Nestled in the breathtaking province of Busuanga, Coron, Philippines, lies an underwater realm teeming with history and natural wonders. Its like diving into history with Coron’s shipwrecks, remnants of World War II, hold captivating tales waiting to be explored by adventurous divers. In this article, we invite you to dive into the depths of Coron’s shipwreck sites, discover their fascinating stories, and witness the indomitable spirit of exploration and resilience. Join us on this unforgettable journey, where Pirates Diving Center serves as your trusted guide to uncovering Coron’s hidden treasures.
Unearthing History: The American Navy Attacks
Coron’s shipwrecks bear witness to a tumultuous chapter in history—the American Navy air raid attacks of September 24, 1944. In an effort to disrupt Japanese supply lines during World War II, a squadron of American carrier-based aircraft targeted Japanese ships anchored in Coron Bay. The resulting aerial assault inflicted significant damage, sinking several vessels and forever altering the underwater landscape.
The Attack on September 24, 1944:
On that fateful day, a formation of American planes launched from their carriers, soaring through the skies towards Coron Bay. Their mission: to incapacitate the Japanese fleet and weaken their stronghold. With precision and determination, the aircraft unleashed their devastating payload, raining bombs upon the unsuspecting vessels below. The echoes of explosions reverberated through the bay, forever etching this event into history.
The Shipwrecks of Coron:
Irako: Once a Japanese refrigeration ship, the Irako met its watery grave during the air raid attack. Now lying on the ocean floor, it stands as a poignant reminder of the fierce battles that unfolded in these waters.
Okikawa Maru: Once a majestic tanker, the Okikawa Maru now rests peacefully on the seabed, its hulking structure adorned with vibrant corals. As you explore its remains, you can’t help but imagine the bravery and sacrifice of those who sailed aboard this vessel.
Akitsushima: The remnants of the Akitsushima, a seaplane tender, provide a glimpse into the naval operations of the Japanese forces. Swim through its majestic corridors, now home to an array of marine life, and marvel at the juxtaposition of nature’s beauty against the backdrop of wartime history.
Olympia Maru, Nanshin Maru, Black Island Wreck, Lusong Gun Boat, East Tangat Wreck, Skeleton Wreck, and Kogyo Maru: These additional shipwrecks scattered throughout Coron’s waters offer divers a chance to immerse themselves in history. Each wreck tells its own story, from cargo vessels to gunboats, providing a mosaic of the past waiting to be explored.
Diving Delights in Coron:
Beyond the historical significance of the wrecks, Coron boasts a myriad of dive sites catering to divers of all levels. Here are some notable sites that showcase Coron’s natural beauty:
Barracuda Lake: Dive into the surreal realm of Barracuda Lake, known for its thermocline phenomenon, where distinct layers of warm and cold water create an otherworldly experience. Encounter the elusive barracudas and traverse impressive rock formations as you explore the lake’s depths.
Siete Pecados: Immerse yourself in the vibrant marine park of Siete Pecados, where colorful coral gardens house a kaleidoscope of marine life. Swim among schools of reef fish and marvel at the intricate ecosystem that thrives in this underwater paradise.
Dimalanta Point: Brace yourself for an exhilarating drift dive at Dimalanta Point, where strong currents carry you past breathtaking coral formations and encounter majestic rays gliding through the water. Explore the depths and be awed by the abundance of marine biodiversity.
PADI Wreck and Deep Specialty Courses in Coron:
Pirates Diving Center in Coron offers specialized PADI courses to enhance your diving skills and allow you to explore the wrecks and depths with confidence. Consider these courses to expand your knowledge and embark on thrilling underwater adventures:
PADI Wreck Specialty Course: Delve deeper into the art of wreck diving with the PADI Wreck Specialty Course. Learn advanced techniques for safe wreck penetration, navigation, and the preservation of these historical sites. Uncover hidden treasures while respecting the fragility of these underwater relics.
PADI Deep Specialty Course: Unlock the mysteries of the deep with the PADI Deep Specialty Course. Acquire the skills necessary to plan and execute dives at greater depths, expanding your range of exploration. Discover the secrets that lie in the abyss and witness the captivating sights that await.
Coron, Philippines, beckons adventurers and diving enthusiasts to immerse themselves in a realm where history and natural beauty intertwine. Traverse the depths and unlock the stories held within Coron’s shipwrecks, testaments to a turbulent past. Explore vibrant dive sites, where marine life thrives amidst breathtaking coral formations. With Pirates Diving Center as your trusted companion, embark on a journey of discovery, where the echoes of history merge with the wonders of the underwater world. Let Coron’s shipwrecks and dive sites leave an indelible mark on your soul, as you witness the resilience of nature and the enduring spirit of exploration.
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
I am old enough to remember diving pioneers like Jacques Cousteau and have been lucky enough to dive in some amazing places during my diving career, from quarries in England, Stunning reefs in Egypt, with Whale Sharks and Manta Rays in Thailand. Mating Leopard Sharks in Malaysia and just about everything you can imagine in the clear tropical waters of the Philippines.
There are many reasons people come to diving, some learn to dive young and others like myself learn at an older age. When I was young I loved to watch the amazing undersea adventures of Jacques Cousteau. I would even play scuba diving in the bath tub, complete with mask snorkel and fins. What a sight that must have been !
I was always around water, from six years old I lived most weekends on a boat together with a couple of annual boating vacations. I enjoyed swimming, snorkelling and the sea but never got around to trying out diving even though it had held that fascination for many years. I would go on vacations and often a local dive school would offer try out scuba in the hotel pool, but for some reason I would always make an excuse not to try it, I had heard about equalising and think maybe I have a cold, I felt my ear on the flight there, or would plan to do something else instead. I’m not really sure why, I’m very competitive by nature and maybe subconsciously I feared not being able to breath underwater in front of others.
On vacation in Egypt I was taking a snorkel boat trip, something I had done many times before, and, in what I now know are some of the worlds best diving locations. I’m in the water and I see divers below looking at something. It frustrated the hell out of me’ that I couldn’t see what they were looking at. On the way back to my hotel I was telling my partner and she suggested I should book a dive at the hotel, yes maybe I replied and that was that.
Back in the hotel we had to visit the reception for something unrelated and I hear my partner asking about booking diving for the next day. Intermediately I went on the defensive I need to back out mode, Err I don’t know err its maybe expensive err what if we want to do something else – too late it was booked and I had finally run out of excuses.
So the next day I’m in the middle of the ocean on a boat wearing all this heavy equipment and lead weights on a belt and they tell me to jump in to the water, It didn’t feel much like Jacques Cousteau at this point “Cr**p I’m going to sink”, saying to myself as they pushed me to the edge. I had zero practice and virtually no instruction,with the exception of being shown two signals,’OK’ and the ‘Problem’ which was explained as this signal means calm down. So with a little nudge I was in the water, but I didn’t sink as I’d expected. instead the Instructor let the air out of my BCD and we started to descend slowly down a rope line. I remember to this day, it wasn’t the corals or the wonderful fish that fascinated me, or the clear water, it was how I was hearing myself breath and thinking how you stop breathing to swallow. Everything was so intensely apparent, I would never normally think about how I breath as a land dwelling animal.
So moving on, I liked the experience so much it triggered a change in my life of avalanche proportions, this first dive was followed by three more Discover Scuba Dives (try out dives) over the next 24 hours, Wednesday and Thursday. On the Friday evening I flew home to the UK, Saturday morning I signed up to an open water course and within a year I was a PADI instructor in Thailand.
Its not always been the easiest way to make a living, in some places I earned reasonably well, in others just enough to survive, I’ve had a few experiences that were not my favourite times in life, but I also had some wonderful times met many wonderful people and made some great friends. I now own my own dive school, and dive resort. I still like to go fun diving just for myself from time to time.
After more than 3000 dives I’m still in awe of what lies beneath the surface and how marine life comes in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors, and how it lives in all kinds of different environments, adapting to them perfectly. You can dive a site hundreds of times and still see something new, and sometimes very unexpected. I often wander back to those times watching Jacques Cousteau, who would have though back then I would become a professional diver and have the privilege to get paid for what I love to do.
My friends and acquaintances sometimes say I’m lucky to live on a beautiful tropical island doing what I do, and I guess I was lucky, but lucky to realise this is what I wanted to do. Actually anyone can do it, you just have to make the choice, sign up to a course and make it happen.
Pirates Diving Resort in Coron Philippines is the perfect location to go professional with a Divemaster course
Can Philippines make the claim for the worlds best diving ?
Wow what a very difficult question to answer for so many reasons. Many countries around the world have some amazing diving to offer, and most of us hear about the one or two special dive sites that each country promotes .So which country really ha the worlds best diving ? What if you were to choose just one country to make a dive trip of a life time, where would you choose and what should you expect?
Diving is very subjective and I often see interesting debates on forums and Facebook groups which show clearly that divers are a very diverse bunch. Divers come from all different backgrounds, social groups and nationalities, but as scuba divers they have a global common interest of submerging themselves underwater. That is where the common interest ends as every diver has their own preferences, likes, ambitions and wishes
Your interest may be historical wrecks, you may like fast adrenalin rush drifts or have an motivation to film Tiger sharks. Its clear this could be a very long and diverse list, so much so that it becomes a mammoth boast for anywhere to claim they have the worlds best diving.
I believe the Philippines can.
Lets first consider a few things that immediately propel The Philippines towards top spot in any list of the worlds best diving. The Island nation is situated in an area known as the coral triangle, which roughly covers a triangular area encompassing Paupua, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. The region is considered by many scientist to be the region where most Marine life originated.
Today the Coral Triangle is home the richest marine eco systems on earth. It is an area with more species of fish and corals than any other marine environment on earth. More diverse than the Caribbean and Indian ocean put together.
Tropical reefs are the richest marine ecosystems on earth and those found in the Philippines boast a diversity of life and color that is unparalleled. More than 100 scientists have declared the Philippines as the world’s “center of marine biodiversity” because of its vast species of marine and coastal resources”- World Bank
The Philippines is the epicentre for marine biodiversity and what is considered the Amazon of the Sea. Scientific surveys taken throughout the Coral Triangle show that the Philippines is also the most marine bio diverse of all when measured per kilometre of coastline.
The Philippines can claim more species of marine life than any other country in the world. more species of fish and corals than any other marine environment on earth.
The largest fish in the sea, the whale shark, calls these waters home, along with over 2,800 species of fish, hundreds of species of corals, sea turtles, sharks and a breath taking variety of other stunning marine life.
Some 400-500 species in 90 genera of reef-forming corals are believed to exist in this region. Sulu-Sulawesi Sea, a 900,000-square-kilometer marine eco-region that lies at the apex of the Coral Triangle (70% in the Philippines, 20% Indonesia, 10% Malaysia), is home to some 2,800 species of fish
So that’s not a bad start to stake its claim to be the worlds best diving, but there is a whole lot more!
The Philippines has many wrecks scattered throughout its 7000 Islands. There are two locations that the serious wreck diver would want to dive, they are South East Asia’s two most concentrated wreck locations
Subic bay ‘
0ne of Asia’s largest deep water natural harbours. Subic Bay was home to the United states Subic bay Navel base, the largest US navel base outside of US territory until 1993.
The huge bay has a long history of conflict dating back as far as the 1898 Spanish/American war. Hosting more than 35 wrecks with an incredible variety from a Spanish steamer sunk during the Spanish American conflict to the worlds first armoured cruiser, The USS New York (formally Saratoga) . Japanese and US warships and aircraft of WW2 are found together with, US landing craft and aircraft from the Korean and Vietnam conflicts of the 1950’s/60’s and 70’s. Plus many other other merchant ships and bridge pontoons.
Diving here ranges from 5m to deep technical dives.
Between The Battle of the Philippine Sea, June 19th and 20th 1944, and The Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 23rd to 26th 1944, the Japanese attempted to reinforce their forces occupying the Philippines.
For divers, Coron’s history started on 24 September 1944 when a US Navy strike force of fighters and dive bombers attacked a Japanese supply fleet of up to 24 ships, at anchor, in Coron Bay and around Busuanga Island.
Whether the Japanese fleet was spotted by aerial photo reconnaissance, interpreters who noticed that some camouflaged ships had moved, or whether Japanese radio transmissions were intercepted is still debated. Photos taken from the air during the attack do not show any signs of camouflage netting on the ships. The consequence of detection was a surprise aerial attack by US Navy carrier based aircraft that sank the fleet at anchor
Home to two great wrecks both sunk as artificial reefs; Camia 2, a large freight vessel and the Tribird a three engined passenger jet aircraft wreck, the only divable commercial jet liner in Asia, so a very unique and extremely rare diving opportunity.
Philippines protected Unesco World Heritage sites for diving
The UNESCO world heritage list comprises more than 1,000 spots — 20 percent of them natural — designated as the legacy of all mankind. Only 13 of these spots represent an even more precious slice: they can be fully appreciated only by divers as some of the worlds best diving.
From the Taj Mahal to the Grand Canyon, the most spectacular cultural and natural places in the world find a spot on the storied UNESCO World Heritage List. Of the 13, including Australia’s Great Barrier reef, Cocos Islands and Galapagas Islands The Philippines islands can boast two.
Since it was discovered by divers in the late 1970s Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) has been considered one of the most extraordinary dive sites, at the very top of the worlds best diving, a dream trip for most scuba divers. Recently, it was ranked eighth best dive site in the world by the CNN travel website
The Tubbataha Reef Marine Park declared a World Heritage site in 1993 covers 130,028 ha, including the North and South Reefs. It is a unique example of an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species; the North Islet serving as a nesting site for birds and marine turtles. The site is an excellent example of a pristine coral reef with a spectacular 100-m perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons and two coral islands
The reef supports 374 species of corals, almost 90% of all coral species in the Philippines. Within the reef are found eleven species of cetaceans, eleven species of sharks, and an estimated 479 species of fish, including the iconic and threatened Napoleon wrasse. The reef supports the highest population densities known in the world for white tip reef sharks. Pelagic species such as jacks, tuna, barracuda, manta rays, whale sharks and different species of sharks also are common here and the reef is a very important nesting, resting and juvenile development area for two species of endangered marine turtles: green turtles and hawksbill turtles.
Tubbataha’s dive season is just three months long, running from mid-March until mid- June. At this time of year diving conditions are usually optimum – clear skies, calm seas and visibility between 30 and 45 meters.
A coral reef system situated on the western waters of Occidental Mindoro province in the Mindoro Strait and accessed from both Mondoro or Coron. Apo Reef Encompasses 34 square kilometres (13sq mi), it is the world’s second-largest contiguous coral reef system second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier reef. Apo Reef Natural Park (ARNP) is one of the best known and most popular dive sites in the country. It is in the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The atoll-like reef comprises of two isolated coral reefs that are disconnected by a 30-meter deep channel. The clear blue waters of the channel are teeming with 285 species of colourful marine life, including tropical aquarium fish, snappers and the crevice-dwelling moray.
It is one best dive spots in the world, attracting divers all the year round. The soft white sand and patches of fine corals, clearly visible through the crystal blue waters, is truly an entrancing sight to behold!
The Reef and the vast expansive waters around are protected areas in the Philippines, administered as the Apo Reef Natural Park (ARNP), to help ensure it remains as one one of the worlds best diving locations. The National Park is located 33 kilometres (approximately) off the coast of Sablayan in the Occidental Mindoro province.
More Major Philippine dive destinations
Monad Shoal in Malapascua
Divers from all over the world flock to Malapascua Island to see the elegant, oddly-shaped thresher sharks that breach the waters off the island, moving their way into the depths of Monad Shoal, where divers patiently wait for a sighting. Here, the friendly thresher sharks spend most of their day in deep water, but come up early in the morning for a scrub in the area’s cleaning stations—where cleaner wrasses feed on dead skin and bacteria on a shark’s body. Dive at the Shark Wall between sunrise and 9 a.m. for the best odds. They make an appearance every day, but sightings peak from July to October, so best to book your flight to Cebu during this time of the year. In the afternoon, manta rays and devil rays are among Monad Shoal’s regular visitors. The scene also includes moorish idols, barracudas, tunas, batfish, lionfish, banner fish, unicorn fish, pipefish, frogfish, cuttlefish, nudibranchs and pygmy seahorses
Not only has it been voted twice the number one island in the world with two of the worlds top ten beaches, but it is also the most popular dive destination in the entire Philippines for good reason. It’s home to some of the philippines best lern to dive areas, and for the advanced diver, the series of walls to the Islands north are considered to be some of the very best wall dives in the Philippines, and the island has the only diveable commercial passenger jet in South East Asia.
Apo Island Negros Oriental.
This Island is named one of the 100 worlds best diving sites, thanks to the administrators who have taken all efforts in ensuring that the island lives up to world class standards. Locals of Dauin supported initiatives of scientists from Silliman University of Dumaguete to make the island one of the most well-documented and best protected marine sanctuary in the country.
Some of the world’s rarest critters compete for the underwater photographer’s attention along the Dauin coastline near Dumaguete in Negros Oriental. The area is often frequented by underwater photographers in search of exquisitely rare shots , probably only matched by Bunaken, Indonesia for rare critters, and firmly in the top two of the worlds best diving locations for critters
Donsol – a favorite spot for whale sharks
Suddenly an onlooker spots a dark shadow and the shout goes up: “Shark! Everybody get in the water!” At Donsol, the whale-shark capital of the Philippines, the aim is getting close to sharks . The focus at Donsol is not on spotting whale sharks, but on “interactions”. On a good day, swimmers can encounter a dozen. To put that into context, the great marine explorer Jacques Cousteau saw just two in his lifetime. It’s a wild encounter, and there’s an element of chance, but in peak season, when sharks gather to feed and breed, sightings are almost guaranteed.
Moalboal, Sardine balls and corals
Moalboal whose name means “bubbling water”, is a quiet, peaceful little village that has become a mecca for divers. Moalboal is now an internationally recognized center of diving excellence. Moalboal faces the Tanon Strait, a deep channel that separates the Islands of Cebu and Negros. Its coastlines are characterized by sharply sloping drop offs, so the vast majority of dive sites in the Moalboal area are wall dives along the coastlines.
With the exception of Pescador Island, the dive sites combine together to form one huge gigantic wall: the diver enters at different points to explore different sections of wall. Each section of the wall has its own distinct flavour, each with its own unique sightings. the jewel of Moalboal diving and considered one of the best dive sites in the Philippines. With a landmass big enough to warrant a lighthouse, Pescador Island resembles a vertical rod and plunges down to depths of seventy meters.
It gained further prominence a few years ago when a large school of sardines decided to make Pescador their home. With estimates as high as nine hundred thousand sardines, this sardine ball started attracting pelagic fish to hunt them around the clock. It even caught the attention of thresher sharks who would dart in and out of the bait ball energetically hunting.
From underwater caverns, freshwater cave diving, shallow shipwrecks to deep penetration technical wrecks diving, Mactan and Cebu is excellent to dive.
But there is not only caves and wrecks as a dive sites in Mactan or around Cebu; the marine biodiversity is one of the greatest in all the Philippines.
Puerto Galera in Mindoro.
The name was supposedly derived from a Spanish-era galleon wreck found off Puerto Galera in the 1890s. While there is no diveable galleons, the treasures of Puerto Galera is the over 40 dive sites in the area ranging from the easy and idyllic (Drop Off at Verde Island) to the dangerous (Washing Machine). Sabang is where the hardcore diving community and Long Beach is the easy-going beach culture.
Honda Bay in Puerto Princesa
This is a more affordable luxury of a dive in Honda Bay. Equally teeming with the same richness as Tubbataha, Honda Bay has the advantage of being dotted with spectacular islands with sparkling white-sand beaches
Barracuda Lake in Coron Island
Apart from wreck diving, Coron Island has Barracuda Lake, a seemingly underrated dive site in the Philippines. This lake is full of sharp thermoclines and alien underwater landscapes. Add to that the legend of the centuries-old monster-sized barracuda said to be the size of five large oil barrels
You don’t have to go far to reach the birthplace of scuba diving in the Philippines. An easy two-hour drive from Manila, Anilao is the go-to spot for divers planning a nice weekend dive, newbies going on their first underwater adventure, macro photographers seeking out their favourite subjects (nudibranchs and pygmy seahorses), and night divers hoping to catch a glimpse of rare marine creatures (sea goblins, ghost pope fish, catfish eels, sea hares, blue-ringed octopus, snake eels and mandarin fish).
What makes this place such a popular choice? Along with a host of dive resorts and good diving conditions year-round, Anilao has dozens of amazing dive sites. Cathedral Rock, the best-known of the bunch, features two giant mounds and a cross in between. Considered a marine park sanctuary, it shelters Moorish idols, damsels, parrot fish, sergeant majors, lion fish, clown fish and moray eels plus crinoids and anemones. Orange anthias and red tooth triggerfish abound in Bahura and Beatrice Rock, and soft corals in Sepok Wall and Sombrero Island. At Twin Rocks and Mainit Point, there are heaps of invertebrates, most notably nudibranchs
Verde Island, off Batangas
Scouting for a diving spot with rich biodiversity and excellent visibility? Verde Island is not just a great fit, it also lets you enjoy both idyllic and thrilling dive sites at the east end, where the hot volcanic water attracts tons of fish. If you want to take it a bit easy, go for The Pinnacle, a huge vertical reef that drops to 80 meters. Most divers of the Drop Off, as it’s also known, descend to a particular depth then start exploring as they zigzag their way up the pinnacle. Expect to see gorgonian fans, frogfish, jacks, banner fish, basslets and the occasional sea snakes.
For a high-voltage dive, try the Washing Machine. Named for its strong, churning currents, this site plays host to tuna, travellies and black- and white-tip sharks plus thousands of anthias. On good days, you’ll get to go around its canyons and see up close sea squirts, tubeworms, feather stars, sea fans, and siphon and basket sponges. Keep an eye out too for parrotfish, frogfish and wrasses. Do note, however, that the dive requires current-diving experience and a skilled guide
Ticao Pass in Ticao, Masbate.
This is known as “the Manta Bowl”. The rough waters off Ticao provide a perfect spot for the majestic manta rays. Divers can enjoy truly breathtaking sightings of these gentle giants gliding overhead. At Manta Bowl, you’ll get to catch oceanic manta rays playing and roaming, feeding on planktons, and even getting their parasites picked off by cleaner wrasses. But mantas aren’t the only attraction here. Whale sharks on their way to Donsol, Sorsogon, also stop by Manta Bowl to feed on planktons, usually between November and June. Other big boys—thresher sharks, hammerheads and black- and white-tip sharks—frequent the area too along with blue-spotted sting rays, eagle rays, jacks, tunas, barracudas and sweetlips. So what’s in store for macro photographers? Various species of nudibranchs and critters such as frogfish, mandarin fish, pipefish, sea horses and coleman shrimps. Brace for strong currents if visiting between October and April.
Only an opinion’ but an opinion based on facts
I have given some insight into the Philippines marine world and why I think its the worlds best diving, I’m sure some will not be convinced, some will agree and some will make some very legitimate counter claims, there are many places of exceptional diving and some very unique. but its hard to argue against The Philippines at the pinnacle as the worlds best diving.
So you’ve done your first dive and have viewed first-hand the beauty of the underwater world. You’ve been exposed to beautiful coral reefs and some colourful, tropical fish.
One of the most common questions I get asked is, what is coral? New divers are often confused. Are corals plants, animals or some beautiful type of rock.
So what is coral?
Coral are actually animals. They are from the family Cnidaria, which is the same family as jellyfish and anemones. Corals get their colour from a type of plankton called zooxanthellae. These zooxanthellae live in symbiosis with corals. The zooxanthellae use photosynthesis to convert coral waste products into proteins and sugars.
This provides coral with energy, allowing them to grow and reproduce. Coral typically grows in shallow, nutrient poor waters so they depend on the zooxanthellae for almost 90% of their nutrients.
Corals are colonies of small animals embedded in calcium carbonate shells. Coral reefs are made up of a selection of different coral colonies. You may have noticed some coral colonies that look like boulders, table tops or even antlers. Those are all different colonies of coral growing side by side to make up a coral reef.
The Rainforests of the ocean
Coral reefs are known as the rainforests of the ocean and shallow coral reefs form some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Coral reefs only make up about 0.1% of the world’s oceans, yet they provide homes for at least 25% of all marine species. Almost ¾ of the world’s reefs are found in the Indo-Pacific region. Coral reefs are the oldest, most productive and diverse ecosystems in the oceans.
More than 25% of coral reefs have been classified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. Almost all coral reefs worldwide are now threatened in some way. Coral reefs protect shorelines from storm damage, provide homes for countless marine species provide most of the worlds oxygen and drive tourism.
Invaluable benefits to mankind
Some corals are being studied to treat diseases. Coral reefs are being studied by pharmacologists studying anti-cancer and anti-HIV agents, as well as new antibiotic research. Coral attracts tourists, which generates incomes for a wide variety of businesses and boosts local economies. Tourism is the world’s largest industry and sustains 10% of all jobs. Healthy reefs provide food, shelter, income and social stability for hundreds of millions of people.
Snorkelers and divers are natural ambassadors for the protection of coral reefs. We are in the water frequently and notice short and long term changes in the aquatic world.
The main threats to coral reefs
Coral reefs have date back thousands of years and have survived many natural changes, but unfortunately many of them are now struggling to survive due to the impact humankind is wreaking on them.
Around one quarter of coral reefs around the world are already damaged beyond repair and another two thirds under serious threat of major damage mainly due to us humans.
Major threats to coral reefs and their habitats include:
Climate Change – Corals cannot survive if the water temperature of the sea rises too high, this leads to them bleaching and dying. At around 29.6 degrees celcius the Algae will seperate from the of the coral polip never to return leaving only a leeched looking calcium structure Global warming has led to increased levels of coral bleaching around the globe and this is predicted to increase in frequency and severity in the coming years.
Destructive Fishing – These methods that harm the reefs include cyanide fishing, dynamite fishing and pulling a net across the reefs which is known as bottom trawling.
Overfishing – When a species is overfished it affects the balance of the local ecosystem and warps the food chain and causing effects far beyond the directly overfished population.
Careless Tourism – Careless boating, diving, snorkeling, and fishing happens around the world, with people touching reefs, stirring up sediment, collecting coral, and dropping anchors on reefs. Some tourist resorts and infrastructure have been built directly on top of reefs, and some resorts empty their sewage or other wastes directly into water surrounding coral reefs.
Pollution – Industrial and urban waste, sewage and chemicals draining are poisoning reefs. These toxins are dumped directly into the ocean or carried by river systems from sources upstream. Reefs are also at risk of nutrient pollution, this is where the ocean becomes rich in nutrients as a result of fertilizer release. This causes excess algae release which chokes the corals of their energy source.
Sedimentation – Mining, logging, farming and construction is leading to increased erosion and run off entering the rivers and streams. This ends up in the ocean, where it smothers corals by depriving them of the light needed to survive. Destruction of mangrove forests close to the shores is exacerbating the problem as they act as a natural ‘blocker’ for sediment.
Coral Mining – In some areas coral is removed from reefs for use in construction as bricks and cement for new buildings. Corals are also sold as souvenirs to tourists being made into necklaces and over jewelry items by exporters who don’t care about the damage done to reefs.
So how can you help protect coral reefs when you are visiting Boracay?
You can participate in beach clean ups and dive site clean ups. Use our recycling bins. Boracay has around 1.7 million tourists a year that produce about 20 tons of rubbish a day.
White Beach Divers follows green fins enviromental guidelines and seperates all its trash so as much can be recycled as possible and disposed of in the most enviromently way. It helps emensly if you say no to one use plastc such as straws, plastic bags and plastic drinks bottles. use our water refilling station in the front of the dive shop.
BBASS (Boracay Business Association of Scuba Schools) and White Beach Divers and frequently host clean ups to keep plastic bags, and other debris from smothering coral reefs. Check our facebook page for any clean up events and inside the dive center for more information.
You can also buy a reusable water bottle and get free refills at the dive center and other water stations around the island. Choose cans or glass bottles which are easier to recycle.
If you smoke, put your cigarettes into garbage bins, not on the beach.
When diving respect the marine species that live there by not touching anything underwater and not supporting dive centres that do. Coral is invisible to the naked eye for its first 6 months of life. The oil on our fingers can kill coral even if it looks like it’s just a rock.
Perfect your diving skills
Watch where you put your fins and use good buoyancy skills. When we kick or stand on coral we break off pieces that have taken years to grow. Some coral species take 18 months to grow an inch! Secure all your gauges and equipment to avoid accidental contact with coral reefs.
If you haven’t dived for a while consider completing a scuba review before diving in!
If you are unsure about your buoyancy skills in general consider completing a Peak Performance Buoyancy course with a PADI Instructor. Scheduled over 1 day and including 2 dives this course won’t just improve your buoyancy, but your air consumption too, as well as your overall confidence as a diver!
Don’t use Suncream
Wearing a rash vest is the preferred way of avoiding getting sunburnt but you can apply sunscreen an hour before entering the water so it is well absorbed into your skin. Sunscreen washes off and prevents the corals from being able to photosynthesize, essentially starving the plankton from converting wastes to nutrients that the coral needs to survive.
When it comes to buying sunscreen look for one that uses natural products (organic or biodegradeable for example) as this is better for the environment. Look for a brand that uses physical sunblocks such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide instead of chemical ones.
Think before you buy
Don’t buy jewelry with corals and shells; by purchasing them it creates an increased demand for them, exploiting the population. When left in the ocean the coral and shells break down and are used by the coral to build their skeletons.
Eat sustainable seafood. Overfishing disrupts the ecological balance by eliminating top predators and algae eating fish that are vital to keep algae growth in balance. Unchecked algae growth is coral’s biggest competitor on the Reef. Changes in fishing techniques have led to increased pressure on fish stocks and overexploitation of coral reefs. Unsustainable fishing practices affects 55% of the world’s reefs.
When snorkelling or diving, chose operators that don’t feed reef fish. Human food is not good for fish, it changes their feeding patterns, makes them more susceptible to predators and food waste promotes algae growth which can smother coral reefs. The normal algae eating fish are all full so are no longer eating the algae, Fish will leave their young babies to feed which leaves them unprotected and exposed to preditors. Enjoy fish watching without interfering.
Come visit us at White Beach Divers, Boracay and learn more about coral reefs and how to protect them. You can take Project Aware’s Coral Reef Conservation Specialty Course, which will teach you all about the plight of the world’s coral reefs. The course describes how coral reefs function and why they are so important.
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