Those who have explored the world beneath the waters of any ocean all agree on one thing: it’s a different world out there. And when you dive into the waters of Coron, Palawan in the Philippines, you might even say it’s a whole new different dimension. After all, the crystal clear waters of this part of the Philippine Islands are hailed to be one of, if not the best in the world and perfect for diving.
Coron was once a sleepy isolated town known only to the people of Palawan. It was basically a fishing town but through serious domestic and international media exposure, the waters and islands of Coron have stepped into center stage. The gears have shifted and what was once a rustic fishing town evolved into a heartbreakingly beautiful destination for travelers from all over the world.
Coron is almost synonymous to wreck diving. With about 10 sunken Japanese warships in Coron Bay, it is easily a reputable paradise for adventurers interested in exploring history through underwater expeditions. Wreck diving in Coron is one of the most popular activities for travelers exploring this part of the Philippines. The warships met their demise as they were docked in Coron Bay during the tumultuous World War II in the Philippines. Incredibly well-preserved, some of these warships sit in shallow waters, adorned by colorful corals and other marine creatures.
Irako – Located at the mouth of Coron Bay, this Japanese refrigeration ship is probably the best of the ten. It has the best visibility and is one of the most intact; penetration is possible through the engine room but this is reserved for skilled and well-equipped divers only. Scorpion fish, sea turtles, lion fish, yellow fin tuna and groupers are residents of this wreckage.
Okikawa Maru – This is the largest of the wrecks in Coron Bay located a mere couple of miles off Concepcion in Busuanga Island. The wreckage is now covered by colorful corals and all sorts of fish live in the decks. Experienced wreck divers enjoy penetration from the propeller shaft and well into the engine room. The deck is ideal for beginners. Bat fish, snappers and the occasional grouper can be found in this wreck.
Kyokuzan Maru – This wreckage is located northeast of the main island (Busuanga). Kyokuzan Maru used to be a freighter ship which still contains some trucks and cars in its cargo hold. The ship has remained quite intact and offers great visibility. Diving this wreck would require a full day so be sure to arrange food and other supplies.
Nanshin Maru tanker – If you’re going on an island hopping tour, you’d most probably make a stop at Black Island. Just a few meters from the beach is the wreckage of this tanker used to bring supplies to land-based depots. This wreck is ideal for underwater photographers and beginners since visibility and diving conditions are usually excellent. Batfish, groupers, trumpet fish, lion fish and scorpion fish live in this wreck.
Akitsushima – This one’s a huge warship which carried sea planes, a flying boat, anti-aircraft guns and other weapons. But as powerful as it was, it sank immediately after it was hit on the stern. It now lies on its port side, playing host to yellow fin tuna, barracuda, giant groupers, and giant batfish. Penetration is possible though it is strictly for seasoned wreck divers due to metal hazards.
Kogyo Maru – This will probably be one of the most fascinating wrecks in Coron Bay. Once a freighter carrying construction materials for a proposed runway, the Kogyo Maru is a huge vessel now lying on its starboard side in 34 meters of sea water. Penetration is highly possible; you can explore the cargo hold, the bridge and the engine room. Construction heavy equipment can also be seen underwater, most of them still intact.
Olympia Maru – Just off Tangat Island, this vessel is great for wreck diving beginners. It sits upright; its stern, bow, and mast great are great places for spotting huge puffer fish, batfish and banana fish. There are scorpion fish and crocodile fish in some places as well. Penetration into the cargo holds is not a big challenge even for beginners.
Skeleton Wreck – As the name implies, this wreck is basically a skeleton of a 25-meter long boat located about 12 meters off the northwestern coast of Coron Island. This site is great for both reef and wreck diving, with plenty of opportunity for underwater photography. Skin diving is possible.
Lusong Gun Boat – Located just off Lusong Island’s eastern coast, this gunboat wreck is perfect for recreational diving and snorkeling. The site is easily recognizable during low tide when the stern is visible just above the water. The Lusong Gunboat wreck is abundant with hard corals and a variety of colorful fishes, making it perfect for underwater photography and introductory wreck diving tours.
East Tangat Gunboat – If you’re exploring Olympia Maru, you might as well check out this wreckage on the eastern side of Tangat Island. This small gunboat sits inclined on the coral reef, providing great opportunities for seeing and photographing colorful corals and fishes. This one is an easy dive; it is perfect for beginners and even snorkelers can enjoy wonderful scenery including the shape of the wreck three meters into the water.
There are still a few more wrecks scattered around Coron Bay, some of them small and others are still unidentified. Coron is a mecca for seasoned wreck divers and if you’re still testing the waters in this kind of adventure, it is also a great place to start. There’s more to Coron than just wreck diving but that’s in another post. See you around!