Coron Invasion!

We were lucky to have booked piso fares from Cebu Pacific for their Cebu – Busuanga route so there was a whole barangay on this trip. Sixteen people, three days, one awesome trip.

I wanted to go back to coron for the wrecks but our schedule didn’t allow it. That was okay with me too since Coron is too amazing not to share with family. Island hopping here is top notch in my opinion with several choices for different tastes. You want white sandy beaches? great coral areas? crystal clear lakes? blue lagoons? mountains? mangroves? Coron has it covered.

The first day got off to a bad start with our flight being delayed by almost two hours. We were able to arrive at Coron at 2:30 PM already, just enough to have a dive at Barracuda lake and a night dive at twin peaks through Rocksteady Dive Center. Unfortunately, in the rush of unpacking my dive gear I left my underwater camera behind so no pics during the dives.

That's the plane! 1:40 travel time from Cebu

That’s the plane! 1:40 travel time from Cebu

Barracuda Lake is an interesting dive site to say the least. To get to the lake you cross a limestone wall from the bay where the boats dock. This isn’t too difficult when you’re just snorkeling but for divers that means bringing your gear along, tanks and everything. Once you reach the lake you’re treated to great views of the limestone walls with amazing visibility underwater. Here’s where it gets interesting – dive down 12-15 m and you notice a sharp change in temperature and visibility. With a reverse thermocline, temperatures can reach 37 C underwater. Unless you’d like to sweat underwater, you shouldn’t wear a wetsuit for this dive. Once you reach the bottom its play time! Stick your head down in the silt and see how far it goes or remove your fins and pretend you’re on the moon. Just to make it clear, you will not see a lot of life down here but if you’re lucky, you will encounter the barracuda that resides in the lake. Going back to the surface proved to be more uncomfortable for me as my body had acclimated to the heat and the surface water felt really cold. If youre in Coron you should definitely try to dive in Barracuda Lake at least once for the beautiful rock formations, reverse thermocline and the freedom of not having to worry so much about destroying any corals on the bottom.

The docking bay of Barracuda Lake

The docking bay of Barracuda Lake

Behold Barracuda Lake!

Behold Barracuda Lake!

Twin Peaks on the other hand is a more traditional dive. Located just a few meters from Barracuda Lake, its main attraction is the coral reef. This wasn’t supposed to be a night dive in our original plan but Rocksteady allowed us to dive it anyway without additional fees. The coral cover was really good! Mandarin fish can be seen hiding between staghorn corals along with large crabs. We were told that seahorses could also be found there but we weren’t able to see any during the dive. On our way to the surface we were greeted by schools of bioluminescent fish. We capped off the dive with a cold beer at 7 PM.

While the cousins were off diving and snorkeling, the parents went on a Coron town tour. this includes the market, church, municipal hall, souvenir shops, Mt. Tapyas and Maquinit hot spring. Truthfully, you could get around town on foot very easily except for the hotsprings. Tricycles offer round trips to the hot spring at 300 Php plus the 150 Php entrance fee so i figured paying 313 for the tour including the entrance fee was  good deal. Maquinit is hands down the hottest hot spring i have ever been to with temperatures reaching 40 C but once you get used to it its very relaxing. its also the only saltwater hot spring I’ve encountered so far and is actually accessible by boat during high tide. After the tanders, as we lovingly call them, had their relaxing dip in the spring we met up at Princess of Coron for dinner.

Princess of Coron

Princess of Coron

Day two also started off with a bit of bad news as the coast guard did not allow any boats from sailing too far from Coron island due to it being Signal No. 2 in Palawan. We were supposed to go to one of the shallow wrecks at Lusong but instead went around the different sites nearby. Our guide Regieliene met us at the hotel and arranged for tricycles to bring us to the dock.

The first stop was Siete Pecados marine sanctuary. The sanctuary is located within a group of seven islets where schools of rabbitfish, parrotfish, barracuda and squid were found aplenty. When it got too crowded we decided to head onto our next stop, Kayangan Lake.

Introducing the tanders

Introducing the tanders

The seven sinners (Siete Pecados)

The seven sinners (Siete Pecados)

The reefs of Siete Pecados

The reefs of Siete Pecados

Kayangan Lake is the place where postcards of Coron are usually taken. you climb 150 steps up to a viewing area overlooking the blue lagoon and its absolutely breathtaking. After some photo ops, walk another 150 steps down to the lake itself. Its actually right beside barracude lake but much larger. the limestone walls and great underwater visibility are also characteristics of this lake but at double the entrance fee and more than twice the number of tourists.

Postcard perfect

Postcard perfect

The invaders!

The invaders!

Kayangan Lake

Kayangan Lake

Limestone walls of Kayangan Lake

Limestone walls of Kayangan Lake

Wall climbing anyone?

Wall climbing anyone?

After working up an appetite, we headed for Atuwayan Beach near the Skeleton Shipwreck for lunch. We were supposed to eat at Banol Beach but there were already too many people there so we decided to move. Lunch consisted of several viands of fresh seafood including crabs, fish, squid, seaweed along with liempo and chicken. While people may recommend eating at Coron Bistro or Lolo Nonoys in the town, this lunch is still the best food you can get in Coron for me.

After lunch we explored the skeleton wreck, and what a sight it was! There were more fish than I remember from 4 years ago! Surgeonfish and fusiliers are constantly swimming just underneath the snorkelers on the surface, probably waiting for some food. The wreck itself has just the frame visible and if you dive down you can see that it goes on much deeper than is visible from the surface. For me though, this is just a teaser for the rest of the World War II wrecks scattered across the Calamian islands.

My cousin inspecting the wreck

My cousin inspecting the wreck

The prow of the ship has been colonized

The prow of the ship has been overrun

So.. many.. squid!!!

So.. many.. squid!!!

The Twin Lagoons were next on our list. Entering the first lagoon you are treated to an amazing view of the limestone formations abundant in Palawan. It’s very Jurassic Park-esque and my parents and aunts were quick with their cameras to try and capture the beautiful landscape. To get to the twin of the first lagoon you can either pass through a small passageway underneath the limestone walls which is completely submerged during high tide or you could just climb up the wall as my aunts did. Don’t be alarmed if the water is blurry even through goggles, that’s not an oil spill, its just the halocline/thermocline of the second lagoon. Very similar to Barracuda lake but at a shallower depth, the surface water is close to ice-cold while just underneath the water is warm. This also makes snorkelling difficult, especially if you don’t do any skin diving. Its still a refreshing swim, but some people might not like the cold water.

Twin Lagoons

Twin Lagoons

Inside the twin lagoon

Inside the twin lagoon

Everything's so blurry here

Everything’s so blurry here

After the lagoons, we were taken to Pass-through Island (a sanctuary under development) for a preview of a site they will soon market as well. This site is a wall with good coral cover as you descend. However, since it is not a tourist area yet there are no anchoring buoys available for boats. The anchors of our boats probably destroyed some decades worth of corals at the site. Hopefully they will address this issue as soon as possible.

The last stop for the day was Cap’s Point where we saw the best coral cover yet in Coron. The site was actually very shallow, similar to Siete Pecados, but with better corals in my opinion. Swim over to the drop off and you see huge bunches of branching corals like rolling hills in the sea. However, we had to cut short our snorkelling due to the waves getting stronger. With that wonderful underwater scenery, we end our island hopping escapade.

Incredible coral cover!

Incredible coral cover!

The following day, before our flight, my cousin woke me up at 530 AM to catch the sunrise at Mt. Tapyas. Despite the protest of my body, I decided to maximize my visit by joining him. The beauty of Mt. Tapyas’ location is that both sunset and sunrise are visible from the top. After sweating profusely up the 700+ steps we were able to marvel at the beautiful sunrise near the sleeping giant of Coron Island.

Sunrise at Mt. Tapyas

Sunrise at Mt. Tapyas

Jump!

Jump!

 

The western side of Mt. Tapyas

The western side of Mt. Tapyas

Exhausted but still wacky

Exhausted but still wacky

As I said earlier, there are just so many things Coron has to offer and it is one of my favorite places in the Philippines. I’ll definitely be back soon.

Notes:

Breakdown of Expenses

Screenshot (19)The island hopping tour and Coron town tours were arranged through DIY Coron. You can create a customized tour or join an existing tour from the website. More people of course would reduce the price per person. Owen, the owner of the site, replies to inquiries within 24 hours so it’s very easy to arrange a trip. During the peak season however, try to arrange it earlier so you can reserve the boat for your use.

Rocksteady Dive Center is run by Karin and Gerd who are very nice people. They were also quick to respond to any inquiries through email and were very friendly. They offer 2 dives at 2500 Php and 3 dives at 3000 Php including gear (with torch), lunch, boat, dive master and entrance fees if needed. If you bring your own gear they subtract 400 Php from the regular rates. Non-divers can accompany the divers for 400 Php including lunch. Entrance fees and gear rentals (150 Php for a mask and snorkel) are not included for non-divers. The dive shop is located along the national highway near Kawayanan Grill.

Full gallery at Flickr

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One thought on “Coron Invasion!

  1. Pingback: North of the Final Frontier (El Nido) | I'm Justjuandering

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