Top 10 Dive Sites:
Taiei Maru, Coron, Calamian Islands
Diving on a wreck, Coron, Calamian Islands
It is a truism in diving that much of the pleasure from any one dive is based on sharing the enjoyment with those around you. With that in mind some of my favourite dives have been at seemingly average training dive sites with shallow water and not too much to see, however the rewards of being in the water and sharing with new divers the experience and their excitement is highly rewarding.
Choosing my absolute number one Philippines dive site is a tough task however. Diving at Monad Shoals, Malapascua for the first time many years ago was a great experience and I wish now that I had appreciated it more at the time. One week of Thresher Sharks and Manta Rays on every dive... sadly there is no absolute guarantee of that now. Two years ago I visited Panagatan Cays on a overnight liveaboard, we were blessed with crystal clear visibility and saw Manta and Eagle Rays, reef sharks, turtles and a Whale Shark (remember that Maddy?!) Maniguin and Apo Islands are always fine places to visit as are Apo Reef and Cabilao. Tubbataha is a must.
On balance though I choose a site that is easily accessible by most and that is one of the Japanese World War 2 wrecks lying in the waters close to Coron. The Taiei Maru (also known as Okikawa Maru) is an oil tanker sitting upright in just 27m of water and it is a beautiful wreck. Largely intact it is over 180m long with the upper decks just 10-15m deep, the depth means that you can spend a long time exploring it especially with nitrox.
Sometimes the wreck is washed by very strong currents but this just serves to attract large amounts of marine life. There are schools of huge batfish present as well as fusliers, snappers and surgeon fish. Blue finned jacks and mackeral often dart around hunting for food and on rare occasions you may even bump into an eagle ray or turtle. The decks are covered in hard and soft corals and for photographers there are scorpionfish, lionfish and nudibranch everywhere. For many, just swimming along the outside and visualising this huge boat in its original state is good enough.
For the more experienced this is a great penetration dive. The start is the most dramatic as you can access the boat through the relatively narrow propeller shaft, from there you swim up into the remains of the engine room. You can then make your way through the various holds and tanks of the boat all the way through to the twisted bow. It is actually beautiful inside with the cavernous dark holds being punctuated by divers flashlights and rays of light coming through open hatches on the decks above you. It really is like floating in space and the whole dive makes you realise what is so very cool about diving. I have yet to meet anyone who didnít want to go back there again and again.
Review by Jem Kemp.
Jem is a PADI Instructor who has been based in the Philippines for a number of years and is currently Project Manger for the Scuba Dive Philipines website.
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