Print version diving in Coron, Busuanga, Palawan (approx. 3-4 pages)

For the maps (print version) click here / Back to main page about Coron

A special place for divers who like wreck diving is Coron Bay close to Sangat island in Busuanga (North Palawan, Philippines). I have visited this dive area twice (2000 and 2003) and I was impressed by beautifully covered wrecks They are in excellent condition and lie at depths that can be reached by sport divers (you can take Nitrox courses at the dive resort) and the dive guides know a lot about where to find all kinds of rare animals. We stayed both times at Sangat island - it is like staying in a paradise - very quiet but a nice little beach, comfortable bungalows and good food.

Please take note, that all dives on the wrecks have to be planned very carefully. I personally think a dive computer is a must, because it is very easy to get close to deco-time! There are buoys with lines on all wrecks and our dive guide always had a tank with a regulator hanging at 5m depth under the dive boat.

Our deepest dive was 35m to 39m on Irako where we did a very difficult dive through the kitchen and workrooms and 36m on Akitsushima where we dived through the large rent of the ship and past wheels, pipes and electric wires. I recommend these dives only for experienced divers. Just stay on the deck of these wrecks and enjoy the abundant life there!

The Wrecks In Coron Bay:

On this page you will find only small drawings of the wrecks, more to illustrate possible ways how to dive on the wrecks. Larger illustrations can be found on other sites in the Internet: Sangat Island (references see description of wrecks below) / Discovery Divers (small drawings, some photos). Most GPS numbers were taken by my dive buddy Broschi. Please note, that GPS (global positioning system) datum is not the same as Luzon datum (on the maps), there are small differences.

Okikawa Maru wreck (formerly Taiei Maru)

  • Japanese civilian tanker / oiler
  • 160m long
  • Max depth 26m
  • Deck 10-16m
  • GPS N 12° 01,056° / E 119° 58,171°
  • Bow heading 5° N
  • photo / drawing / more information

The Okikawa Maru was was lying in the harbour of Manila,but left for Coron on the 22. September. On the 24. September 1944 the Okikawa was hit by bombs, caught fire and sank. After the attack part of the ship was still visible but after a second attack on the 9. October the ship sank to the bottom.
New researches have proved, that this ship is actually the Japanese oiler Okikawa Maru (the Taiei Maru was already sunk by the US submarine USS Haddo in August 1944).

Possible dives on the wreck and things to see:
I have put this wreck as the first, because diving on this ship really makes you realize, that these ships were hit by bombs in the war and sank. The whole front of the ship is broken and twisted into an incredible shape.
We also swan several times through the front part of the wreck, starting at a large square cargo bay on top and coming out in the middle of the twisted front (arrow). Specially that part of the ship is very impressive!
I found the top structure a very interesting area. This is a large longish grid of steel covered with an incredible variety of corals, hydroids and sponges.

Animals to see:
We found many nudibranchs (Flabellina rubr., Nembrotha lin.) and saw mating flatworms and some very special tunicates (Neptheis) growing there. On one dive several large jellyfish were over the wrecks and small mackerels were tearing at them to get a bite to eat.

Akitsushima Wreck

  • Japanese Navy Seaplane Tender
  • 113m long, 16 wide, draught 6.5 m
  • Max depth: 38m / min 17m
  • Average 26m
  • GPS ca. N 11° 59,226´ / E 119° 58,412´
  • Bow heading 110° SE
  • For experienced divers
  • photo / drawing / more information

The Akitsushima is the only warship sunk in Coron Bay. She was anchoring west of Lusung beween Lajo island and Mangalet close to the Okikawa Maru.

Possible dives on the wreck and things to see:
The Akitsushima is a seaplane tender with a crane used to lower the planes down into the water. The planes (Kawanishi) would then take off from there. On deck you can still see parallel lines.
This ship broke apart in the back. That is actually a very interesting place to go into the wreck. We dived through the crack from the underside of the wreck (the keel) through twisted metalsheets and a cloud of glasfish. In front there are gun placements. You can dive away from the wreck, following the radio mast all covered with black corals and sponges. Close to the mast are gunplacements pointing to the bottom.

Animals to see:
lionfish, a group of batfish, many glasfish, black corals, shrimps and much more. In the big gap halfway to the back there are small waspfish hiding (see Kogyo Maru) in the black corals. My dive buddy Broschi found a nudibranch, that I haven't been able to identify yet. Look at this photo.

Andy Pownell from Sangat island Resort has found a small boat about 50 m from the Akitsushima, probably a landing boat. There might be other parts of ships or planes lying undiscovered in the Coron Bay, most probably quite small though.

Irako Wreck

  • Jap. Refrigeration ship , navy provision store ship
  • 147m long
  • Max depth 43m
  • Deck 28-35m
  • GPS N 11° 58,070´ / E 120° 02,409´
  • Bow heading 210° SW
  • For experienced divers (deep)
  • photo / drawing / more information and about the ship

The Irako was already damaged before reaching Coron Bay. During the attack by the US Air Force the bombs hit the bridge.

Possible dives on the wreck and things to see:
This wreck is very impressive. Since the wreck is quite deep it is generally only recommended for experienced divers. For our first dive we stayed mostly on top. We entered the wreck in the back where the wheelhouse is. Go inside, there is a nice looking steering wheel to be seen. Then we went into the large cargo bays. On the way up on the masts we saw several times a turtle eating some sponges.
The most impressive dive we did was underneath the superstructure. During the air raid this structure was bombed and flattened. We went down into a cargo bay to 36m and swam through the galley. The ceiling was only about 1.5m from the floor, because the bombs had pressed everything together like a sandwich. You can see large pots with lids, electric wiring and the bull eyes, then you swim out over a stairway (blue arrow). It is also possible to enter from a rent in the wreck (40m) just next to the rudder and continue from there to the galley. This is only for experienced divers with very good bouyency! There is a lot of silt and visibility can get very bad, if you fin too hard. There is no immediate possibility to get out or surface, you have to swim back (or on) at least part of the way.

Animals to see:
We saw some nudibranchs and the wreck is nicely covered with bushes of black coral.

Ekkai Maru (formerly Olympia Maru / formerly Morazon)

  • Japanese army cargo ship
  • Ca. 120m long
  • Max depth 25m
  • Min. depth 18m
  • GPS N 11° 58,253´ / E 120° 3,678´
  • Bow heading 210° WSW
  • photo / drawing / more information

The origin and name of this cargo vessel is not really known. I use the name Olympia Maru as she is called by most. Some investigators think they can read something like Cei...s..h on the stern. In his booklet "Operation against Coron Bay" HP. Landolt writes, that the name could be also Taiei Maru. The newest information (2010) is that it is called Ekkai Maru (ex Morazon).

Possible dives on the wreck and things to see:
We did several dives on this wreck, and I liked it very much. The lines are attached to the rudder and near the bridge since she lies on the starboard side. The square cargo bays are an ideal way to enter the wreck and swim through it. From the second entrance to the left you can swim into the bridge area and out through the hole. The superstructure is very nicely covered with soft corals and bushes of black corals (=yellow colored bushes) and there are a lot of lionfishes around always.

Animals to see:
When we were there, we noticed a very interesting event. On the upper side of the ship close to the big bomb hole were hundreds of slugs (Chelidonura amoena) mating. They formed large tangles of perhaps fifty slugs.
Another interesting thing was the fact, that many soft corals were literally covered with tiny acoelous flatworms (Waminoa sp.). These small (5mm) flatworms are found in clusters on various soft corals (they look like brown dots) but here they had multiplied so much, that they were harming the corals. Several corals were shriveled up and were dying. These flatworms carry symbiotic algae (Dinoflagellates) inside their cells with which they can use sunlight to produce sugar.

Kogyo Maru Wreck

  • Japanese navy auxiliary supply ship
  • 160m long
  • Max depth 34m
  • Min depth 20m
  • GPS N 11° 58,798´/ E 120° 2,386
  • Bow heading 230° SW
  • photo and drawing

This ship was ordered from Manila to Coron Bay, arriving there just a day before the attack. Hit by several bombs she sank with 39 sailors on board.

Possible dives on the wreck and things to see:
Look at the cargo holds where you can find the cement bags, bulldozer and rolls of wire inside. Anti aircraft guns are placed on deck. The masts and the superstructure are very nice to swim through.
Another dive - quite difficult - is through the mashine room, then through propeller shaft (very narrow) and out close to the rudder.

Animals to see:
On the upper edge of the deck we found some huge nudibranchs (Joruma funebris) about six of them eating a blue sponge. When we came back some days later, they were still at it, the sponge looked a bit smaller!
There is also a special waspfish (Paracentropogon longispinus), that lives in small groups (usually you find them alone) in the black corals and hydroids.

Tangat wreck (new name Olympia Maru)

  • Japanese freighter / cargo ship
  • 120m long
  • Max depth 25m
  • Min depth 14m
  • GPS N 11° 58,253´ / E 120° 03,680´
  • photo and drawing

It is not certain which ship this is, I have read, that she might be the Morazon Maru or the Taiei Maru. I call her Tangat wreck, since it lies only 10min. from the Sangat resort on the west side of Sangat island close to some pearl farms. Newer information (2010) gives the name as Olympia Maru.

Possible dives on the wreck and things to see:
Deck levels are at 18-24m, so it is a good wreck to start with your wreck diving experience and since there are so many masts it is easy to make your ascend to the surface!
An interesting dive is to go into the first cargo bay in the stern, then dive through a narrow hole into the second bay and continue to the mashine room (with boilers), then dive back on deck.

Animals to see:
There are some nice black coral bushes, usually covered by clouds of glasfish and juvenile barracudas and if you take a look you will find some hidden predators like scorpionfishes or waspfishes calmly sitting their waiting to catch their dinner. There are also blue sponges with the beautiful white and black Jorunna funebris nudibranchs.

Sangat Gun Boat wreck: (photo, GPS N 11° 58,452´ / E 120° 04,773´) Small gun boat or submarine hunter, 43m long, lying from 3m to 19m deep. Very easy dive. Small reef close by. Good for night dive. We found interesting crabs and shrimps and even a Harlekin ghost pipe fish!

Lusong wreck CH32: (drawing, GPS N 11° 58,255´ / E 120° 01,453´) is a Japanese subchaser. The stern brakes the surface at low tide. Max. depth 10m. Length 35m. This wreck is very open and sponges and corals cover it nicely. We saw a huge cuttlefish and some moray eels. Also good for snorkeling.

Other wrecks to dive:

Nanshin Maru wreck (Black island beach): (photo and drawing, GPS N 12° 09,298´ / E 119° 49,193´) It is a Japanese tanker / oiler, ca. 40-50m long and lies not very deep. This is a nicely covered wreck and can be reached from Coron by daytrip.

Kyokuzan wreck: (drawing, GPS N 12° 09,810´ / E 120° 09,249´) It is a Japanese army cargo ship and 136m long. Min depth 10m / max. depth 41m. Cars and trucks can be found in the cargo holds. This is supposed to be a very nice wreck. Unfortunately it lies in the north of Busuanga and dive operators from Coron visit it rarely and only if they have a larger group of divers. I have heard, that Club Paradise Resort offers trip there (this resort is far from the other wreks) and the liveboards visit this wreck also.

Landing craft wreck (Malcatop island): (photo) Starts at 2m to max. depth 18m. Lies on coral reef.

Fishing boat wreck (recent): (photo) Ca. 35m long, max. depth 16m.

Other places to dive:

Sangat Housereef: Probably most divers visiting Sangat island prefer the wrecks to this small reef. My dive buddy Broschi and I made a very nice night dive though and found some very interesting animals like decorator crabs and Skeleton shrimps (Caprella sp.). You can also do some snorkeling during the day - nothing spectacular - but look for the jawfish near the rocks! They are huge!

Dynamite Reef: This dive site lies on the way from Sangat to Culion city. The reefs around Sangat island have suffered some from coral bleaching. But this reef is still very nice. We saw many different nudibranchs, fish, anemones and a rare species of tunicates (Neptheis).

Barracuda Lake (Cayangan lake, Coron island): There are interesting and bizzare underwater limestone formations to be seen. To dive at this lake you have to climb up a very steep incline. The top 4m of the lake water is fresh sweet water, below it is salt water. Temperatures range from 28 to 42 degrees Celsius. At approx. 35m the water changes from clear water to a brown color. There is a large barracuda who lives in the lake.

Cathedral Cave (Coron island south): Steep drop off to 30m, cave on 7m. About 20m long tunnel with large underwater cave where you can surface. I don't know this place, but it is said to be very nice.

History of the Coron wrecks:

Located about 170 nautical miles southwest of Manila, Coron Bay allegedly was safe as an assembly area. Some ships actually transfered from Manila after a warning. 12 (or 18?) Japanese freighters and warships were anchoring in Coron bay.
At 6:00 am on 24. September 1944, 80 Grumman H6F Hellcat and Curtis SB2C Helldiver planes took off from carriers commanded by of vice admiral William F. Halsey's 38th Task Force and headed for Coron. At the time this was the longest range for a air attack ever launched from aircraft carriers. They started approx. 340 miles (over 500km) from target, over 120 planes met in midair and then went on to Busuanga. Some planes were airborne for more than 6 hours. Several planes were lost after running out of fuel on the return trip and some shot down by guns from the Japanese fleet and from gun placements on the islands around Coron Bay.
At 9:00 am the planes reached Coron and located the 12 (or 18?) large Japanese vessels and started their attacks. After a 40 minute attack the planes left, leaving a scene of devastation behind. The main concentration of the ships were sunk in the bay in between Sangat island and Lusong, some started to leave and were sunk near Manglet island. One ship, the Kamoi (a oiler) made it to Hong Kong. The reports show that some ships were sunk by direct hits - others by bombs that breached the hull under water.

Why stay on Sangat island?

The dive operator Sangat island reserve is right there on the spot (see map), close to where most of the wrecks lie. All the other dive operators (mainly from Coron city) have to make a 40 to 60 min. boat trip every time they want to make a wreck dive.

Sangat island is a very quiet place. The bungalows are very spacious and most of them lie right there at the beach, but don't expect aircon or other amenities. Instead of aircon there is always a slight wind and you can leave doors and windows open with no fear of being robbed. There is electricity, but only for 4 to 6 hours in the evenings (and even then you won't need it, because you will sit on the balcony and watch the sunset coloring the sky and then the stars...) but there is running water (though semi salty) and very nice showers. Food is excellent and softdrinks, beer and liquors are available (very good peanuts with garlic!!). There is also a hot spring around the corner, hidden behind some mangroves. We soaked in hot water in the small pool after some dives we made and felt like in paradise!

The dive operation is professionally run, the divemasters have a lot of experience in wreckdiving. Rental equipment is available. You can do a Nitrox course and then dive on the wrecks - it gives you much more time on the wrecks. Actually we ran out of air before we got into deco on our computers (tanks available, though no Nitrox computers). After they have checked on your diving abilities, usually you can choose, to which dive site you want to go. Boat rides take from 10 minutes to about half an hour. You can make night dives on the house reef.

Some history about Culion:

Culion (city south of Sangat) is known in the Philippines as the country's Leper Colony. It is under American administration since 1905. The early medical services were provided by the Sisters of St. Paul. In 1908 a hospital was built, subsequently passing under administration of the Department of Health. The Culion Sanitarium today serves as a general hospital for the entire Calamian. Leprosy can be stopped or cured by a multi drug therapy but often limbs are lost to the illness.

You can visit Culion easily from Sangat island and look at the church, the sanitarium and the some parts of the fort. Make a dive at dynamite reef on the way back.

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