Coron Bay is home to some of the best preserved WWII shipwrecks in the world, as well as a rich underwater ecosystem teeming with walls of coral and over 1200 marine species. It’s really no wonder that the Philippines often makes the lists of the best diving holidays and diving Coron is on many a scuba diver’s bucket list. Coron sounded like a diver’s paradise, so we packed our shiny new dive certification cards and headed to the island nation.
Tim and I had absolutely no dive experience other then the dives we did to complete our open water dive certification course in the Bahamas. But Coron’s dive sites seemed to offer quite a few options for beginner divers like ourselves and the dive master at Two Seasons Coron Island helped us plan a week full of diving that both suited our abilities and interests.
Barracuda Lake was easily the most unique dive experience we had in Coron.
Coron has several fresh water lakes, though tourists can only visit two of them. We visited both, and though the view from Kayangan Lake is the most photographed spot in Coron for a reason, it’s Barracuda Lake that we’ll definitely never forget.
Diving in fresh water is different than diving in salt water, so it was more than hauling my dive gear up rickety wooden stairs and slick granite rocks that made my legs shake on the short hike to the lake. Our dive master also told us we’d essentially be diving in a hot spring. I had no idea what to expect.
Barracuda Lake is a heliocline and a thermocline, meaning it has layers of both salt and fresh water. The water temperatures vary, with water as hot as 38° C (100° F).
We found the water warm enough in the Philippines not to wear wet suits at all, even diving up to the maximum our NAUI open water certification allows at 18 meters (60 feet). I could have left my long sleeve dive shirt behind for this dive too. After the first 12 meters (about 40 feet), the water temperature increases to pretty warm and then almost uncomfortably hot as you descend to the depths of the lake.
Tim laughed as I made a fanning myself motion, like that was going to work. I was really just trying to signal to him that I was really hot.
There’s not many fish in Barracuda Lake, but there’s still a lot to see while diving this site. Though the water is incredibly clear, what you can’t tell from snorkeling or looking in to the clear water from the edges is just how deep this lake is. It’s not until we were swimming between the Avatar like mountain rifts and looking up to the summit of what felt like an underwater Everest that I really got a feel for the size and depth of this lake.
There are some shrimp in the lake and if you put your hand out, they’ll happy clean the silt off of you. I was content watching them clean our dive master’s hand. I don’t even like those fish spas where the fish eat the dead skin off your feet.
Without coral reef that we had to worry about scraping us or us damaging, we played around a bit with balancing and posing underwater together before beginning our ascent.
We’ve only got a handful of dives under our belts, but I suspect Barracuda Lake will be on the weirdest dives like for quite some time. Don’t miss it if you’re diving Coron!
The Lusong shipwreck is a very shallow wreck, lying at a depth from just 5 – 15 meters. The nearby reef is full of small reef fish and hard and soft corals. Admittedly, I wasn’t really in to the wreck dives. I’m a brand new diver and these dives were the first we’d done since our open water certification course six months earlier. I just wasn’t confident enough in controlling my buoyancy to swim inside or through the wreck, but Tim was.
While I went around and was content with looking at the hundreds of curious clown fish popping their heads out of the anemone they made home, Tim followed our dive master inside. Lusong shipwreck is a good dive for beginners new to wreck diving since the gunboat was relatively small at just 25 meters in length and lies in such shallow water. Even the stern breaks the surface of the water at low tide.
Just a skeleton of the ship, hence the name, Skeleton Wreck is another shipwreck in water shallow enough that you can technically snorkel and see it. We actually did do that as part of our Coron Island tour, but this is probably where I learned the true difference of what you see snorkeling versus diving and knew that the anxiety, tears and sea sickness I suffered during our open water dive certification was all worth it.
The wreck is situated with the stern down at 22 meters and there are corals wonderfully encrusted all over the wreck. The surrounding reef is also just teeming with fish like parrotfish, nudibranches and we even saw some cuttlefish thanks to our dive master who pointed out the kings of camouflage.
Because I was nervous to go inside at the other wreck sites we dove, this was my favorite of the wreck sites. With just the skeleton of the ship remaining, I could explore just about every nook and cranny of it very comfortably. Our visibility wasn’t great for our underwater photography, but it was such a mesmerizing, yet eerie feeling looking up at the entirety of the ship from down in the stern.
Our very first dive of our trip was the Sangat gunboat, named because the wreck lies just offshore of the eastern side Sangat Island. Because of the size at 35 meters in length, its always been referred to as a gunboat but divers somewhat recently discovered sonar on it and it’s thought that the ship was actually a submarine chaser.
There’s quite a few open cargo bays that allow pretty easy entry in to the ship and you can explore around inside. Just don’t forget a flashlight to see inside the holds.
Aside from exploring inside the wreck, which is suitable for beginner divers, there are sorts of marine life on and around the wreck. As we did everywhere, we saw tons of clownfish families in their anemone. There were also pufferfish, butterfly fish, shrimp and a variety of other fish our dive master would point out and tell us the names of by writing on a little white board.
The wrecks definitely provide an interesting change of scenery down in the depths, but the reefs are still my personal favorite to dive on. The walls of coral that suddenly drop off, making you suddenly feel small and not knowing what might come out of the deep blue exhilarate me.
We saw everything from blue spotted rays to a sea turtle that just hung out with us. It’s like Finding Nemo come to life down there. And by the way, I totally see how Finding Nemo happened! Those little clownfish sure are inquisitive and if you hover around with you camera long enough, they’ll come to investigate it.
Between the massive corals, colorful sponges, dancing anemones, schools of fish and sea turtles the Coral Garden is the spot that I would have stayed down with for hours if only those darn tanks didn’t eventually run out of air.
Diving and When to Go
There are a number of dive shops located in Coron Town and a good base to stay is Two Seasons Coron Bayside Hotel, a quiet retreat and brand new resort on the edge of Coron Town. It does take about 90 minutes to get out to most dive sites from Coron Town.
We did stay at Two Seasons Coron Bayside Hotel on our last night since we had a very early flight, but we spent the rest of our time staying at the very relaxed private island Two Seasons Coron Island Resort & Spa. The resort has an on-site dive center and our dive master, Joseph, helped us plan dives that matched both our skill level and interests. He did challenge our skills as well with the Barracuda Lake and wreck dives, which I think is important when starting out as we are.
You can dive year round in Coron, though there is a wet and dry season. The dry season is from December to June and Joseph did tell us that the visibility is at its best in the dry season, particularly in January and February.
Our visibility varied from dive to dive as some dive sites experience more of a current. We also dove just after two typhoons swept through the area.
Our trip was provided by Two Seasons Resorts in partnership with Tourism Promotions Board Philippines and TBEX in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own. This article contains affiliate links. When you book on Booking.com through our affiliate site, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. It just helps us keep things running here at Luxe Adventure Traveler!