The World War 2 shipwrecks in the Philippines’ Coron Bay are an underwater timewarp into the past. Tony Exall explains what it’s like to dive them today.
Diving Coron Bay © Alexey Stoyda
Diving The Coron Shipwrecks – Dive Happy Episode 18 Show Notes
- PhilippineDiveHolidays.com – Tony’s dive travel agency and the Coron itinerary
- Sangat Island Dive Resort – website of the resort near to the wrecks with lots of extra info on the area
- D’Divers – Gunter Bernert’s resort, a pioneer of diving Coron
- Diving Truk Lagoon podcast – Tim Rock talks about the ultimate WW2 wreck diving destination
- Sogod Bay podcast – Sogod Bay in Southern Leyte is where you’ll find the amazing coral reefs of the central Philippines that Tony mentions
- The Liberty Shipwreck, Bali – I wrote about diving probably the most famous wreck in all of Asia in this article for Sport Diver
- Busuanga Airport – formally known as Francisco B. Reyes Airport, this is the nearest airport to the Coron wrecks. Don’t fly into Puerto Princesa airport – it’s the other end of Palawan island which is a long way away!
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Diving The Coron Shipwrecks – Dive Happy Episode 18 Transcript
[0:00:34.9] CM: Hello, welcome to Dive Happy. My guest on this episode is Tony Exall. An accomplished underwater for Yorkshire and founder of the travel agency philippinediveholidays.com.
[0:00:17.5] CM: Tony, welcome to the show.
[0:00:18.7] TE: Thank you very much, pleasure to be here.
[0:00:21.7] CM: Coron is a sleepy area in the northern end of the Philippine’s biggest islands Palawan and the reason it’s a major dive destination is quite dramatic. Can you explain a bit about the history of what happened at Coron and why it became to be this unique?
[0:00:38.3] TE: yeah, it really goes back to World War II really. Obviously the Japanese fleet were trying to take over the – well, they did take over the whole of Asia pretty much, across the Pacific and Americans after midway which was in 1942 or something like that. It started to fight back the Japanese and gradually fought them away across the Pacific going westwards.
Chuuk Lagoon was the first time the Americans really bashed the Japanese particularly. Chuuk Lagoon is like the right diving capital of the world, that was in the February of 1944, then the Japanese then moved, made their base in Palau, the Americans, bashed them again there so it’s another great diving destination in Palau. So that was right around April, May, and then by September, the Japanese fleet was in and around Manila and they knew they were being found by the Americans, so they knew the Americans were coming so they sent a bunch of ships down to Coron just to get out of the way. So it was only one military vessel, per se, in Coron which is the Kushashima which is fantastic, great to dive.
The Americans found them in Coron completely by chance, there was some reconnaissance planes that flew over the Coron area, took some photographs and they did it on consecutive days. When they examined the photographs on the first day, they saw what I thought were these little islands. When they compared them to photographs the following day, the islands have moved a little bit because of the different tides. They realized they’ve got them and it’s actually is really quite amazing so the Americans were on their eastern side of the Philippines and at the time, they launched, which was making history down there, they’d launched the longest naval bombing raid ever launched to then go and bomb the Japanese in Coron.
They had something like 360 miles each way to fly to get to Coron. Then bomb the ships and then come back. They didn’t know that they’d actually have enough fuel to make it back. They went over on September the 24th, they then flew over to Coron, bombed the hell out of them, they think there was about 24 ships there of which they sunk 11. They’re there all to sea and the great thing about Coron is that any diver can go there, the maximum depth that you’re diving is probably the most interesting of wrecks there. That the sea bed is 42 meters.
For example, the Okikawa which is the biggest is a tanker, the top of the deck is at 12 meters, Dive sense in there called D Divers just around the corner from where the Okikawa is. They do discover scubas on the top of the deck. They’re very approachable, Chuuk lagoon, there’s a lot of shallow wrecks but there’s also some really deep stuff as well. Where as here, anybody can see, assuming you’ve got your advanced open water which is really should be the minimum qualification to go there. You could go there with an open water diver but you can just see all the wrecks if you’ve got advanced and going and swim around and see all the stuff. It’s pretty cool.
[0:03:36.3] CM: It sounds remarkable, the wrecks are all like fairly near to each other, right?
[0:03:40.9] TE: Yeah, if you can imagine, this is a bit hard to describe, you’ve got the islands which is where Coron, I’ve never understood this. Coron Town is on Busuanga Island but just south of Busuanga Island is Coron Island. On the north side of Busuanga Island, where you’ve got resorts like Club Paradise and El Rio Y Mar. Stuff there is really nice wreck up there called the Kiyokusa. That’s out by itself. If you were going to Coron Town and staying on the south side of Busuanga, the chances are, you probably wouldn’t be able to dive the Kiyokusa, which is a real shame because it’s a really nice wreck, it’s got stuff in it, it’s really nice things to see there.
But then on the south side of Busuanga Island is the largest concentration of where the wrecks are. Just around — there’s a resort, obviously, I run a travel agency and the resort I mostly use there is a company called Sangat Island. They’re just five minutes by speedboat to get to the main concentration, so there’s about five or six wrecks immediately around there.
Going a little bit further east from there, there’s the Akisashima and the Irako, which is another like 10 minutes on from there and another 20 minutes after that is the Nanshin Maru. It’s really easy to get to them, if you stay in places like Busuanga Bay Lodge, D Divers or Al Faro around there, that’s where the main wrecks are. If you stay in Coron Town which is more of a backpacker’s standard of accommodation, there is some more expensive stuff there but it’s mostly suited to backpackers.
You have to travel by boat at least an hour and a half just to get to the wrecks. It makes it hard day, so if you’re leaving till like eight 8:30 in the morning, not getting back till five or 6:00 in the evening, just sat on a smallish boat all day, it’s hard work which is why I mostly work with Sangat Island because it’s just – you go for a dive, you come back, you have breakfast, you go for a dive, you come back, have something to eat, you go for another dive, you come back and you have lunch, it’s almost like being on a liveaboard, you can just bang out the dives really easily.
[0:05:35.3] CM: Would you say that each of these wrecks, they’re big ships, right? How would you say they compare to something like the Liberty shipwreck in Bali?
[0:05:43.3] TE: I’ve not dived the Liberty wreck but from the videos I’ve seen and people I’ve spoken to, I think it’s a little bit above, I’m trying to avoid saying standard but it’s – they’re more interesting dives, I think. From what I understand, the Liberty wreckage, that’s not one that you can fully penetrate and can you penetrate the liberty?
[0:06:00.5] CM: You can but it’s very open.
[0:06:02.2] TE: If you can imagine there’s a ship on the surface and it’s got a torpedo in the side or whatever it sunk down to the bottom, it’s there. There’s a whole mixture of those small gum boats, all the way up to the Okikawa which is an oil tank which is 160 meters long. You can fully penetrate all the way through, so it’s not quite a Truk experience, Truk is in a league of its own. There’s 49 wrecks in Truk Lagoon, nothing has been taken off those wrecks, it’s illegal to do anything to those wrecks where as in Coron in the 50s and the 60s, all the precious metals that you would have on propellers and prop shafts and that’s all been taken out. You don’t see a single propeller in there.
[0:06:42.0] CM: That’s a shame.
[0:06:44.3] TE: Well, it is and it isn’t, it’s a double edged sword. So yes, it is nice to see a ship intact but actually, it gives a lot more adventure, especially for the less experienced diver because again with the Okikawa, just have it prop shaft and propeller removed but you can now dive through the prop shaft. It’s an adventure and there’s a few of the ships there that have done it.
The Irako, that’s really quite deep, that will be down at 40 to 42 meters for that. If you’ve not had an experience and you’re not a hardcore wreck diver you know, where you’re diving the Hermes in Sri Lanka or going to the Keeney Atal to dive the wrecks over there. For a good introduction into exciting, interesting wrecks, Coron is perfect. You’ll still see a lot of artifacts on there.
[0:07:26.1] CM: Would you say then so each wreck is obviously pretty large, so one dive is going to be easily occupied just by one ship, it’s not like you’ll be down there for 30 minutes, you kind of okay, I’ve been around everything?
[0:07:39.4] TE: No, there’s 10 wrecks in the Coron area, if you were staying on the south side then there’s about six that you can do which are big ships, there’s anything for like the Okikawa, 160 meters long, it’s the oil tanker and then there’s two or three really small boats like there’s gum boats, skeleton wreck and Sangat gum boat, they’re quite small, they’re maybe one is just 70 meters long, there is the little bit to penetrate but it’s a smaller ones are super shallow and effectively, they become artificial reefs rather than we going for a proper wreck dive.
Then there’s six others like the Olympian Maru, the Akai, Kogia Maru, the Akitsushima, the Irako, Okikawa, which are properly big ships, you know? You get on for hundred plus meters, where some of them like the Okikawa is a very, very big rig, you can easily do two dives on there. Just in the way you dive it, you know, you can start from the stern to go to the bow and then you start the bow and you go to the stern. Number of different routes that you can take around and if you’re more technically minded, if you have got the qualification to take side mount, twin tanks or whatever or even rebreather, some of the resorts, they will support rebreather.
The two that has got the most interest, for an experienced diver is the Akitsushima on the Irako. The Irako in particular just say you done the Irako, because it’s that much deeper then you can easy do four or five dives before you can actually say you’ve done it because there’s really nice little passages to go down, the kitchens, the engine room, the machine room, refrigeration control thing and even a bicycle that’s down there that’s in one of the rooms down there. There’s some really cool stuff to see down there.
[0:09:24.8] CM: Yeah, I read as well that on one ship is a bulldozer and a tractor that you can see?
[0:09:30.4] TE: Yeah, you kind of have to look at it quite hard to actually understand it, it’s all there, that’s the Kogyo Maru.
[0:09:35.7] CM: Right.
[0:09:36.5] TE: That boat had all the supplies to make an airport to make a runway. A couple of the cargo holds are just full of cement bags that have obviously gone hard now. But there’s hundreds and hundreds of them. Another cargo bay has got all this plastic mesh that’s rolled up that was going to be used for reinforcement of the concrete and in order to do that, they would need machinery. The boat is slightly on its side, you got all these thousands of cement bags and the mesh coil stuff just sort of sitting on top of it.
It almost look like they’re fused together, there’s the tractor and the caterpillar tracks and so on. It is pretty cool actually; you can still see, when you actually understand what an engine looks like when there’s nothing else on it, you can make it all out.
[0:10:19.2] CM: You mentioned earlier about some of the smaller wreaks, the gum boats that effectively become artificial reefs. Would you say that that’s the case with pretty much all the wrecks that they’re more shallow, the decks and so forth have all become reefs and there’s a lot of rich life round there?
[0:10:35.2] TE: Yeah, there’s another reason why that’s been able to happen, you don’t really go to Coron for reef diving, there are much better places across the Philippines, in the central part of the Philippines, places like southern Leyte and Marble, Malapascua, Dumaguete and so on. That’s where you go to see the reef, where it’s beautiful hardcore reefs. In Coron, because it’s in a bay, sort of. Unfortunately, us humans, we’ve managed to screw up most things and there’s been a lot of deforestation there.
It’s quite silty there, which means the visibility at times can be really quite poor. On a good day, you be 10, 15 meters horizontal visibility on the break, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less, depends on the water temperature, you know, what happens in plankton. But also, which is sort of get around to my point is, one of the reasons why they’re really quite protected and fish life around the wreck is actually really not bad. In fact, it’s very good on some of them so schools of snappers and fusiliers, you see turtles on them as well, mainly because around the main bay where the Akai Maru, the Kogyo Maru and Olympia Maru and the Irako, there is a huge pearl farm around there.
There’s big money in pearl farming and the pearl farmers do not allow anybody to go anywhere near them. They allow the dive operators to go in there but if somebody comes in that they don’t know, maybe it’s salvagers going in there or illegal fisherman going in there, the pearl farmers think that they’re going for the pearls. They literally will shoot at them. It’s actually really good for the wrecks because the wrecks are being preserved. Since the 50s and the 60s when they had a bit of salvaging taken off, all the expensive precious metals if you like, taken off of them, since then, they’ve been completely protected. It’s allowed the reef –
You know, nature on some of them, especially the more shallow ones, like the Okikawa, the Akai Maru and the Akitsushima on the top of them, it’s really lovely corals, mostly like a vase corals and cabbage corals, the life is around there, huge schools of fusiliers and bait fish going around there and jack fish coming in hunting on them. It’s actually really nice.
[0:12:47.1] CM: With your videographer hat on, would you say if you get days where the vis is like 10 to 15 meters can you get some really lovely wide angle shots of the bow of the boat with all this life on the artificial reef on top of it?
[0:13:00.1] TE: Yeah, sometimes it becomes a bit tricky.
[0:13:01.3] CM: When is it not?
[0:13:02.5] TE: Exactly. You can get a shot there. If you get poor visibility on the outside, invariably, the water is still clear on the inside of the wrecks. When you’re doing things like the boats like the Akitsushima, where there’s really nice stuff to see on the engine room, it’s got a lovely little control room around there which is the original glass is still in the dials and you can still read on there, the manufacturer and so onside. You can still see all that sort of stuff.
[0:13:26.9] CM: You were actually led a group diving there. I think back in February, right?
[0:13:31.6] TE: Yeah, I took a group of 26 people there. We spent one weekend in Puerto Galera and then we flew over to Coron and spent a week at Sangat Island resort.
[0:13:39.3] CM: Were they all experienced wreck divers? What was kind of the procedure for those people that – now actually dive but they’ve not really done wreck penetration before. How would you sort of break it down for them to be more and more complex penetration situations?
[0:13:54.7] TE: With Coron, like I was saying earlier, if you stay in Coron Town, that’s more of the backpack kinda place. You kind of get what you pay for really. When you stay in places like Sangat Island, it’s not the cheapest of places but it’s not ridiculously expensive there but it’s a beautiful setting in its proper, they got their own private white sand beach and there is nobody else around there. Once you’re in, you’re in.
There is nowhere else to go and it’s an hour and a half to get you back to Coron Town if you want to go out for beer in the evening, you just can’t do it. These guys, they’ve just go the experience to do it with everybody. From open water divers up through to people that very experienced and we bring their own tech divers, they can cater for everybody and they’ve got these fantastic little aluminum speed boats which just take minutes to get off to the wrecks.
Now, when you got a group of 26 people, we had open water divers up to people that are highly experience wreck and technical divers there. We’ve got the experience to break those people down into smaller groups, we have like three or four boats, there will be a guide for a ratio of one to four divers, something like that. You can break it down, so you’ve got the less experienced people together rather than having a techy with 2,000 dives being butted up with an open water diver.
[0:15:04.9] CM: But which particular wreck for example would you send beginners to and would they be able to, over the course of a week, would they be able to progress to the more difficult stuff or would you keep it quite low level?
[0:15:15.1] TE: During the course of the week, everybody dived all the wrecks, now, obviously, with the Irako being the deepest one, an open water diver, or even advanced open water diver can’t penetrate inside and see all the – go into the kitchens and the machine room and all that sort of stuff, you just can’t do that just with less experience.
But during the course of the week, everybody sees everyone of those, the Irako come back to the Irako, somebody on advanced open water, certification can get on to the top deck where you got big schools of snappers and stuff like that, the gun placements for the antiaircraft guns, there’s some most things to see there. If you’ve got your wrecks specialty, which requires you to be 40 meters from the surface, if the wreck was at 10 meters down, you could go down to 10 meters and then you can penetrate 30 meters inside it that is what you are qualified to do.
All of that goes out of the window in Coron and you get to any other place and I am sure that if any other right diving destination across the world. The guys that are diving there, they don’t become complacent but because they’re doing this every day and they know the wrecks like the back of their hands, they will take you wherever you want to go. Generally speaking, there are also exceptions like on the Irako, an open water diver that we’ll not be allowed to go straight into the refrigeration control thing. You have to have a line to go in there. It is so silty in there that if you haven’t got the technique, if you are diving using flutter kick, you are going to kill yourself because you become zero visibility instantly when you go in there. Some of these dives, you really do need the proper technique of frog kick and so on to be able to go in and propell yourself around without causing a mess.
But for all of the bigger ones, like the Akitsushima and like the Ekkai Maru and stuff that there is huge ready cargo holds that you can go in and play around. This is the thing about Coron is that different dive shops called the wrecks different names because there was confusion over what boats that were when they sunk. So I work off at some names but even Sangat islands.
Like for example, the Olympia I call it the Olympia, Sangat Island call that the Morazan. So it gets a little bit confusing but the point of this is that it’s really down to you as an individual on what you want to do. If you go to a reputable dive center, like Sangat Island, like D-Divers and stuff, what you want to do they will do that. So if you don’t want to penetrate or you want to take it easy at the beginning and stuff, you just say, “Right, I do not want to penetrate.” And they will manage the dive plan accordingly.
And how those individuals are put together. You go to some of the backpacker places and I have seen this with my own eyes but the very first time I dived in Coron, which is in 2005 and I went there with an old girlfriend we stayed in Coron Town, we got to this dive resort right in the middle of Coron Town. It was the cheapest place, it was peanuts. It was like a 1,000 pesos a dive or something like that, which is in those days it was 10 quid a dive.
We got to this spoke, which was the Olympia and the guide on the boat gave us this briefing. They got some really nice diagrams to show where they’re going to go and what is going to happen and stuff. So we got this guy who got the diagram out, said, “Right, we are going to go here, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that.” We got into those cargo hold where you can sit, it is just by the centrum and there is this massive, massive boilers. This thing is like 20 meters, 10 meters across.
A huge boiler, there is two of these boilers, circular boilers sitting on top of each other. So down the side, there is a little triangular bit that you can go down and all of a sudden he just pop, off he went down the side of this boiler and that was the last we saw him again for the rest of the dive, gone. We are not going to dive with these people or we are going to do our own thing but you know the stories that you hear of divers being taken down there, going into d-co.
Running out of gas, you know the dive guide is not around, no hang tank at five meters when you come up, you really need to do your homework. If you are going to go over there and not go through an agent who knows what he is talking about then you really need to do your homework on who you want to dive with there.
[0:18:57.2] CM: Would you say though for yourself is there a particular highlight whether it’s a particular wreck or a particular thing on a wreck like there is a holy grail of what you think everyone should try and see during a to trip?
[0:19:10.2] TE: I think if you ask 10 different experienced divers that have been to Coron you will get 10 different answers on this. It is very subjective. I love the Irako, I am technically qualified and it is a challenge because it is deeper, you get alone down there. You have to be focused on what you are doing, just in the transmission remember, there is huge wreck really that you can go into. There is cranes and there is always kind of – there is some really cool stuff to see down there.
And there is a little room by the side of it. It is the machine room and you really have to be absolutely spot on with your buoyancy and propulsion to go in there because it is so small that if you kick up, you are going to see zero visibility very quickly but when you go in there, there is a metal lathe and a drill and some other equipment in there and it just feels like if you’re going back in time you can just imagine the Japanese mechanics and sailors and stuff.
Working in there, turning a bit in that hull, doing something. It is difficult to film to not have stuff backs scattering and stuff when there is silt in the water. I have been in it many times and I have filmed it quite well and now I got to do it all over again because I have changed my camera system. So I was filming in 1080 and now I am filming in 4K. So I got to do the whole thing all over again.
[0:20:22.6] CM: You talked about obviously being technically qualified and you did mention though about technical diving. So I’ve seen in this space quite a big draw for technical divers as well that want to practice their different gas nexus and all of that kind of stuff.
[0:20:35.1] TE: Yeah and in truth it is not really that difficult. It is more of rather than gas management per se — because the deepest one is 42 meters. That is quite easy, you don’t need to think about helium, unless you are a hardcore devote GUE diver, which that actually is within a tri-mix range for them but just an ordinary technical diver you don’t need helium. So it is more of where you need good is a technical diver rather than gas management per se because that is easy.
It is more of how you propel yourself around because if you penetrating inside of these thing especially in, I keep on coming back to Irako and the Akitsushima, if you’ve got a poor technique, you are going to mess it up for everybody else and make it unsafe for yourself.
[0:21:14.3] CM: Yeah, you mentioned about you shouldn’t be flutter kicking in those situations. So would Coron be a good place to do training for that sort of thing as well? Would you recommend the people, you mentioned several reputable dive centers already. I mean would those guys be the guys to learn from?
[0:21:28.2] TE: There is one place in particular called D-Divers. The owner of that is a guy called Gunter Bernert. He is one the founding divers of Coron. You know he was one of the first ones there and he just stayed. He has been a 30 plus years. If you want to learn technical diving while you’re there, he is the man to go and see. So Sangat, they can support technical. If somebody wants to do technical diving, you will get technical diving qualifications.
It is not so much the training organization that you go to, it is the instructor. I personally would not go to a destination like this to learn technical diving. I would do my courses beforehand because there is an awful lot of boring stuff that you do in courses and why you’re paying a premium to go all the way there to not see it. Because you are going to be doing other stuff. So get your qualifications beforehand and then go there to then practice and put what you’ve learned into practice.
You do the technical diving qualifications to see this and if you are doing the course, you are not going to quite so well. I mean it is a great place to do it but people have only got limited holiday, limited budgets and so on. So do your qualifications outside of there.
[0:22:33.6] CM: Changing gears a bit you mentioned before we start recording about space, actually a lot to see on land around Coron as well. I know, there is this marine park and sanctuary. So is there similarly on land, it is sort of like a protected national parks and stuff like that.
[0:22:48.9] TE: I don’t know if it is actually protected parks as such but you could say that parts of Coron like Coron Island is arguably the second most beautiful part of the Philippines at sea level. You described Coron being on the north end of Palawan. So if you look at the map of the Philippines, where you got that long thin island on the western side, which is mainland Palawan, then you got a bit of a gap and then you come to Coron, which is still part of the Palawan province.
On the north end of Palawan Island is a place called El Nido. This is all limestone sanctuary on that and it is just gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. It is really breathtaking scenery around there. Now parts of Coron are the same. It’s the same geology. So around Coron Island it is just absolutely breathtaking. You know there is little bays and lagoons and you got the sharp rocky scenery. It’s real picture postcard stuff of which Sangat Island is the same kind of geology around there as well.
Now on Coron Island, you can’t actually go on it. It is not an environment where you can actually go walking on it. I mean there is no soil, it’s just rocks and a few trees and stuff growing out of it and stuff but it is more for sort of island hopping and going around by boat to look at the scenery and then to go on the occasional beach rather than actually go onto the island itself. There is a nice little cave on the southeast side of Coron Island.
Some people call it Cathedral Cave, some other people call it Gunter’s Cave, which is Gunter actually the guy that owns the startup D-Divers and it is really quite nice little cave where you start your only boat on the sea, you go down through this sump and then you can actually surface inside this cave and you got this big Cathedral there, there is a hole in this roof. So you can see the light comes in, so you can see all the stalagmites and stalactites and crystals.
It is really nice and then on the north side of Coron Island there is a place called Barracuda Lake. If you go to Coron, you have to go to Barracuda Lake. Because it is one of the key highlights there. It is a tourist thing now. There is quite a lot of people there but you’ll understand why you still need to do it in a minute. So the boat comes up to the island, they got a proper jetty, the boat goes up to it and you get out and you pay your money to get in.
You just need to wear board shorts and t-shirt, you don’t need a wetsuit for this. You have your BCD on with your tank and stuff and you carry your things and ask them where is it and you go over this now it’s a wooden steps and path to get you down to where the lake is. Two or three minute walk to get to the lake. So you get to the lake and it is not huge but I don’t know how many meters across, maybe a 100 meters across or something like that.
Really beautiful inside there. It is kind of like you’re almost in a basin with all of these limestone cliffs around you. You jump in the water and you dive down and from the surface, to 14 meters, brackish water that is regular temperature, you know maybe 27, 28, 29 degrees centigrade, and then when you get down to 14 meters, the water changes and it’s fed from a hot spring that is fresh water, which is around about 38 to 40 degrees.
You know it is really quite nice and clear at times so then if you’re still then you not only got the temperature change but you get the salinity change. So you got a halocline and the thermocline all going on at the same time. So if you’re stilled, literally you can have your separation going across your mask. So your forehead can be 28 degrees and your mouth at 40 degrees. You can see the water separation and this almost looks like Saturn’s ring if you like, you know?
It kind of let you get the separation going on between the two waters. It’s cool when you come up and you go onto the side, most of the time it is very nice. Most of the time it is a very clear water in this but if you get away from the crowds and go over to the far side of the lake, it can be really nice and clear. Beautiful scenery underwater. There is lots and lots of krill and shrimp. So you put your hand on the rock and these little shrimps will come over, over the back of your hand and picking the bits off of it and stuff.
It’s cool. I mean there are some fish in there. There is the very, very small channel that goes through to the ocean, hence the brackish water in there. The barracuda, highly unlikely you’re going to see a barracuda in there but who cares? I mean really the point of it is the water temperature and getting down to that 40 meters to see this separation between the two. You have to do it when you’re there. Where else can you do that? I don’t know of anywhere else that is possible to do it.
[0:26:53.8] CM: Summing up then like you said you were there with your group for a week, right? I mean it sounds like there is a solid week of diving and you know a day and a half of wondering around on land doing day trips, going to see Barracuda Lake and so forth, would that be about right?
[0:27:09.4] TE: We filmed in on a Saturday and then we left the following Saturday. So they had had seven nights at the place and nobody wanted to leave. You are doing the same wrecks multiple times, mainly because the wrecks are great to look at and other reef dives around there are not so interesting. Especially if you are experienced in what a coral reef really is about. You still see a lot of cool stuff over there. I mean that is like just next door to that Sangat gum boat. You know I had this huge great big [inaudible]. You know it wasn’t quite fully grown but it was getting on about five to six feet.
And it was swimming around us for a little whole that is pretty cool to see. I mean you can see some [inaudible] if you read your macro on the house reef you might see some flamboyant cuttlefish and sea horses and stuff like that. So there is some stuff there but if you are into that then there are much, much better places to go to in the Philippines — Puerto Galera and other places besides.
[0:28:04.5] CM: Sure but you are saying the group didn’t want to leave, so I think you have to be pretty churlish to only want to dive a wreck once. So I mean obviously it’s going to repay multiple dives. So it is just interesting that you said 26 people, right? So none of them want to leave I mean that is a pretty good vote of confidence in how interesting it is to be there.
[0:28:22.7] TE: Yeah, plus a resort that we’re staying at as well, you know it is the whole mix isn’t it? It was just one of those fantastic weeks. Normally in a group of 26 people, somebody is a pain in the ass. But in this group there wasn’t. Everybody got on, you know the food in there is great, the resort was great, the staff at the dive center was fantastic, the equipment, you know we have fantastic weather and the vis was pretty good. All the stars were lined up to have a fantastic time, which in fairness happens more often than not when you go to these places.
[0:28:49.9] CM: I will join your next trip and I will be the pain the ass, so you know. We covered pretty much everything in terms of the wrecks. You did mention though at the beginning this wreck that is actually on the northern side of the main island, how do you pronounce it? Busuanga.
[0:29:06.6] TE: Yeah, Busuanga is the island, so then the wreck itself is the Kyokuzan.
[0:29:09.9] CM: So given everything we just talked about it is all in the southern side of the island, so you said earlier that you would have to make a sort of special pilgrimage to get over there and see this one in the north.
[0:29:20.0] TE: It is a completely different holiday to be honest. If you want to do the wrecks, then you go to the south side. If you want to do a bit of other stuff, a bit of reef diving, go dugong watching, go to a day trip to Apo reef and stay in a very expensive resort, then you go to the north side of Coron. There is places like Club Paradise, Awiwi, there is a few other places around there as well. We are talking big money. It is two, 300 dollars per person, per night plus to stay there.
[0:29:49.6] CM: That is kind of the real Instagram area.
[0:29:52.5] TE: Yeah but there is a lot of other stuff to do around there as well. I mean there is beautiful scenery and there’s really nice resorts and some. If you are a full on wreck diver that is the purpose of your trip then you go to the south side, you don’t go into the north and if you were staying in the south that is a really long day if you can get somebody to actually take you there to get to the Kyokuzan. It is a great wreck I’ll have to say because on the north side you generally get better visibility than you do on the south side. Not many people are diving it by comparison to what’s diving on the south side.
[0:30:21.2] CM: Okay, Tony thank you so much for talking to me about all of this. I haven’t been to Coron, so this is really whetting my appetite for doing it.
[0:30:29.9] TE: Give me a shout. I’m probably going to be going back there next year at some states so keep in touch and we’ll sort something out.
[0:30:35.9] CM: Thank you so much mate, cheers.
[0:30:39.2] CM: Thanks very much for listening to the Dive Happy Podcast. You can see the show notes for this episode and browse all the other episodes at divehappy.com/podcast. You can also sign up for the Dive Happy newsletter so you get notified when the next episode comes out. Sign up at divehappy.com/podcast. I pinky promise I won’t spam you.
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