Southeast Asia is renowned for its exceptional shipwreck diving sites, offering thrilling and captivating experiences for diving enthusiasts. One of the best shipwreck diving destinations in the region is Coron, located in the province of Palawan in the Philippines. It is renowned for its exceptional shipwreck diving. The area is home to numerous Japanese World War II wrecks that have turned into captivating underwater attractions. Coron Bay is a treasure trove for wreck divers with some of South East Asia’s best shipwreck diving including the iconic Irako Maru, Okikawa Maru, and Akitsushima. These wrecks have become artificial reefs teeming with marine life, surrounded by crystal-clear waters:
The shipwrecks in Coron Bay have a rich history tied to the events of World War II. During the war, Coron Bay served as a sheltered anchorage for the Japanese Imperial Navy, making it a target for American forces. In September 1944, a series of airstrikes known as the “Operation Stalemate II” took place, leading to the sinking of several Japanese vessels that now rest on the bay’s seabed. Here’s a brief history of Corons shipwrecks:
Japanese Fleet in Coron Bay: As the war progressed, the Japanese Imperial Navy sought refuge in Coron Bay to protect their vessels from American airstrikes. The bay’s strategic location and natural protection made it an ideal anchorage. The Japanese fleet stationed in Coron Bay consisted of various types of ships, including supply ships, warships, and auxiliary vessels.
Airstrikes and Sinking: In September 1944, American forces launched a series of airstrikes on the Japanese fleet in Coron Bay. The attacks aimed to disrupt Japanese supply lines and eliminate their naval presence in the area. The precise details of each sinking vary, but it is believed that most of the ships were struck by bombs or torpedoes, causing them to sink to the seabed.
Rediscovery and Exploration: After the war, the wrecks in Coron Bay remained largely forgotten until their rediscovery in the 1980s. The pristine condition of the wrecks, combined with the area’s clear waters and abundant marine life, attracted divers from around the world. Today, Coron’s shipwrecks are among the most popular diving sites in the Philippines.
Artificial Reefs and Marine Life: Over the years, the sunken vessels in Coron Bay have transformed into thriving artificial reefs. The wrecks provide a habitat for an incredible diversity of marine life, with corals, sponges, and other organisms adorning the structures. The wrecks attract an array of fish species, including snappers, groupers, lionfish, and schools of jacks, creating a vibrant underwater ecosystem.
The shipwrecks in Coron Bay stand as poignant reminders of the past and offer a unique opportunity for divers to explore a piece of World War II history. While the wrecks themselves hold historical significance, they have also become valuable marine habitats, contributing to the ecological diversity of the area. The combination of history, underwater beauty, and marine life has made Coron a world-class diving destination.
Irako Maru: The Irako Maru is one of the most popular shipwrecks in Coron. This 147-meter-long refrigeration ship was part of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s supply fleet. It now rests at a depth of around 40 meters. Divers can explore the cargo holds, engine rooms, and the iconic swim-through known as the “Irako Tunnel.” The wreck is adorned with colorful soft corals and is inhabited by a variety of marine life, including lionfish, groupers, and schools of snappers.
Okikawa Maru: Sunk during the World War II airstrikes in 1944, the Okikawa Maru is a 160-meter-long oil tanker sitting upright on the seabed. This wreck is particularly photogenic, with its massive propeller and intact structure. Divers can swim through the cargo holds, where you’ll find remnants of trucks, torpedoes, and even an intact Japanese tank. The wreck is teeming with marine life, including batfish, jacks, and fusiliers.
Akitsushima: The Akitsushima is a 118-meter-long seaplane tender that was used for reconnaissance missions during World War II. This wreck lies at a depth of around 35 meters, and divers can explore the deck area, gun turrets, and the remaining seaplane. The Akitsushima is adorned with vibrant corals and sponges, and divers may encounter schools of barracudas, lionfish, and other tropical fish.
Kogyo Maru: The Kogyo Maru, a cargo ship, is one of the shallower wrecks in Coron. Resting at a depth of around 25 meters, this 120-meter-long wreck offers an excellent opportunity for both beginners and experienced divers. The Kogyo Maru is known for its large cargo holds, which are accessible for exploration. The wreck is home to a wide variety of marine life, including nudibranchs, lionfish, and juvenile barracudas.
Olympia Maru: The Olympia Maru was a 122-meter-long freighter that was sunk during a raid in 1944. It now lies in relatively shallow waters at a depth of around 12 meters, making it suitable for snorkelers as well. The wreck is home to an abundance of corals and is frequented by colorful reef fish, including angelfish and butterflyfish.
East Tangat Gunboat: This small gunboat rests in shallower waters, making it an ideal site for novice divers or those interested in snorkeling. The wreck is covered in corals and serves as a home for various marine species, including angelfish, butterflyfish, and nudibranchs.
These shipwrecks in Coron offer divers an opportunity to explore while being surrounded by vibrant marine life. The wrecks provide a captivating glimpse into the past, showcasing the resilience of nature as coral reefs have taken root and become home to a diverse range of aquatic species.
These shipwrecks in Coron Bay provide a unique opportunity to explore the remnants of World War II history. It’s like being in an underwater museum of history, while immersing yourself in a thriving underwater ecosystem. Whether you are an experienced wreck diver or a beginner seeking an unforgettable adventure, Coron’s shipwrecks offer a captivating diving experience.
Pirates Diving Center is one of Coron’s leading facilitators, each day Pirates offer a 3 dive excursion to the best ship wrecks in the region. For more information you can contact Pirates at http://www.piratescoron.com whats app +639959537887 and Instagram @piratesdivingcoron