For years The Philippines have been known as an excellent place to explore the underwater world. The crystal clear waters and diverse reefs of the sites around Boracay and Puerto Galera will always draw the crowds, but if you are looking for excellent diving with a little bit of a twist, the island of Coron holds many surprises.
Situated at the Northern tip of Palawan, Coron, along with its beautiful scenery and incredible geology, has built into a small hub for a very certain kind of dive enthusiast. Looking out over Coron Bay it's hard to imagine that scatted along its' floor are 10 enormous wrecks dating back to the 2nd World War.
It's hard to describe the feeling you get as the structures slowly appear from the depths. Twisted metal eaten by rust and colonized by coral start to take on recognizable form, suddenly you are moving along the decks, under masts, and around the hull. As you explore more it becomes harder to imagine that humans ever lived here. Shoals of fish wander through breaches in the hull, crabs move across its surface and even turtles can appear, revealing where they call home.
None of the 10 wrecks are the same and each one has its own unique atmosphere. The Lusong Gunboat is smaller than others and plays host to a nursery of marine life. The Akisushima Aircraft carrier is much deeper and contains fascinating old machinery. The sheer size of the Kogyo Maru cargo ship will leave your heart in your mouth as it appears from the darkness to surround you on all sides.
Exploring around the outside of the wrecks is just a part of the experience; there are also the interiors to swim through. This requires a whole new set of skills in order for you to deal with the dangers that can be found inside. Most dive shops will offer the Wreck Diver specialization course, this teaches you how to plan routes, avoid getting lost, deal with bad visibility and maneuver through tight spaces. Without the training you can't go to see what lies within.
Barracuda Lake & Cathedral Cave
When not at the wrecks there are other diving attractions to visit that are no less impressive.
In Barracuda Lake, a natural hot spring bubbles up from beneath the salt water creating a natural thermocline. At around 10m down the temperature jumps almost 10 degrees as you enter the fresh water layer. The change in conditions brings a change in ecosystem. A surreal landscape lies within.
If the conditions are just right (low waves – generally at the end of the summer season) it is possible to enter the Cathedral Cave. A traverse through a narrow corridor leads to a chamber where natural light illuminates the impressive natural structures that line the inside of the cave.
However tempting it is, it's not possible to be underwater all the time. Rest is required and Coron can cater for this in classic Philippine style. In Coron Bay there are many quiet resorts dotted about the islands. All of which allow you to sit back, relax and watch the world go by.
Flights: Philippine Airlines run flights daily to Busuanga Airport, only 30 minutes drive from Coron Town.
Dive: Neptune Dive Centre can offer everything from fun dives to technical diving courses.
Resort: If you wish to leave the town and stay on one of the island resorts, Chindonan is an excellent option. They have their own dive shop, house reef and excellent views across the sea.
By Jon Butters