After the US, our first stop was the Philippines. After what seemed like forever, we were off the plane and onto a bus to get to a small plane. We had to go from one terminal to another. Now, in SF, that would mean walking from one part of the airport to another. However, in Manila, terminal 3 is nowhere near terminal 1. Being jet lagged, we almost got off the bus at the wrong stop.
Anyway, we made it to Coron town in the province of Palawan (pah-LAH-wan) around dinner time. We stayed at Sea Dive, right on the water. Beautiful, but we were exhausted by a day of traveling. A quick dinner and we were down for the count.
Of course, being our first day in the Philippines, we were up at 4 AM, just in time to listen to the Giants game on WiFi in the restaurant. It was a little eerie in the dark, but when you're jet lagged, your body still thinks it's California time.
Being a dive center, we had to go diving so we went on an Adventure Dive the next day. Val has never been SCUBA diving before and has trouble free diving, so we were a little apprehensive. However, we had a great divemaster in Ramil. He was calm and patient and had Val comfortable in no time. I hadn't been diving in 15+ years too, so it was good to do a shallow dive. What do you know, it was still pretty easy and I remember all that stuff that I'd learned in 1979. Being warm helps a lot too. One of the reasons I quit diving in California was that it required a super thick wetsuit and I was always cold when I went diving.
The last diving I did was in Thailand. Diving in the Philippines was like that: warm water and beautiful reefs. Coron has the advantage of also having WWII wrecks. My second day of diving was on wrecks. I'd never been wreck diving and was a little intimidated. We were given lights and followed the divemaster inside the Irako. The first dive was to about 36m, so we didn't have a lot of bottom time. However, that was long enough to go in the top hatch and through a big hold into another room and then out, around the top and back to the top. Even though we had a no decompression dive, we stopped for 1 minute at 15m and 3 min at 5m. Too cool!
Lunch was fried marlin with rice. While waiting out our top time, we headed over to the next wreck, all of 15 min. away. Nap time!
The second dive was on the Kogyo Maru. It was lying on its side in about 35m of water. It had lots of holes in it so more light came into it than the Irako. We entered in through the top of the ship, into the rear hole. Inside the first chamber were cement bags. Passing through a smallish hatch, we went into another hold that had a truck and bulldozer in it. Nearby lay rolls of cyclone fencing.
Third dive of the day was the small gunboat. We went in and around it and then went along the reef. Beautiful corals were all around. I wish I'd had a dive camera for the corals, oysters and occasional giant clams. Some of the coral looked like giant leaves of lettuce.
Giving my ears a day to recover, Val and I spent a day around Coron. One of the things that they advertise as something to do is to head to the hot springs. Why anyone would want to go sit in 39C water when it's 35C outside is beyond me. However, that's exactly what we did, as we got super sweaty riding bikes over there.
While looking at a poster of the Irako that night, Daboy told me that SeaDive also had nitrox classes. Using Enhanced air mixtures, you could increase your bottom time and reduce decompression stops. Sign me up! I studied the book while I played princess on one of Val's dive class days. We got to dive Barracuda Lake, which has a hot spring thermocline around 14m. Since the hot water was salty, it didn't mix with the cooler fresh water above. The next day, I took the test and got two free nitrox tanks to dive the wrecks again.
We dove the same wrecks as I did the first time, but you could dive these wrecks dozens of times before seeing all of them. The depth, mixed with the complexity of the rooms, limits what you can see on each dive. This time, we got to see the front hold of the Irako. Unfortunately, my regulator was free flowing and I ran out of air when on one of our decompression stops. Luckily, Daboy had lots of air left. We switched out regulators at the surface and we were good to go for the second dive.
The Kogyo was similar to the first time I dove it. However, since I was a little more familiar with the wreck, I saw more details. Turns out that one of the divemasters at SeaDive has over 15,000 dives. He really knows his way around these boats.
I'd highly recommend going to Coron to dive the wrecks if you're in the Philippines. We had a great time there, but it was time to go see the cooler part of Luzon next.