Monday, December 19, 2016

Diving the Wrecks of Coron Bay

For my birthday, we booked a one-week stay at a dive resort in Coron Bay. This would be the first time Dave and I have ever gone to a dive resort together. After a little research and agonizing, we picked the Sangat Island Dive Resort as our place to stay. It's a fairly upscale resort that is focused on diving (the #2 choice was El Faro and D-Divers).

Map Showing Davao, Manila, Coron
Map from Wikipedia By Hellerick, annotated by me.

We flew from Manila on a smaller Cebu Pacific plane than they use for the Manila-Davao leg. They had tighter weight restrictions, and since we were bringing our dive gear, we stressed the entire week before about getting our luggage down under the weight limit. We finally decided to repack after the Subic/Manila weekend and leave one bag of stuff we didn't need at the Nichols Airport Hotel. Our return flight had a 3 hour layover in Manila. So we felt pretty sure we could get from Manila's Terminal 4 to the hotel and back to Terminal 3 (this is not a sure thing, because Manila traffic can be horrendous sometimes, and the two terminals are on opposite sided of the airport).

The flight goes into the island of Busuanga, where Coron is the major town on the south coast, and Sangat Island is a smaller island off the SW coast.

Looks Like Mostly Backpackers on this Flight!

We were met at the airport by a Sangat Island driver, and a half hour later were dropped off at a dock, where a Sangat Island boat awaited us. It was a calm day and we had a short ride to Sangat Island.

Dave at the Boat Dock

On Our Way to Sangat Island

The Beachfront
With bungalows nestled in among the palm trees
and the dining area and dive center hidden behind the small island

Sangat Dock Area


A Nice Cool Drink to Celebrate Our Arrival

Though we'd booked one of the more budget rooms, they told us they had a Beachfront Cottage available and upgraded us at no cost. Here's the view from our room.

We strolled around the grounds and took pictures. The place was pretty quiet until everyone came back from their daytime excursions.

View from the Pagoda on the Little Island Off the Beach

The Patio Bar Out on the Little Island

Sunset Over the Beach

Then we started diving... on most days, we did 3 dives a day. The first dive was always a wreck dive, the second a reef dive, and the third another wreck. It was actually a pretty grueling schedule.

It was "Up at 7, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, cleanup, happy hour, dinner, klunk we were asleep". There are approximately 15 Japanese ships that were sunk in the area by US Navy dive bombers and Hellcats. We saw 8 of them. Some of the ships were big enough and deep enough that it easily took 2 or 3 dives to see the whole thing. And on some dives, Dave was so busy taking pictures of "critters" he didn't get pictures of the wreck.

I've picked out some of the best "critter" pix and the best "wreck" pics, and put them here. Dave really likes taking pictures of Nudibranchs, because they move slowly, look very colorful, and even in poor visibility, he can get a good picture.

Nudibranch (aka Sea Slug) Chromodoris leopardis

Nudibranch (aka Sea Slug) Chromodoris reticulata

Nudibranch (aka Sea Slug) Flabellina rubrolineata

Nudibranch (aka Sea Slug) Hypselodoris

Nudibranch (aka Sea Slug) Joruna funebris

Swimming Flatworm

Green Anemone


Yellow Seahorse

Though we dove on 8 wrecks, some of them more than once, we didn't get very many good pictures. Most of the interesting stuff on the wrecks have been looted long ago. Anything that wasn't nailed down (and some that was) has been taken off and sold for scrap or souvenirs. Also, the light wasn't very good. Some days it was too overcast and dark down below, other days the water was too stirred up. Other days, Dave was too busy taking pictures of Nudis.

Sherry Looking for Nudis on the Side of a Wreck

Hydraulic Control Wheel on a Wreck

Following Our Guide Through a Wreck

Part of the Engine Room

The last day before we left, the resort had a Christmas party for all their employees, and they invited us.

Secret Santa Presents

The Kitchen Staff Doing their "Dance Number"

They had set up a pole and put 2 1000 peso notes at the top of the pole. The pole was well-greased. The guys tried several times to get up the pole, but were ultimately unsuccessful.

First Attempt On the Pole

Second Attempt

There are other things to do at Sangat Island besides dive, but we were there to do, and so, dive we did. After 6 days of diving, we were too tired to work up any enthusiasm for anthing else.

We had a good time at Sangat, and it was nice to get away from boat work for a short respite. In my opinion, the wrecks at Sangat are not as good as the ones we saw at Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon.

After two weeks of goofing off, it was time to go back to work. Because the tide was so low the morning we left, we had to take a bigger boat around to Coron Town to be dropped off for our ride to the airport. This was via one of the traditional Philippine bankas.

Heading for Coron

View off the Bow of the Banka on the Way to Coron

Once we got to Coron, they squeezed this big wide trimaran-like boat into a narrow slot, put out the gangplank off the bow, and helped us off.

Walking the Gangplank

Our dosey-doe at the Manila airport to go get our other bag we had left at the hotel went fine. We had plenty of time. Except Cebu Pacific charged us an excess baggage fee to check in the extra bag. They seem to always get us at Manila airport.

Our friend Terry on s/v Valhalla was nice enough to pick us up at the Davao airport, so we didn't have to walk on and off the ferry with all our dive gear and extra luggage.

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