In the year 1944, the Philippines sheltered a number of Japanese vessels in its magnificent Coron Bay. Soon after discovering the presence of these vessels, the US Navy completely bombarded the Philippines and unknowingly created one of the best and most plentiful wreck diving sites in the world. With over 10 wrecks lying beneath the waves at Coron Bay, divers now flock to this area to explore the numerous pieces of World War II history that lie on the sea floor.
The Kogyo Maru
Ideal for those just starting to enjoy wreck dives, the Kogyo Maru is entirely covered in corals of all types making it a very colourful and interesting wreck site. The vessel was heavily loaded when it sank and now lies on its starboard side still housing plenty of building materials and equipment. In fact, the freighter has 6 cargo holds in total, some of which still contain an entire bulldozer. Divers can enjoy the ironic sight of large air compressors under water together with tractors, cement mixers and numerous cement bags. Large groupers now call the Kogyo Maru home and seem blissfully unaware of the large anti-aircraft guns located on the deck. For those divers looking for even more adventure, head into the engine room to get a feel for what life on-board was really like.
The Irako is a most unusual wreck dive and offers some superb and interesting sites for wreck diving and WWII enthusiasts. Once serving as a refrigeration vessel, this 200 metre ship used to house a machine shop with a wide variety of tools used and stored on-board. Sitting upright at a minimum depth of 28 metres, divers visiting the Irako can see old metal lathes, bench drills and many more interesting tools. If you’re less interested in the remains and more interested in the thriving marine life, get your underwater camera ready to capture images of scorpion fish, yellowfin tuna and lionfish.
The Akitsushima is a seaplane tender that now lies on its starboard side at a depth of between 26-38 metres between Busuanga and Culion. Alongside the wreck is the still intact crane structure once used to tender the seaplanes. Impressive in size and boasting a magnificent anti-aircraft gun completely covered in coral, the Akitsushima suffered quite a bit of damage as it sank, which is the reason only wreck-certified divers may swim through the wreck. There’s still plenty to see from the outside of the vessel, with batfish, groupers and colourful tropical fish in abundance.
The Okikawa Maru
The Okikawa Maru is a long tanker that lies at a maximum depth of 26 metres making it accessible to the vast majority of divers who are comfortable diving at this depth. For those who prefer a shallower dive there is still much to see as the vessel’s top deck lies at only 10 to 16 metres deep. Strong currents can sometimes be cause for concern and divers should be aware of the dangers of diving this wreck before attempting it. Danger aside, the 168 metre tanker has been described as the most visually appealing wreck in Coron thanks to the colourful corals that completely cover the wreck. Grouper, snapper and batfish are in abundance in the area. The vessel was previously mistaken for the Taiei Maru and divers who hold an advanced wreck certification are able to swim right through the shaft of the propeller to the vessel’s engine room.
The Morazan lies at an easily accessible 26 metres and offers 120 metres of intriguing experiences. Lying on its starboard side divers are able to explore what was once the engine room as well as the massive cargo areas which were used for transporting all kinds of items during the war. Originally mistaken for the Olympia Maru, the Morazan has now been correctly identified and boasts an abundance of marine life to see. Sea turtles, sea snakes, sweetlips and large groupers are all regulars at the Morazan.
The Olympia Maru
Formerly known as the Tangat Wreck because no one was able to correctly identify it, the vessel now known as the Olympia Maru offers 160 metres to explore and enjoy. Lying at depths of between 18 and 30 metres, the Olympia Maru was a cargo ship that now houses a different kind of cargo – large batfish, puffer fish and shoals of big tropical beauties.
The Kyokuzan Maru
If you’re both a WWI enthusiast and a car lover, you’re in luck. The Kyokuzan Maru was a cargo ship that sunk with an entire load of trucks and cars which still lie there today. Although the wreck involves quite a long jeep journey to reach as it is on the opposite side of the Island of Busuanga, it promises to be well worth the trip.
The Lusong Gunboat
Located just off Lusong Island is the fantastic Lusong Gunboat that doesn’t even require scuba gear to visit. Snorkelers enjoy the wide array of colourful hard corals that can be seen growing on the gunboat’s surface and there’s plenty of opportunity to practice your underwater wreck photography skills too. Lying at a maximum depth of only 12 metres, you’re unlikely to need an attachable camera light for this stunning wreck. The gunboat is in fact so shallow that the stern actually rises out above the water’s surface during the low tide.
The Nanshin Maru
The Nanshin Maru has an interesting, albeit confusing, history. There have been a number of reports and stories about this Japanese vessel – some say that it was hit by a submarine, others say it was involved in a collision with another ship and still others believe that it actually ran aground. Known to the locals as Black Island Wreck, divers, historians and WWII enthusiasts cannot even agree whether it was a steamer or a Japanese tanker as there were apparently several Japanese tankers with the same name. Regardless of what you think happened to the Nanshin Maru, the fact remains that it is a superb dive site that often boasts phenomenal visibility. Easily accessible for most divers, the vessel lies at a depth of only 21 – 32 metres and sits upright on the sea’s sandy bottom. Underwater photographers and night divers all love this site for not only the historical significance and mystery, but also the fact that batfish, scorpion fish, trumpet fish and lion fish can be seen here.