Coron, Busuanga, Philippines

The Secret but Sunken Japanese Armada

hidden cove
A bangka in the clear waters of the inlet that leads to Lake Kayangan.
Coron Power Gym
Friends rest at the entrance to a dark Coron gym.
Asian visitors float in life jackets on Lake Kayangan.
marine backlight
Residents of Coron paddle a small boat off the town.
coron island
Two natives talk in a bar in Coron.
back to coron
Bangkas about to leave the cove where Lake Kayangan is hidden.
Scuba Diving
Divers prepare to explore the sunken vessels of the Japanese navy.
Anchored Bangkas
Several bangkas await the return of passengers on the other side of the cliff, where Lake Kayangan hides.
Float attire
Korean tourist buoy in semi brackish water of Lake Kayangan.
Convivial on Deck
Fishermen sail in the South China Sea off Busuanga.
Sea Dive View
View of the coast of Busuanga from the Sea Dive hotel.
Employee writes results of a game of chance in a Coron store.
diving training
Divers set off off Dimakaya Island.
Stilt at sunset
Stilt and a speedboat near the Sea Dive hotel, off Coron
In World War II, a Japanese fleet failed to hide off Busuanga and was sunk by US planes. Today, its underwater wreckage attract thousands of divers.

For at least the next ten days, our chances of getting a flight were nil.

We are forced to overcome distrust and fear. And buying tickets for one of the boats that ensured the El Nido – Busuanga route, the main island of the Philippine Calamian archipelago.

The sun still rises. We climb aboard a fart gaudy, larger than usual in a fart.

For all intents and purposes, it was a simple typical wooden vessel, equipped with side floats, unsuitable for long crossings and swell. We install ourselves on board as best we can and with other French, English and Australian passengers.

When the fart set sail, we submit to fate.

fishermen, coron, busuanga, philippines

Fishermen sail in the South China Sea off Busuanga.

Precarious Navigation between El Nido and Coron

The journey to the north of the South China Sea continues. The Philippine helmsman at the helm, sees that we advance as far as possible along the coast.

Even so, we end up facing waves that soak the vessel and force the crew to use an old water pump.

The routes that we follow without the protection of islands are, fortunately, short. Although long and exciting, the navigation ends without incident.

It's already afternoon when we land at Coron.

stilt, coron, busuanga, philippines

Stilt and a speedboat near the Sea Dive hotel, off Coron

Sea Dive: check in at Hotel Local dos Mergulhadores

After a short walk, we enter the Sea Dive, a four-story hotel planted by the sea, humble but welcoming.

As the name suggests, it is known for bringing together divers from all over the world, outsiders eager to discover, above all, the wreckage of a Japanese armada that lies off the neighboring island of Coron, between ten and forty meters deep.

Shortly after we settled in, we met Andy Pownall, the owner of a small nearby island reserve, who specializes in the topic.

When the US Air Force Sank a Poorly Hidden Japanese Fleet

Andy hurries to unwind the dazzling history of that now underwater museum: “In 1944, during the Asian phase of World War II, the North Americans bombed a fleet of Japanese vessels that was in Manila.

They sank fifteen ships and forced the Japanese to hide the ships that resisted outside what they thought was the bombers' range. Coron Bay and the waters around Busuanga were the chosen anchorages. American reconnaissance planes eventually discovered the whereabouts of the fleet.

bangkas, coron, busuanga, philippines

Bangkas about to leave the cove where Lake Kayangan is hidden.

At six in the morning on 24 September, after taking off from aircraft carriers and flying 550km (at the time a record distance for this type of attack) in more than six hours, they carried out a devastating attack that sank or damaged another 24 boats. Among the vessels were Japanese navy jewels: the Akitsushima, the Kogyo Maru and the Irako, all of which were about 150 meters long; the Olympia Maru; Lusong and Tae Maru.”

Part of them sank within reach of divers and even snorkelers. So continue.

Jim's Omnipresence at Coron's Sea Dive Hotel

To Jim, the expatriate American who owns the hotel, the shelter in Busuanga seems to have gone better. After the adaptation phase, guaranteeing the success of his initial investment in Sea Dive, Jim limits himself to reaping the profits guaranteed by the fever generated by the sunken fleet.

At the same time, she enjoys the easy female care that abounds in Coron, as she does all over the Philippines. Without much else to do, he struts around the bar and the outdoor dining room of the establishment, which he built almost entirely in wood, also seen from the adjoining sea, in the shape of a multi-deck vessel.

Jim offers another suggestion to foreign divers he detects when planning their adventures. Soon, he disappears in the company of the young women of his retinue of native servants and companions.

We stopped seeing him for a while. If only because we set out to discover the surroundings of Coron.

bar, coron, busuanga, philippines

Two natives talk in a bar in Coron.

Discovering the Neighborhood of Busuanga and Its Lakes

We know that there are seven lakes there, all surrounded by limestone cliffs. We also know that, of these, the Kayangan and the Barracuda stand out, both with access through inlets with the marine colors of postcards of paradise.

We start by visiting the first one. bad to fart noise that transports us docks, we climb to one of the rocky slopes that isolate the lake from the ocean.

bangka, lake kayangan, coron, busuanga, philippines

A bangka in the clear waters of the inlet that leads to Lake Kayangan.

Once on the other side, we descend another trail to its steep banks.

When we enter the Kayangan, we are almost the only swimmers in that kind of natural aquarium. The exclusivity lasts less than we wanted.

Numerous Korean and Japanese excursions invade the lake and deliver guests to a diversion between the childish and the crazed, splashing and floating in a group, supported by gaudy life jackets that annihilate the magic of the strange tropical setting.

floating, coron, busuanga, philippines

Asian visitors float in life jackets on Lake Kayangan.

The Kayangan lacks the most interesting feature of the “brother” Barracuda: the three superimposed layers of fresh, brackish and salt water.

We changed coves and verified the chemical eccentricity of the latter, in the liquid peace we had felt for a few moments in the brother lake and which we regained with appreciation.

When the shadow takes hold of Barracuda, we return to Coron and SeaDive.

bangkas, coron, busuanga, philippines

Several bangkas await the return of passengers on the other side of the cliff, where Lake Kayangan hides.

Jim reappears the next morning. A battalion of divers embark on several pre-aligned bangkas in the patch of sea from which the hotel rises. Under host supervision, operations flow smoothly.

As soon as he feels the boats disappear from the view of the balcony, Jim returns to his life. Fed up with the sunken Japanese fleet and so much diving, he loads his own boat with beach furniture and utensils, food, beer and other items.

At the helm, he says goodbye with unscrupulous political gestures from the employees and curious guests. Then, he sets off with a group of Filipino friends and companions, heading for his picnic in a beachside spot in Busuanga.

The War Eccentricity of Diving in Coron

All embarked return at the end of the day. We see them exchange enthusiastic narratives of their adventures, washed down with ice-cold San Miguel beers.

diving, coron, busuanga, philippines

Divers prepare to explore the sunken vessels of the Japanese navy.

The prominent French, disciples of Jacques costeau, unconditional supporters of these exotic odysseys lead the debate: "At a certain point, we really realized that it was really the Kogyo Maru." secures one of them. “There was coral everywhere. The masts were covered with lettuce coral in which small colonies of lionfish were hidden. We descended along the deck amid undulating schools of marine fish, batfish, a few lone seahorses and even turtles. The boat was full of life, it was more than impressive! …all lit by a cool, extraterrestrial-style blue light coming in from the surface.”

Japanese vessels sunk there are longer than the depth at which they lie. They provide dives without major technical difficulties, even so, risky due to the labyrinthine traps that the complex structures and now camouflaged by algae and corals raise.

There are countless possibilities for its exploration. That was why the expeditions of many of the divers on the Sea Dive took several days.

diving training, coron, busuanga, philippines

Divers set off off Dimakaya Island.

Jim returns to his hotel base with a fuss comparable to his departure. It leaves the unloading of the boat in charge of the hotel employees. Instead, he learns for the umpteenth time about the underwater situation of Okikawa Maru, Tangat, Akitsushima and company.

In reality, he has little or no interest in that repetition of other people's experiences, he proclaims without any embarrassment: “okay guys, I can see that you're still having all the adrenaline.

Look but it's if you get some good Filipinos to calm down!”.

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