WRECK DIVING HEAVEN: Coron Island is the third-largest island in the Calamian Islands of Northern Palawan.
The waters around the island are justly famous for wreck diving, due to the number of Japanese ships that were sunk there during World War II.
Coron has numerous upscale resorts but isn’t so well set up for the budget traveller. However, because it offers some of the best diving in the world – Forbes Magazine placed in a global “top ten” – it’s a place that’s worth a splurge.
The number of sunken ships in the area is down to its geography: With so many bays in inlets the Japanese hoped it would be a good place to hide. However, the Americans discovered their location, and sent numerous ships to the bottom of the sea.
On September 24, 1944, eight ships were sunk in Coron Bay alone. In all, 800 ships were sunk in Philippine waters during the war.
Most of the wrecks around Coron lie at depths between 60-140ft. Because of the famously clear waters, some can even be spotted from dry land.
Here are 11 of the best wreck diving spots:
The Irako Wreck. Originally a refrigeration ship, this is probably one of the best wreck diving sites in the Philippines. Located at the mouth of Coron Bay, the ship is intact and has stunning visibility. The wreck is rich in aquatic life, creating a haven for big groupers, tuna, yellow fin and turtles. For those brave enough to enter the ship, you’ll see pots, pans, wiring and all sorts of things still in place from the day it landed in Davey Jones’ Locker. In fact, you can see from the galley all the way to the engine room.
The Okikawa Maru Wreck. Originally a civilian tanker-oiler, it sank two miles south of Conception, near Coron Bay, coming to rest in an upright position in shallow waters. It is the largest wreck around Coron Bay and takes at least an hour to explore the entire wreckage. Advanced divers can explore the propeller room and well-preserved engine room.
The Akitsushima Wreck – This is the only warship sunk in the bay. The ship is intact even though it took a hit directly to the stern. The wreck teems with marine life, including barracuda that hide in the bow.
The Kagyo Maru Wreck. Originally a Japanese freighter, this ship was carrying construction materials for an airfield. This wreckage is just north of the Irako wreck off the island of Tangat. It’s a perfect beginner’s spot as most areas of the ship are open and easy to swim through. Here you’ll see some intact equipment, including a tractor and bulldozer.
The Olympia Maru Wreck. Originally an army cargo ship, it now lies on her starboard side south of Busuanga and west of Tangat Island. Here you’ll see some rare marine life such as banana fish, giant bat fish and puffer fish. The substructure of the ship is covered with soft corals and bushes of black corals that create a great haven for many creatures. Access to the interior of this wreckage is easiest at the cargo holds.
The Kyokuzan Maru Wreck. Another army cargo ship sunk northeast of Busuanga Island. The wreck site is a bit far from Coron Bay, which means it’s one of the least explored. It’s worth the journey though, as the ship is huge, intact and has great visibility. Those venturing inside will see a fascinating assortment of trucks and cars in the cargo room.
The East Tangat Bunboat Wreckage – This gunboat-submarine hunter rests off the eastern side of Tangat Island. It’s a perfect spot for beginners in wreck diving with some stunning corals. The ship itself is small in comparison to some, but well worth the trip.
The Nanshin Maru Wreck. This oil tanker is near Black Island Beach and can be reached in a day from Coron. Sitting upright on a sandy bottom, this wreck is perfect for beginners. The surrounding waters are so clear that photography is very effective. It’s also suitable for night diving.
Unknown Freighter Wreckage. This unidentified ship is west of Tangot Island. Some believe it is the ship Taiei Maru but others say it’s the Morazon Maru. In recent it’s been speculated that it’s actually the Mamiya Maru – but it remains an unsolved mystery. The ship lies in shallow waters and has massive boilers in the center of the ship which are still intact. Between the hours of 10am-2pm the wreck diving site is beautifully lit by the sun – a must see.
The Lusong Gunboat Wreckage. This Japanese gunboat went down on the east side of Lusong Island. It’s a perfect place for snorkelers as it lies in shallow waters – great for photography
The Skeletal Wreckage. This site is what remains of a steel-hulled boat. The keel, ribs and stringers are the only parts left intact. The wreck was beached not far from Coron Island. The stern points directly away from the island – a pass through the starboard side of the hull allows you to swim from the inside of the boat and exit out of the corals below – very stunning.