Our Philippines adventure in June 2023.

The Philippines

Whale sharks in paradise

5-star experience... swim... swim and dive... swim and massage...
May 31-June 8, 2025
What you need to know...
Our package
  • 7 nights accommodation, Atmosphere Resort & Spa (Sun, June 1–Sun, June 8)

  • 1 night accommodation, Manila, breakfast included (overnight Sat, May 30)

  • Apo Island Swims

  • Daily reef swims

  • Swim with Whale Sharks excursion (weather/conditions dependent)

  • Half Board (breakfast + dinner)

  • Programmed transfers, Atmosphere

  • Airport transfer, Manila (outbound to Dumaguete only)

  • Airport transfers, Dumaguete

  • Choose from Extras packages - Either...

    • 1 Discover Scuba dive (or 1 Refresher Dive) / 1 Atmosphere signature massage / 1 x Group Yoga session; or

    • 4 dives along the Dauin coast incl. diving equipment; or

    • Lily Spa Package (3 x 90-minute massages) / 3 x Group Yoga sessions

Package cost (2024 rates – 2025 rates should not vary much) – Deluxe Suite $A5,480 pp Twin/Double share or $A6,880 single. Other room standards available.

See below for further package details... Click here

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We’re constantly amazed at how many beautiful places there are around the South East Asian archipelagos, and the area around Dumaguete, on the island of Negros Oriental, is a prime example. This is  an area of some of the greatest marine diversity in the world. The place is a real find. It’s right out of left field. This is a 5-star oceanswimsafari, at great value for the cost.

When we first heard of Dumaguete, our reaction was, 'We’ve never heard of this place…' There are lots of places around the world about which we have never heard, but that's a positive. It reminds us that there is so much more about the worldl to learn and experience. Our first oceanswimsafari to Dumaguete in 2019 exceeded our hopes and expectations. Our last two visits in June, 2023 and 2024, were two of our best oceanswimsafaris ever. 

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Our resort.

The oceanswimsafari

Our friend heard of Dumaguete through our accommodation there, Atmosphere Resort, a 5-star resort catering usually to divers. Atmosphere (that's it, above, hiding in the coconut palms) bills itself as 'the best luxury boutique resort in The Philippines'. We always thought dive resorts were a few rungs down the standard ladder, knowing how divers are focused more on the water than on the land, and famously abstemious. But not Atmosphere. It ranks up there as one of the most comfortable, beautiful, and, yes, luxurious places at which we’ve ever stayed. The grounds are stunning and the facilities generous. We dive a bit, so we've been to a few dive resorts, some magnificent, others so–so. But Atmosphere takes ocean swimming to a new level for us. But — and this is true of The Philippines generally — costs are very reasonable given exchange rates.

There are higher room standards available, but our Deluxe suites are more than you'd expect anyway.

That’s the resort. We’re really there for the water and the reef. And this is what really makes this place stand out. We swam in half a dozen places around the area, and we find the water to be amongst the clearest in which we’ve ever swum, and while warm, not so warm that it becomes uncomfortable. It’s clear, warm but otherwise benign both close in and farther out. It’s not all shallow water, but it’s not water so deep that you can’t see stuff. There are currents, but we arrange our swims to go with them, so they become our friend, not our foe.

Then there’s the reef, and we say this unequivocally: The reef around this area is the healthiest, the most prolific, the richest over which we’ve ever swum. The underwater flora and fauna are abundant and healthy, rich in colour and diversity. Lots of turtles, a mixture of shallow water and deeper water, so clear that you can spot anything around you.

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Swimming Apo Island. (Pic by David Helsham)

Very big fish

atmosphere turtle 750 teaserThen there are the whale sharks. Whale sharks... Just hearing the name conjures up all kinds of romantic visions… some of the world’s largest creatures, marine or otherwise, yet so gentle; you would say unassuming if you were talking about humans, they glide quietly through the sea, unfazed, perhaps disinterested in the fuss and kerfuffle about them.

Trying to sneak in a snooze off Apo Island.

Near to Dumaguete, across the channel on the neighbouring island of Cebu, there is a place where local fisherman feed whale sharks daily. Visitors are permitted to get in the water with the sharks whilst they feed, just metres off the beach. We leave Atmosphere very early for this excursion, which involves crossing the channel to Cebu on the car ferry, to beat any crowds that might turn up. The only way this is not a daily occurrence is when the wind blows strongly onshore, but this is why we have chosen these dates for this new oceanswimsafari. At the time we’ll be there, usual winds are gentle from the sou’-west, which is offshore to this area. Even so, we’ll program our whale excursion for early in our stay, so if the weather does turn difficult, we’ll have another opportunity later in the week.

We recognise that some may not be comfortable with excursions that rely on feeding native animals. The alternative for the local fisherfolk, until not too long ago, was hunting and killing them. We figure this is preferable to that. This is not a compulsory outing, but it does support the locals in a much more sustainable livelihood, and it gives you intimate proximity to some of the most astounding ocean creatures in the world.

We’ve programmed daily swims, some of them along the coast from our resort, others a bit farther afield. On two days, we’ll cross by boat to a small island offshore, Apo, which is like a Disneyland of ocean swimming, so clear is the water, so abundant the sea life, with the most luxuriant coral reef over which we've ever swum. (All our swims are from boats.)

We may also visit the Soup Kitchen, a local initiative by the owners of Atmosphere Resort that works with local families who make their living scouring the rubbish dump outside Dumaguete for bric-a-brac – often, that’s a nice word for it – to sell in town. Rather than the kids working with mum and dad on the dump, the Soup Kitchen provides them with a wholesome meal and nurturing with life skills and social interaction, and uniforms for school, Brownies and scouts, provided they attend school. We’ll visit the Soup Kitchen at lunchtime and help with the lunch service, saying hi to the kids, getting to know their routines and the kind of skills they learn. It adds an unexpected dimension to our week of swimming.

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Swimming with cobbers. We had five or six of them with us in 2023.

But wait...

With Atmosphere, we’ve developed a range of packages that you can choose from during your stay to complement all the swimming. They range from diving, to indulgent massages in the Atmosphere Spa. Not to mention the wine cellar… Ed, Atmosphere’s sommelier, may treat us to a wine tasting. The cellar is impressive. 

You can still do other things – more dives, more massages, more yoga, more wine, etc – if you like, but that’s extra. And it’s also if you have the time. Don’t forget the downtime… We always build down time into our oceanswimsafaris. Time to read; to hang by the pool, around the bar, attend the regular presentations on local sea life – Atmosphere has a resident marine biologist who adds authority and a deep knowledge to your experience of the Dumaguete area.

Glistening Dave's visit to Dumaguete...

atmosphere book 350 dhdOur cobber and photographer, David Helsham, came with us to Atmosphere and has published a book of images from his visit. It gives you an excellent impression of the area. Have a look for yourself... Click here

It’s also a convenient trip: you fly to Manila in the morning (Qantas and Philippine Airlines have daily flights) overnight in Manila, and fly on to Dumaguete next day. Returning, you can leave Dumaguete late afternoon and be back in Sydney first thing next morning. We don’t handle your flights for you, but we’re happy to provide advice. It's important that we all be on the same flights from Manila to Dumaguete, and returning afterwards from Dumaguete to Manila.

More on our package

There’s plenty of down time included in the program so there’s ample opportunity to catch up on that book that’s been by your bed since Xmas. We’ll be close to the beach, so you’ll have plenty of time, too, to leave your footprints in the sand at your leisure. Get to know your other half again, perhaps. Or yourself.

Our package includes Half Board (breakfast and dinner) and a choice of three special packages on top of the ocean swimming. These focus on diving, a luxury spa experience, or a combination of them. At Atmosphere, these are experiences in themselves. Atmosphere prides itself on its food, dishes ranging from Filipino through other Asian cuisines and Western. There's not much else to add in basic daily costs. Just the bar, really.

We are staying overnight in Manila on the way there (hotel included). Domestic airline schedules in The Philippines are changeable, so it's safer to allow overnights at either end of the oceanswimsafari to allow for last-minute changes. If you need or would like a stopover on the way out at the end of the oceanswimsafari, we can book that for you, too, if you like.

2024 prices are a little higher than due to suppliers holding pre-covid prices in 2023 and market activity returning to normal. Higher room standards are available. Please enquire.

You could check Atmosphere Resort & Spa website for room standards then come back here to book.

NB: Package prices are under continuing review in view of exchange rate movements and variations by suppliers, such as availability of room standards.

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The reef on Apo Island.


It's your responsibility to book your flights. Airfares are not included, because they vary and depend on rates at the time of booking. You can get to Manila however you like, but it's important that you are in town on Monday, June 3, ready to overnight then to transfer on to Dumaguete on Tuesday, June 4. You must be on particular return flights Manila to Dumaguete, to facilitate airport transfers. Return flights should be dated Tuesday, June 11, 2024.  If you're coming straight back to Australia, this means you'll get back on Wednesday, June 12. You can book all the way through with Philppine Airlines, if you like. The advantage of through-flights with Philippine Airlines is that it avoids luggage collection in Manila on the way back.

We will advise you on flights when you finalise your booking with us. 

The kids at the Soup Kitchen. A bald git let them film with a camera, then played it back to them.

Our goals

We aim for every swim to be a pleasure, not a chore. We are not about swimming the longest distance in the shortest time. We are not about ticking boxes. We are there to soak up the experience of some very special places and moments and some extraordinary water and swim courses. We want everyone to enjoy their swims, no matter their ability. We are not here to satisfy obsessives who just want longer, faster, farther. We are inclusive, not elitist. If you set new, personal benchmarks along the way, then that's good, but it’s not the aim of the group overall.

This is why we build other activities into our oceanswimsfaris. The places we take you are rich in culture, history, cuisine, and character. We want you to sample as much of that as possible. Swimming is the catalyst for our presence, but there's much more to these places than that.

To join us to swim, you need to be able to swim 1km freestyle without stopping. You will find you can actually swim much farther than that once you're in the peloton situation. You don't need to be fast and you don't need to be a world-beater. You might not be a swimmer yourself; you might be accompanying a swimmer. Some people just come along for the ride. There still will be opportunities for you to swim in some locations. But when we're swimming as a group, we cannot afford to be stretched out or held back. If you get into the water to swim, then you must swim. We cannot afford for anyone to hang back admiring a coral head, fascinated by an anenome fish, mooching around in the one spot. If you see something interesting, by all means stop or slow down for a closer look, but don’t dwell too long. This is in the interests of the safety of the group overall.

We generally swim 1.5km - 3km in a session, depending on conditions and the experience and capacity of our group.

Suite rooms have garden view 
Your home for a week...

Suite room
Deluxe Suite – Our standard room

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Hellercamp Pty Ltd t/a oceanswimsafaris.com
PO Box 719
Rozelle NSW 2039 Australia
ABN 97 163 965 704