Shipwreck Scuba Diving
Trip Start Aug 29, 2012
25Trip End Ongoing
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Last July, Cebu Pacific Airlines had an annual sale on flights and Sophie and I bought super cheap tickets to the Philippines on a whim for a two week trip in March 2014. Sophie had already been to the most popular destination in the Philippines, Boracay, so we decided to go to Palawan, a region described as “Philippines last frontier”. Of course, describing it as “Philippines last frontier” will result in a trampled frontier crawling with backpackers, but still...
First, we spent two crazy fun nights at reggae bars in Manila with new buddies from the Red Carabao Hostel. After arriving in Palawan, we went on a boat ride through the world’s longest navigable underground river, which turned out to be a spectacular cave...full of a spectacular large number...of spectacularly enormous bats! Then, it was onto El Nido for island hopping and sunbathing.
Without knowing it, we had saved the best for last: Coron! However, in the first hour of the 10 hour boat ride to Coron, we regretted our decision to visit Coron at all. Let’s just say on a choppy boat ride heading straight into a strong wind, people with weaker stomachs should NOT sit at the FRONT of the boat.
Arriving exhausted, irritable, and possibly puke-covered in Coron (I’ll leave that to your imagination), we found that we had unknowingly booked a beautiful cottage on a mountain overlooking the sea at Kaba Kaba Hostel!
After multiple and very necessary showers and a good night’s sleep, we went on an island hopping tour in which we made two new friends from Argentina and swam in stunning Kayangan Lake. The next day, we went to do the activity that made Coron famous: World War II shipwreck diving!
Learning to sink, tending to float
Sophie and I set out with Kevin, the owner of Kaba Kaba and experienced diving instructor who taught us all about WWII history, underwater cameras, and British humor. Sophie had never been scuba diving before and I was pretty rusty. I got my scuba diving license at St. Olaf and my only open water experience was in a dirty lake in Minnesota. Did I mention that it was snowing when I took my scuba diving final?
The first part of our lesson was a bit rough. It was so windy that Sophie and I kept floating away and poor Kevin had to keep corralling us like horses...or seahorses, I suppose. Finally we got the hang of it and went down to explore the coral reef!
Much to Sophie’s delight, she is a natural scuba diver! Also to her delight, the licensed scuba diver, yours truly, frequently felt claustrophobic and started to breathe quickly, losing control and quickly ascending back to the surface. After we got our “sea legs”, we took the boat out to explore the East Tangat shipwreck!
Here’s a bit of history about the shipwreck. On an unrelated note, how great is the internet?!
At 9am on September 24th, 1944, the US Navy sent 150 planes from Manila to Coron to bomb the 24 Japanese ships that had fled there. Today, you can scuba dive on 18 of the 24 wrecks.
East Tangat was a steam-powered fishing boat that was turned into a gunboat. It also has a very special feature: while most submarines have periscopes that point up to look around on the surface, this gunboat had a periscope pointing down to look out for oncoming submarines! At the time of the bombing, the ship was fleeing to an island and crashed onto a coral reef. Because of this, the boat is slanted! The bow is 5 meters down and, because of the clear water, it can be seen from the surface! The stern, however, is way down at 18 meters below the surface.
The tale of a future scuba diving instructor and a person who should never watch horror movies
We dove down and enjoyed incredible views of the ship and coral reef. Everything was going smoothly...until Kevin pointed to the dark square we’d have to enter to go inside the ship. I immediately pictured the scene from Jaws in which SPOILER ALERT the guy’s disembodied head pops out of the ship. Of course, my eyes widened and my breathing quickened and I floated back to the surface, where I scared a snorkeler to death. Determined to see the awesome periscope, I steeled my nerves and went back down.
On the way back, I watched the sunset and enjoyed breathing naturally in a shark-free environment while listening to diving expert Sophie talk to Kevin about how she could become an official scuba diving instructor.