“It’s another world, what the sea gives us. It’s a paradise,” says Tito Ramirez Rivas, a paraplegic man who has found freedom through scuba diving.
That paradise is in the Philippines as the country nabbed this year’s World’s Leading Dive Destination for the first time during the World Travel Awards Grand Final gala ceremony held at the Royal Opera House Muscat in Muscat, Oman.
The Philippines bested eight other dive destinations nominated for the same category, namely Azores Islands, Bora Bora in French Polynesia, Cayman Islands, Fiji, Galapagos Islands, Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Maldives, and Mexico.
“Dubbed by marine experts and scientists as the heart of marine biodiversity in the world, our country is home to the highest concentration of coral reef life and astounding variety of marine species. This latest recognition is a validation that the Philippines is truly a premier dive destination,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.
Meanwhile, the Amanpulo Resort in Palawan was named as the World’s Leading Dive Resort. Amanpulo has been a popular holiday destination of the elite. Accessible only by private plane, Amanpulo is around an hour from Manila, yet feels a world away from anywhere, blissfully marooned in the middle of the Sulu Sea.
A private island fringed by white sand beaches, the resort offers a back to nature experience in supreme comfort and privacy. Casitas are built into the verdant forest canopy, perched on the hillside or set along the beach, while each of the private Villas has its own beachfront. The calm, clear seas are ideal for kite surfing, while divers can explore the coral reef, teeming with marine life just 300 metres offshore.
The Philippines has been gathering accolades recently. Last month, the Philippines won its first Asia’s Leading Dive Destination award during the World Travel Awards gala event for Asia and Oceania held in Vietnam. The Philippines’ DOT also won as Asia’s Leading Tourism Board for its efforts to increase tourist arrivals in the country in 2018.
“Through the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD), we also ensure that diving safety and operating standards in the country are at par with the rest of the world,” Puyat said.