Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Philippines - Coron (Kyokuzan Maru wreck dive site)

Today was a big day. We went to see the Japanese shipwreck called Kyokuzan Maru. This 136m cargoship was bombed in the WW2 in 1944 not far from the island we stayed on, it took us about 40 min by bangka to get there. It is believed that the crew had time to leave the ship before it sunk (always good to know). Hull, cargo holds and the engine room are still intact. It is lying in an almost upright position in 22-28m so it requires a deep dive therefore less divetime.

The weather was lovely when we set out. There were four of us diving with one dive master and the Swedish-Norwegian couple was very lovely. We were very excited as this is a world famous dive site. We usually do reef dives so a wreck dive was again something new for us.

Unfortunately the visibility was REALLY bad, later I learnt that apart from us being there in the wrong time (lots of plankton) it is also in part due to the nearby pearl farms. The pearls are treated with a certain chemical to get rid of the growing algae on them. This does not affect the sealife however causes bad visibility. As the ship is in a sheltered bay the currents can’t clean the water. On the good side the farms are protected by people with guns so there is absolutely no fishing in the area.

We could only imagine how impressive this ship must look in good visibility however due to the bad viz we only saw a small part of the ship at one time. It kind of caused a bit of disorientation sometimes but luckily our dive master had dived this site many, many times so we just followed him around. The other couple had a torch so sometimes I followed the light of the torch to look at dark nooks and crannies, you never know what you can find. It is said that you can still see cars and trucks in the cargo holds but of course we couldn’t see anything.

I am always in awe by nature how quickly can it claim something to be its own. After 70 years under water the ship turned into a huge coral reef full of fish. Wherever you look every part of the ship is teeming with life. There are amazing coral formations everywhere in many colours (I guess they would be in many colours but for us it only meant many different shades of green). It is strange to see a ladder, a lifebelt or a mast covered with life.

It is a really cool wreck to dive. There are many swim-throughs and you can even get inside the ship if you are brave and have a torch. There is a residential school of batfish here that followed us around like puppies, coming very close to take a look or having a good clean by cleaning fish while you swim past. Amongst some flowing soft corals we found hiding cuttlefish.

During the dives we had a break of two hours. There was an island very close we could swim to lie on the beach but we saw a reef not far from the ship so we decided to swim over and check it out. We didn’t take the camera but we saw a jawfish hiding in the sand with its huge jaw opening its mount wide and it was full of eggs! After splashing around a bit we swam back. The outriggers on this bangka were covered with a net and the crew threw out matresses on them. We had a lovely time lying on them soaking up some sunshine.

On the first dive we swam around one half of the ship and on the second around the other half. I know it’s tacky but when we got to the bow (stern?) I couldn’t help but do the Titanic thing. Here’s a video of the dive as well.

We got home around 4pm. After a little rest we climbed up to a viewpoint to see the sunset. While we were watching that we saw loads of bats circling around the island. It was quite a sight.

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