Diving in Coron Waters!

explore the wrecks!

It was a bright sunny Monday morning and after a sumptuous Filipino breakfast, I went up to the diveshop to sign up for two fun dives. I learned I’ll join a German diving instructor (Manfred), who’s on a diving trip in Coron. Jasmine (diveshop assistant), collected the gears for me, trying to find my size. Earlier, she was eyeing on me asking things like – “no physical disabilities?”, “mentally sound & healthy?” but I signed no waiver. After some preliminaries, I got into the boat. The dive master, Manong Nonoy informed me that our baon would be bread and bananas only, suggesting that I’ll just take full meal during dinner. I don’t find it a problem since I feel comfortable diving with less food intake.

We started our cruise to Akitsushima Wreck – our first dive site – at Manglet Island which took one hour and forty minutes. Blue waters, blue sunny skies, green mountains. The waves rocking our boat….

Akitsushima Wreck

A Japanese Seaplane Tender 118 m long located between Culion & BusuangaIslands, near MangletIsland. N 11*59. 218′, E 119*58. 417′

The IJN Akitsushima was a seaplane tender/carrier. The ship displaced 4724 tons, had a length of 118 metres and was 15.7 metres wide. The ship was powered by four diesel engines driving twin props, a total of 8000 shp, giving a maximum speed of 19 knots

Akitsushima was armed with 10 25 mm anti-aircraft guns, four five inch (50 cal) guns and carried one large Kanwanishi flying boat.

The Akitsushima is a very big warship laying on her port side. She was hit near the stern where the flying boat rested on the metal tracks and sank immediately. The ship was almost torn into two pieces. The flying boat disappeared. Only half of the metal on the starboard side and half of the metal on the bottom of the ship kept the stern from separating from the rest of the ship. The internal damage is impressive.

The crane used for lifting the seaplane out of the water is intact. The crane is lying on the sandy bottom and attracts schools of giant batfish and barracudas. One mounting of a 3-barreled AA (anti-aircraft) gun is still present at the front of the flying boat tracks. This is a fascinating dive where you can see giant groupers, schools of barracuda hiding under the bow, and yellow fin tuna.

Due to depth and metal hazards within, no swim throughs are allowed without wreck diver certification. Wreck divers can make an impressive penetration into the engine room to see the four engines. The gears and machinery for operating the crane are the main objects of interest for a penetration into the stern.

Max depth: 35 or 36 meters, average depth about 26 to 28 meters. Recommended certification level: Advanced Open water Diver. For penetration: PADI Wreck Diver specialty.

I wasn’t expecting to be diving at the wrecks as my certification is only for open water diver. But Divemaster Manong Nonoy who speaks Visayan as he hails from Escalante City, was kind. He told Manfred, he’ll be accompanying me as I don’t have a buddy so Manfred will be alone. The waters was bit rough, I descend through the bouy line slowly as I equalize, Manong Nonoy with me. At first it was hazy, banner fishes emerged as we continue to descend. Then the wreck appeared, like a big monster lying there. We got into the deck and I feasted with everything I saw – such rich marine life! Lion fishes, bat fish, angel fish, butterfly fish, surgeon fish, colorful anthias among others…. There was that snake-like specie in white, my first time to see such thing. Colorful sponges, hard & soft corals, feather star, nudi branches… Real amazing! Manong Nonoy signaled we go inside but I signaled back for no — I know I’m not allowed (for sure my dive instructor will disapprove). But he held my hand as we go through an entrance like crevice. Wooooooo! The walls rusty and the insides dark, he gave me the light as we penetrated on our way. I passed by a rusty wall with reefs, suddenly something moved – I examined closely and found out it’s some kind of a big clam attached to the wall. Yikes! Few critters are watching me I guess. J In few moments we got out into the open, we didn’t spot Manfred. We ascend slowly through the bouy line equalizing again, had our safety stop before we finally surfaced…

We went down at 28m in 37 minutes, not bad…. While having our surface interval, we had lunch of bread & bananas cruising to our next dive site. Manfred was story telling until we had our second dive at Tangat Wreck.

The Tangat Wreck

A Japanese Freighter sitting upright in approximately 30 mts of water and located very close to Tangat Island in Coron Bay. N11*58. 291′, E 120*03. 707’S

The Olympia Maru was 122 metres long and almost 17 metres wide, displacing 5612 tons. The ship was originally powered by a steam engine but during 2 June to 2 August 1930, an oil two stroke six cylinder engine producing 582hp was installed. The ship was built for Mitsubishi Shoji Kaisha Ltd and was owned by them right up till it sank. It was requisitioned by the Japanese Defence Forces during the War but was still owned by Mitsubishi Shoji Kaisha Ltd.

A very good dive spot with a variety of marine life. Large shoals of banana fish, giant bat fish and giant puffer fish, especially around the mast, bow and stern. There are also specimen crocodile fish and scorpion fish so be careful where you put your hands. Easy penetration at the cargo rooms. It offers a good opportunity to discover wreck diving. Max depth: 28-30 meters, deck level 18-24 meters.

Manong Nonoy was again with me, we descend slowly from the bouy line as I equalize. It was bit hazy at first until we saw the wreck… We got down on the deck, filled with colorful reefs. We toured around, then we went through a square entrance just enough for a diver to penetrate – I was bit hesitant again but Manong Nonoy went first signaling me to follow. Pinnnngg! My tank bump a little bit as I went through. J So wonderful – big lion fish (first time to see one that big), sweet lips, oversize grouper, bat fish, butterfly fish, big puffer fish (looks funny), colorful nudi branches, a stonefish!, sea anemone with anemone fish & clown fish. The critter on the wall was there also, which closed when I got near! We went some stretch of the wreck. Finally, we sighted Manfred who pointed to us the stonefish – great find! We had our safety stop on the rusty ship pole covered with reefs, with anthias swimming around. So fantastic, these colorful fishes swimming around so close to my face. We finally surfaced, Manong Nonoy tagging along to assist me in taking off my gears while on waters. The tank is heavy for me and I need to be careful with my shoulders.

We went 25m in forty five minutes.As they were going for another dive for Manfred – we talk leisurely for their surface interval as we eat bananas again. Manfred wanted to find a crocodile fish and a mermaid. Perhaps he heard about Dyesebel! 😀 We moved to East Tangat Gun Boat for a short 20 minutes dive for the two guys.

East Tangat Gunboat

This ship was a small gunboat or submarine hunter 40 meters long. Location: Inclined on the coral reef on the east side of TangatIsland. The wreck is 40 meters long, 500 gross tons, it lies listing to starboard down a sandy slope, with the stern at 22m and the top of the bow at 5 m pointing 320 degrees This dive site is good for wreck diving beginners and underwater photographers. It is also a lovely dive between deeper wreck sites. The wreck starts at only 3 meters down so even snorkelers can see the shape and explore the bow of the ship.

To make most of my time, while waiting for the guys to surface I went to snorkel near the wreck. I sighted a handful of angelfish as I got into the water. Going further, I got into a vast of coral reefs! Amazing sight – I went on to find rich marine life… Nudibranches in yellow, brown, violet; super big hard corals in white, yellow, purple, green; sea fans, and sponges. There was also a starfish, big black sea urchins, butterfly fish, fusiliers, a yellow puffer fish! I sighted also a lone hawkfish – I thought they dwell in deep waters only. Wonderful sights, I never thought I had encounter with those creatures in such shallow waters. J I was so engrossed I didn’t notice I had gone far from our boat. I swam further to catch a glimpse of the wreck, I sighted its bow end only. I swam near the boat when I notice the two divers were surfacing already.

We got all into the boat and cruised back to town, with a smile in my face I tried to etch in my hard drive up in my head all the things to scribble on in my logbook on my marine life encounters I have for the day. But while few things can be written about this experience, a lot more of these will be left unsaid or unwritten but forever impressed in my memory.

on a surface interval…

Exercises from my Dive master today:

Clearing my mask
Using his alternate air source and back to my own regulator
Diving inside a wreck, penetrating a wreck

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