Sogod Bay, Southern Leyte
Sogod Bay in Southern Leyte is a bit harder to get to from the metropolitan areas in the Philippines than some destinations and it lacks the tourism development some of the more popular destinations provide. This can be either a pro or a con depending on your perspective. For us, the diving is well worth the travel effort to get there. The dives at Padre Burgos and Malitbog piers at night alone are worth the trip and these dives are just a small portion of what the area has to offer.
Southern Leyte is a growing dive destination that is still maturing and has some growing up to do in terms of making everything work for all involved as of this writing. The diving is fantastic. Visit responsibly and help the area grow.
The Crown of Thorns population in this area is the largest we have seen in our exploration of the Philippines. Crown of Thorns is an invasive species with no local predators that will, over time, destroy reefs. Additionally, It is not entirely clear to us what the disconnect is but the local tourism efforts seem to be ignorant of what is likely the area's greatest draw (scuba diving) and they are ill-equipped to provide information on diving in the area.
The variety of diving in Sogod Bay is remarkable. For the critter hunters it is a location worth checking out. It is the only place in the Philippines we have been lucky enough to see Harlequin Shrimp to date and it was the first place we were able to see a family of Ornate Ghost Pipefish and the pygmy seahorse. The macro life is abundant. The wide variety of shrimp and crab species is also a definite draw. The area is definitely not for macro lovers alone – whale sharks, dolphins, manta rays, eagle rays and schools of larger species of fish are common sites when the currents are favorable. Sogod Bay currently boasts some healthy reefs with a variety of hard and soft corals. The muck dives are also very rewarding. Along the wall dives the reef is in good health with a variety of reef fish as well as schooling jacks, the occasional sweet lips, a variety of groupers and morays.
Southern Leyte is not as commonly traveled and it is not as easy to get to but the diving is fantastic and the need to raise awareness and to create community benefit is clear. There are only a handful of dive operators on the radar in the Sogod Bay area – a few more if you go off the radar a bit. We hope the dive tourism industry continues to develop responsibly and that the local community and provincial government earnestly work to protect and preserve the marine life in the area. If you visit the area please venture outside the resort and support the local restaurants and vendors. The food is often as good or better than what you will get in the resort and it will be a third to a fourth the price of the same meal in the resort. We don’t mean any offense to the resorts in stating this (their food is fine); it is simply that it is in the best interest of all involved if the surrounding community reaps some of the benefits of the dive tourism as well and it provides for some variety as well if one is staying over multiple days.
We also really enjoyed exploring Southern Leyte on motorbike and taking hikes. The atmosphere is very friendly and welcoming and the area is beautiful.
Accommodation pricing in the Sogod Bay area at the dive resorts is fairly reasonable and there are a growing number of options. It is not as well developed as areas nearer to population centers; a plus to many.
Dive pricing in Sogod Bay is just slightly higher than what one can find elsewhere.
Check out our Southern Leyte Gallery for photographs from the underwater world of Sogod Bay.
Tacloban airport in Southern Leyte is serviced by flights on local carriers from both Cebu and Manila. If you are in Manila this is your best option. If you are coming from Bohol or Cebu you are better off taking a ferry to Southern Leyte as it is possible to end up much closer to Sogod Bay than when arriving in Tacloban and the land transfer from Tacloban is not insignificant.
From Manila via Tacloban
On a budget
Trip time 3.75 to 4.5 hours. The public transportation options are fairly straightforward and easy to navigate in Southern Leyte.
- From Tacloban airport take a taxi or a trike to the Central Terminal
- From the central terminal you can either take a public v-hire or the public bus. Note, look for the v-hires and buses bound for Maasin via Sogod, Malitbog and Padre Burgos – these will drop you off right in front of your chosen resort in Sogod Bay. There is another route to Maasin that will take you completely out of the way. The v-hires charge per seat and you will need to pay for any seats your luggage takes up as well. The buses do not charge extra for luggage stored under the bus.
- Alternatively you can take any bus or v-hire bound for the town of Sogod from Tacloban and then take a bus or additional v-hire from Sogod to Padre Burgos/Sogod Bay dive resort area. The buses to the town of Sogod from Tacloban run more frequently than the Maasin route via Sogod Bay.
- Make sure the conductor (the one taking your money) on the bus knows where you want to get off. They will typically drop you at the doorstep of the resort.
- One important note, for your travel back to Tacloban ensure that you know what time you need to get to the town of Sogod to catch the last bus or v-hire going from Sogod to Tacloban – if you miss this you will have to take a roundabout route to get back to Tacloban that will take much longer.
If you are in a group this route is reasonable.
Trip time: 3 to 4 hours depending on traffic
- Most of the dive operators and resorts will arrange private van or car pick up at the airport and direct transfer to the resort .
- It is also possible to take a taxi the entire way.
From Cebu or Bohol
Check the ferry schedules carefully and confirm in person at the point of departure. Published schedules can change without any notice. From Cebu or Bohol it is possible to take a ferry to the following Southern Leyte ports: Maasin, Ormoc, Hilongos, Bato and possibly others. If it works for your schedule choose the ferry to Maasin because this is the port closest to the dive resorts in Sogod Bay (35 – 40 minutes by car).
On a budget
Trip time depends on port of entry to Southern Leyte.
It is possible and not at all overwhelming to take public buses or v-hires from any point of entry to the dive resorts in Sogod Bay. Covering every possibility, for every port of entry, is beyond the scope of this page at this point.
Trip time depends on port of entry.
- Most of the dive operators and resorts will arrange private van or car pick up at any port of entry.
- Price vary depending on the distance from your port of entry to the area the resort is in (i.e. Maasin pick up will be cheaper than pick up in Ormoc)
The below list covers some of our favorite dive sites in the Sogod Bay area. The diving in this area is truly fantastic and there are a number of other great sites, not covered below, as well. In addition to the tremendous macro life Sogod Bay is visited by pods of pilot whales, dolphins, eagle rays, manta rays and whale sharks. It is our understanding that conditions from November to early May bring many of the larger visitors to the area.
Most of the dives are within a short boat ride (5 – 20 minutes) of the area the dive resorts are in or can be done from the shore (in the case of the pier dives). A few take a little longer to get to.
Padre Burgos Pier and Malitbog Pier (5 – 15m)
Both of these pier dives are excellent for macro life. They are both great night dives as well. These are dives we could do over and over again. Critters to look for: a variety of hermit crabs, a variety of frogfish, harlequin shrimp, juvenile octopuses, young morays, striped common seahorse, scorpionfish, lionfish, snake eels, wasp or leaf fish, banded coleman shrimp, decorated spider crabs, decorator crabs, and banded sea snakes amongst many others. These are generally easy dives but do be careful when the currents pick up so as to avoid being thrown into the pylons and damaging the environment or grasping to settle oneself in the location of a sea urchin.
Little Lembeh (10 – 20m)
Little Lembeh, as the name suggests, is another great macro dive site but in the muck. This is a nice site for an easy dive looking carefully for the creatures hiding all over the place. Critters to look for: seahorses, pygmy seahorse, ornate ghost pipefish, and nudibranches amongst others.
Limasawa Island: Adrian’s Cove (20 – 50m)
The dives at Limasawa Island are all great. It takes a little longer to get there but the boat trip is worth it. The coral life is very healthy and one can expect to see gorgonian fans, massive table corals, encrusting corals and a wide variety of healthy marine critters as well. Limasawa Island dive sites are where whale sharks are commonly spotted (seasonally) so keep your eyes on the blue too.
Limasawa Island: Dag’s Wall (20 – 45m)
As with the other Limasawa sites the coral life is healthy and abundant. Look for black corals, tube and barrel sponges, staghorn corals as well as marine critters including grouper, snappers, anemone fish amongst many others. Keep your eyes open for the pelagic species as well at all of the Limasawa sites.
Bunga Bend (20 – 30m)
This site provides a lot of nice variety; from sandy bottoms inhabited by devilfish, flounders, peacock anemone shrimp, common seahorses to spots with a nice variety of hard and soft corals. Critters to look for in addition to the aforementioned: ornate ghost pipefish, burrfish, seafans and pygmy seahorses.
Other sites we very much enjoy are: anything around Limasawa Island, Max’s Climax – Volataire – Bulawarte for the wide variety of nudibranches, pygmy seahorse, healthy hard and soft coral life, sea turtles and trevally.