Southern Leyte is one of the best places to scuba dive in the Philippines. If you love diving in remote and less touristic locations, this destination is the perfect dive getaway for you.
Whether you are looking for the tiniest nudibranch or the gigantic whale sharks, the biodiversity in Southern Leyte is worth the journey.
- Where is Southern Leyte?
- Southern Leyte Dive Sites and Marine Life
- Best time to go to Southern Leyte for Scuba Diving
- Water Temperature and Visibility in Southern Leyte
- Southern Leyte Scuba Diving Resorts
- Southern Leyte Liveaboards
- Ethical whale shark snorkeling tours in Southern Leyte
- What to bring for Southern Leyte Diving
- How to Get to Southern Leyte
Where is Southern Leyte?
Southern Leyte is a province in the Philippines located in the Eastern Visayas region. It occupies the southern part of the island of Leyte.
In 1960, Southern Leyte was inaugurated as a province that is separate from Leyte Province. Under its jurisdiction, there are sixteen (16) municipalities, 349 barangays and 4 islands Panaon Island, Limasawa Island, San Pablo Island, and San Pedro Island. These municipalities are located around Sogod Bay, which they rely heavily on for their food and livelihood.
Southern Leyte Dive Sites and Marine Life
When we speak of Southern Leyte Diving it is pretty much synonymous with diving in Sogod Bay
The dive sites in Southern Leyte can be found in three major locations: Padre Burgos, Panaon Island, and Limasawa Island.
Padre Burgos is located on the west side of Sogod Bay, where most dive shops are located. On the opposite side of the Sogod bay is Panaon Island where there are several dive sites as well.
If you go south of Padre Burgos, you will find Limasawa Island which also boasts of a wonderful underwater world. Although Limasawa Island can be found outside of Sogod Bay and is in Bohol Sea, it is still under the jurisdiction of Southern Leyte.
Here are some dive sites worth visiting if you are diving in the Padre Burgos side of Sogod Bay.
Max Climax – House Reef at Sogod Bay Scuba Resort
Located right in front of Sogod Bay Resort. A beautiful coral garden that slopes down to a wall. Excellent for night diving as well. I even saw sea turtles at night twice!
Marine Sanctuary / Camera Fee: Php 100 (Usd 2)
Padre Burgos Pier
One of the best night diving in Sogod bay is done in Padre Burgos. This muck diving site is a lovely spot to look for frogfishes, stargazers, sea slugs, octopus, cuttlefish, shrimps, crabs, and more. If there are no swells at night you can also go under the pier where the pillars are covered with colorful algae, soft corals, and sponges.
This Sogod Bay dive site can only be done during specific nights due to permit issues.
Marine Sanctuary / Camera Fee: Php100 (Usd 2)
Tangkaan is a dive site in the south of Padre Burgos. Strong currents may be expected here on some occasions. It is a wall dive where you can spot several tiny creatures. The dive resort Padre Burgos Castle Resort can be found close to this dive site.
Marine Sanctuary / Camera Fee: Php100 (Usd 2)
Little Lembeh offers a combination of wreck diving and muck diving. This dive site in Southern Leyte is perfect for macro-lovers. If you’re dying to see some cool nudibranchs, frogfish, seahorse, pipefish, mantis shrimp, octopus, and more, this is the place to go. This can be done by both shore and boat dive.
Marine Sanctuary / Camera Fee: Php150 (Usd 3)
This is a shallow dive with a sloping reef full of colorful soft and hard corals and small reef fishes. This site also has a pickup truck that’s been converted to a wreck diving site.
Napantao Marine Sanctuary
Napantao Marine Sanctuary is one of the best dives sites in Southern Leyte. This is located in Panaon Island so if you are staying in Padre Burgos, you will need to cross Sogod Bay to get there. Travel time is about an hour depending on the weather.
These are mostly wall dives with strong currents. You can expect to do some drift dives here. Napantao has 2 dive sites – North and South walls. It is best for wide photography but you can definitely find a lot of macro subjects here.
Marine Sanctuary / Camera Fee: Php200 (Usd 4)
Read my experience getting certified at Napantao through Coral Cay Conservation as a Filipino dive scholar.
You can also check out my ultimate Guide to Scuba Diving in Napantao Marine Sanctuary to learn more about this amazing dive site!
Santa Paz is also in Panaon Island. It is a combination of wall, reef, and muck. The site has an underwater pinnacle that you can swim around.
Limasawa Island is located approximately 1 hour away from Padre Burgos. There are several dive sites around Limasawa Island and we visited Zack’s Cove and Adrian’s Cove. Limasawa Island is a must-dive destination if you are scuba diving in Southern Leyte.
Marine Sanctuary / Camera Fee: Php100 (Usd 4)
If you want to learn more about diving in Limasawa read this article- Scuba Diving in Limasawa Island: An Absolute Must in Southern Leyte
If you have limited time, I recommend that you put Limasawa, Napantao, and Padre Burgos Pier on your must-dive list.
Southern Leyte offers a diverse underwater landscape that any scuba diver will enjoy exploring. From color coral gardens just a few meters from the shore to steep drop-offs and walls that will make you feel so small.
This underwater paradise is home to a biodiverse marine life in the Philippines.
I have logged more than 60 dives in this region thanks to my volunteer work in Coral Cay Conservation in 2013 and my most recent trip in 2021 with Sogod Bay Scuba Resort.
With more than 20 dive sites in the area, it was rare that we visited the same place twice. And when we did, the experience was always different and we saw different things.
If you’d like to learn more about the marine life you might encounter in Pamilacan Island, read these posts:
13 Dangerous Sea Creatures in the Philippines
Marine Life in the Philippines: 100 Sea Creatures You Must See
Best time to go to Southern Leyte for Scuba Diving
Scuba diving in Southern Leyte can be enjoyed the whole year-round.
The windy and rainy season in Southern Leyte usually falls from November to March while the summer season is from April to October. This is the opposite of what the northern regions of the Philippines experience wherein the wet season is from June to November and the dry season is from December to May.
If you want to go during the whale shark season, it is recommended you go from November to April. While rain can be expected during this time, diving can still be good.
Water Temperature and Visibility in Southern Leyte
Water temperatures in Southern Leyte fall between 24-30 degrees Celcius. I was comfortable wearing my 3mm full wetsuit. If you’re doing underwater photography, I recommend doing a 3mm full suit to keep you warm and protected. You can also encounter some dangerous sea creatures while diving in Zamoanguita so a full suit can give you additional protection.
The visibility underwater varied depending on location. In some dives we experienced bad visibility (5 meters) due to the weather. Some sites have really good visibility of up to 20 meters or more.
Southern Leyte Scuba Diving Resorts
There are only a handful of dive resorts in Southern Leyte. Here are some that you can check out if you wish to go scuba diving in Sogod Bay.
1. Sogod Bay Scuba Resort
2. Peter’s Dive Resort
3. Southern Leyte Divers
4. Padre Burgos Castle Resort
5. Leyte Dive Resort
6. Pintuyan Dive Resort
Southern Leyte Liveaboards
You can also experience Southern Leyte diving through liveaboard vessels that have a Visayas route.
|Philippine Siren||Visayas: Southern Leyte & Malapascua|
|Infiniti Liveaboard||Malapascua & Leyte|
These liveaboards include diving in dive sites like Napantao Marine Sanctuary, Limasawa Island, or Santa Paz in Southern Leyte. The itinerary also includes other hard-to-reach but highly recommended dive sites in the region.
If you have limited time and want to experience the best of the best in the Visayas, doing a liveaboard is one of the best ways to do it.
Many of these Visayas liveaboards visit 2-3 different provinces at a time so rather than wasting your time traveling on land, you can spend your vacation diving instead.
Ethical whale shark snorkeling tours in Southern Leyte
One of the activities you can enjoy in Southern Leyte is the whale shark tours. If you’ve always dreamt of seeing the biggest fish in the sea, Sogod bay is one of the best places to see whale sharks (Rhincodon typus in the Philippines.
From late November to early June, the bay becomes a feeding ground for whale sharks, scientifically known as Rhincodon typus.
Unlike other controversial whale shark tours that involve fish feeding, whale shark snorkeling tours in Sogod Bay does not allow this. The tours are offered only if there has been a sighting in the area.
With the help of Lamave, an NGO that studies whale shark behavior in the region, the locals are educated to not harm nor be afraid of these large but harmless sharks. When whale sharks are sighted, Lamave themselves informs the resorts so they can bring guests to see them.
If you want to snorkel with the whale sharks the resorts usually bring you on outrigger boat or a banka to Panaon Island. The whale sharks watching is done in Pintuyan, where the local fishermen’s association, named Kasaka, manages the whale shark snorkeling activities in the area.
The tours include a briefing on how to properly interact with the whale sharks. To guarantee sightings and safe interactions, there are local spotters and guides to help you while you are in the water. The interaction last for 3 hours. The whale shark tours costs Php3,500 per person with a minimum of 4 people per boat.
They do not allow scuba diving with them during the tours however if they happen to pass by while you are diving on another site then that surely isn’t a problem!
What to bring for Southern Leyte Diving
Here is the scuba equipment and dive gear I brought when I went diving in Sogod Bay, Southern Leyte
My Scuba Diving Gear
Regulator: Scubapro MK25 Evo, C300 and C200 2nd Stage
BCD: Aqualung Axiom
Mask: TUSA M-212 Freedom Ceos
Snorkel: TUSA SP-170 Platina Hyperdry II
Booties: Poseidon Pink Dive Boots
Vest Hoodie: Scubapro Hybrid Hooded Vest
Dive Watch: Suunto D4i Novo
Dive Knife: Aqualung Blunt Tip Knife
Dive Leggings and Rash: Blue Adaptation Coral Sea Fan
My Underwater Camera Gear
Underwater Camera: Canon G7X Mark II
Underwater Camera Housing: Fantasea FG7XII
Video Lights: Big Blue AL1200XP
Underwater Action Camera: GoPro Hero9
360 Camera: Insta360 X3
> Canon G7X Mark II full review
> Insta360 X3 underwater camera review
> Scuba diving camera recommendations for beginners.
Divers Alert Network (DAN)
Need travel insurance for your trip? Get a quote from Safety Wing.
If you’re traveling and diving in the Philippines for the first time, make sure to read my posts on
Ultimate Travel and Dive Guide to the Philippines
Philippine Packing List: What to Bring to Your Dive Trip.
How to Get to Southern Leyte
There are several ways to get to Southern Leyte depending on where you are coming from and your budget.
Manila to Southern Leyte by Airplane
If you’re coming from Manila, the most convenient way to go to Southern Leyte is by taking a 1.5-hour flight to Tacloban, Leyte, then taking a 3-4 hour car ride to your resort in Southern Leyte.
Philippine Airline, Cebu Pacific, and Air Asia have flights daily from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila to Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban.
You can then arrange for a private vehicle transfer with the help of your resort.
Approximate travel time: 5.5 hours (not including airport pre-departure waiting time)
Cebu to Southern Leyte by Airplane
If you’re coming from Cebu, you can also fly to Tacloban, Leyte from Cebu Mactan International Airport. The flights through Philippine Airline, Cebu Pacific, and Air Asia are only 45 minutes long.
Once you arrive in Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Leyte, you can take a 3-4 hour car ride to Southern Leyte.
Approximate travel time: 4.75 hours (not including airport pre-departure waiting time)
Cebu to Southern Leyte by Ferry
You can also take a ferry between Cebu and Leyte.
While ferry tickets are generally cheaper than flights, travel time can take longer between the islands. They are also more unreliable as schedules frequently change or are canceled due to weather conditions.
The Gabisan ferry that leaves from pier 3 in Cebu takes 3.5 hours to get to Hilongos, Leyte. Once you arrive in Hilongos, you can arrange for a private land transfer to the resort. This will take another 1.5 hours depending on where you will be staying in Southern Leyte.
Approximate travel time: 5 hours (not including ferry pre-departure waiting time)
The SuperCat and Oceanjet ferries from pier 1 in Cebu take 2.5 hours to get to Ormoc, Leyte. Once you arrive in Ormoc, Leyte you can arrange for a private land transfer to the resort. This will take another 3 hours depending on your final destination in Southern Leyte.
Approximate travel time: 5.5 hours (not including ferry pre-departure waiting time)
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Have you gone scuba diving in Southern Leyte? What was your experience like? Leave a comment below!