Wrecks wrecks wrecks.
Coron is on the Island of Busuanga, in Palawan – so, a little off the beaten track. To get there wasn’t hard – short flight from Manila to Busuanga airport (not much more than a tin shed in a paddock) and then a local taxi-van to the town/port of Coron.
What was difficult was the obnoxious nationals of a certain country that we shared the van with, but that’s another story.
Coron town is a bit unusual – on one hand it’s the local centre, so has markets, shops and centres that aren’t of much interest to foreigners, but on the other hand, it’s a destination for wreck-divers and a port town so is pumping with dodgy nights clubs and hawkers.
– do try both the market and the nightclubs though – former because it’s good, and latter because it’s SO bad.
Busuanga Seadive Resort was where we stayed – again, just turning up and hoping for the best is a solid option in Philippines – and it’s great. Right on the water, good dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you can’t be bothered to go out – or if the weather turns and you don’t have much other choice – and a bar for later on. And being one of the largest dive shops in town, with a couple of boats going out daily, it makes for easy dive-life.
Wrecks are the draw in Coron – in the second world war the Allies downed a whole fleet of Japanese support vessels, so the bays are littered with cargo ships, an oil tanker, some smaller gun ships, and so on. Most amount of wrecks I one place I’ve come across – pretty impressive, although of course tinged with sadness of bad times.
The most interesting boat for me was the oil tanker, the Taiei Maru – diving into the holds was surreal. Being in the complete dark, with completely still water, meant it was like being suspended in nothingness. Not great if you suffer from any kind of anxiety or phobia, but such an ‘other’ experience.
Pentration of the wrecks is encouraged, so best to be comfortable with the dark and tight spaces before getting to Coron – and try to gage if your dive buddies are the same, as there’s not a lot worse than being in a confined, underwater space with someone who’s not quite oh-fay with it. The most difficult I remember was the Akitshushima wreck, which involved negotiating our way through tunnel-like passages in dim light. Where’s Twist’s flood light when you need it?? It was also pretty deep, 34m, which, combined with everything else is a little demanding.
There can be a fair current around some of the wrecks – we got loads around the gunship East Tanget – so pay close attention to the guides who are familiar with it.
The other special feature of Coron is Barracuda Lake, in the middle of Coron Island (which, funnily is not where Coron town is), a short boat trip from town. There’s not really a lot to see in the lake, it’s a bit barren with not great vis, but that’s not the point. The point is the very distinct thermoclines experienced when descending. Like diving in trifle, you feel that shift between hot and cold water as if jelly and sponge. Very ‘other’.
We chose Seadive on recommendation from our Mabul-by-way-of-Peru dive-instructor-friend Cesar, and in turn met Coron’s Jamie. And, as the dive-world would have it, Cesar, at time of writing, is now on staff at Coron Dive. So say hi if you meet him!