The little town of Coron lies on a tropical island north of Palawan, Philippines. Many backpackers come through here on their way to islandhopping in the beautiful El Nido or heading towards Manila sneaking in some fun dives at the wrecks or taking a course.
What many don’t know is that the wrecks in the bay close to Coron are probably the best in Southeast Asia. These are not just rusty pieces of metal but well-preserved ships, at diveable depths. Many can be entered and are beautifully overgrown with coral and sponges swarming with marine life.
In September 1944 during World War II a Japanese supply fleet was attacked by the US navy and around 20 ships were sunk.
Some of the wrecks lie in very shallow water, almost sticking above the surface while others lie deep down to 43 m. Therefore the area offers dives for all experience levels.
When staying in Coron it is best to do day trips to dive two to three wrecks as it takes around 1 to 2 hours to reach the area. Find out more in the guide to Coron diving (link!). The 8 wrecks in the area and the barracuda lake can be done in 3 days with 3 dives each day. I can fully recommend diving with the experienced guides from the well-organized and fun dive shop Rocksteady.
Find some details about the dive sites below, for more detailed descriptions of the wrecks visit coronwrecks.com.
This is the deepest of the wrecks around the bay and my personal favorite. The 147 m long ship is mainly intact and a lot remains inside. It was less salvaged than the other wrecks, probably due to the depth. Irako was a refrigeration ship and offers many different points of entry and explorations inside.
The Irako is nice even without going inside as the visibility is one of the best in Coron and so it is possible to get a good impression of the size. Besides coral and small fish, bigger stuff might be passing by like jacks, groupers and tuna.
This wreck can only be recommended for advanced divers, preferably with deep and wreck speciality experience as the maximum depth is 43 meters and the deck is on 28 m.
This 118 m long wreck of a seaplane carrier lies on the port side at 35 m with the crane sticking out into deeper water. The ship was severely damaged in the attack and now has huge openings which allow less experienced divers to have a look inside while wreck-certified divers also have the chance to enter through there. My favorite part of the wreck is the impressive engine room.
In addition an intact anti-aircraft gun can be observed outside of the wreck. Around the wreck a variety of wildlife can be encountered including large groupers, barracudas and tuna.
This tanker is the largest of the wrecks with a length of 168 m. It can be enjoyed by all levels of divers as it does not lie very deep with the deck between 10 and 15 m and a maximal depth of 26 m but it does offer exciting options for penetration dives for experienced divers. My favorite was the entry through the propeller shaft into the engine room.
For divers staying on the outside, they can enjoy the colorful corals and plenty of wildlife around the wreck including a school of batfish.
This ship was a freighter carrying construction materials, some of which, like cement bags can still be explored during the dive.
A special attraction of this wreck is a bulldozer and a tractor which are still fairly intact. This is so unique as most of the wrecks have been salvaged. In addition it is possible to swim through various parts of the wreck including the engine room and the bridge.
Kogyo Maru lies in 35 m on the starboard side with the shallowest part at around 20 m. To dive it an advanced certification is required.
This cargo ship lies at its starboard side in 25m. The wreck is relatively easy to dive and is therefore suitable for all skill levels. It is covered in beautiful coral and marine life. It can be penetrated through 4 huge cargo holes and it is possible to swim into the engine room. Like most of the wrecks it has been salvaged but two boilers remained and are one of the highlights during the penetration.
Lying upright at 30 m of depth with the most shallow area at 18 m this freighter is more suitable for advanced divers. Penetration is possible through the big cargo holes.
Plenty of marine life can be encountered around this artificial reef including grouper, batfish and even crocodile fish.
East Tangat Gunboat
This small gunboat lies in only 22 m with the shallowest part at 3 m and is therefore good for open water certified divers as well. The boat is quite intact and allows a great look inside without penetrating.
This very shallow wreck lies at a maximum depth of 11 m and is covered in coral surrounded by marine life. The dive site is suitable for entry-level divers or even snorkelers. Go explore the coral reef area close to the wreck; we were very surprised by finding a massive, solar-powered nudibranch in the area.
Around all of the wrecks many different types of nudibranchs, shrimp, crab and other small creatures can be found. Also scorpionfish make these artificial reefs their home – be careful and don’t touch anything.
Barracuda lake or the craziest dive site in the Philippines
What used to be climbing over sharp limestone cliffs to reach the lake is now some wooden steps over the rocks from the ocean down to a small platform from where the lake can be entered.
The top layer of the lake is fresh water from rain run-off. Below 12 m the water becomes salty and extremely warm. My dive computer measured 37°C. Due to the massive temperature change of around 10°C a thermocline can be observed which looks like a second surface underwater. The water is heated up by geothermal hot springs.
The deeper areas of the lake are mostly covered in very light silt and some rotting trees. From there the impressive limestone cliffs rise up above the surface. Hovering in the crystal-clear water enjoying this spectacular setting it almost seems like being on the moon.
At 33 m a small cave can be entered by divers for around 30 m. Due to its small size only one diver can swim in at a time. The narrow ways are dark and silty. Therefore, and because of its depth, it should only be entered by certified cave divers with appropriate equipment. It is fine to go and have a look inside for experienced divers with the deep specialty but don’t swim all the way in.
On the way up you will see shrimp climbing on the limestone. Hold your hand close to them and they will come over to give you a free manicure. Some cat- and other small fish can be found in the shallower areas as well.
And there is one big barracuda that must have snuck in through a tunnel when he was small and can’t escape anymore.
Due to the variety of wrecks, wildlife and the barracuda lake Coron offers something for every diver, not only for wreck-nerds.