There are two places in Asia that are very famous for wreck diving: Truk Lagoon in Micronesia and Coron Bay in Palawan. The first wreck we dived in Coron (the 120m warship, Akitsushima) was bombed twice during the attack on Truk, but managed to escape, only to be repaired and then finally sunk in Coron Bay. How unlucky is that?
The Akitsushima was nearly ripped in half by the explosion, but the two halves remain surprisingly intact – as do all of the wrecks. It’s an eerie feeling to swim through cargo holds and engine rooms and see all the machinery and hardware still complete, albeit coral encrusted. Inside the Kogya Maru (a Japanese freighter carrying construction supplies, intended for building a runway) it appeared they had tried to plug a hole with cement sacks – we could see this clearly in the light coming through the much larger hole above us. However the human evidence of the attacks has presumably been recovered (or stolen? I hope recovered), as the only human remains we saw was a single arm bone lying next to the Akitsushima.
And this leads to my one reservation about the wrecks: I couldn’t help feeling somewhat voyeuristic, diving in a war grave. Perhaps this is also what makes it so exciting - that idea of a precise moment of time and history, captured and preserved by the ocean.
In my head I have so many perfect images: dropping down to 36 metres and looking up at the towering hulk of the Irako; peering through a hatch and seeing a very surprised looking grouper looking back at me; watching a blue-spotted stingray gently burying itself in the sand at the base of a massive propeller; the speckled light coming through jagged holes; a lone ladder dropping down into a deep, black shaft; schools of jacks gathering around the crows nest… such beauty in destruction.
I would go back tomorrow and dive them all again.
I should also mention Barracuda Lake, which was without doubt, the trippiest dive I have ever done! It is a fresh water lake, in the crater of an old volcano. The scenery is dramatic: the approach to the island reminded me of King Kong’s Island! It’s a forbidding, but sunny, place. To get to the lake you must climb up and over some jagged rocks in full gear (I will never complain about shore diving again). And the dive! Blimey. On the surface the temperature is was 28ºC, we dropped and admired the same sheer cliff walls now underwater, at 12m we passed the first thermocline – a shimmering line across our vision and quickly I watched the temp gauge on my computer shoot up: 29…30…31….32….33…34……35…36ºC! Really! It was uncomfortably hot, I touched the wall of the lake and the sand was hot. Our guide was rubbing the sand, then suddenly a jet of hot water shot out… all very strange!
We kept descending: at about 25m the water turned into tea. Literally. There is a layer of tannin at the bottom of the lake. At 30 metres it was so stewed we lost our guide – he was no more than 50cm in front… and then gone. I was with two others – I held on to Claire! The other girl was a Divemaster, so I didn’t hold on to her – but she stayed very close. At 33m I could not longer see my hand in front of my face! It was absolutely black. And that was as far as I was prepared to go!
I am on holiday! Hurrah! And what does a Dive Instructor, who lives on a tropical island, do for her holidays, I hear you ask? Well, obviously I’ve come to another tropical island to do some… guess what? Yep, diving!
I am actually very much looking forward to diving WITHOUT STUDENTS! I am looking forward to having a guide and not having to navigate and I am very, very much looking forward to looking at fish and not at the other divers.
We, (my friend Claire and I) have come to Coron, Palawan, one of the more remote spots in the Philippines to dive the wrecks here. In 1944 the Japanese ‘hid’ their fleet in Coron Bay, unfortunately for them, the Americans spotted them and launched an attack. The air-strike was sent from aircraft carriers 350 miles away – setting a new record for long distance raids.
There are 18 wrecks here – I am not sure how many we will get to do, but we start tomorrow! Hurrah!
Habitual nomad finding a home. In more than 14 years of haphazard wandering I've visited 28 countries on five continents. I've climbed five volcanoes - they smell awful. I've dived with sharks - they're beautiful. I have never seen a badger. I've lived and worked in Australia, Canada, the US, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and the Philippines. I once spent four months at sea working on a fishing boat. I have successfully bribed a customs official. I can't sing in tune. I have witnessed an animal sacrifice. I have seen a bear shit in the woods. I am a stranger in my own country. I am an atheist. I don’t believe a civilised society should be tolerant of ignorance. I like people who can spell. Dark chocolate makes me weak. Crowds make me nervous. I have principles. I am a Graphic Designer. I am a Yoga Teacher. I am a Dive Instructor. I loiter without intent. I can, quite happily, watch paint dry.
"And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." — T. S. Eliot
"Don’t go off sightseeing. The real journey is right here. The great excursion starts from exactly where you are. You are the world. You have everything you need. You are the secret. You are the wide opened. Don’t look for the remedy for your troubles outside yourself. You are the medicine. You are the cure for your own sorrow." — Rumi
"It is to be remarked that a good many people are born curiously unfitted for the fate waiting them on this earth." — Joseph Conrad
"You don't get reformed - you just run out of wind." — Carlito's Way