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Underwater Photography in Subic Bay, Philippines

Welcome to underwater photography in Subic Bay, Philippines! Subic Bay is a world-renowned destination for wreck diving, but is often unknown by underwater photography enthusiasts. With its diverse range of rare marine life and unique underwater landscapes, Subic Bay provides the perfect backdrop for capturing stunning images of the underwater world.

This hidden gem is best known for its muck and macro photography, with many rare species waiting to be discovered. From colorful nudibranchs to fascinating octopuses, Subic Bay is a true photographer’s paradise.

So, whether you are an experienced underwater photographer or a beginner looking to explore the beauty of the underwater world, Subic Bay, Philippines is a destination that should not be missed. In this article, I will showcase some photos taken over several day and night dives in the Bay.

The flamboyant marine life of Subic Bay, Philippines

Subic Bay Sea Urchin
Subic Bay, Lighthouse Reef – Fire Urchin (Asthenosoma varium) at 27m

This large Fire Urchin was in the silt/sand at the bottom of the coral reef wall.  The size of a mini-football, the colors were spectacular.  Gold, purple and blue – I’ve never seen one like it before!

Officially named Asthenosoma varium, it is known for venomous spines (causing significant and prolonged pain), it is often home to commensal shrimps and crabs.

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Pipefish: Underwater Photography in Subic Bay, Philippines

Subic Bay Underwater Photo Pipefish
Double End Pipefish (Trachyrhamphus bicoarctatus)

We saw a lot of pipefish during the dives.  It wasn’t until examining the photos that I realized I had captured two different species.  Trachyrhamphus bicoarctatus (above) and the more colourful Corythoichthys haematopterus (below).

Messmate Pipefish (Corythoichthys haematopterus)
Dragon Face Pipefish (Corythoichthys haematopterus)

(above) The beautifully colored ‘Dragon Face’ Pipefish (Corythoichthys haematopterus).  Also known as the ‘Messmate’ Pipefish.

Bobtail Squid: Underwater Photography in Subic Bay, Philippines

Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi)
Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi)

This critter is hard to spot!  We found two Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi) during a single night dive.  One was about 1cm..the other was smaller!

Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi)
Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi)

Bobtail Squid are actually a large family of squid, from the order Sepiolida. There are about 80 sub-species, which can be recognized by their small round body and lack of cuttle bone (they are actually closer related to cuttlefish than squid).

Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi)
Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi)

In addition to their timidity (they hide under sand all day, only venturing out at night), Bobtail Squid are famous for their splendid colours!   This is due to their relationship with a symbiotic luminescent bacteria, that lives within a ventral pouch on the squid.

Decorator Crabs in Subic Bay, Philippines

Decorator Crab (Cyclocoeloma tuberculata)
Decorator Crab (Cyclocoeloma tuberculata)

There was a bunch of Decorator Crabs on the night dive; 6 or 7 in all.  These are very photogenic and easy to spot in the dark, as they climb up onto the higher spots of the coral.  There was also an Orangutan Crab.. but 274 photos into the diving day had drained my battery – typical!

Decorator Crab Cyclocoeloma tuberculata
Decorator Crab (Cyclocoeloma tuberculata)
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Fish species: Underwater Photography in Subic Bay, Philippines

Lionfish are pretty common around the Philippines, but the Zebra Lionfish (Dendrochirus zebra) is less common. It’s smaller in size than the common lionfish (Pterois volitans) and the pectoral and dorsal spines are joined by a nicely colored membrane.

Zebra Lionfish (Dendrochirus zebra)
Zebra Lionfish (Dendrochirus zebra)

Pufferfish of various species are common in Subic Bay.

Seal Face Pufferfish (Arothron nigropunctatus)
Seal Face Pufferfish (Arothron nigropunctatus)

The Seal Face Pufferfish (Arothron nigropunctatus) is also known as the ‘Blackspotted’ or ‘Dog Faced’ Pufferfish.  Like most pufferfish species, it is highly poisonous – often fatal if eaten.

White Spotted Puffer (Arothron hispidus)
White Spotted Puffer (Arothron hispidus)

This juvenile White Spotted Puffer  (Arothron hispidus) was in its normal environment of rubble/sand, busily foraging for worms, tunicates, small shrimp and mollusks. Normally shy of divers, this creature seemed almost curious to observe me – and seemed to use my torch beam to help with its hunt for food.

Tasseled Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala)
Tasseled Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala)

This juvenile Tasseled Scorpionfish  (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala) was sheltering inside a large sea sponge.  Only a couple of inches long, he was obviously playing it safe. There are a lot of Scorpionfish in Subic Bay. Some of the deeper wreck sites have enormous mature specimens. Juveniles stick around the shallow reefs.

Tasseled Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala)
Tasseled Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala)

Nudibranch: Underwater Photography in Subic Bay, Philippines

Subic Bay has its fair share of nudibranchs. Whilst not a famous destination for marine life (compared to other Philippines destinations), the coral reefs inside the bay are less frequently visited by divers.  However, they are a nice alternative to the more popular wreck sites and a keen eye will spot the huge diversity of marine life available.

Here are some of the nudibranch species spotted in a single day in Subic;

Nudibranch - Chromodoris kuniei
Chromodoris kuniei Nudibranch
Nudibranch - Phyllidia ocellata
Phyllidia ocellata Nudibranch
Nudibranch - Glossodoris atromarginata
Glossodoris atromarginata Nudibranch
Nudibranch - Glossodoris atromarginata
Glossodoris atromarginata Nudibranch
Nudibranch - Elysia ornata
Elysia ornata Nudibranch
Nudibranch - Risbecia tryoni
Risbecia tryoni Nudibranch
Nudibranch - Thuridilla gracilis
Thuridilla gracilis Nudibranch
Nudibranch - Chromodoris preciosa
Chromodoris preciosa Nudibranch
Nudibranch - Hypselodoris infucata
Hypselodoris infucata Nudibranch
Nudibranch - Phyllidiella pustulosa
Phyllidiella pustulosa Nudibranch
Nudibranch - Chromodoris coi
Chromodoris coi Nudibranch

This one is really hard to spot.  You have to look carefully.. even to see it on the photo.  It’s only the second time that I’ve seen one – both were in Subic Bay..

Nudibranch - Ceratosoma miamirana
Ceratosoma miamirana Nudibranch
Nudibranch - Plakobranchus ocellatus
Plakobranchus ocellatus Nudibranch

Underwater photography in Subic Bay, Philippines

As an avid underwater photographer, Subic Bay, Philippines is a must-visit destination for capturing stunning muck and macro shots of rare and unique marine species. While the visibility may not be perfect, it only adds to the challenge and excitement of capturing the perfect shot.

From nudibranchs to pipefish and the elusive Bobtail Squid, the diversity of marine life in Subic Bay is truly breathtaking. Even though the area may not have crystal clear waters, the rewards of capturing stunning images of rare creatures make it all worth it. So, if you’re a keen underwater photographer looking for a new and exciting challenge, Subic Bay, Philippines is the perfect destination for you.


Andy Davis Technical Sidemount Wreck Diving Subic Bay Philippines RAID Courses Training

About The Author

Andy Davis is a RAID, PADI TecRec, ANDI, BSAC, and SSI-qualified independent technical diving instructor who specializes in teaching sidemount, trimix, and advanced wreck diving courses.

Currently residing in Subic Bay, Philippines; he has amassed more than 10,000 open-circuit and CCR dives over three decades of challenging diving across the globe.

Andy has published numerous diving magazine articles and designed advanced certification courses for several dive training agencies, He regularly tests and reviews new dive gear for scuba equipment manufacturers. Andy is currently writing a series of advanced diving books and creating a range of tech diving clothing and accessories.

Prior to becoming a professional technical diving educator in 2006, Andy was a commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force and has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Belize, and Cyprus.

In 2023, Andy was named in the “Who’s Who of Sidemount” list by GUE InDepth Magazine.

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Originally posted 2018-11-05 06:10:45.

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