Magical macro diving in Romblon Philippines

Romblon Romblon – a little-known paradise for divers with many rarities and a real adventure. I came here in search of a magical meeting with Melibe. In the middle of the Philippines, just north of super-famous Boracay, lies a province called Romblon. The province consists of several small islands (Tablas, Romblon, Sibuyan, Conception, Simara, Banton, Caribao). It is in its infancy as a tourist destination but it is sure to grow and become big. After seeing pictures of what for many underwater photographers is a so-called "holy grail", the nudibranch Melibe colemani from here, I thought I had to go there and try to see it and have it in a picture. Hang in there for magical macro diving in Romblon Philippines

Here we go

All said and done, tickets booked and flying to Tablas was no big deal, 1 hour in one ATR-72 works although there is not a lot of room for long European legs.


Once there, we meet up by car and drive north for about 45-60 minutes, depending on how heavy the lead rally driver has. Some places are under repair and big holes in the road but it's still a pleasant ride. Time for the next means of transport which will be a traditional bangka boat. Depending on the weather, it takes about 50-60 minutes to go over to Romblon or Romblon Romblon as they call it here. The next means of transport is the tricycle and it takes about 20 minutes until we arrive where I will be staying for a week.


It's already evening when I arrive and my stomach is growling, but it's an hour until dinner, so when it does come, it's long awaited. The food is really good and after the food I go to the room and collect the diving equipment and camera. Then it's a night's long-awaited sleep that takes over.

Diving day

The next morning, after a good and hearty breakfast, it's time to dive, finally. They ask if there is anything in particular I want to see and hmmmm well how about that famous nudge that everyone dreams of seeing. Well you'll see it don't worry they say……..gets a bit apprehensive when I hear this, people have started smaller wars in other parts of the coral triangle about these nudges and here it says like the most obvious thing in the world that it's right common……
All said and done, the first dive we go out to the small island of Logbon. We plunge in and I feel my pulse increase a little, am I really going to see that nudge. I have seen several relatives but not this particular one.

When we come down I immediately see that my previous suspicions are correct, I find the coral I thought they were supposed to be in and searched several times but right here, right at this dive site, they seem to have found a good place because the guide can't find just one, he takes out 7 pieces…. In less than 5 minutes.


I am very happy and after a while I even start to find them myself…. After 40 minutes it starts to feel ridiculous because I've stopped counting at 25….. completely crazy actually and the strange thing is that in this particular place they find Melibe colemani all year round. It is also quite a large mollusk, the biggest one we saw was probably 5-6 centimeters long. The guide took out the nudge and then put it back, questionable behavior but I have never seen a more thorough guide

More Melibe

The dive continues, pygmy seahorses (we saw three different species in one week), ghost pipefish both ornate and robust. We also find the ghost nudibranch Melibe engeli, a small gobi that I have never seen before and a couple of dragon shrimps also brighten up the dive. To top it off further, we find a third relative in the Melibe family, namely Melibe viridis. Crazy, I'm so happy, it can't be this easy to find all these amazing animals and all in one dive site.


We are approaching the hour of the dive, I sign and ask if we are going up but the guide says that it is ok to continue if we have air left. We go up shallow, really shallow, and at a depth of three to five meters, the guide carefully begins to search in a special kind of algae and there he now finds another "dream nudge", this time in the Cyerce family or butterfly nudges. Very funny and very special little animals and fast as hell. Not what you would expect from a mollusk barely a centimeter in size. Before the dive is over, we have found four different species of butterflyfish, four species!!!

I would have been happy with one and now think this is only the first dive in a week. I'm spoiled, I know that. I've seen a lot and it's hard to make me really satisfied, although a new species in a couple of weeks is perfectly fine for me. Because I like to see new things I haven't experienced before. Now I get to see several new species on the first dive.

Magical macro diving in Romblon Philippines

The week continues and in fact in the same style, on every dive I see at least one new species, nudibranch, crustacean, echinoderm, coral, fish or something else that I have never seen before and since then I have traveled a lot in the Philippines and Indonesia. Between dives, the most important thing is to relax and rest and eat good food.
For those who want to discover Romblon, the island is quite small, the roads are small, there is not that much to see and do, but a trip down to the town which is quite picturesque and then going up to the fort is an experience even if the stairs up make anyone fall.

The adventure continues……

Then the wonderful Bonbon beach is a must and worth a visit, it is a long and very beautiful beach. At low tide the beach rises above the sea and you can walk out to a small island. It's a nice walk and very different even though it's not that far
If you want to be there longer, I think you should try to take day trips to the neighboring islands and dive there as well to see something else. A week in Romblon goes by quickly and the impressions are many. There are an incredible number of animal species that seem to thrive here. The week ends in the same place where we started. I wanted to see these nudges again one more time and yes it was at least as good as the first time, maybe better actually.

Time to go home but the weather wants something else……

The week is over, time to go home. The weather has been a bit lousy the last few days and I'm worried about the flight.
Romblon Tablas airport has no tower, it is visual landing that applies and if the weather is bad, flights are cancelled. That's obviously what's happening to me this time. I'm checked in and ready and sitting and waiting when the loudspeakers blare that today's flight is cancelled….


Sighs a bit but yes what to do, take out the bag and try to find a place to live. It's just that there are no accommodations around the airport
I'm lucky because I know a person at Tablas... Or yes know and know, we are friends through an acquaintance on Facebook. Just today this social media is the rescue because she arranges so I can rent a small bungalow near the airport. She makes sure I get out and get food. The night is spent in a cabin right on the beach near the airport but without electricity and hot water, a strange but exciting experience of course and the only thing I hope for is that the flight will leave tomorrow.

Same show the next day again though. The flight is canceled and I'm stuck for one more day or no two more days. The aircraft that is to be driven here is booked for something else. Three days delay on a small island where there is not much to do and see. With the pouring rain most of the time, I find anything to make the time tick. I found my own pool right next to the house and tried some freediving…… haha, see picture. Thanks to kind people, I still manage to see part of the island, visit some restaurants, see waterfalls. We manage to arrange food etc. but without them I would have been more or less driven.

Summary of Romblon

It is not quite prepared for tourism here yet. If you don't know how to solve things, you are quite stranded here. It is not if, it is when this happens that it is important to have good planning and knowledge. If you're lucky, you can take a ferry instead, but it takes 10 hours overnight to get to the main island of Luzon and then three hours by bus to Manila. It is still something you have to be prepared for if you have a plan to fit.

Romblon is an incredibly good destination if you are a photographer or like to dive and see lots of small and funny animals. The reefs are fine and healthy. Even for those who want to get away from mass tourism, it is a lovely place. With good accommodation and good food, but you need to plan and know how to proceed, don't book on your own. Book through Scuba Travel who have seen and experienced what can happen and know how to proceed if/when flights are cancelled. Believe me it happens, maybe not always or often but it happens. After being here, I'll just say one thing, I'm going back. I already have one trip booked here in March 2022 and I'll probably be just as excited even then. Magical macro diving in Romblon Philippines awaits – come along!