When you want to explore wrecks, Coron Island in the Philippines is the place to be. Diving in Coron is mostly famous for its WWII shipwrecks found in Coron Bay and it awesome soft coral gardens.
Coron is a beautiful, tranquil island located in the province of Palawan in the Philippines. It offers breathtaking tropical views and some of the best diving in the Philippines.
When you are interested in learning more about what it is like to go diving in Coron, continue reading for some helpful tips on how to get there and what (wreck) dive sites you should not miss.
Photo Credit: Haundreis
How to Get to Coron?
The best way to get to Coron is by first traveling to Manila. From there, you can check out the schedules of local airlines, such as AirPhil Express, Zest Air, and Cebu Pacific, and hop aboard a short flight to Coron. You could also travel to Coron from Manila by ferry.
If you do not want to start your journey in Manila, you can also get to Coron by air from El Nido or Princesa City, which are both located in Palawan
When is the best Coron diving season?
There is no real Coron diving season. Diving in Coron can be done year round, especially since the water temperature is consistently warm at 27°C to 30°C or 81°F to 86°F. But the best months to are November through June.
If you travel to the area from July through October, be prepared for heavy rains and maybe even a typhoon.
3 Coron dive sites you should dive (reef dives)
Diving in Coron is marvelous and offers some of the best diving in Palawan. There are a large number of fantastic dive sites to choose from throughout, but below are some of the most famous Coron dive sites, along with a short description of what you can expect to see in each:
This dive site features a thriving coral reef ranging in depth from 3 meters to more than 35 meters, with visibility that is usually great at 15 to 20 meters.
The diverse marine life and the plentiful hard and soft corals that can be found at this site make it perfect for all levels of divers, including underwater photographers who want to capture the thrilling moments they will experience here.
Watch out for puffers, eels, giant clams, and turtles, among many other imaginable creatures. Leopard sharks and guitar sharks may also make an appearance.
Amongst the abundance of marine life you can find colorful soft corals
7 Islands Reef:
7 Islands Reef is, without a doubt, one of the most popular dive sites in Coron. This is a dive site you should bring your underwater camera too, as the beauty of the rich, varied marine life is truly astounding. Enjoy a night dive here for further adventure)
Another popular dive in Coron is Kalambuyan Reef, as there is a lot of diverse marine life to see here, from vibrant corals to colorful fish of all sizes. This calm site offers excellent visibility, making it another perfect place to take some underwater photos.
Coron Bay is also known as “the poor man’s Chuuk Lagoon”
The variety of ships sunk at Chuuk Lagoon, the contents of the cargo holds and the other items such as aircraft’s that are available in the perfect conditions of the lagoon, are unmatched.
While nothing can compare to Chuuk Lagoon, Coron Bay does have an excellent range of shipwrecks and is easier to get too than Chuuk.
Coron Bay offers a vast selection of WWII Japanese wrecks and premium coral reefs. The surrounding islands offer some unique lake and cave dive opportunities.
While many of the dive sites are suitable for divers of all levels including novice Open Water Divers, some sites require a deep diver certification with preferably Nitrox certification.
The WWII History of Palawan and Coron Bay
In September 1944, American Naval Aircraft attacked some Japanese Navy and Army cargo ships in Manila Bay. The Japanese Navy started to withdraw a here ships from Manila Bay and headed for the sheltered waters of Coron Bay.
On the morning of the 24th of September, 1944, the Japanese Navy had 15 ships in Coron Bay and another three nearby. At around 08:45 on that morning, the calm waters of Coron Bay became a battle site.
The Japanese ships that are now famous Japanese shipwrecks arrived at their depths assisted by the U.S. Navy Task Force 38.
In total 24 bombers and 96 fighters were assigned to the early morning attack. After a 45 minute attack, 11 ships sunk or were severely damaged, three ships were suspected to have escaped, and it is assumed four others also sank, although this was never verified.
5 Coron shipwrecks you should dive
Below are a few of the best wreck dives that you can check out if you head over to Coron for your next wreck diving exploration.
Now lying on her port side in 32 meters of water with the starboard side sitting in 22 meters of water. The Akitsushima was an IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy) vessel designed as a seaplane tender.
The Akitsushima carried a Kawanishi H8K code name “Emily”. “Emily” was a heavily armed long-range patrol craft, and could also be used as a fighter-bomber.
The Akitsushima was a very solidly built ship, having received a direct hit by a bomb in August 1942 and being hit by two bombs at Chuuk Lagoon. She received one final direct hit on one of her gas storage tanks at Coron.
Divers will find it a fascinating wreck with a healthy covering of coral and plentiful marine life. Groupers can be found along the deeper portions of the wreck.
Some dive centers will allow open water divers to dive the tender at low tide –18 meters depth – and mild current, however, the wreck dive is more an advanced dive site. Divers with a deep dive or tec certification can explore the rest of the hull wich lies at 38 meters.
Parts of the wheel house have collapsed, and the crane used to lift the seaplanes is detached and is laying in the sand. The ship provides multiple exciting dives for those interested in the vessel itself, and for those who come to see the marine life that is drawn to the wreck which is now an artificial reef.
Japanese seaplane tender Akitsushima
2. Okikawa Maru
The Okikawa Maru was misidentified as the Taiei Maru for over 50 years. The 160-meter long ship was repeatedly attacked in Manila Bay on the 22nd of September before she moved to Coron.
She was the first aircraft to be hit when the attack started and by 9:10 her bow was under water. The top of the ship can now be found at 10 meters depth with the bottom at 26 meters making this an exciting dive for all recreational divers although divers should be aware that a powerful current can run across the wreck.
Macro-photographers will love this wreck as the ship is covered with both soft and hard corals and has a dense population of reef fish.
The brightly colored coral add depth to photographs, and there are many varieties of nudibranchs among them. The Okikawa Maru has some excellent penetration dives for those divers that are qualified to enter a wreck.
3. Irako Maru
Unlike most of the other ships, the Irako Maru was not able to escape the Manila attacks. The Irako Maru was a 149-meter long refrigeration cargo ship traveling between Japan and what is now Taiwan.
One cargo load could support 25,000 troops for two weeks. There are reports that she was damaged on the 19th of August and then diverted to Coron Bay, where she arrived on the 22nd of September.
Her deck was reported as being loaded with float planes. In the air raid, she took a direct hit in the superstructure and started to sink over the bow. The ship rests in 45 meters of water, with her main section at 34 meters.
The wheel house at 34 meters and the cargo deck at 36 meters can be a beautiful penetration dive for recreational wreck divers. Technical divers can enter the wreck from the cargo hold at 40 meters to explore other internal decks.
This shipwreck /dive site is one of those most involved with all the misnaming. This site has also been called the Taiei Maru and the Olympia Maru.
The SS Morazan was a ship captured by the Japanese and renamed the Ekkai Maru. While details are unclear, she was reported captured in China on December 8, 1941.
As a dive site, she sits in the shallows on her starboard side. Her maximum depth is only 25 meters, and she reaches up to 12 meters, making her an excellent choice for open water divers to explore.
This wreck has been referred to as the Sangat wreck due to its location near Sangat island. Many have called it the Taiei Maru, and some claimed it was the Ekkai Maru. However, in the last few years, most have accepted the evidence that it is the Olympia Maru.
The ship is 160 meters long and sits in 27 meters of water and raises to within 18 meters of the surface. Wreck divers can penetrate the vessel at different points. The cargo holds and some decks are available to the recreational wreck diver.
Whether you are seeking a dive site with a coral reef that is full of life, from tiny crustaceans to large schools of fish and incredible corals, or you are looking for an adventurous dive that will have you swimming through the rooms within old Japanese shipwrecks, Coron has a dive site for everyone.
Article written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.
Feel free to contact us. We have multiple partners that offer dive packages + accommodation in Coron, Palawan.
Planning a scuba trip to the Coron? Then you should download the ultimate scuba dive checklist just like 5000+ other divers already so you will not forget to bring anything.
This article was originally published by Book Your Dive