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Subic Bay - Philippines

Subic Bay is a boat accessible salt water dive site, located in Olongapo, Zambales, Philippines. This dive site has an average rating of 4.00 out of 5 from 10 scuba divers. The maximum depth is 121-130ft/37-40m. The average visibility is 36-40ft/11-12m. This dive site provides bathrooms and airfills.

This natural harbor and site of a former US naval base contains several wrecks, most notably the MS New York, a battle ship sunk intentionally to prevent it from falling into japanese hands. Other ships are the Sian Maru, LST, El Capitan and more. All these wrecks can be accessed easily by short boat rides from the shore.

The tourism office for the area calls Subic Bay the “Pearl of the Orient” and much like a pearl, it value is hidden unless you know where to look. While scuba diving is becoming increasingly popular in the Philippines and more international divers are arriving, the growth of diving in Subic Bay while growing is doing so at a slower rate. The area offers a wide variety of wrecks to dive as well as reefs. Unlike Coron where you ride for hours to get to a wreck site, the majority of Subic sites are within 20 minutes of the dive centers.

In addition, unlike most other places in the Philippines, the dive boats used are conventional boats not local banca. Just how many wrecks are there in Subic Bay and around its entrance? That is a very difficult question. Unlike Coron or Truk, whose wrecks occurred over a relatively short period, Subic’s WWII wrecks covered almost the entire war period. No less than 25 Japanese ships were reported sunk during the war years. Some of these may have been removed in the late fifties as salvage operations were done to open up the bay for shipping Additional ships were sunk after the war either as targets or victims of mother nature. It is widely believed that an additional ten large ships may lie within the Bay. The area is not limited to WWII wrecks, at the entrance to the bay alongside Grande Island, is the remains of the Spanish American war wreck San Quintin. Outside the bay in deep water lie the remains of a Spanish Galleon as well as a 16th century Chinese Junk (beyond diving range).

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 did an enormous amount of damage to Luzon and the Zambales/Subic Bay area was very hard hit. A meter of ash covered the area including homes and business. Within days, a typhoon entered the area turning the ash into mud. Many homes and business collapse under the weight. One resident stated that the river looked just like the cement coming out of a cement mixer. A large percentage of the coral was killed lying under the ash. When the Navy occupied the naval base at Subic, many of the wrecks were closed to diving. Divers however had the advantage of diving in water that was crystal clear with 40 or more meters of visibility on the wrecks that were open. The bay was the home of different varieties of sharks, dolphins, and turtles. While a few turtles still nest on the beaches the visibility, sharks and dolphins are no longer here. The visibility is returning slowly and the coral is recovering. Hopefully the turtles, sharks and dolphins will return in abundance also. More turtles and rays have been seen this year than last and the number of sharks just outside the bay also seems to be on the rise

The last few years have seen a dramatic growth in the number of dive operators in the Bay area. In 1998 there was only one full time operator at Subic today there are seven. Three dive centers also have integrated accommodations, Johan’s on Baloy Long Beach, Barrio Barretto, Olongapo has very nice simple rooms to service it dive clients and their friends. Located on the beach you are just steps away from the beach to your rooms. Also in Olongapo with their own beach is the 2N2 dive center. This center with its hotel caters mostly to Korean Divers. On SBMA, Masterdive has Vascos, a restaurant and small hotel combination. The owner of Masterdive has an extensive background in wrecks in the Philippines. A few dive centers are located at or tied into hotels. Blue Rock resort has changed its name to Blue Rock Resort and Dive center. Diver Down International is located at Subic International Hotel. Scuba Shack is located on the waterfront next to the new marina. Scuba Shack is the oldest dive center in Subic Bay. Ocean Adventure also has a dive center. Grande Island has just opened a dive center.

Area Wrecks
USS NEW YORK - A 120m-long hull. 27m of water between Alava Pier and the northern end of Cubi Point runway.
EL CAPITAN - A 3,000-ton freighter, about 130m long that crashed down the mouth of Ilanin Bay.5m below the surface.
SAN QUENTIN - The oldest known wreck in Subic, a wooden gunboat scuttled by the Spanish in 1898.
LST - Situated between Grande Island and the southern tip of the runway. 32m deep.
ORYOKU MARU - Located 400m off Alava pier. 20m (60ft) deep.
PATROL BOAT - In Triboa Bay at a depth of 20-25m (60-75ft).
LCU LANDING VESSEL - Triboa Bay. 5-20m (25-60ft).

Dive Site Map

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bennyO - 18 days 11 hours ago.
I went scuba diving here on 5/3/2023. Average viz: 31-35ft/9-11m. Water temp: 76-80°F/24-27°C.
Great reef dive! Had my doubts about this since our last outing to the area was green and cloudy. Arizona is a PADI 5 Star shop and it’s worth the trip again.

This dive was fun. Mask fogged up so I went to clear it, got water up my nose started coughing, had to yell myself down to stay at depths AND clear my mask. No fogging issues after.

The reef was incredible and full of life. I was a bit harsh in the area last time.
bennyO - 18 days 11 hours ago.
I went scuba diving here on 5/2/2023. Average viz: 16-20ft/5-6m. Water temp: 81-85°F/27-29°C.
El Capitan - This is a really incredible wreck. Not claustrophobic, pretty cavernous interior with tons of coral and barnacles growing inside the wreck. Marine life is everywhere here from minnows to huge angelfish and lion fish.

LCU - Sunken LCU from World War II. Much bigger than I thought it would be. This was a great wreck, smaller than El Capitan but the damage to the hull and deck made it much more fun to swim through.

All the wildlife lacking from the reef was here. Puffers, Jack fish, angelfish, tons of different anemones and corals.

This wreck allows a surprising amount of penetration options and is tremendously photogenic from the inside. Bring a camera next time
todd999 - 8/15/2016 9:32 AM
Rating Added: 5
Tons of great wrecks. the volcanic silt is the only downside.
scubadivingnomad - 1/19/2016 3:20 AM
Interesting article, but it looks familiar! I know where I saw it :)
Well except for a few typo errors, the list of area wrecks and not knowing the USS New York is a Armored cruiser. This was copied from my book on Subic Bay, "The Subic Bay Travel and Dive Guide".

Update of dive Centers:
Johans is still operating and doing well. Also technical diving

2N2 has moved to north end of the Bay a SSI facility run by and for Koreans

Masterdive is closed but hotel still open

Blue Rock has gone through about 6 different dive shops in the same number of years. The current "dive Shop" started last summer and announced they will only be open 4 months a year.

Diver Down closed

Scuba Shack will be reopening soon. the original building was torn down and a new hotel built in its place. the hotel is open and at the date this was written the dive center was about ready to open.

Ocean Adventure/Camayan Beach Resort has expanded its operations.

Boardwalk Divers located on Subic Bay Freeport does some recreational diving most of it diving is technical diving.

Another topic:

I did some research on the San Quintin and found that it was not a gunboat. I was able to trace its history back to the Cunard Line’s S/S Andes
scubadivingnomad - 1/19/2016 2:48 AM
Rating Added: 5
May be the best selection of WWII wrecks in a small area that is easy to get too
OleCrab - 2/06/2015 7:33 AM
Rating Added: 4
I was stationed there from 1980-1984. Did a lot of day & night diving around Grande Island, Cubi Point and Naval Magazine area spear fishing. Grande Island back then probably is not as nice as now.