Wrecks and Critters in the Philippines
Wrecks and Critters in the Philippines
On the 24th September 1944 the U.S. Airplanes from Task Force 38 attacked the Japanese fleet in the vicinity of Coron, sinking the Akitsushima, Okikawa Maru, Olympia Maru, Taiei Maru, Terukaze Maru, Kogyo Maru and Kyokuzan Maru among others. These wrecks are now all in recreational diving depths and we were to spend the first four days of our latest Philippine Siren liveaboard itinerary diving them as well as Barracuda Lake, Twin Peaks and Siete Pecados; a gentle reef perfect for the checkout dive. Once our 16 divers were boarded and full of confidence after the check dive we headed to the first of the wrecks: Olympia Maru. With a length of 122 metres (370ft) this wreck needs at least two dives to be explored completely. Crocodile fish, schools of batfish and ornate ghost pipefish among other critters were seen during the dive. The Taiei Maru would be our third dive of the day followed by the Terukaze Maru for the night dive. The latter offers very easy penetration as the bridge is widely open and presents no risks. Nudibranchs and seahorse were and afterwards we celebrated Juerg’s birthday with chef Boy’s famous mango flake cake while all the crew sang happy birthday to him accompanied by our engineer Ricardo at the guitar.
The second day in Coron we spend it diving twice each the Akitsushima and the Okikawa Maru. Although the Akitsushima can sometimes be affected by strong currents we were lucky enough to enjoy both dives in very easy conditions. The Okikawa Maru being shallower offers the possibility of doing amazing night dives too. That same evening Vincent, Marianne, Juerg, Beatrice, Andreas and Nicole decided to start their Deep Diver Specialty course with our instructor Jan= and get the most from our wreck dives on this trip. Barracuda Lake was the choice for the third day. The Philippine Siren crew started early in the morning at 5 am carrying our diver’s equipment to the island. Once our guests had their early breakfast we disembarked and made the short walk, through break-taking scenery to reach the lake. We geared up and started our dive, the first 12 metres are fresh water with crystal clear visibility, deeper than that the water temperature suddenly rises from 28 to 38 Celcius (83-100F) making the divers feel like “tea bags”. Although fish life is not abundant and we did not spot the resident great barracuda the whole scenery is astonishing with razor sharp pinnacles rising from the bottom offering great photo opportunities. The rest of day we spent diving the Kogyo Maru and Olympia Maru wreck again followed by a great night dive in Twin Peaks where we spotted some more seahorses and the always elusive mandarin fish.
On last day before moving to Apo Reef we sailed to Dimakya Island were we had the chance to dive twice the Kyokuzan Maru. This huge wreck (136 metres long) is lying upright and is in perfect condition with great visibility. The easily accessible holds offer the chance to see staff cars and one truck. Again we spotted crocodile fish and dived amidst schools of batfish while making our safety stop along the ship’s mast. In the evening it was time to greet our repeater guests with a thank you letter on behalf of Frank and Mark and a Siren Fleet polo shirt!
Early the next morning we were in Apo Reef ready for a complete change of scenery for the next two days. Stunning reefs with visibilities ranging from 20 to 40 metres allowed us to spot white tip and grey reef sharks and on this occasion a quite unique show: the spawning of a large school of bumphead parrot fish during two dives in Menor West. In between dives we took our divers to visit the ranger station in Mayor and its inland lagoon.
Soon it was time for the Philippine Siren to be on the move again, this time northwards around Mindoro Island to Puerto Galera for dives at Nudibranch City, Giant Clams and Shipyard. We were lucky enough to spot a warty frogfish plus plenty of nudibranchs, sea snake, seahorse, decorated crabs, ribbon eels and mantis shrimp. The last two days of our trip we spent in the macro critter hot spot: Anilao. Bahura, Kirby’s Rock, Koala, Twin Rocks, Dead Palm, Daril Laut, Wet Market confirmed that Anilao deserves its reputation for macro sightings. Among other critters we were lucky enough to see grey and black frogfish, plenty of nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses, leaf scorpion fish, devil scorpion fish, bobtail squid and pygmy octopus. The next morning was time for the group photo of our divers together with the Philippine Siren crew and the farewells. A big thanks to all our guests on this trip from Great Britain, Russia, Germany, Switzerland and Namibia and hope to see you again on Siren Fleet!