For divers in the know, Coron Island is synonymous with world-class wreck diving. Often labeled the Truk Lagoon of the Philippines, the channels between Busuanga and Culion are home to a number of impressive wrecks from a Japanese supply fleet bombed in September, 1944.
Coron is one of the most visited destinations for wreck diving in the Philippines. Wreck dive sites are found in a depth as shallow as 10–30 feet and as deep as 120–140 feet. Most are in the range of about 60–80 feet, perfect for sports divers.
The aquatic views from the sunken Japanese warships off Coron Island are listed in Forbes Traveler Magazine’s top 10 best scuba diving sites in the world.
The Tangat wreck sits upright at around 30m depth with the still intact masts disappearing into the blue above. Drop down into the cargo hold through large schools of banana fish, past some enormous puffer fish and swim the length of the ship through a series of relatively open rooms with a couple of tight swim-throughs which are a good practice for the harder ships to come. Emerging near the bow, catch sight of large sea turtles, then doubled back and came to rest right near the tip of the bow. Beautiful.
This was either a gunboat or a submarine hunter. Lying in 11m of water on the east side of Lusong Island, the stern actually breaks the surface at low tide. As a result, it is a great site for snorkeling and photography and there is a good variety of hard corals and marine life.
All that remains of this 25m steel-hulled boat are the keel, ribs and stringers. She came aground only some dozen meters from the Northwest corner of Coron Island.
As the wreck only lies in 5-22m of water, it is a great shallow dive and suitable for snorkeling. You can gain access from the starboard side and swim though the boat out over the reef.
This was a Japanese freighter carrying construction materials for the building of a runway in the Pacific. She is 158m long, displaces 6,353 tons and situated to the north of Irako Wreck, just off Tangat Island. The vessel is pretty much intact and as most swim throughs are large, it is a good first wreck dive for beginners. Care, as always, should be taken though.
Lying on her starboard side in 38m of water, access is possible to all six holds, the engine room and the bridge. The second hold is a real treasure trove. Cement bags are evident and you'll come across a bulldozer, tractor and air compressor, all of which are intact and encrusted. As you come out of the hold, you can swim the height of the front mast, now horizontal and reach the crow's nest at the top.
Swim back over the deck to the engine room and bridge above it. Access is easiest from the stern side. The engine room is enormous and there's plenty to see. If your air allows, continue below deck to the stern and you'll discover all the deck equipment for moving cargo and working the ship.
Marine life includes giant pufferfish, waspfish and barracuda. Soft and hard corals are everywhere as are sponges.
This vessel was a Japanese army cargo ship. She is 120m long and lies on her starboard side in 25m of water. The wreck is situated just south of Busuanga and west of Tangat Island.
The wreck is intact and penetration is easy at the cargo holds. Swim throughs to the bridge are not too demanding. A hole in the side can bring you out again. The ease of access makes this an ideal site to discover wreck diving.
The superstructure is covered with soft corals and bushes of black corals. There is a good variety of fish life with shoals of bananafish, giant batfish and giant pufferfish. Be careful of the scorpionfish - they're everywhere.
This was the only warship sunk in Coron Bay. She was a 118m long Japanese sea plane tender. The planes (Kawanishi) would be lowered to the sea by crane and take off from there. She is situated just northwest of Manglet Island.
Remarkably, she is fairly intact bearing in mind that she took a direct hit towards the stern where the flying boat was kept and sank immediately. She was almost torn in two and the flying boat was never found. Only some of the metal on the starboard side and bottom prevented the ship from breaking apart.
In fact, the bottom - the keel - is a good place to enter the wreck. Once you negotiate the twisted metal, you will see the gun placements in front of you. Other gun placements can be found outside the wreck by following the radio mast. They are at the bottom, pointing downwards.The crane used for lifting the flying boats is still intact and lies on a sandy bottom.
Because of the depth and amount of twisted metal around, no swim throughs are allowed unless proper certification is shown - namely wreck diver credentials. For those of you able to proceed, you'll be rewarded by an impressive penetration to the engine room, where all four engines are intact. Further to the stern, you can find the gears and machinery for operating the crane.
The wreck attracts a good amount of marine life. You can expect to see shoals of barracuda, tuna, yellowfish, grouper, snapper, batfish and a huge assortment of smaller reef fish.
This vessel was a refrigeration ship, about 147m long and displacing 9,570 tons. It is the most southerly of the wrecks normally visited by divers and is located at the mouth of Coron Bay. It's an impressive challenge and as visibility is probably the best of any wreck in the area, it is the most popular with trained divers.
Generally, the wreck is fairly intact and it's possible to enter it towards the back where the wheelhouse is. The steering wheel is still visible. From there you can swim through to the cargo holds.
Probably the best part to explore is the underneath of the superstructure. It is possible to go down into a cargo hold at 36m and swim throught to the galley. There are still pots, pans and wiring to be seen. From here, you swim out through a stairway amidships.
It's also possible to reach the galley through a rent next to the rudder at 40m. There is a lot of silt here and visibility can get bad if you fin too hard. Entering from this direction, there is no immediate way out. You have to go back the way you came or continue on for some distance.
Marine life is varied and you can expect to see big groupers, schools of tuna and yellow fin, lionfish and scorpionfish. If you're lucky, you may come across a turtle.
It should be noted that this is a deep wreck dive and should only be undertaken by experienced, trained and properly equipped divers.
The Okikawa Maru is a leviatan tanker that lies upright in 26m of water and by length, width and volume is the largest of the Coron wrecks and an hour long dive is possible. The bow area of the ship was hit and it is now bent and twisted into incredible shapes. A true reminder of wartime. The deck is between 10-16m and is ideal for beginners. For more advanced wreck divers there are a number of areas where penetration is possible. Through the propeller shaft and on up to the engine room is the best. The front portion of the ship is also accessible, starting at a cargo hold on top and coming out of the twisted wreckage at the front. This is a spectacular swim through.
On this wreck, expect to come across sweetlips, grouper, lionfish, surgeons, wrasse, tang and soldierfish. In addition, the whole wreck is covered with soft and hard corals and sponges.
Note:as tidal currents can be fierce, particularly towards the stern, care should be taken.
Recommended Accommodations in Coron, Palawan: