to 30°C. Visibility is around 5-20 meters.
When I first went scuba diving in Romblon, I dived with The Three P Resort. They were the only dive shop on the island, so we really didn’t have much choice! Hahaha… just kidding! We were not really worried since the reviews about them were good.
The Three P Holiday & Dive Resort is basically a family-owned business, managed by three brothers- Peter, Patrick, and Philipp. Kati, Philipp’s wife, also helps in managing the resort. They’ve been in business for about 10 years so they’re well-established and known in the area.
The Three P Resort itself is located in Babangtan, Barangay Lonos which is about 15 minutes from Poblacion, the main town proper of Romblon Island. 3P sits on the west side of the island so expect gorgeous sunsets by the beach if you do plan to stay here.
The Three P Holiday & Dive Resort has beautiful rooms and cottages. Since they’re the only dive shop on this side of Romblon, they can easily get fully-booked. You can coordinate with them via email for reservations. I would suggest getting in touch with them via mobile for quicker responses.
e-mail: [email protected]
Philipp: +63 929 4407 135
Kati: +63 939 6333 869
I did not book my accommodations with The Three P Resort during my visit as I was traveling solo and it was outside my budget range. Hopefully, I can get to stay with them next time I visit Romblon, and my budget permits it!
Sonofareef is another scuba dive shop located in Barangay Agnay in Romblon. They have an outrigger motorboat, named Tsinpu, that can accommodate up to 6 divers on board and can take you to dive sites in Romblon and other neighboring islands like Tablas.
To dive with Sonofareef, you can book a stay with their partner establishment Tinaoog Beach Resort.
The diving resort in Romblon is Romblon Fun Divers. They are located on Alad Island. To get there you must take a 10-minute boat ride from the Provincial Capitol of Romblon.
Romblon Fun Divers was previously located in Romblon town proper itself but they’ve recently relocated to Sunset Cove Beach & Dive Resort.
While Romblon Fun Divers is a relatively newcomer in town, they are not new to diving. The owners used to run a dive shop in El Nido, Palawan, so they have experience with the hospitality industry and running a dive center. They also have good reviews online so I wouldn’t hesitate scuba diving with them either.
You can book your stay with Sunset Cove Beach & Dive Resort via Agoda.com.
Dive Sites in Romblon
The dive sites in Romblon are diverse. You find various dive sites: walls, cliffs, soft coral spots, muck dive sites for macro fans, giant gorgonias, marine sanctuaries. There are at least 18 identified dive spots in Romblon Island. You can expect to find these marine creatures when diving in each spot:
- 3P House Reef- rare tiger shrimp, mandarin fish and marble shrimps
- Agnay Fish Sanctuary- shoals, eagle rays and sharks
- Lonos Marine Sanctuary- giant clams, white Ornate ghostpipefish, spindle cowrie, crustaceans, nudibranchs
- The Rope- Stiliger sp., Costasiella sp., colorful skeleton shrimp, mimic octopus, nudibrachs
- Bangug Island- Severnsi Pontohi pygmy seahorses, hairy shrimp and algae shrimp
- Sea Grass Valley of Bonbon
- Bonbon Beach- corals and nudibranchs
- Fan Coral Collection of Bonbon- pygmy seahorse, nudibranchs, cowries, rare crustaceans.
- Lunas- wunderpus, flamboyant cuttlefish, blue-ring octopus, sawblade shrimps, bobbit worms
- Staghorn Corazon- staghorns
- Treasure’s Dream- shallow waters with rich marine life
- Magnificat – large gorgonias, Denise and Bargibanti Pygmy seahorses
- Mapula- sea turtles, nudibranchs, small frogfish, Lembeh Sea Dragon
- San Pedro Turtle Sanctuary- sea turtles, sea snakes, eagle rays and swarm fish
- St. Joseph- a large colony of garden eels, big lobsters, nudibranchs
- Palje- Severnsi and Pontohi pygmy seahorse
- Agpanabat Fish Sanctuary- high coral towers
- Agpanabat Caves & Canyons Marine Sanctuary- unique landscape of steep walls, overhangs, caves and gorges
I have done a total of 10 dives in Romblon and visited sites like Bonbon since that’s where they usually find the rare critters I wanted to see.
Macro and Super Macro Underwater Photography in Romblon
Although there are different kinds of underwater landscape and a variety of creatures to be found in Romblon, almost all divers go here for the macro and super macro critters.
3P had built their business as a photo-dive resort so most dives are focused on photography. Most likely you will meet underwater photography hobbyists and professionals from all over the world while diving with 3P.
When I was there, I went diving with someone from China and Germany. Both were there specifically to take photos of nudibranch, shrimps and other tiny critters!
Here are some of the cool and rare underwater critters I saw. Most of them I’ve only seen in Romblon!
If you’re into super macro underwater photography then you should definitely scuba dive with The Three P Resort Romblon! I would advise that you get a private guide or spotter to ensure that you find all the good stuff.
Expect to see super tiny critters when you dive Romblon. Any critter bigger than one inch would be considered ginormous!
It helps to have a local know where to find these tiny critters. I highly recommend Syril, a local spotter who’s been diving with The Three P Holiday & Dive Resort for over a year already. He will find you marine life in the Philippines you have never seen before!
Do you love nudis? Learn more about them from these sea slugs and nudibranchs books!
Blackwater Diving in Romblon
The Three P Holiday & Dive Resort offers blackwater diving as well. This can be scheduled but requires a minimum of 2 divers.
Blackwater diving is a special kind of night dive where participants are taken miles offshore over deep oceanic water. Weighted downlines are then tied to the boat. Each diver is then attached to the downline via a shorter tagline. These harness systems ensure that divers can’t wander too far from the boat, because if you find the bottom in 3000 feet of seawater, something has gone terribly wrong.http://www.uwphotographyguide.com/photo-tips-blackwater-diving
I was very interested in trying this but since I didn’t have the proper photography gear I decided to pass on this first. It is also more expensive than the regular night dive so I’d much rather experience this when my photography has improved.
Deep Diving in the Blue Hole of Romblon
The Blue Hole is another scuba diving highlight when visiting Romblon. It is located in Tablas Island though. The dive shops can organize trips to Tablas Island if you wish to go. But, they usually require a number of divers per trip to cover the costs of going all the way to Tablas.
The Blue Hole’s entrance is about 5-10 meters from the surface but the hole itself extends down to 30-40 meters. Diving conditions are unpredictable. Sometimes the currents can get very strong making it hard to penetrate.
I’ve been wanting to visit this blue hole in Romblon. But every time I visited there was no one who wanted to go. *sad face* I also got the impression that it wasn’t as great as it seems. “Not much to see,” from what I’ve heard. But who knows! The ocean always has a way of surprising us.
Liveaboard Diving Romblon
If you’re into doing liveaboards, Solitude One has a route that covers Romblon and several other amazing dive locations in the Philippines. Their liveaboard starts in Anilao, which also has world-class scuba diving. It covers Verde Passage, Romblon, and Ticao Island.
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Romblon Reef Check
Although Romblon offers fantastic scuba diving, I did notice a lot of damaged and bleached corals. In one of the sites, there was even an entire patch of it! I was so shocked and sad at its state that I even reported this to Philippine Coral Bleaching Watch for monitoring. If you want to report bleached corals in your dives within the Philippines you can do so here.
Plastic trash was very plentiful and in almost all my dives I ended up stashing trash in my BCD (Buoyancy Control Device). All in all, I had gathered several plastics from my dives.
Have I convinced you to dive Romblon?
How to get to Romblon Island
How to go to Romblon from Manila
Since my purpose was to scuba dive in Romblon Island, I decided to take an overnight ferry that would head directly to my destination. Even though it took longer, I thought this was the easier way as I could just sleep and wake up the next day in Romblon.
From Metro Manila, I took the Alps bus bound for Batangas Port. If you’re coming from Metro Manila these are some of the bus lines that go to Batangas Port
From Batangas Port, I took the Montenegro Ro-Ro (Roll on, Roll off) which left at 5 PM. The Montenegro is a huge vessel that can bring people and vehicles across islands. Since I was traveling on a Monday it wasn’t too crowded. I chose to stay in their air-conditioned section which cost about Php1414. Aside from the fare I also had to pay a terminal fee of Php30.
At around 2 AM, we arrived in Odiongan in Tablas Island to drop off and pick up some passengers. Make sure you stay in your bed as you might get confused with the rush of people suddenly leaving.
The journey will continue for another 3-4 hours until you arrive at the port of Romblon Island. I arrived in Romblon Island at around 6AM.
Schedule of Ferry from Batangas to Romblon
|Ferry||Departure Schedule||Book here:|
|Montenegro||M/ Th/ Sa at 5 PM|
|2Go||T/ Th/ Sa at 9 PM||Batangas to Romblon Pier|
|Navios||W/F/S at 3 PM|
How to go to Romblon from Manila (via Tablas Island)
Option 1: Go on an Odiongan-bound Ferry
Although there are ferries that go do Romblon Island daily, you can also take a ferry bound for Odiongan in Tablas Island. If the Romblon ferry schedule is not to your liking or you want to tour the island of Tablas first, then heading to Odiongan might be a good alternative.
|Ferry||Departure Schedule||Book Here:|
|Montenegro||M/W/Th/F/S/S at 5 PM|
|2GO||Everyday at 10 AM||Batangas to Odiongan|
Option 2: Take an airplane to Tugdan Airport (TBH)
If you’re not into long boat rides, you can take a 1.5 hour plane ride from NAIA Airport in Metro Manila to Tugdan Airport in Tablas Island. Cebu Pacific services this route. Flights to Tablas are only every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
Travel from Tablas Island to Romblon Island
Whether you arrive in Tablas via ferry or plane, you will need to take a jeep or tricycle to the town of San Agustin. This will take around 1.5 hours and will cost around Php200.
From San Agustin Pier, take a 40-minute pump boat to Romblon Island. Daily trips going to Romblon are at 8 AM and 1 PM. This costs around Php200 per person. If you miss the boat, you can hire a local boatman to bring you to Romblon for Php1500.
When Jem and I visited Romblon for the first time, this was the route we took. We were traveling on a Good Friday (Holy Week), so everything was closed. There were no boats scheduled to leave that day.
Thankfully a local fisherman offered to take us to Romblon for Php1500. We found another stranded backpacking-couple to split the boat costs. And as an added bonus, while crossing the channel, we saw some dolphins!
When traveling in places like Romblon, you have to be very flexible. It is very common that local transportation does not follow a strict schedule. They can change at any time. It is also very common to do a lot of waiting as they try to fill the vehicle to its full capacity.
Should you take this route, I suggest you take a tour around Tablas Island first before heading to Romblon Island. Romblon has many secrets waiting to be discovered.
Traveling around Romblon Island
After an 10-hour sea voyage, I arrived at the Romblon Pier in time for breakfast. I grabbed some tocilog, a Filipino breakfast made of sweet port, fried egg and rice.
You can hire a trike to take you to your accommodations or anywhere in Romblon island. A “special trip” is basically you having the entire trike to yourself and paying a premium fee for the driver to bring you directly to your destination. A “regular trip” is when you share the trike with other passengers and pay the fee depending on the distance.
One driver said a special trip would cost me Php150. I went to the trike stop and found out the regular fare is around Php20-25 to my Airbnb. Guess which one I chose?
If you’re up for it, you can also rent out a motorbike to go around Romblon. Rental fee is about Php500 per day. This is something to consider if you plan to do some sightseeing on your own. Make sure to ask for a helmet when you do rent a motorbike. I’ve seen locals drive without them so just be careful. Access to medical care can be more limited in the province.
Romblon Beach Resorts
Even if the province has become an eco-tourism destination in the recent years, it hasn’t exploded as a major tourist and dive destination in the Philippines. To be honest, I prefer going to places like these as they’re more untouched and pristine.
Romblon is very laid back and less touristy so there are not much choices for accommodation. You will not find any 5-star resorts here. Here are some places that you can stay in other than The Three P Holiday & Dive Resort and Romblon Fun Divers & Inn as previously mentioned.
Stay in an Airbnb in Romblon
In my two visits to Rombon, I stayed in Airbnbs as these were the closest one to The Three P Holiday & Dive Resort. Both places were right by the beach so even if there aren’t many beach resorts in Romblon, some Airbnb properties are by the sea shore.
If you haven’t tried staying in Airbnb you should definitely consider it especially in places like this. There is not much hotel options in Romblon Island but there are some homestays you should definitely check out.
The main town of Romblon has more options for hostels and hotels however it is about 15 minute tricycle ride to the 3P dive resort and even farther if you’re going to Sonofareef.
If the dive resorts are fully-booked, you can stay in some other accommodations Romblon.
What to do in Romblon
When you arrive in Romblon, I suggest you make a quick stop at their tourism office. They can provide you with a map or suggestions on what you can do around the island. They’ll know what’s best if you want to DIY touring the island.
You can also ask your dive shop or accommodation to arrange for a tricycle driver / tour guide to take you around the island for a fee.
Due to limited time and maybe a bit of disinterest, I was not able to roam Romblon as much as I’d like. I’m quite happy with just diving sometimes.
If you’re curious to check out the other tourist attractions in Romblon, you can check out this video of other things you can do in Romblon.
After visiting Romblon twice, I must say that Romblon is one of those underrated scuba diving locations in the Philippines. If you love macro and super-macro underwater photography then you will absolutely love scuba diving in Romblon!
Every dive you can expect to see something new or different. This place is truly magical!
But let’s keep it our secret, okay?
Do you want to go scuba diving in Romblon?
Which critters would you like to see when you scuba dive in Romblon?
Leave a comment below!
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