It’s been far too long, but I’ve finally got a bit of free time and no trips planned for a whole month. Back to June. Back to The Philippines. Back to diving.
The Philippines is known worldwide for its diving. From the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park to the biodiversity of Puerto Galera, its a diver’s heaven. Though I’ll never tire of swimming alongside colorful marine life and spotting exotic animals, there’s something a bit more thrilling about doing so in a shipwreck. And Coron Bay has many to choose from.
A little bit of History
On September 23, 1944, Combat Air Control reported enemy activity in the area. The aircraft carriers USS Lexington, USS Intrepid, and USS Cabot ordered 24 bombers and 96 fighters to cover a chart distance of 350 miles on the following day. What happened next became one of the longest bombing missions in the history of U.S. naval aviation: a three hour flight before the attack that led to the ten shipwrecks.
For a thorough history of how the wrecks came to be, head to Coron Bay Air Raid History.
Seventy years later, these wrecks have become artificial reefs and are teeming with wildlife. After receiving our diving certifications, it was time for Mark and I to scuba-suit up and see for ourselves.
Our first dive was through Olympia Maru. In the photo of the guidebook above, you can see that there are four openings at the top of the ship. From the second one from the right was where we entered, and we made our way through. We had to be very careful of our breathing to be sure not to become more buoyant and hit our heads on the roofs of the ship.
We could see many shipping containers with Japanese writing and cargo drums. It was amazing to see something so human, yet so foreign to the other world that we’ve found under the sea, where tropical fish and corals had claimed it as their own. The ship was so big, it was like a warehouse was just dropped into the ocean.
Not gonna lie, I was totally feeling some Little Mermaid vibes. Unfortunately, we hadn’t yet bought our GoPro, so here’s some low-quality printed photos of the site:
Next up was Morazan Maru.
This one had far more traces of human life, as it was a passenger ship. There was even a toilet! Through the years of deterioration, its turned more into a few large chunks of porcelain, but it was still neat. Because Morazan Maru sunk onto its side, it was more challenging to orient where was up and down and it was more difficult to make our way through the narrow passageways of the ship without disturbing the corals.
What was really cool about this dive was that because of it’s side orientation, there’s a big pocket of air within the walls of the base of the ship. So we were able to take off our regulators and breathe some [not at all] fresh air all the way unda da sea.
Last up was Teru Kaze Maru.
Diving along with us was a guide, as well as a young tourist from the UK. He opted out of this last dive, as he said he had been travelling throughout Australia and South Asia for the last four months and his resources were depleted.
When we got back on the boat, I didn’t want to break it to him that it was my favorite of the dives. This wreck was much closer to the surface, so light was abundant, the colors of sea life and coral were far more vibrant and the corals were less spread apart. It was also a very small ship, so from the outside I was more able to see the shape of the hull more clearly. While Olympia Maru felt like a warehouse and Morazan Maru was disorienting, this one was without a doubt a ship. Hah! Not like I was doubting the others were, ;).
That being said, I think that whichever shipwreck dive is my latest will likely be my favorite. Diving, for me, is not one of those “you’ve seen one and you’ve seen ’em all” kind of things. It’s a more colorful, more thrilling, underwater hiking. It’s always different, full of sights, full of energy, and stunning.
Until next time,
Featured image via: diveprice.com.