March 30, 2008
Coron, Palawan: Skin Diving
Snorkeling - swimming on the surface of the water (no going under) with mask and snorkel
Somehow, Coron seems too obscure...too far from the beaten path. Few even know where it is. But I hear it offers excellent skin diving and WWII wreck dives. On that basis, I couldn't say no when Tribal Adventures owner and friend invited me for a taste of island hopping, sea kayaking, skin diving, beach camping...in short, the life.
Skin Diving - swimming underwater with mask, fins and snorkel without the aid of air tanks
I was on my own the first night. Luckily, there were still P150/night lodging - Sea Coral, and it's not a rat-hole...common washroom and fan room. I walked around the town...the public market (where I saw a moral eel as wide as my thigh, chopped up and sold for less than the cheapest fish...P50/kilo...my heart sank), dive shops, reataurant (with my budget of P50/meal, make that eateries or carinderias), etc. I realized there's not much in Coron town itself. It doesn't even have a beach. Most of the fun is on the many scattered islands accessible by pumpboat. Some tourists take the daily boat ride to wherever, some check-in at an island resort and get based there, and others, bring their provisions and camp on a island beach.
Making a Living in Paradise
The following day, we were joined by 2 other Boracay denizens, Claus, who owns Paradise English, the only English (as a second language) school in Boracay, and Dennis, who owns the Isla Gecko Resort. Together with my host, these 3 have managed to make a decent living in paradise, in order to live in paradise...cool, eh? My host rounded up his Coron 'staff' for provisions and equipment preparation. We were only 4 with a staff of 7 - 4 girls who looked after the kitchen (and our aching backs), 2 boat guys and a guide.
Puerto Gallera 20 Years Ago
Coron somehow reminds me of diving in Puerto Gallera 20 years ago...every island has its own coral reef and everything is alive and colorful when you take the plunge. Well, Puerto is mostly a coral graveyard now. On top of that, Coron is a much bigger scale. You can ride a pumpboat the whole day and not run out of corals to dive to. The water is clear, clean...and yes, full of giant jelly fish (as in 18 inches in diameter!). They come in clusters though. Just avoid the cluster and you'll be ok.
The story goes that during World War II, the Americans under Admiral Halsey, bombed and sunk 24 Japanese cargo and war ships. Todate, 17 have been found, and 12 of them are diveable (scuba). I only got the chance to dive 2 as they were within skin diving depths - the Gunboat (or submarine Hunter) in front of Lusong Island and the fishing boat off Coron Bay. The whole ship (or the skeleton) was completely encrusted with colorful hard corals. While the top of the ships were at a comfortable depth, going deep down to its base was quite a challenge for a guy on one single breath. There were many regular size fishes at my level, but I could imagine that by going deeper, bigger fishes like grouper can be seen.
Kayaking and Skin Diving
A new way to explore the reef for me was on sea kayak. Usually, pumpboats will take you to the established snorkeling sites. Maybe there's 2 or 3 of them. The average Joe now thinks that's all there is to it. With sea kayaks however, you get to explore the less beaten path. Perhaps you can even make a first descent on a reef - snorkeling that is. Scuba divers won't bother with these, but for skin diving, it's just perfect. I discovered just by looking underneath the clear blue waters the riches that the reef underneath me held. Most of them, I could even make out the terrain. I was particularly fascinated by the overhang reef. What could lay beneath that overhang? I did get a chance to find out. It was surreal. It was like having a coral roof over your head.
Given the time constraint, the wind, and all the other activities lined up (motor bike riding, kayaking, etc), I didn't get to explore much of Coron's coral reef (although it might actually take a life time to explore all of it). But just like most of the places I'd been to, it's only to give me an excuse for the 'next time'. With the plane fare war going on between Air Phil, Sea Air and Asian Spirit, 'next time' will be sooner rather than later.
From Coron Town, hire a pumpboat for the whole day (P1500) to take you to any the following places:
- Cayangan Lake inside Coron Island (P200/head) - snorkeling
- Baracuda Lake inside Coron Island (P100/head)
- Sangat Island
- CYC Beach
- Black Islands
- Maquinit Hot Spring in Coron Town Harbor (but can be approached by boat) - hot saltwater spring
- Los Siete Pecados - a fish sanctuary off Coron Harbor
- North and South Cay
* pictures courtesy of Portia Montoya
(Apr 16, 2008) Nice site! It was really great seeing you and talking to you in Coron. I'm sad the photos underwater are not as clear. Nice pa naman the way you dive. =( Take care and continue enjoying life!
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