Monday, 2 December 2013

CYCLING THE PHILIPPINES - BUSUANGA ISLAND

BUSUANGA ISLAND, CORON

PHOTOS


26 November - El Nido – Coron Town, Busuanga Island
The ferry from El Nido to Busuanga Island (Coron Town) was a lengthy seven-hour affair.  At least it was scenic and they gave us food (a small piece of fish and a large amount of rice). The area around Coron town is famous for its World War II wreck-diving.

In September 1944, a fleet of Japanese ships hiding in the harbour was sunk in a daring raid by the US Navy. The result is around ten well-preserved underwater shipwrecks surrounded with coral reef. There is truly not much to do but dive and watch the sun set over Coron Bay. I found myself a room at SeaDive Resort, a large ramshackle place with rooms, a restaurant, bar and dive shop. The diving looked well organized so I booked myself on a three boat dive for the following day.

27-28 November - Coron Town
Our first dive was to a very interesting and unusual spot; a lake/hot spring. The dive, firstly, involved a boat ride, then a short swim to the shore, after which we climbed (in full diving gear!!) over a rocky outcrop to the lake. We entered the rather scenic lake and after descending for about 15 metres the water temperature shot up to a boiling 38c!!!  The variation in temperature is so large that one can see the thermoclines!  We followed the wall for about 20 minutes, and then turned around, making it a 40 minute dive in total. Back on the boat we were given brunch for our trouble.

Our next dive was the Olympia Maru - a WW2 Japanese shipwreck.  She lies on her starboard side at 25 metres. Like all the other Japanese ships in the Bay it was sunk on 24 September 1944 by an US Air Attack. The Olympia Maru was a 112 meter supply ship. We had appalling vision but penetrated the wreck and headed through the prop shaft and into the engine room past two huge boilers. We even saw a crocodile fish hiding away as we passed old kaolin bricks, used for firing up the boilers.

Our 3rd and last dive for the day was the Tangat Wreck, a small gunboat or submarine hunter 40 metres long. She was lying in shallow waters, making it a good 3rd dive.

29-30 November - Coron Town
It was another 3-wreck boat dive and as the wrecks were quite far out it was a whole day affair. First up was the IJN Akitsushima, a seaplane carrier. She is now lying on her portside at 37 metres. The ship displaced 4724 tons, had a length of 118 meters and was 15.7 meters wide. The ship was powered by four diesel engines driving twin props, a total of 8000 hp, giving a maximum speed of 19 knots.

Akitsushima was armed with ten 25 mm anti-aircraft guns, four five inch guns and carried one large Kanwanishi flying boat. She was hit near the stern where the flying boat rested on the metal tracks and sank immediately. The flying boat unfortunately disappeared; it is assumed that it took off before the sinking. The crane used for lifting the seaplane out of the water is intact. The crane is lying on the sandy bottom and attracts large schools of fish. One mounting of a 3-barreled AA (anti-aircraft) gun is still present at the front of the flying boat tracks. We entered the wreck and swam along on the inside until we reached the huge crack that almost split the ship in half. We maneuvered through the crack and continued on to the engine room through dark and narrow nooks and crannies.

Then it was the Taiei Maru, a Japanese freighter 137 meters long, lying on her starboard side. The big cargo rooms and the engine room allowed for easy penetration of the wreck and it was a fun dive.

Lastly it was the Lusong Gunboat. She is lying in shallow water of between 3 – 18 metres, making it a perfect 3rd dive. The wreck is nicely covered with hard corals and although the vision was poor we saw plenty of fish. At least today was a fun bunch of divers and we had loads of fun between dives. That evening we were all too lazy to go anywhere, so we sat in the restaurant, drank beer and ate pizzas.

SeaDive Resort is situated in the middle of town and right on the water’s edge. It is a rather convenient place to hang out at, and the days came and went without me noticing. I met the nicest bunch of divers one can imagine - they were as crazy as hell. We ate, we drank, we dived and we laughed!!  It’s always a bit sad to say goodbye after having such a good time, as you know you will most likely never see each other again.

1 December - Coron – Manila - By ferry
I settled my bill, loaded the bike, and after lots of hugs and kisses cycled the short distance to the ferry.  The ferry was late and we only left at around 19h00 instead of at 15h30. It gave me time to wonder around town. Coron Town was very much in the eye of the storm and the damage from typhoon Yolanda is still clearly visible.

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