The Challenge of Planning

When I first booked my trip on the United Island Hopper, I was super excited to experience this one of a kind flight. Once I started planning the details of the trip, however, the opportunity to go SCUBA diving in the Philippines became my number one priority. My flights took me into Manila, and with over 7000 islands in the country, choosing where exactly to go was a bit of a challenge.

With the help of friends on twitter, I eventually narrowed it down to Boracay or Palawan, and flight timing and pricing helped make my decision easy. I was bound for Palawan. Sounds simple, right? Well, no. The Province of Palawan is the largest of the Philippine provinces and encompasses over 1700 islands. It was quickly becoming obvious that I was not going to see much of the Philippines on this short trip.

Several hours of Google searches later, I decided to go to the town of Coron. The area is known for its diving, mainly because within a short trip on a dive boat, there are several Japanese shipwrecks leftover from World War II. Several are fairly close to the surface and have huge open cargo holds, so it’s a great place for an Open Water certified diver to get a first taste of wreck diving.

Rocksteady (Reggae) Dive Center

In an area known for diving, it’s not a surprise that there are a ton of dive shops to choose from. Using online reviews, I narrowed it down to my top 3. I contacted my top choice, and sadly, they didn’t have any space on the day I needed to dive. They recommended that I check with the two other dive shops, and what do you know, they were my other two top choices. Both of them ended up having space and suggested that I stop by the night before to see the dive options for the next day.

After chatting with both shops and seeing what they had scheduled, I decided to dive with Rocksteady Dive Center. They are currently in the process of changing their name to Reggae Dive Center and approximately half of their materials have the new name. I filled out my paperwork, got fitted for equipment and headed out for an evening at the local hot springs.

SCUBA Diving Day

The next morning, I woke up early and walked down the street to Rocksteady. They had 3 different dive boats going out of the same small shop, so things were a bit hectic, but eventually we all piled in to the back of a Jeepney for the ride down to the harbor. There, they put us onto a small shuttle boat and called out our names when it was time to get off on our boat for the day. Our boat had 7 divers, 3 divemasters, a captain, and a boatman. Three of the divers were working on their certifications, so that left 4 of us who were certified and ready to play.

We were out on the boat for about 8 hours, and we dove at three different sites over the course of the day. Our first stop was the CYC Reef, followed by the Morazan Maru wreck, and finishing up with the East Tangat Gun Boat – Teru Kaze Maru wreck. For more information about either of the wrecks, you can check out the Rocksteady Dive Site page.

This was my first time diving shipwrecks, and I have to say, it was amazing. We were able to go inside both ships and seeing the way they have deteriorated as nature has taken over is quite awe inspiring. The pictures and video definitely do not do the dive sites justice.

Meeting Other Travelers

In addition to a great day of SCUBA diving, I had the chance to meet some great friends. My randomly assigned dive buddy was a Swiss-British girl named Hannah and we got along splendidly. By the end of the day, we had decided to rent a private boat the next day to go island hopping, and when we got back to the shop we found a guy from another of the dive boats who was happy to join us. His name was Nic and he was from Sweden. The three of us spent pretty much all of the rest of my time in Coron together. From island hopping during the day to shooting pool with locals late into the night, we had an absolute blast.

If you have the chance to visit Coron, I would highly recommend it. Even if you aren’t a SCUBA diver, there are plenty of above water and snorkeling opportunities for you, and it is one of the most beautiful places I have been. Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite Philippine island, but before that, enjoy a few pictures I got with my GoPro while spending the day underwater.

CYC Reef

Coral formations of CYC Reef.

Our first dive site at CYC Reef. The coral formations were quite varied.

 

Fish and corals SCUBA diving at CYC Reef.

At CYC Reef, we went down to a maximum depth of 18 meters and spent 36 minutes at the bottom.

 

Morazan Maru

Morazan Maru wreck seen from above.

The view from above the Morazan Maru wreck. We went down to 19 meters on this dive and spent 27 minutes playing in and around the ship.

 

Hundreds of fish swimming around the shipwreck.

The number of fish swimming around the wrecks was unbelievable at times. Here is a shot looking off to the side of the wreck.

 

Beautiful formations on the top of the Morazan Maru.

These shelf-like formations were all over the top side of the Morazan Maru. I kept thinking they looked like the giant shelf fungi you see on trees.

 

East Tangat Gun Boat – Teru Kaze Maru

Fish around the East Tangat Gun Boat.

Again with the East Tangat Gun Boat, you can see the water teeming with fish around the wreck.

 

Deteriorating Teru Kaze Maru gun boat.

Here you can see how the ship is deteriorating, covered in sea life and with holes on the side. This dive took us down to a depth of 18 meters and we spent about 33 minutes exploring the wreck.

 

Entering the East Tangat Gun Boat through an opening on the side.

What do you do when you see a big opening in the side of a sunken ship? You go inside, of course! (only with someone who is experienced with wreck diving and that wreck in particular)

 

Cargo holds of the East Tangat Gun Boat.

Exploring the cargo holds of the Teru Kaze Maru. Swimming through the insides of these boats was awesome!

 

Opening in the side of the East Tangat Gun Boat.

Back on the outside on the boat. This wasn’t where we exited, but if you watch the video above, you will see that our exit opening was much smaller than our entry.

 

Window openings on the bridge of the Teru Kaze Maru wreck.

The “windows” of the bridge. Off to the left of this was a huge gun that you can see in the video above. It was fun to look in through the openings and see what was swimming around inside.

 

Exterior of the East Tangat Gun Boat.

One last shot of some of the outside structure of the Teru Kaze Maru. The coral has really built up on all of the surfaces over the years.

 

Fish swimming with the SCUBA divers.

Perhaps the best shot I got of a single fish. The light reflecting off of the bubbles behind helped to light up this beauty as it swam by.

 

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