Rocky wasn’t in any hurry. He patiently held his position hovering above the silty sea bottom and waited for us to catch up from ogling over our last odd critter sighting. It was obvious whatever he saw wasn’t in a hurry either, as was the case for most of the muck dive creatures we observed that day. With his long silver pointer, Rocky honed us in on the general location of his next find. As usual, it took me a minute to register exactly I was looking at, but there he was – a spectacular speckled giant black frog fish perched securely on the coral covered moor line frowning away at us. Unlike the fields of pristine corals we swam through at nearby Apo Island the previous day, Dauin’s coast is blanketed in a chocolatey fine silt that is home to hundreds, maybe thousands, of different species of bizarre macro sea life. From frog fish, to ornate ghost pipefish, scorpion fish, mantis shrimp and the always cool cuttlefish, we couldn’t swim 5 meters without seeing something else to check out. So if you are looking for a different kind of diving experience, we would highly recommend adding a day or two of fabulous Dauin muck diving to any Philippines diving itinerary.
First up on our day of Dauin muck diving was Poblacion, a site located on the southeast side of the island of Negros. We were staying at Liquid Dive Dumaguete, a dive resort just outside of Dumaguete City, so it was a short 15 minute boat ride from the resort’s beachfront to the dive site.
Rocky, a longtime Liquid Dumaguete Dive Master, was leading our team of four. He and the other resident dive masters know these sites like the back of their hand so we were psyched to have an expert spotter leading the course. The whole dive site was a gentle sandy slop downward to a max depth of 28 meters with really limited coral life excepting a few sparse patches of anemones and soft corals here and there. Instead, concrete blocks became the epicenters of life for those sea animals seeking refuge from the big blue or a place to latch onto.
Our first spot of the day was a magnificent pair of common lion fish, who’s feathery brown and white stripped fins waved in fluid motion with against the blue of the ocean. Then our first ornate ghost pipefish sighting (one of many for the day).
Followed by the beautiful giant black frog fish. The bumbling frog fish, whether she was big, small, hairy or painted, never failed to impress. In fact these goofs are hands down my new favorite under water animal. I mean they are so weird how can you not like them? It usually takes a few moments to identify where the frog fish’s face is among its blobby body. Can you spot the eyes and frown face on these lovelies? Adam had the rare opportunity to see a tiny black painted one swimming. Most of the time, though, they just hang out.
Even without Rocky’s stellar macro muck critter eye, you could spot for yourself the sea floor coming to life with all sorts of odd animals. Like this mantis shrimp peering out from his hole in the sand. Or the cuttlefish, who rather than living up to his name turned out to be a very shy and timid creature, almost always hiding beneath the refuge of corals.
And then there was the unidentifiable dragon eye peering up at us from the sand. To this day we still have no idea what he was!
Funnily, the white eyed moray eels and puffer fish we usually eww and aww over took backseat to all of the other cool critters that day.
A short surface interval and we were ready for dive #2. Luckily we didn’t need to go anywhere for our second dive at Cars as it sits adjacent to Poblacion. If you can believe it, our second dive was even better than the first in terms of sightings! Tons of tiny frog fish, dancing harlequin sweetlips, dwarf lion fish and scorpion fish, microscopic shrimps and a group of garden eels. Apparently this area is also home to dragonettes like the brilliant Mandarin fish we saw during our night dive in Moalboal but we wouldn’t have the chance of seeing any during this particular dive.
But it was the ornate ghost pipefish and robust ghost pipefish who stole the show on this dive. On one soft coral alone we had the chance to see five of them together. These beautiful tentacled creatures effortlessly maintain their composure in the currents despite being the waifs that they are. And look how well they blend in with the soft corals!
Nudibranchs were in far fewer number than on our Moalboal reef dives but these nembrotha nudis and phidiana indica nudibranches were still an interesting find.
And then there were several sea moth looking critters we couldn’t quite identify in the reef fish books who blended themselves in so well with the sand.
Though I’m partial to the frog fish, we were psyched about all the beautifully weird and unique critters we got to see on our Dauin diving.
As the saying goes at Liquid Dumaguete: “Eat. Sleep. Dive. Live.” And that perfectly summarizes how we enjoyed our time here. You can instantly feel why Liquid has a 5-Star PADI rating the second you arrive at the property. The resort is centered around its dive instruction facilities which include a large pool, equipment center and multiple classrooms for coursework.
Liquid is first and foremost a diving school – offering anywhere from Discover Scuba Diving up to Instructor level training courses. We observed many of the other guests at Liquid going through some sort of certification and were tempted ourselves to pursue our Advanced Open Water.
There are a range of accommodations on offer here (between 1,600 PHP and 3,000 PHP), from beachfront fan bungalows to aircon suites. We do recommend staying at the resort for convenience purposes rather than in nearby Dauin, Dumaguete City or Valencia unless you have your own moto.
Pricing wise, Liquid charges 1,500 PHP (US$32.50) per dive with discounted packaged dive rates if you plan to dive a lot. Mind the costly fee add-ons though. As with diving almost anywhere in the Philippines, there are additional sanctuary fees (150-300 PHP), day trip fees (600-1,000 PHP), rental equipment fees (varies) and camera fees (50 PHP). If possible, best to bring as much gear as you already own with you and speak with Liquid about ways to package your dives for the best price.
As with many dive resorts in Dauin, Liquid offers day trips to nearby Apo Island, Sumilon Island and Siquior Island.
How to Get to Dauin
Dauin is most typically reached via the larger neighboring Dumaguete City. We came direct from the port after a ferry ride from Liloan, Cebu and took a trike for 300 PHP (approximately US$6) direct to Liquid Dive Center. Apparently if you are a good bargainer and are willing to wait a while you can get the price down to 200 PHP. A van can also be arranged for 700 PHP by the dive resort.
What: Muck diving is so named because of the silty sediment that blankets the sea bottom giving it a mucky feeling. Despite its lack of apparent beauty on the surface, a muck dive promises the opportunity to spot some really cool and strange critters. Dauin muck diving, on Negros in the Philippines, offers some of the world’s finest muck diving including frequent spots of nudibranch, frog fish, mantis shrimp, harlequin (clown) sweetlips, to name a few.
Where: Dauin is located on the southeastern coast of the island of Negros in the Visayas, Philippines. It is approximately a 20 minute trike or van ride to Dauin from neighboring Dumaguete City. Flights are the easiest, though more costly, way to get to Dumaguete City in Negros. From here you can reach Dauin by a short 20-minute trike or van ride. We arrived to Dauin by ferry from the island of Cebu.
When: October to early June is the best diving season around Dumaguete and Dauin.
How: Most Dauin and Dumaguete based dive resorts offer regular day trips to Dauin muck dive sites (which constitutes most of the dive sites along this stretch of coast). Apparently there are pygmy seahorse sightings at Atlantis, though we didn’t get to check it out for ourselves.
Cost: We dove two Dauin muck dive sites with Liquid Dumaguete. The cost for one individual fun dive is 1,500 PHP (US$32.50) plus sanctuary fees and gear rentals. Inquire about discounted dive packages.
Disclaimer: Our Dauin muck diving was partially sponsored by Liquid Dive Dumaguete, but as with everything on our blog, our opinions above are an honest account of what we experienced. As you consider your options for Dauin diving reach out to the friendly staff at Liquid (+63 035 400 3244, info