Temperate climes are a draw for many – including us – but as you know, we always prefer to pair our umbrellaed drinks and beach lounging with an adventure. That’s why we did some Philippines diving the last time we were in southeast Asia. This wasn’t just any diving, either; we got to explore sunken ships and inspect coral firsthand. Keen on a similar adventure? We’ve got all the details below.
Introducing Coron Island
Most of the Philippines diving you see advertised happens off Coron Island – one of the westernmost islands in the great island nation. It’s spread over about 27 square miles and is well-known for its lakes, lagoons, and unadulterated landscape as anything else. The primary reason tourists flock to the island, however, is diving – it has some of the most enthralling dives anywhere in the world. It’s not just sea life that entices; Japanese ships, wrecked off the island’s coast during WWII, now lie buried on the seafloor – the perfect time capsules to explore.
The island of Coron itself doesn’t have any urban areas – you’ll have to head north to Coron city on Busuanga Island for that. Also, it’s important to note that Coron Island is occupied by the indigenous Tagbanwa peoples; it was officially declared the tribe’s ancestral domain in 1998. In other words, respect the home of this native people.
Philippines diving – making the most of Coron Island
In order to dive around Coron Island, you’ll have to first get your gear in Coron city. Fortunately, many of the diving companies in the city are very good; you really can’t go wrong with any of them. That said, we recommend Corto Divers – they offer not only equipment, but diving lessons and accommodations for those who want to stay nearby; Freediving Coron, which is designed for more experienced divers but is highly rated; and Coron Divers Dive Center, which offers dives as well as island-hopping excursions around the island. Prices are comparable across all dive centers, ranging from about 1,500 Pesos ($30) to upwards of 20,000 Pesos ($400) for extensive lessons and more dives. Check the websites for up-to-date pricing.
When you’re ready to head out to the water, we recommend a few dives in particular. Here are our top picks:
- Okikagawa Maru: This is the biggest shipwreck around the islands, featuring a Japanese oil tanker that’s 525 feet long – almost as long as two football fields placed end to end. Curiously, the tanker is almost perfectly vertical and largely intact. If you can, find a spot below the ship so you can look up at the swarms of fish whirling around the bow, backlit by the sun on the surface of the water.
- Akitsushima: Another wreck site, Akitsushima features an Imperial Japanese navy ship outfitted with cranes (to help with seaplane repairs) and weapons. It’s arguably more interesting than Okikagawa Maru, given its military assets, but we’ll let you decide.
- Irako: Yes, you can find another wrecked ship at this site – an impressively large one, in fact, stretching 475 feet – but we like this area for the sea life. Namely, we were impressed by the schools of barracudas, jackfish, scorpionfish, and other native species. These are fish you just don’t see that often, so Irako is definitely worth your time.
- Lusong Gunboat and Coral Gardens: Last (but certainly not least) is the vivacious dive site that features gardens’ worth of coral. The nearby 52-foot reef wall is rich with fans, turtles, and other sea life, and is surrounded by anemones, false clownfish, and (if you’re lucky) a few eels. The sheer diversity of life in the Coral Gardens is astounding.
As island hopping is usually another love of visitors to the Philippines, be sure you make time for that after your dives. And if you need more guidance on where to go, what to do, and where to stay, visit the Philippines tourism website.