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Wednesday 22 Feb 2023
Coron, Philippines

Scuba diving sunken Japanese wrecks!

The night before I wandered around trying to decide what to do after completing the Ultimate Tour. I had seen a lot on the Ultimate Tour that I was keen to revisit and spend a longer time at, but I also wanted to do some self-touring at my own pace if possible.

I had a few options...

Since I had to get to El Nido eventually (in order to get down to Puerto Princesa for my flight back to Cebu, which I had already booked) I could take a liveaboard boat from Coron to El Nido over a span of two days, visiting islands as you go. Normally these would be booked out well in advance, but by chance there was one space available on a boat leaving the following morning on the 22nd Feb if I really wanted to. The thing is, this would have been another group thing and each stop you visit would have been time limited again. Wasn't really what I was looking for if I could avoid it.

The alternative would be to do some activitied in Coron and then take the fast ferry to El Nido which takes about 8 hours.

I left the travel agency letting them know I'd have a think and get back to them in an hour. And just as I stepped out, I popped into a dive shop right next door (what did I tell you, Coron is PACKED with tour shops!) just to enquire.

I hadn't dived in years (maybe since Malta 6 years earlier!), but the guys told me there was space available the next day for some wreck dives and that they would give me a refresher dive too. I was intrigued and decided there and then I'd go for it!

So, on the 22nd Feb I got to the dive shop and crazy o'clock (6am I think). I was still suffering a little bit with congestion in my ears from a flu I had in December but they gave me a tablet and told me to take it. I had no idea what it was but that little drug cleared up my ears no end!!! It could have been an Ecstasy tablet for all I knew, but I didn't want the damn cold stopping me from enjoying myself, and thankfully the gamble paid off!

On board were the usual suspects of Europeans who dive regularly (I always wonder where these people are living that they can do dives all the time... usually places like Germany or Switzerland), and an Italian guy that I actually became friends with for a few days following simply because I had my dive GoPro knockoff with me (always a great ice breaker that thing!).

The first dive was a refresher and it was in an amazing location with a thermocline. I managed to pass the refresher with flying colours (thanks to cramming like a mad thing watching dive lesson YouTube videos the night before!) and followed the instructor as he took me through the hot and cold thermoclines, something I'd never experienced, or even heard of before!

You could actually see where the water separated between hot and cold levels, they never mixed. You could be swimming in a hot level and stick up your arm into the cold layer and it would be freezing! Amazing experience.

Following this dive we were onto the wreck dives. Now these were scary!!! Not only were they 40m down (remember I had barely done a refresher dive 30 mins earlier!), but the instructor I was with actually led me THROUGH the huge sunken wrecks. Actually INSIDE the rusting galleys!! Normally you need to do a PADI course to learn how to wreck dive, but I guess those kinds of rules are out the proverbial  galley port window in the Phillipines!

I didn't have a choice but to follow my instructor as he took me deeper and deeper into the dark interior of the ship, but I persevered and got over the fear and, armed with my torch, I took loads of photos and videos and thoroughly enjoyed myself!

Visibility in the ships was a little murky, which enhanced the scary atmosphere. I also had the nagging reminder that 100s of sailors were killed when these ships were sunk by American torpedoes during World War 2, and their bodies were still down here.

There were 2 wreck dives in all, and later that night I met up with the Italian guy, Luca, for some beers in one of excellent bars that are in Coron (yes apart from hotels and tour shops, bars and restaurants take up the remaining space in Coron!!)

I also managed to arrange my activity for the next day, which was going to prove to be one of the highlights of the entire trip...

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Philippines 2023

Travel blog by peterforan

Getting saturated in tropical rain on scooter

Getting saturated in tropical rain on scooter

Philippines has been on my must-do list for a while now, particularly as everyone was gushing about it while I was in Indonesia. This trip was supposed to have been done around 2018, but delays and then Covid hampered things a tad!

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