Coron has been described as one of the best spots in the World for Wreck diving! On the 24th of September 1944, 24 Japanese Ships were sunk by an American Air raid. 12 wrecks have been discovered up to now. The shipwrecks are very well preserved and are all located in quite shallow water, perfect for recreational diving. However to dive here it is best to be at least Advanced Open Water to fully enjoy the Coron Dive Sites and wrecks, as some dives can be quite challenging.
Most of the wrecks in the Coron dive sites are really big (up to 160 m!) and require more than one dive if you want to explore the entire ship. There are also boundless possibilities of penetration and even very deep penetration (especially on the Taiei Maru and the Akitsushima) for the most experienced divers!
The wrecks lay either upright or on the side. Their depth is ranging from 12 m to 30 m. Only the Irako wreck is deeper, at 43 m.
The visibility around the Coron dive sites is often between 10 m and 20 m and the marine life around the shipwrecks is mostly Scorpion fishes, Crocodile fishes, Nudibranchs and the usual reef fishes like the Triggerfish or Clownfish. Groupers and Barracudas can also sometimes be spotted.
So if you come to Coron it is definitely because you are passionate about Wreck Diving, not just to see the fish! This place is really beautiful and divers coming there are usually delighted!
There is also a very interesting dive site called Barracuda Lake. It is a former volcano where you can dive into hot (37degrees C) water and discover amazing rock formations! In addition the Coron Dive Sites also very good reef diving with excellent healthy coral on the nearby Islands of Calambuyan Island and Seven Islands.
An added bonus diving Coron is while on the boat to and from and between the Coron dive sites, you get to see some amazing scenery, some of the best in the Philippines.
In 2020 Pirates Diving are planning to operate regular two day one night trips to dive the highlights of Busuanga. Keep checking back for details.
More Details on the Coron Dive Sites
In late September 1944 some Japanese ships were refuge in the Busuanga Island area of the Northern Palawan group of the Philippines. Eight of the ships were anchored in Coron Bay, the rest to the west and at least one on the northern side of Busuanga Island. The Ekkai Maru was anchored in the area between Tangat and Lusong Island with a number of other ships. Note that this shipwreck was originally thought to be named the Olympia Maru and was then called Taiei Maru. The shipwreck formerly known as Taiei Maru is now believed to the Okikawa Maru while the Olympia Maru is the ship formerly called Ekkai Maru, Morazan Maru or Tangat Wreck. Confusing? You bet!
Late on the afternoon of 23 September 1944, Fast Carrier Task Force (TF) 38 under the command of Vice Admiral “Bull” Halsey positioned itself for an attack on the ships in the Coron area. At 5.50 am on 24 September 1944, 180 Grumman F6F Hellcat and Grumman SB2C Helldiver planes lifted off the American and headed off on the 350 kilometre flight for the waters of Coron Bay. This was to be the longest carrier based (and return) attack ever carried out. At 9 am the planes reached Coron and located at least 18 large Japanese vessels and started their attack.
A Japanese refrigeration ship located at the mouth of Coron Bay. N 11*58. 059′, E 120*02. 412′
This is one of the highlights of the Coron Dive sites. The ship was quite large at 9723 tons, 146.9 metres in overall length and 19 metres wide. The engines were two steam powered geared turbines (8300hp) driving twin props. The steam came from 6 Kampon boilers; the engines provided a maximum speed of 17.5 knots. Probably the best wreck dive in the Philippines. The Irako is quite intact and because of the good visibility you know you are on a big shipwreck. Big groupers, schools of tuna and yellow fin, lion fish and scorpion fish live around this wreck. Sea turtles live in the crumpled and folded metal of the superstructure. Often there is a huge column of Jacks inhabiting the bow area and an extremely beautiful ray of some 2 metres in width could be seen around the mast.
There is a beautiful deep penetration through the engine room for trained, experienced and properly equipped divers.
Irako usually has the best visibility of all the wrecks in Coron Bay.
Co Webb supplied information about US Navy WWII activities in the Pacific. He wrote:
“I have attached excerpts of the official 1955 USN chronology of all USN operations in WWII covering the Philippines for Sept-Nov 1944 which gives some of the context of TF 38’s operations during the period. I note that it says Irako was both damaged and sunk in the strike on 24 September. The same source also says that Irako was damaged on 20 January 1944 by US Submarine Seadragon (SS-194) in 08°04’N, 152°40’E, Northwest of Truk.”
Max depth: 43 meters on the bottom, deck level at 28 to 35 meters. Recommended certification level: Advanced Open Water Diver, Deep Diver Specialty, Wreck Diver Specialty.
A Japanese tanker, 168 m long. Location: Busuanga Island, 2 miles south of Conception N 12*.01. 128′, E 119*.58. 176′. In length, width, and volume the largest of the Coron wrecks. At this depth you may be able to make an hour-long dive.
If the Irako isn’t the best wreck dive in the Philippines then the Okikawa Maru certainly is! This wreck is totally covered with beautiful corals and offers a large variety of marine-life. The deck is between 10m and 16m and is good for wreck dive beginners.
There are many penetration possibilities for advanced wreck divers including penetrating up the propeller shaft from the outside of the ship all the way into the engine room. Strong tidal currents often affect this wreck. Diving in strong currents lets you see the most fish. At the bow you can see a school of snappers and huge bat fish holding position into a slight current. Large fish shelter out of the current behind crumpled metal and inside of the deckhouses .There is also a large resident grouper near the bottom.
Max depth: 26 meters on the bottom, 10 to 16 meters on the deck. Recommended certification level:
1. Diving outside the deck without a current. Open Water Diver
2. Diving with a current. Advanced Open Water Diver
3. Diving with a strong current. Experienced Advanced Open Water Diver
4. Penetration dive. Wreck Diver Specialty
A Japanese Seaplane Tender 118 m long located between Culion & Busuanga Islands, near Manglet Island. 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 hp, 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.
The Kogyo Maru, located N 11*58. 782′ E 120*02. 413′, was a Japanese freighter carrying construction materials for building a runway for the Japanese war effort in the Pacific.
The Kogyo Maru was built in 1938 by Uraga Dock Co Ltd, Uraga, Japan for Okada Gumi KK. The ship was 6353 tons, 129 mts long, and 18 mts wide. She was powered by two oil fuelled steam turbines (5170hp) geared to a single shaft. The engines were built by Ishikawajima Shipbuilding and Engineering Co Ltd, Tokyo. Her home port was Osaka.
Lying on her starboard side in 34 meters of water the Kogyo Maru offers swim throughs into all six holds and through the engine room and bridge area. Kogyo Maru’s second hold contains an incline of cement bags which tumbled as the ship sank. A small bulldozer draws your attention as you swim into the hold. Complete but encrusted, you can imagine the operator sitting in the seat and working the control levers to carve a runway out of a tropical island. Engrossed in the bulldozer you might fail to look up the incline of cement sacks and so miss the tractor and air compressor perched above it. Take the time to swim up and look at both pieces and see how many of the engine parts you can identify. It’s complete. Check out the metal wheels on the tractor. Coming out of the hold swim up the front mast, now horizontal, and on your left side. At the top of the mast look at the crow’s nest and imagine what a lookout would experience when perched 30 meters above the water in a Japanese winter storm. Swim back over the deck to the bridge and engine room below it. Enter both from the stern side for easier access. Swim through the cavernous engine room and look at the hardware then out through the bridge. If air is low go up to the port side of the bridge and look at the soft corals growing there and the fish life living on this artificial coral reef at 22 meters. If you have enough air continue below deck level to the stern looking at all of the deck hardware for moving cargo and working the ship. Pass around the stern and then go forward over the port side to return to the mooring line. You pass over hard and soft corals covering the side of the ship. On this dive keep your head and eyes moving like a fighter pilot’s to see the school of barracuda which will swim by. If you only look at the Kogyo Maru you will miss the barracuda.
Max depth: 34 m, average 24-26 m Recommended certification level: Advanced Open Water Diver, Wreck Diver Specialty.
A Japanese Freighter sitting upright in approximately 30 meters 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 meters long and almost 17 meters 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 582 hp 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 Defense 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. Recommended certification level: Advanced Open Water Diver, Wreck Diver Specialty.
Japanese Freighter (Taiei Maru?)
The definitive name of this wreck remains a mystery to this day but it’s a Japanese freighter 137 meters long, lying on its starboard side. Location: Coron Bay N 11*59. 266′, E 120*02.199′
This is a beautiful wreck dive site where you can observe groupers, sweetlips, occasionally turtles and sea snakes. Hard corals cover the port side, which is only 12 to 16 meters below the surface. See if you can find the two resident trumpet fish that hang out half a meter over the port side corals. Many scorpion fish hang out around the wreck area. Keep your eyes open and stay neutrally buoyant!
The big cargo rooms and the engine room allow easy penetration of this wreck for Wreck Diver Certified divers. If you dive from 10am to 2pm on a sunny day you get a cathedral like effect from the beams of sunlight entering the cargo holds through the holes in the port side. The two massive boilers in the centre of the ship are a big attraction on this dive. You can pass behind the boilers and see the damage resulting from one of the bomb strikes that disabled the ship. It is possible to do a swim-through and pass from bow to stern without exiting the ship.
Max. depth: 25 meters, average about 15 meters. Recommended certification level: Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Wreck Diver Specialty.
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 Tangat Island.
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.
Max depth: 22 meters. Recommended certification level: Skin Diver, Open Water Diver.
This wreck was also a gunboat or submarine hunter. The stern breaks the surface at low tide. Location: In front of the east side of Lusong Island. N 11*58. 260′, E 120*01.447′
This wreck is great for snorkeling. It is nicely covered with hard corals and offers a nice variety of fish life. There are good opportunities for wreck dive photographers. The dive is good as a “dive between dives.”
Max depth: 11 meters. Recommended certification level: Skin Diver, Open Water Diver.
This wreck is the keel, ribs and stringers of a steel-hulled boat about 25 meters long. Location: Northwest corner of Coron Island
This wreck was beached with the bow a dozen meters from Coron Island. The stern points directly away from the island. The wreck slopes along the reef from 5 meters deep at the bow to 22 meters at the stern. A pass through on the starboard side of the hull at 14 meters allows you to swim from the inside of the boat out over the coral reef.
Max depth: 22 meters on the bottom. Slopes from 7 to 22 meters. Recommended certification level: Skin Diver, Open Water Diver.
The Fishing Boat
Location: Coron Island. A sunken fishing boat approximately 35 meters long at Coron Island, near the entrance to Cayangan Lake. This is an easy wreck dive site for all beginners or in combination with the Coron drop off. It is also a very interesting night dive site.
Max depth: 16 meters. Recommended certification level: Open Water Diver.
“The most unique of the Coron dive sites and probably in the whole Philippines.”
Location: North end of Coron Island.
This spectacular dive starts with climbing a few steps in full diving equipment. The climb only takes a couple of minutes and the exertion is well worth it. The scenery around the lake is spectacular and the under water terrain has been likened to flying over the surface of the moon. The top 4 meters is warm fresh water. Below 4 meters the water is salt. There are dynamic changes of water temperature in the lake with temperatures ranging from 28 to 38 Celsius. You can even see the thermoclines at 4 and 14 meters. At 34 to 35 meters the water changes from crystal clear to tea brown due to the tannic acid in the leaves that fell into the lake. After cooking and boiling, you will meet the “king of the lake.” It is a barracuda approximately 1.5m long that likes to guide divers around his domain. It is a good chance for underwater photographers to get a close-up of the big barracuda. One of the Coron Dive Sites that you should not miss!
Max depth: 35 meters. Recommended certification level: Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver. Mountain Climbing Diver.
The Cave in Barracuda Lake
A very deep and serious cave in Barracuda lake entered from Barracuda Lake at 33 meters depth which allows a penetration of 30 meters. Location: North Wall of Barracuda Lake starting at 33 meters deep.
The cave has been marked with a fixed line on the right side as you enter. The cave is just large enough to allow one diver to swim in and turn around. The silt and sediment on the bottom is packed and should remain down with reasonable care by the diver. This cave is dark and the sediment is dark and gives an eerie sensation. Proper equipment would be a light with backup and at least an octopus with a 7-foot hose or redundant alternate air source. The current in the cave tells you that it is connecting Barracuda Lake to the ocean. This is a dive that you should not miss if you are prepared. The combination of mild nitrogen narcosis at depth and the dark confined surroundings on this dive will tell you if you are claustrophobic for continued cave diving.
Max depth: Please do not descend below 40 meters! Recommended certification level: If you limit your penetration to a maximum of 40 meters total distance from the surface (a 6 meter penetration) then Advanced Open Water Diver with Deep Diver Specialty and Cavern Diver Specialty is sufficient. If you wish to penetrate beyond 40 total meters from the surface then you should be Cave Diver trained and carry the necessary redundant equipment.
A cave under Coron Island, Palawan directly connected to the sea. Location: South end of Coron Island on the East side.
Cathedral Cave is a beautiful dive spot. It starts 6 meters deep at a hole in the bottom of the sea next to the sheer rock wall of Coron Island. You enter a tunnel and descend to 12 meters. If you take the time to look, you see the antenna of juvenile lobsters waving from holes in the tunnel above and out from under the rocks below and cowry shells clinging to the ceiling of the tunnel.
Then you pass out of the tunnel and see a shaft of daylight penetrates the interior of a cave. The roof of the cave has collapsed sending down a full sized tree. The skeletal trunk and main branches of the tree rest on top of the sand mound in the middle of the cave. You follow the light and surface inside a big underground cathedral. You pass over the sand dune and continue ahead and left to another passage that leads to a chamber with an air pocket above ocean level. Back through the tunnel into the open sea and you dive among beautiful corals with 20 to 30 meter visibility.
A dive you should not miss!
Maximum depth: 10 meters inside the cave. Recommended certification level: Advanced Open Water Diver, Cavern Diver Specialty.
Weather Advisory: Cathedral Cave CAN ONLY BE ATTEMPTED in calm weather with slight waves. It would be physically dangerous to attempt to enter the tunnel in the surge generated from large waves.
(Civilian tanker / 834 gt.) The so-called “Black Island Wreck” can be easily identified as a small tanker converted to carry specific fuel (gasoline, Diesel, lube oil etc.) in small isolated tanks for replenishment of land-based depots. The ship is approximately 50 meters long sitting upright on a sandy bottom.
Location: Close to Black Island Beach in front of the stranded vessel. This wreck is located 3.5 hours away from the other Coron dive sites. It is dived as a day trip with a 7 am departure. You would normally make one dive here and dive the Okikawa Maru as a second dive on the return trip. This dive site is perfect for beginner wreck divers and underwater photographers. It is a beautiful dive in clear water. You can see plenty of scorpion fish, lion fish, trumpet fish, groupers, and bat fish
Max depth: 32 meters. The wreck starts in 21-meter deep water. Recommended certification level: Advanced Open Water Diver, Wreck Diver Specialty.
HISTORY OF THE ERROR IN NAMING THIS WRECK: The Japanese had many ships named Nanshin Maru. One Nanshin Maru was a Japanese freighter sunk in the Malacca Straits by a US submarine. There was also a tanker, the Nansai Maru ex. British oiler Ploiden, sunk at Black Island during WWII. This ship was captured in Hong Kong and renamed by the Japanese. The location of the Nansai Maru is not definitely known. It may be on the opposite side of Black Island in 60 meters of water.
Japanese freighter approximately 160-180 meters long.
Location: Northeast of Busuanga Island. Due to it’s distance from the other Coron Dive sites, this wreck is dived by a one hour Van ride to the north end of Busuanga and transferring to a rented dive boat. This is done as an all-day trip for two dives on the Kyokuzan Maru.
This is a beautiful wreck dive experience. More or less intact, this huge sunken ship usually offers good visibility of about 20 meters and ideal diving conditions. Japanese staff cars and trucks can be found in the cargo rooms
Max depth: 40 meters on the bottom. The deck level lies between 22 and 28 meters. Recommended certification level: Advanced Open Water Diver, Wreck Diver Specialty.
Siete Picados Reef (Seven Islands)
Located to the east beyond the lighthouse in Coron town This reef is the subject of a conservation programme and the coral and fish life appear to improve almost monthly. The outstanding features of this reef are large formations of pristine staghorn coral and table corals and, to the eastern side, gorgonia fans. Some of the small islands connect underwater via small saddles. There are schools of reef fish and juvenile barracuda and small Napoleon Wrasse together with three Green Sea turtles.
Max depth: 22 meters. Recommended certification level: Open Water Diver
This page is still under construction with more Coron dive sites to be added
Length: 100 meters & max depth: 25 Meters
The Morazan was an English passenger cargo vessel that was captured by the Japanese Navy. She sits on her starboard side. The Morazan’s four massive cargo holds are empty, but a pair of massive boilers in the engine room is what is interesting to see.
While this wreck is ideal for Open Water, the Advance divers will enjoy a complete penetration from bow to stern.
Maximum depth: 20 meters
CYC Island is one of the areas where we conduct skills session for the Open Water Course due to the sandy bottom and adequate depth. There is an interesting reef which will allow some exploration after the skills are done.
Coron Drop Off