Scuba diving is one of the most popular things to do in the Philippines, and for those of us that are hardcore divers and want to explore some of the amazing wrecks of Coron here's all you need to know!
Where is Coron Bay and how do I get there?
Coron is an island north of Palawan, which lies southwest of Manila. Coron Town sits on the south coast of Busuanga Island, and is heavily geared towards dive tourism with many dive operators and accommodations to choose from. Getting there involves flying to Busuanga Airport, in Palawan. From there it is about an hour’s journey by road to Coron Town. There are daily flights, of an hour, between Busuanga and Manila. It is possible to get to Coron by boat, from El Nido, in about 4 hours. Coron is one of the best dive destinations in the Philippines.
What makes Coron Bay special for divers?
The natural topside beauty of the area is breath-taking. Characterised by steep black-limestone cliffs, many covered in lush green foliage, and lots of little bays with bright white beaches and turquoise sea quietly lapping their shores.
The main attraction for divers though, are the several WWII Japanese wrecks that lie within recreational diving depths.
On 24 September 1944, a squadron of US bombers located the Japanese supply fleet hiding among the islands, and proceeded to blow it apart. At the time this was ground breaking as it was the furthest range air attack ever launched from aircraft carriers, 340 miles from target and with planes flying for over 6 hours. Several planes were lost after running out of fuel on the return trip; some were shot down by the Japanese fleet in Coron Bay.
As a result, there are well preserved wrecks of gunboats, supply ships complete with building materials, tanks and ammunition, aircraft carriers and planes lying on the sandy bottom in the bay, many of which are between 100-200m long, covered with coral growth and easily penetrable.
The area also boasts beautiful shallow fringing reefs and brackish crystal clear inland lakes one can dive in.
The diving here is suitable for all divers- beginner to advanced technical divers.
Caution- One does need to be aware that one kick in the wrong direction can cause a “storm” of fine dark silt which can be extremely disorientating and virtually blinding, so care needs be taken when penetrating even the large open-sided sections of some of the wrecks. Also, some of the sites have live ammunitions lying in the ships or on the sandy bottom and divers should not touch anything or attempt to move any artifacts.
Irako- One of the best wrecks in the Philippines, Irako is still largely intact. This refrigeration ship is home to lionfish, groupers, eels, turtles and lots of macro life. With many entry point, penetration is possible. Due to the (generally) great visability at this dive site, one can get a good idea on the huge size of this ship upon decent. Suitable for advanced divers only, she lies at around 43m with her deck at 28m.
Akitsushima- is a 118m long seaplane carrier which lies on her port side. There is a huge crane lying on the sandy bottom which attracts schools of batfish and barracuda. She also boasts a very impression anti-aircraft gun. My favourite part of this dive is penetrating the engine room, which is full of machinery and 4 large engines.
Kogyo- This freighter is about 140m and lies at 34m. The large cargo holds ae full of construction materials, a cement mixer and a bulldozer. The deck has anti-aircraft weapons on it and the wreck is quite overgrown with coral so there is no shortage of interesting things to see here.
Okikawa- This 170m long tanker is the largest and most popular wreck in the bay. It completely covered in coral and interesting critters. She sank upright, with the main deck at around 12m making her very accessible for all level of diver. There are many different routes of penetration possible, including the prop shaft and engine room which is really interesting.
Besides the many cool wreck dives, the area offers some beautiful reefs, and some other special sites.
Other dive sites
This is an inland brackish lake (which, despite its name, does not have any barracuda living in it). It is well known because it has different layers of water varying in salt content and also in temperature, ranging form about 28C to about 38C. The scenery is beautiful, but one does need to walk with full gear for about 15 minutes to reach it. Well worth it, this place is enchanting, and the waters clarity and thermoclines makes for a lovely dive.
The Cathedral Cave
Situated on the east of Coron Island is a great dive site, offering something totally different from the wrecks in the area. Starting at a depth of around 6-10m is a narrow, yet comfortably sized tunnel leading from the sheer rock face inwards down to about 12m. The tunnel has lots of lobsters and other crustaceans and molluscs living inside it. Soon you see light coming in from the opening higher up rockface, above sea level. There is a fallen tree lying on the sand inside the chamber. One can surface here inside the cathedral and see the beautiful stalactites and the window through which the light streams in. A little further in is another passage leading to an air chamber one can surface in to see the beautiful rock formations within. A stunning site with interesting topography, and a lovely wall outside to finish the dive along.
Accommodation and Dive Shop
Dive Safari Asia leads group trips to the Philippines, and often combine diving in Coron with Peurto Gallera, as this offers a great mix of diving, and still easy access to airports. Other easy diving combinations include Anilao.
They partner with a fabulous resort near Coron Island, Sangat Island Resort. This gorgeous resort is set on an idyllic white sand beach, surrounded by steep line stone cliffs overgrown with lush jungle. The resort offers simple accommodation in beach bungalows with en-suite bungalows and beautiful sea views. The meals are served in the beachfront t restaurant, and the bar is on a small island connected to the beach by a stilted walkway over the ocean, truly beautiful. Coron town has many accommodation and dive shop options, but doesn’t offer the secluded island getaway feeling, at all.