Went to Coron on 4-9 April 2007. Loved the islands!!! Where is Coron??? It`s in the northern tip of Palawan - Philippines. There are actually 2 "Corons" ---- the island of Coron - the ancestral domain of one of the 4 indigenous ethnic groups in Palawan - the Tagbanua and Coron town, located on Busuanga Island - the largest in the Calamian Group of 47 islands.
The "Wrecks of Coron" in this area are renowned among divers especially wreck divers!!! The area is quite unique with 9 WWII wrecks which can be dived in 3 days. Most of the wrecks were sunk on 24 September 1944 by fighters and dive bombers of US task force 38. History be told, about 24 Japanese supply ships had tried to hide among the Calamianes Islands in an effort to evade attack - but a number weren`t successful. The best part for me - these wrecks have been under water for more than 60 years and have become coral reefs in their own right --- now it`s full of aquatic life, my favorite!
I dived with "Dive Calamianes" and the first dive for the day was OLYMPIA MARU - a Japanese freighter 122m long (`Tangat Wreck`), located in Tangat Island Bay (known locally as Sangat Island). The wreck sits upright with easy to penetrate cargo holds with a lot of available light - though a torch would have been better. Visibility was around 10 m and we averaged our depth at 18 m/max at 29.8 m (dive time: 43 mins.). It was actually eerie checking out cargo rooms. What made it more fun was the aquatic life - has a large variety of marine life. Species I recognized include:
- scorpion fish; - batfish; - groupers; and - sea squirts.
Second dive for the day was TAIEI MARU? - 110m long in Tangat Island Bay. A question mark after its name as there were 6 ships in the Japanese navy with this name and dive operators in the area think this is one of them. We penetrated cargo holds and engine room - same as Olympia Maru, this wreck has lots of available light. In the engine room, we checked out large boilers. Visibility was around 10 m and we averaged our depth at 14.9 m/max at 24.4 m (dive time: 54 mins.). We spent some time at the top of the ship (14-15 m) as this is covered with hard and soft corals containing a large variety of marine life. Species I recognized include:
- barramundi cod (juvenile); - lion fish; - nudibranchs (a few were mating); - six-banded angelfish; - batfish; - groupers; - red snappers; - pufferfish; - ribbon sweetlips; and - many spotted sweetlips.
The last dive for the day was supposed to be at LUSONG WRECK but our DI opted to go for EAST TANGAT GUN BOAT (a Japanese submarine hunter 40 m long located in the east side of Tangat Island) as Lusong Wreck developed strong currents around mid-afternoon. The East Tangat Gun Boat - a non-specific name which is still used until today as the name of this boat (Tirukaze Maru) was not known until February 2002 - identified by 6 Dutch divers. The wreck is at a shallow depth - its outline quite visible from our boat while we were preparing to dive. Snorkelers also visit this wreck - we actually encountered 2 boats with snorkelers leaving the area when we arrived. This was actually a wreck and reef dive in one as the boat is positioned tight against a reef thriving with marine life. Visibility was around 5-10 m and we averaged our depth at 6 m/max at 13 m (dive time: 50 mins). We only spent a little time checking out the boat and focused on the colorful marine life hanging out at the reef --- masses of branching corals, hard and soft corals, multi-colored/vivid miniature reef fishes, etc. We searched for the elusive mandarin fish - but luck wasn`t on our side. Species recognized include:
- blue flat worm; - upside-down jellyfish; - red snappers; - groupers; - clown anemonefish; - hawkfish; - cardinal fishes; - spine-cheek anemonefish; - pufferfish; - pyjama cardinal; and - damselfishes.
Only went diving for a day, went island-hopping/snorkeling for 2 days and snoozed/read on a hammock then short hike up Mt. Tapyas for the last day. Island-hopping/snorkeling for 2 days was very fascinating -- a lot of islands to choose from! Lakes are just fantastic!!! Took awesome photos of breathtaking scenery including the area`s glorious sunsets! One day hopping from CYC island, then off to Coron Island for Banol Beach, Twin Lagoons, Barracuda Lake, Kayangan Lake, Kalachuchi Beach, then off to Siete Pecados (Seven Rocks Reef). One day we went to Calumbuyan Island and Popototan Island. On our way to Calumbuyan Island, we tried to locate a less-renowned dive site called LANDING CRAFT - as per our DI, it`s the only American ship sunk in the area, but we missed it since our boatman`s not familiar about its location (he knows it by another name). Currents sweep around Calumbuyan Island which makes it great for drift diving --- but it`s not for me! Opted to just go snorkeling :) According to the island`s caretaker, a sea turtle just laid around 200 eggs but they had to dug it up and transfer to a safer location as visitors to the island might accidentally trample on the eggs. We`re supposed to visit Treasure Island but it was getting late so off we went straight to Popototan Island -- had lunch and snorkeled at the house reef of Evergreen Diving Resort. Loved their house reef!!! Even saw huge batfishes and a batfish (pinnate???) at its intermediate phase! Loved the vivid colors of clams and soft corals swaying along with the currents. Was hoping to find sea turtles but they`re usually in the area in the evenings and early mornings including "dugongs." Even the ghost pipefish was elusive!
Overall, the Calamianes Islands are divine! Will definitely be back and hope to dive Barracuda Lake as well - they say it`s very special --- will have to see that for myself!!!