Scuba diving guide Manta Bowl | Best diving centers, liveaboards and dive sites

A Manta ray in the Ticao Pass in Masbate, Philippines

Manta Bowl is one of the most popular manta ray diving sites in the Philippines. It is located in Ticao Pass, a narrow territorial waterway that separates the Bicol Region and Ticao Island in the Province of Masbate.

It’s an underwater 8-hectare flat atoll that serves as an agglomeration site, mating area, and key habitat for diverse marine megafauna. As its name suggests, Manta Bowl offers the biggest chance to glance at gigantic manta rays whole year-round. Seasonal sightings of whale sharks, thresher sharks, hammerhead sharks, tiger sharks as well as devil rays are also evident.

Manta Bowl Center has been declared as a Marine Protected Area under the Burias-Ticao Pass Protected Seascape Act. Ranging from 14 to 29 meters deep, this premier Manta Bowl Diving extends into 7 equally fascinating dive sites.

Recommendations

Manta Rays are seen anywhere in Manta Bowl’s 7 dive spots all-year-round. However, you’ll need to visit the dive site from November to June if you want to spot the whale sharks. On the other hand, you can dive with the thresher sharks from July to October.

Liveaboards Manta Bowl

For the best Manta Bowl diving experience, we recommend going on a liveaboard, the Infiniti liveaboard in particular. It will take you to the best dive spots in the Manta Bowl and the rest of Donsol. The Infiniti liveaboard is a 35-meter luxury vessel with 11 super comfortable cabins. The boat is equipped with an indoor and outdoor lounge, as well as the large sundeck.

The Infiniti Liveaboard in the Philippines
The Infiniti liveaboard in the Philippines

Diving center Manta Bowl

If you’re looking for a day trip or an overnight trip, the best place to go is Ticao Island Resort and Dive Camp. Located right at Ticao Island, it’s also a highly recommendable accommodation during your Manta Bowl diving trip.

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Ticao Island Resort & Dive Camp

PHP 1,700
N.A.
Starting from PHP 24,800
PADI
PHP 20,000
Breakfast, lunch, diner, unlimited coffee and tea are included
Accommodation

Bicol Dive Center

N.A.
PHP 7,500 (3 dives)
Starting from PHP 17,300
10
PADI
PHP 21,000
Snacks, water, coffee and tea
Accommodation, airport transfers

Big Fins Dive Center

N.A.
Starting from PHP 2,500
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Other
PHP 20,300
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N.A.

Giddy's Place

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Other
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Accommodation, Dive training pool, air compressor

The best diving centers near Manta Bowl Ticao Pass

As Manta Bowl Ticao Pass in Bicol continuously becomes world-renowned to certified divers, more and more diving centers offer fun and quality diving experiences to both local and international tourists. We have listed the best diving centers below:

Diving center 1: Ticao Island Resort & Dive Camp

Ticao Island Resort’s Dive Center is an SSI Accredited Center with complete PADI pro-diver certifications. With a dive price of PHP 1,700 and dive equipment rental of PHP 300 per diver in one dive, the Dive Camp offers tourists the fun and thrilling experience to witness the mesmerizing beauty of corals and marine biodiversity at the bosom of the seashore, swim alongside the Manta Rays, the gentle giants of the sea - whale sharks, other pelagics thriving at the house reef, the Manta Bowl. They also offer free dive equipment rental for pre-booked 6 dives. Discounts are also given to dive groups.

Diving center 2: Bicol Dive Center

Bicol Dive Center offers water tours like snorkeling, island hopping, dive courses, and trips to Ticao dive sites like the Manta Bowl Center and San Miguel Island. The dive shop is located at Dancalan Donsol, Sorsogon just across the Donsol Visitor Center where the initial tourist dive experience sets for a whale shark interaction activity. Bicol Dive Center is accredited by the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD)  and the Department of Tourism (DOT). Fully equipped with a dive boat, oxygen on board, and complete medical kit, professional diving services are on point, safe, and fun. Two boat dives for a diver in one day costs PHP 3500.

Diving center 3: Big Fins Dive Center

Big Fins Dive Center envisions tourists to enjoy scuba diving in a remote island of the Philippines, discover and respect the world under the sea and get a feel of the local culture at the same time. Big Fins Dive Center is a small dive center in a highly privileged environment, nature-rich and crowd-free, ecological, and upmarket model. Their highly qualified diving professionals are always ready to guide you to explore the dive sites that the Bicol region boasts off.

Two dives per diver are worth PHP 2500 inclusive of a divemaster, boat, natural park fee, weights, water, coffee or tea, and snack.

Diving center 4: Giddy’s Place

Conveniently located at the beachfront of Donsol, Giddy’s Place offers a whole day dive tour to Manta Bowl Ticao Pass for experienced divers. The tour includes 3 dives, onboard lunch, snacks, and refreshments. This diving center and resort also offers different types of diving courses, which include Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses. There are also courses available for Rescue Divers and Dive Masters.  For Manta Bowl diving tour rates and dive courses, you can send an inquiry via email or phone call.

Liveaboards to Manta Bowl Ticao Pass

If you are looking for excellent liveaboards to cruise the waters and to reach the Manta Bowl Ticao Pass, here are one of the best liveaboards:

Liveaboard 1: Infiniti

A superb liveaboard based on reviews of divers from around the world, Infiniti offers 7 days/6 nights dive tour around the Visayas, including Manta Bowl in Ticao Pass. Starting at $252 per day, you’ll discover Manta Bowl Philippines in a 35-meter luxury vessel with 11 super comfortable cabins. When aboard this awesome liveaboard, make sure to enjoy all the amenities, including the indoor and outdoor lounge, as well as the large sundeck. Accepting only a limited number of divers per tour, Infiniti liveaboard will ensure that you get the best diving experience of your life with the help of its dedicated and passionate crew.

Liveaboard 2: Philippine Siren

S/Y Philippine Siren is a luxurious 40-meter liveaboard specially designed for divers by divers themselves.  When aboard Philippine Siren, diving enthusiasts will experience thrilling driving experience in almost all popular dive sites while enjoying a lavish accommodation that provides superior ease and comfort to their guests. With a crew of 12, a maximum of 16 guest divers is ensured with on-hand assistance for their greatest satisfaction. Featuring 8 fully equipped large cabins and lounges, this state of the art yet intimate liveaboard offers a year-round dive trip to Cebu, Donsol, Coron, Apo reef, Malapascua, Anilao, and other diving destinations. Price starts at $315 per day.

Liveaboard 3: MV Solitude One

MV Solitude One offers dive experiences in all iconic dive sites in the Philippines. Equipped with high tech facilities suitable for marine photography, roomy and comfortable cabins for 22 guests, and a well-trained boat crew, you will never go wrong boarding Solitude One liveaboard. Your pleasure in the boat is guaranteed before, in between, and after a thrilling dive not worrying about your equipment,  gears, and more than that your safety. Starting at $295/day you can have a once-in-a-lifetime Manta Bowl diving experience with MV Solitude One.

The best dive sites at Manta Bowl, Ticao Pass

Dive site 1: R.A.C. Point/Rock Point

R.A.C Point is the shallowest portion of the manta bowl center with a depth of 14 to 16 meters. It is known to be the most dramatic and diver-favorite site in Manta Bowl Ticao Pass. Its name came from the initials of the person who initiated scuba diving at Manta Bowl - Rico A. Calleja. As years pass by, word of mouth evolved its name from RAC Point into ROCK Point, which is its current name today.

This exciting dive site is carpeted with a stunning blend of both soft and hard corals and sandy bottom formations. Consistent with its other name Rock Point, it contains loads of rocks and short walls where a diver can seek cover from the raging current while enjoying the sight of playful reef fishes such as surgeons, fusiliers, butterfly fishes, and damsels. More than that, it is the best spot to wait for a spectacular encounter with manta rays and whale sharks in transit.

Dive site 2: Shark Apartment

Just behind R.A.C Point is an 18 to 20 meters deep dive site called Shark Apartment. Its name originated from the presence of full-grown black tip sharks and white tip sharks laying underneath the huge boulders and coral heads scattered on the site’s sandy bottom. Visible on the site are schools of reef fishes hovering which includes banner fish and angelfish. With the rocks present, this makes it a haven for groupers who love to dwell at the bottom.

Dive site 3: Manta High and Manta Low

Manta High is located in the eastern part of the Manta Bowl while Manta Low is situated on the west.  Both Manta High and Manta Low are similar in depth that averages 20 meters and as deep as 25 meters. The sites are layered with both soft and hard corals, rocks, rubbles and loose sand. Vast reef fishes are seen in the area. More interestingly, manta visit is a regular sight in this place because of the scattered cleaning stations.

Dive site 4: Tuna Alley

This diving site can be found in the western part of the manta bowl center at 18 to 22 meters. Comprising gritty and hard corals, Tuna Alley got its famous name due to the presence of massive schools of skipjack tunas that extend for kilometres in the area. Barracudas can also be seen in the dive site as they prey on sardines. Whale shark encounters are also common on this particular dive site.

Dive site 5: Runway

Runway is situated north of Manta Bowl Ticao Pass and found near the steep sloping sand between Manta High and Manta Low. This dive site consists of more loose sand and rubbles. At 22 to 25 meters deep, it is regarded as the “runway” because of mantas that pop up from the deep swimming up on the steep slope and sliding down until they gently land at their preferred cleaning stations.

Dive site 6: Tamis Rock

Tamis Rock consists of a 2 square meter thick boulder combined with hard corals located near the steep sandy slope. Regular sightings of giant marine species happen in this site as it is the most - loved cleaning station of both mantas and thresher sharks in Manta Bowl Center. Tamis Rock is inhabited by many reef fish species and surrounded by loose sand, and rubbles.

Best time to visit the Manta Bowl Ticao Pass

Generally, a visit to the Manta Bowl Center - Ticao Pass - from November in early June is recommended. The best time to book a diving tour at Manta Bowl Ticao Pass based on local people’s advice, tourist feedback, and water/weather conditions is from March to May. In these months, the water is more clear and has calmer sea conditions that are perfect for your thrilling underwater diving experience, and manta ray and whale shark encounters.

How to Reach Manta Bowl Ticao Pass in the Philippines

There are no international airports near Manta Bowl Ticao Pass. However, there are two domestic airports closely located, which you can reach with flights coming from Manila International airport.

Option 1: Via Legaspi City Airport

Take a flight from Manila to Legaspi City Airport. If your accommodation is in Donsol, ride a cab to reach Legazpi Grand Central Terminal and catch a 2-hour ride in a van that would take you to Donsol. It will cost you around PHP 80 to 110 ($2) depending on where you want to be dropped off.

If your hotel is in Bulan, take a cab from the airport and go to Legaspi Port, where you can hop on a DLTB Bus. The ride to Bulan is approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes, costing around PHP 190 - 280.

If you’re staying at Ticao Island, you can take a thirty-minute to a one-hour boat ride from either Bulan or Donsol to reach the island. If the boat you hopped on is slow, it might even take two hours to arrive at your destination. The total travel time is approximately 3 to 5 hours.

Option 2: Via Masbate Airport

For a faster travel to Ticao Island, you take a flight from Manila to Masbate Airport instead. It’s nearer the island and less than 2 hours away from Ticao Island beach resorts. Once you’ve landed in Masbate, ride a tricycle (PHP 50) to Masbate port where you can board a boat (PHP 250), heading to Lagundi Port in Ticao Island. The tricycle ride is only 20 minutes while the boat ride will take about 40 minutes.

In Lagundi, take a 30 minute-ride in a van or jeepney (PHP 50 to PHP 100) to San Jacinto, where you’ll find motorcycle-rides for hire called habal-habal. These motorcycles will take you to your Ticao Island accommodation for PHP 250. Alternatively, you can ask your hotel or resort to pick you up in Jacinto via boat, but it will cost around PHP 1,500.

Accommodations near Manta Bowl Ticao Pass

Accommodation 1: Ticao Island Resort ($)

Aside from the luxury of a 30-minute boat ride going to Manta Bowl Ticao Pass Diving Center, Ticao Island Resort offers quality accommodations. They also cater to resort guests, access to free pony riding, and kayaking around the resort. Tourist guests can also enjoy unlimited brewed coffee, tea, and purified drinking water at the hotel restaurant. Their ultimate remote island hacienda encounter will not be completed without experiencing the relaxing room offers starting at $58.

Accommodation 2: Ticao Altamar Beach Resort ($$)

Nature at its finest is what defines Ticao Altamar Beach Resort. Located just 10 minutes away from the Manta Bowl Ticao Pass dive site, it faces upfront the beautiful waters of Ticao Island, white sand beaches, and blue lagoons. You can relax in their cabanas and two-story mansions and get the feel of their contemporary interiors and traditional straw roofing. To complete your relaxing experience, Ticao Altamar Beach Resort provides a wide array of accommodations starting at $72 per night.

Accommodation 3: Ticao Altamar Boutique Resort ($$)

Ticao Altamar Boutique Resort is intended both for guests who do business and travel for leisure. Ideally located in Masbate, guests can easily enjoy effortless access to city living activities and unmissable destinations. The hotel offers a shuttle service from the ferry to the terminal at a surcharge, a fast check-in/check-out process, free luggage storage, and excellent room services that ensure the guest’s comfort at its best.

Hotel accommodations feature 16 beautifully established air-conditioned guest rooms. Completely provided with towels, bathroom features, and toiletries. Ticao Altamar Boutique Resort also offers various recreational facilities including a private beach, massage, horse riding, and diving. Standard room rates for 2 adults starts at $72 per night.

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