Upon disembarking the ferry in Coron at 6 am, after the 11-hour journey, the 5 of us made our way to the hostel we had pre-booked via hostel world. Now we were a little apprehensive about the hostel as it didn’t have great reviews and when we got there these reviews were confirmed. The place probably wasn’t too bad if we had stayed there but all of us couldn’t be arsed after the ferry and found a new place on the internet which looked much better. We later found out the hostel that we moved to was also much closer to everything as opposed to the one we had originally planned to stay in, so it was a good choice to move. After settling into our hostel and sorting ourselves out after the overnight ferry ride we made our way to the hot springs. The tricycle ride there was rather horrendous with the road being so bumpy and I’m surprised I didn’t fall out the back on several occasions. The ride was just about worth it though as the hot springs were a nice place to relax for a few hours after the long journey. It was a little odd however to be sitting in 40 °C water while also in 30 °C sunshine. Hence why we didn’t spend too much time here and spent a lot of the time on the edge of the hot spring and not fully submerged. After the hot springs, we then made our way to a rooftop bar which had a great view of the bay of Coron and was the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset with a few beers.
On our second day in Coron, now the 3rd of March the 5 of us had booked an island hopping/lagoon tour to various places around Coron. Initially, we visited several lagoons which we were able to swim in. The water was superbly crystal blue and the scenery, stunning. After the first few lagoons, we then headed to another which was accessed by swimming through a little cave-like structure which leads you into the lagoon. After swimming here, we stopped for a spot of lunch on the boat. Once again surrounded by crystal clear blue water. We ate some big fish and pork along with some strange seaweed stuff and eggplant which had a great flavour and complemented the other dishes. Once we had toured the various lagoons we then went to various spots out in the sea for snorkelling which was really cool, some of the best snorkelling reefs I’ve ever seen but the fish life wasn’t that great. We even snorkelled around a sunken shipwreck which was about 5m deep but also very crowded with lots of people doing the same thing. Plus, some strange scuba diving tourists which were literally being dragged around underwater by there tanks. The highlight of the shipwreck place was Con spotted a turtle which we all saw for a little while before it swam peacefully away from all the commotion. The final stop on the day’s tour was a little beach which was very pretty and had lots of locals just enjoying some family time. Everyone decided to stay on the boat other than Zoe and me who waded our way from the boat to the beach with a beer in hand to enjoy a little time on the beach. I was also offered a free shot of rum by a local man which I gladly accepted. Overall the tour was a great way to see the sights around Coron, obviously, there were other people doing similar tours, but it didn’t seem as crowded as when on the Thai islands and just seemed so much more stunning too. After the tour, we had some dinner before I headed to bed due to starting a two-day scuba diving course on the 4th. The others went for a few drinks but said the nightlife wasn’t all that great so were home relatively early.
The scuba diving course I was completing in Coron was my wreck speciality course which when completed would allow me to penetrate shipwrecks at different dive sites around the world. There are 11 Japanese shipwrecks sunk in WWII by the US air force in Coron bay hence the reason I choose to do the course here. I thought it would be amazing to see this part of history, plus the course was also relativity cheap in comparison to doing it elsewhere, bonus. I also completed a second course along with the shipwreck course but that was just theory based and didn’t involve any diving. I was a little nervous about the course as a lot of the shipwrecks were rather deep (25-35m) which is pushing at the upper limits of recreational diving (40 m). Plus having only completed 9 dives previously I will still very much new to diving so wreck diving was a little daunting. My instructor Ken, who was Filipino was really nice, plus I was the only one on the course, so it was one on one instruction which really helped. The first dive we explored Akitsushima which was such a crazy experience but also very tight in spaces exploring the sunken ship. It was also my deepest ever dive going to 32.5 m. The dive went well other than me sharing the air of my instructor on our safety stop, but this was more as a safety net as opposed to anything. The second dive of the day went a little less smooth. This time we were exploring the Okikawa Maru oil tanker. I had also decided to take my GoPro to try and get some videos but kind of regret doing this as I was focusing on so many different things that when inside the tanker I freaked out a little. Initially, I had a really dry mouth which made me breath quicker just as we were about to enter what looked a pitch-black door in the sunken ship. I told Ken I wasn’t going in there and I needed a second to compose myself before moving on. When we carried on its safe to say I didn’t enjoy this dive as much and was a little glad when we reached the surface. The tanker was very cool though and when in one of the big oil drums it really was a spectacle. Overall though the first days diving was a success and I got chatting to some nice people on the boat. I also got to enjoy more of the stunning scenery around Coron due to the dive sites being around 1.5 – 2 hours away from the main town. While I was out diving the others said that they just chilled around a swimming pool they found, but also said it didn’t smell very good.
For the second day of the course, it’s safe to say I was once again a little nervous. This time due to the skills I had to carry out while under the water. On the first dive of the day (Irako shipwreck) I would have to tie a line around various parts of the ship (only on the deck) then completely take off my mask and swim back to the start following the line using my hand as effectively I would be blind. On the second dive, I would then be doing a very similar thing but this time inside a shipwreck. Here I would tie the line outside the wreck and then tie it at various points inside the wreck. Once I had tied all the line my instructor would then stir up all the silt in the room effectively reducing my visibility to zero where I would then have to follow the line back to him and out of the wreck. Safe to say I was nervous. My nerves weren’t helped by the fact that these skills would be performed rather deep +25 m and, we may have to make some decompression stops on our way up. Which are all perfectly normal when diving deep, but something I have never done before. I let Ken know I was nervous beforehand and he did try to reassure me a little. Upon entering the water for the 1st dive on the second day the current was also strong, which didn’t help the nerves. After descending to about 5m deep my mind was racing, and I told myself I really didn’t want to be doing this. I actually signalled to Ken I want to go to the surface. I wrote down on the slate I was shitting myself (not literally I wrote “nervous”) and once again I had to take a minute before I felt ready to continue with the dive. We reached the deck of the ship which was a unique descent down using the old chimney as a reference. Once here I took a few deep breaths before starting to tie the line. Once I started doing this I was so focused that I forgot I was nervous. After tying the whole line, it was now time to take my mask off. I once again took a few deep breaths before removing my mask fully. I started to follow the line using my hand as my only reference with my eyes closed. After a few kicks I decided sod it I want my eye open so just opened them 20 m deep in salt water, which isn’t too painful. At least now I had a bit of a visual reference too which helped and once I got into my stride of following the line the skill went well. It was a strange sensation swimming with my eyes open for so long, plus the bubbles from the regulator irritate your nose without the mask so I had to tilt my head a little while I swam. Once I reached the end of the line I put my mask back on and cleared it. The sense of achievement I felt having completed the dive was really something. It felt great having overcome everything I was so worried about beforehand. After this, we slowly made our way to the surface making all the normal safety stop. The 4th dive went a lot smoother as I felt much more comfortable in myself now. Once again, I tied the line starting outside of the wreck before unreeling it and tying it as we dove into the shipwreck. Once I tied the end of the line Ken had already left me and stirred up all the silt, so I couldn’t see shit. I heard him bang on his tank to signal me to start following the line using my hand. My visibility was zero due to all the silt and I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. It was strange to swim blind using just my hand on the line and the other to protect my head. But before long Ken came into view and the visibility improved and I had completed the skill. After doing this we explored the ship further. I even went in the really dark hole I avoided on the first day which as it turned out was really cool after penetrating the initial dark part. We then explored more of the reef on the deck of the ship which was teeming with life and was what I signed up for when diving. Overall the course really was challenging mentally but I’m very pleased with myself for overcoming everything. Additionally, I also passed the theory test of the other course so can add, wreck speciality and enriched air speciality training to my advanced open water course. I will now be spending my next few times diving just enjoying being underwater and not doing any courses for a little while.
While I was out diving on the second day the guys and girls did another tour around Coron to 3 different beaches. Having seen the photos, they really did look incredible and they said it was less crowded than the tour we had done previously. The golden sandy beaches and amazingly blue water of Coron and the Philippines, in general, is truly stunning. They did also say that on the ride back to harbour they got drenched and rather cold due to very choppy seas. But overall had a great day. After all our very busy days. We had an early night and nice lay in before making our way via ferry to El Nido on the 6th of March. More on my birthday in El Nido in the next blog.