MV dive resort has a new dive safari to add to its growing profile of amazing dive destinations in the Philippines. Our latest trip took us on a 300 mile adventure of a lifetime. Our Itinerary included stops at Maestra De Campo, Coron Bay and Apo Reef.
Our shipmates for the week were Ilan, Ben, Sam, Mike, Raffi and also Chris and Mike from Eco Explores. We had an early breakfast at the resort before heading by van to Pinamalayan which is a small town on the east coast of Mindoro. Big Beth was waiting for us loaded with provisions and a crew that were excited for a fresh challenge.
After clearance from the coastguard and a photo opportunity with the local newspaper we headed south east through the Tablas Strait to the picturesque island of Maestre De Campo. The Mactan Ferry sunk in 1973; the wreck ran into trouble near the shoreline so no lives were lost when it lost power after being hit by a rogue wave. This has now turned into one of the best wreck dives in the Philippines. We were greeted with visibility of over a hundred feet which meant that we had a great view of the schools of fish that call this ship wreck home. There were schools of Jacks, fusiliers and Damsel fish all over the wreck. You could see where the vessel hit the reef leaving a massive hole in the hull. There is hard coral growth and some anemones home to the False Clown fish. We pulled into Conception Harbor where we completed our second dive. There is a cargo ship from the Second World War that has some bomb hits on its stern. Large snappers can found hidden in the cargo holds. Next to the ship are the remnants of a wooden Japanese gun boat that has fallen apart being in the water for 70 plus years.
Once back on the boat we headed off to Coron Bay, we watched as the sunset turned the sky a beautiful orange color before giving way to the night. With great ocean conditions we enjoyed a smooth crossing, we entered the Bay just as the sun was just coming up from behind us. We had an action packed day of wreck diving, the first one was the Olympia Maru. This ship had originally taken a bomb hit during a raid on Manila Bay on September 21st 1944. She limped down to Coron Bay where she was finally sunk by a direct hit into the engine room which made one of the fuel tanks explode killing 19 crew before sinking. The wreck is covered in many hard corals and Gorgonian fans. The fans are home to many small fish and there are large Lionfish lurking around looking for a meal. Next up was the Morazan wreck. This wreck is upright on a sandy bottom in a hundred feet of water. There is some beautiful natural light coming through the porthole windows, you can penetrate the cargo holds where we saw a school of catfish. The last dive of the day was on the Tangat Gun boat. This is a nice easy wreck to explore with its bow just below the surface of the water. You can see some interesting flat worms on the outside of the wreck, there is also a coral reef just off the wreck if you would like a variation from the wreck diving. We headed back to Coron Town and spent the night at a quaint guest house right on the water front. After a superb dinner cooked to perfection by chef Omar we hit the sack and dreamt of another action packed day tomorrow.
The Akitsushima Maru was the first dive. This seaplane tender had also been previously hit during Operation Hailstorm in Truk Lagoon. After repairs in Japan she headed back to the Philippines where she was finally sunk. She was hit in the aft section possible causing the aviation fuel being used for the seaplane to explode. This has the feel of a real warship, next to the huge crane there is some AA guns and an artillery shell. You can enter the wreck through one huge crack in the mid-section; you can explore the engine room and the boilers. We saw a large crocodile fish sitting on the starboard side of the vessel. Next was the Kogyo Maru, the vessel was on its way to build a runway somewhere in the Philippines, there is a bulldozer, cement mixer and other building materials inside the cargo hold and you can see the large boiler in the engine room.
We decided to mix things up for our last day in Coron. We visited the Cathedral Cave which is one of the most spectacular places that you will ever see. There is a small opening at around 20ft which opens out into a large cavern, there is some natural light coming from a hole in the top of the cave. The place has a very spiritual feeling to it, you can go to the surface and take out your regulator and have a nice chat with your dive buddy. If you look closely you can see bats flying around. Once you exit the cave you can enjoy a nice reef dive to finish up the remaining air in your tank. We visited Barracuda Lake and this is another unique experience that you can find in Coron. You climb up and down some wooden steps and take in wonderful panoramic view of the lake. There is a thermocline at around 60ft/18m and the water temp can rise up to 100f. On your way back to the surface you will see some very friendly Catfish that will come and play with your hands. This experience will stay with you forever and is one of the highlights of the trip. We had a beautiful lunch of fresh seafood’s and chicken on a deserted beach, there was a monkey to keep us occupied and he was happy when we donated one of our left over bananas from lunch. We had a final dive at Twin Peaks which is a reef dive not far from the lake. There is some great over hangs and ledges to explore and we even saw a couple of Hawksbill turtles.
We made the 6 hour crossing from Coron to Apo Reef during the night, with the water visibility know to be a little murky at the best of times in Coron we had the other end of the spectrum at Apo Reef. Once we arrived we wiped the sleep out of our eyes and looked down in amazement as we had visibility of well over a hundred feet. We could not wait to get into the water.
We spent the next 2 days diving around Apo Reef, if you like to see schools of Jacks and Barracuda then this is the place to be. We lost count of the number of White Tip sharks that we saw during our trip. Now this is the part where you will become very jealous. On the second morning we did Ego wall, off the wall we saw two Hammerhead sharks that were around 7ft in length; to say we had a very happy group of guests would be an understatement. The rest of the dives were also out of the top draw. We saw turtles, Napoleon wrasse, Bump head parrotfish, stingrays, cuttlefish, Tuna, Giant Trevally and moray eels. The list is really endless at Apo Reef, with beautiful coral gardens and deep, deep walls this really is one of the top destinations to dive in the Philippines.
As we got back on Big Beth after our final dive it was time to head back to White Beach, we arrived back at 6am just in time for a big breakfast at Marco Vincent dive resort. For the hardcore divers it was straight back into it with a day trip to Verde Island.
MV dive resort runs trips to Apo Reef and Coron between the months of Feb and June each year. You can of course have a look at www.mvdive.com for all the details.