Woohoo! I’m now a PADI qualified Wreck Diver after my time diving in Coron Bay with the World War Two wrecks. They can be sombre places but they are really full of life and are also historically interesting dive sites.
I arrived at Reggae Dive Shop in Coron at 7:45am and it was chaos. There are just so many divers turning up and everyone is just hoping that they end up on the right boat with the right instructor and their kit. It’s not the most comfortable start to a dive trip with this much uncertainty but I figure it must be like this every day. I had visited the previous afternoon to get my kit sorted, and that was time well spent.
We were loaded into a Jeepney and driven to the port. A few boats were moored up together and I was told my boat is Emily Boat so I’ve clambered through the first boat to find a seat on Emily Boat. My box of gear is here which is great.
I was introduced to Wiz, my dive master for the course and as we left the harbour we have gone through the homework exercises in my Wreck Diver manual and I have demonstrated that I can set up my gear.
The ride to the first dive site was over an hour and I was offered this as an extra dive (on top of my four included wreck dives) for 800 Pesos – for £12. Yes please! Cheapest dive I’ve ever done for sure.
We did a thorough buoyancy check and I removed a couple of kilos of lead throughout the day.
The Malpadan Reef isn’t as colourful and the visibility is low compared to my other dives in the Philippines (Anilao and Sabang so far). But there is plenty of life here. I saw two strange upside down jellyfish, lots of pufferfish, some really nice butterflyfish and angelfish.
The second dive was at the East Tangat Wreck and my certification task was to navigate the wreck pointing out features of interest and of safety. To be honest though, once we got to the bottom of the wreck, under the raised bow, there are mandarinfish living there so I just stayed there for a few extra minutes watching these awesome little guys. They are in the dragonet family of fish and they are spectacular, with different patches of bright orange, green and purple; they’ve got to be seen to be believed.
The rest of the dive was a bit of a blur because I was just so excited about the mandarinfish. We did some long swimthroughs in the wreck and we saw a periscope that was used to look for submarines. The Japanese boat was sunk in September 1944.
The third site was the Morazan Maru, a sunken Japanese cargo ship which was also sunk in 1944 and now lays on its side. My task for this dive was to sketch a section of it (tricky because the visibility was pretty dreadful).
After completing my epic piece of art, Wiz took me on a tour of the wreck. We swam right through the wreck, going down different passages filled with strange fish all floating perfectly still. It was unnerving! The wreck is home to lots of huge lionfish and some fantastic cabbage coral (to me they look more like roses).
As we surfaced we were given a beer for the boat ride back to Coron and then I went to study my Nitrox Diver manual at the Hostel 3:14 rooftop bar.
Coron Dive Day Two
I arrived at the dive shop at 7:30am to analyse the Oxygen content in my first Nitrox tank so I could confirm the maximum depth and dive time for my enriched air dive. Then we had similar shenanigans to the day before in terms of getting all the divers to the correct boats.
My first Nitrox dive was at a wreck called Akitsushima, a ship of the Imperial Japanese Navy, sunk in September 1944. The wreck is a big one – over 110m long and it’s laying on its side now at a depth of around 30m to the seabed. My wreck diving certification task for this dive was to practice running out a guide line (used for safe navigation) around part of the outside of the wreck and then neatly reeling it back in.
Then I got to head to the sea floor where the wrecks guns are still in tact.
Wiz and I then swam into the wreck and between some of the huge engine components and found the control room with lots of dials. The wreck is huge and there is so much to explore.
The second dive was at the more famous Okikawa Maru. This is the largest shipwreck of Coron Bay and is 160 metres long! This oil tanker is upright with the deck at 12m and the bottom at 26m and inside there is an enormous amount to explore.
For my final wreck certification dive I had to lay out a line inside the wreck. So I descended through a hatch on the deck that is now overgrown with coral and entered the dark. Using the light of my torch I attached the line to a large pillar and then proceeded into the dark area with fairly low clearance and attached the line at a number of points until Wiz was content that I had done enough.
Then I had the task of reeling in the line. Except Wiz decided to challenge me by entirely silting up the water by disturbing the dirt on the bottom. I could see nothing, visibility was a few centimetres and I had to hold the torch just under my nose and hold the line as close to my face as I could get it in order to wind it back on to the reel. And it was extraordinarily tricky when I got to each anchor point as I needed to trust how I had laid it out to work out which way I needed to unwrap the thin line. It was actually pretty scary but I had 100% focus on my task and of getting back out into the light. In reality, in a silted wreck dive you would just quickly follow the line back out and would return at another point to collect it once the silt settled. But wow, what an experience!
Wiz filmed the whole thing on my GoPro; probably one of the most boring 6 minute GoPro videos ever taken…
After a quick celebratory high five we headed into the belly of the wreck to explore.
I got to see living quarters and the oil storage compartment which still has sticky black oil at the ceiling which you have to carefully avoid. Between two chambers we found some enormous lobsters. The dive was really atmospheric and there are some spacious areas to explore as well as some much more confined ones so it’s a really good wreck for all sorts of people.
At the end of the dive I spent the rest of my air having a look around the coral garden on the top deck of the ship with plenty of sunlight.
I received my certification emails the same day and celebrated with Andy, who I met in Colombia, Simon, Andy’s friend and Teresa, a really fun chica I met in Coron. We had dinner at a really nice restaurant out of town, drank lots and then tried to find karaoke. We failed and then ended up at the reggae bar where I persuaded the owner to let Andy play a set and he owned it.