Lifestyle See and do

Scuba dive Subic style

Written by The Phoenix

This article first appeared in the Mar/Apr 2013 issue of World Gaming magazine.

While on a recent trip to hit the baccarat tables at Resorts World Manila, The Phoenix decided to check out some of the best deep sea diving available in Asia. He was amazed at what he found.

Variety is the spice of life! A man can’t live on gambling alone. You find that most people who like to gamble enjoy the finer things in life. Good food and wine, partying and travel probably top the list. Gamblers enjoy the adrenalin rush of placing a bet. In baccarat, when you discover your first card is an ace, you get excited about the prospect that the other card will be three-sided. So it comes as no surprise that many gamblers enjoy activities that give the same adrenalin rush away from the tables. Sure, there are gamblers who enjoy bird watching and art galleries but the new generation are much more likely to be doing something like jumping out of a plane.

Scuba diving is something that appears on almost every adventurer’s “to do” list. It’s up there with snow skiing, mountain biking and bungee jumping as one of the fastest growing extreme sports. While scuba diving allows you the opportunity to explore the depths of the ocean, it is impossible to do it without first learning the skills.

We are blessed in Asia to have a multitude of wonderful diving locations. Thailand has places like Phuket and Koh Samui, Malaysia has Redang and Tioman and Australia has one of the Seven Wonders of the World in the Great Barrier Reef. This is just scratching the surface! Many other countries like Indonesia and even Cambodia’s coastal town of Sihanoukville are all proving to be world-renowned diving destinations.

The Philippines with her 7,107 islands and incredible maritime and military history, is fast becoming one of the leaders of the pack when it comes to diving in the Asia-Pacific region. When I went searching for a place to learn about scuba diving I decided on Subic Bay. It is only an hour’s drive from Clark International Airport where you can fly direct from nearly all major Asian airports, including Macau. It will only take you about two-and-a-half hours from Metro Manila if you get a good run with the traffic. My suggestion is to organize a nice air-conditioned van filled with icy cold beers to come and pick you up from Resorts World Manila.

Upon arrival in Subic Bay if you are there to dive, start with the Arizona Dive Shop situated in the Arizona Resort right at the start of the tourist area. The dive shop is western owned and operated, and has quickly grown from a small operation into one of the most professionally run in the word. It was the brainchild of Australian Divemaster Mark Walton, who described to me exactly what it was that brought him to Subic Bay:

Subic Bay was an easy choice after doing 10 years of on-and-off diving in Maui, Hawaii. Always wanting to experience what Maui would have been like back in the day, Subic Bay was an obvious choice. The marine life here is unbelievable. Fantastic friendly locals, local San Miguel beer and watching the sunset over gigantic mountains that surround the bay – this is definitely the way to end a day of diving.

According to the Subic Bay Historical Museum, Subic Bay has one of the highest concentrations of war wrecks accessible to sport-divers in the world. There are 19 wrecks to explore dating from the Spanish- American War of 1898 to the Second World War. These include the USS New York, the San Quentin and El Capitan. Subic Bay was an active American naval base until the early 1990s and only military personal were allowed access to the secrets that lay beneath. It was only after their departure that this incredible array of underwater history and wildlife was opened to the general public. Mark knows the history well:

Subic Bay has a frantic history, being the host of many wars. The Spanish American war, World War I, World War II and Vietnam, the Americans utilized its value as a military base for nearly 99 years. When the military packed up in the early ’90s after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, they left a bay full of wrecks and military relics which now makes Subic Bay one of the wreck capitals of the Philippines.

The Arizona Dive Shop is a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) accredited dive resort, which means they specialize in dive training. Diving can be one of the most rewarding hobbies on the planet, but given the highly specialized equipment and depths to which you dive, it pays to be properly trained. PADI dive courses are recognized the world over, making this the perfect place to gain your accreditation so you can not only dive in Subic, but also experience the thrill throughout all of Asia’s many diving hot-spots, not to mention the rest of the world.

You can look to do anything from a half-day introduction course all the way through to earning the most complex credentials any recreational diver could receive. It’s Mark’s policy to cater to all potential clientele:

We offer two boats – a speedy 27 footer with 200 horsepower which is good for up to seven divers, or a more relaxed 44 footer which is bunker equipped with its very own toilet, shower, BBQ, sound system and so on. This beauty is great for up to 14 divers to go all day diving. Or you can just grab the family and friends – up to 18 people – and take a leisurely cruise snorkelling the reefs of Subic Bay.

The prices in Subic compared to some other places in the world are incredibly cheap and larger groups normally get discounts. Rental gear is also available, so you don’t need to purchase expensive gear yourself, not to mention how cumbersome it is to transport your own gear. For more experienced divers, Nitrox and dive computers can be provided to make sure you maximize your bottom-time on dive wrecks.

You can find everything you need to know about the Arizona Dive Shop at their website, There is also a detailed list of the dive sites of Subic Bay – reading it is a history lesson in itself. You can even start your PADI studies online through their site, saving those short of time from missing out on the best dives. Tell Mark the boys from WGM sent you and he might even buy you a beer at the end of the day!

Arizona Dive Shop
Arizona Resort
Official PADI Dive Resort. s-23179
47 National Highway, Barrio Barretto
Olongapo City, Philippines 2200
Telephone +63 4 7224 4557 or +63 4 7224 4559


The Arizona Resort

The Arizona Dive Shop is conveniently located in the Arizona Resort. There is no better place to stay for your diving holiday than at the resort. Imagine rolling out of bed, having a nice breakfast only a couple of metres from the sand where you catch your boat to your dive or to start your diving course. Arizona comes highly recommended and is a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Winner. They have 28 rooms starting from as little as US$30 per night.

The South Seas Bar and Grill has everything from live seafood and imported steaks, to pasta dishes and burgers. If you can name it, they can probably do it for you. You can even get a proper espresso coffee! Filipino cuisine is not world renowned, but the menu here is international and the quality, freshness and price is excellent! The word is that WGM’s food critic, The Panda, rates the tuna carpaccio very highly.

There are three bars including a sports bar, nightclub and a floating bar. Yep, that’s right, a floating bar right out in the water! It provides the perfect start to a night out on the town, or just for having a few quiet ones before your early morning dive the next day.

The thing I personally love about Arizona is the service, which can be very hit and miss in the Philippines. At the Arizona I found that if they could accommodate your needs, they did. Just ask the manager Gavin and he will help you out with anything you need, and make sure to say hello to their mascot, “Pangit” the Pug Dog who is perhaps the most pampered dog in the world!

Diving, flying around on a jet ski or simply kicking back by the pool with a book – I found this a great place to visit on your own or with a group. For all the information you could possibly need, visit their website at