There are some dive destinations across the world that call to wreck divers. These places that offer the mystery and history of not just one, but several lost vessels. Wreck diving in Coron is legendary, making it one such place. After writing about it for a number of previous articles here and here, it became one of my bucket-list destinations.
A Japanese stronghold bombed by U.S. forces in 1944 during WWII, the area has over 10 wrecks just waiting for exploration by eager wreck divers and history buffs. The area around Coron and Busuanga Islands has a lot of topside beauty to offer as well.
Where to Stay
There is no shortage of places to stay around Busuanga Island. It can, however, be difficult to find enough relevant information about them to make a good decision. Stay near Coron Town or somewhere more secluded? Stay on the main island of Busuanga or one of the many smaller islands with fewer modern conveniences? Rough it a bit or go for luxury? It all depends on what you’re looking for. Fortunately, I had some friends who frequented the area and recommended that I stay at Al Faro and dive with Discovery Divers.
Most rooms face west, which means gorgeous sunset views from either inside or on the the small, private lounging areas just outside. The lack of air conditioning was only an issue during the hottest parts of the afternoon – when one would generally be out diving anyway.
The staff at Al Faro were among the most attentive I encountered on my entire trip to the Philippines. The owners, Jimmy and Nenita, like to personally greet each guest upon their arrival. Jimmy is quite a character in his own right and loves to hear your stories as well as tell a few of his own. It’s a small hotel, so expect a lot of personal attention.
On a side note, one of the folks who recommended this place is my friend Captain Brian, a PADI Divemaster with 30 years of diving experience across the world. He offers limited private charters in this area of the world so check him out to read more about diving in the Philippines and across the world. I couldn’t have been happier with his recommendations.
Where to Dive
There are 10 wrecks in the Coron area and most dive shops make the rounds according to diver skill, currents, time of day, and other factors. You can let the knowledgeable guides show you around the wrecks or explore on your own; it’s really up to you. If it’s your first visit, I’d recommend guided dives. Most of the wrecks are penetrable and still have cargo or otherwise cool things to see if you know where you’re going. So don’t miss out — let someone show you the way.
Visibility wasn’t great while I was there, and I gathered that’s often the case. It was no problem to see where you were going, with viz of about 15 to 25 feet (5 to 9 m), but not very good for taking photos or video. Though somewhat disappointing, just diving these historic wrecks was enough to make me giddy, even if I couldn’t get great shots. Plus, the water temperature was cozy in the mid-upper 70s (23 to 26 C).
If you’re up for a day trip from Coron, you can head to Barracuda Lake. You won’t see much marine life there, but you can expect a gorgeous boat ride to the lake. It’s a short swim from the boat to the lake entrance (in full gear). Then you’ll hike up some rickety wooden stairs and back down (again in full gear). Your reward is a gorgeous lake surrounded by tall, jagged limestone cliffs. The lake is a mixture of fresh and salt water, so you’ll see a trippy halocline.
There are also very dramatic and distinct thermoclines, reversed from what we would normally expect since this is a volcanic crater. The water gets hotter the deeper you go, from 85 F or so (29 C) at the surface to 100 F or more (38-plus C) near the bottom. Visibility varies and gets worse the deeper you go. Watch for a cave near the bottom of the lake around 100 feet, something you’d definitely want a guide for. If you’re in the area for the wrecks, you really should hop on a boat to dive this unique lake. Either way, the wrecks and more in Coron won’t disappoint.