Finding Our Rhythm in the Philippines

Coron

View from Kanyangan Lake, Coron Island

We arrived hot and tired in Coron Town, Philippines, after an arduous and exhausting series of flights, delays, cabs, vans, and finally- safely here at our stay at the lovely Corto Divers apartments. Coron is a small town on the island of Basuanga which is in the Philippine municipality of Palawan. Coron is known for it’s fishing industries and diving adventures, and a growing tourism economy because of the latter. This whole region of Palawan is surrounded by hundreds (thousands?) of small islands, mostly covered in jungle, mangroves, rocky coves and craggy cliffs, as well as some hydrothermal activity which has resulted in hot springs and mixed salt water/fresh water lakes with hot thermal pockets great for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. What we didn’t realized upon arriving was how sparse the beaches on Basuanga Island were, and how far you have to travel by motorbike, jeepney, or boat to relax at a quiet beach not monopolized by a private resort.

It feels foreign and familiar to us both to be back in Southeast Asia, having been in the region together in 2008 and Ben a few times in prior years. The smells, climate, humidity, pollution, and poverty felt shocking and difficult for me to adjust to initially. Although Coron has it’s share of travelers, many of the Philippino communities on the island seem to be living fairly simply. Luxuries such as hot water, electricity, Western toilets, or homes made of materials other than bamboo and palm seem to be few and far between. Ben found us a great stay at Corto Divers, and their apartments (only 3 rooms) are brand new, beautifully designed, and feels more like staying with your French cousins than at a hotel or hostel. It has been a great place to escape from the pounding sun to rejuvenate and relax.

We spent our first few days exploring the region– taking part in a 6 destination snorkeling tour, renting a motorbike and driving up the rugged island roads, and checking out the congested, tiny town of Coron. The build-up was leading to the big question: Would Shana decide to get scuba certified here in this infamous diving location or not?! Corto Divers offers certification and the scene is unique as far as training goes- one on one instruction for three days in gorgeous tropical locale with brand new scuba equipment. With hesitation (dread?), I went for it. My instructor, Olivier, was so skilled, patient, and though he pushed me, he ultimately made me feel safe. Every day of the course I came upon another challenge, mostly internal, which scared me and pushed my boundaries. What was so incredible about the course was moving through the fear every single time to experience another new and beautiful piece of life.

In addition to the protected coral reefs, tropical marine fish and sea turtles, Coron’s diving is most known for it’s Japanese shipwrecks. In 1944 during WWII, the Japanese were occupying the Philippines and on September 24 of that year, a US Navy strike force of fighters and dive bombers attacked a Japanese supply fleet of up to 12 ships at anchor, here in Coron Bay and around Basuanga Island. It is unknown exactly how the US Navy located the ships. 8 ships were closely packed together in Coron Bay. I believe 10 ships in total eventually sank. Being there, it was hard to imagine this beautiful tropical and quiet bay, packed with fleets, on fire and sinking after US fighter planes dropped unexpectedly out of the sky and attacked. Well, here is where I completed my PADI Open Water Course! While Ben had done a number of shipwreck dives a few days prior, he and I both went out with two guides on the last day of my course and were able to share the experience of diving together in this wild, spooky, and fascinating location. 68 years later the ships are covered in marine life including lionfish, banana fish, crocodile fish to name a few. Some of the ships landed right-side up, and the adventurous diver (Ben) can actually go inside and see barrels, ladders, and coiled ropes. However in many ways the shipwrecks now resemble a coral reef, and it’s another incredible example of watching wildlife grow and simply take over. This was an experience I never thought I would have, but I’ll never forget it.

"Hi Mom!"

Check out the photos link in the menu for more photos, and stay tuned for a video of actual footage of the dives.

Next: Thailand!

~Shana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Finding Our Rhythm in the Philippines

  1. samantha says:

    So Cool!!! Scuba certified (:
    Sounds like you are both having a mind-opening, special time out there.
    Thank you for the update. Looking forward to reading about your next adventure.
    Love you!
    -sam

  2. Jo says:

    Congratulations Shana, not only for having the guts to learn to scuba dive but to get your certificate, something I could never have done!
    What an experience to see the fantastic sights under the water – the coral is breathtakingly beautiful. Ben’s photos are amazing and I look forward to seeing the video of you both diving and your next posting. It is such a world apart from the stress and traffic in LA. and worth the loooong flights to get there. Sorry you are not near the beach but I bet you are having fun on the motorbike. Just don’t get too near the hot exhaust pipe like I did!!
    Enjoy your last day in the sun and have a safe flight to Bangkok.

  3. Bubby and Papa says:

    Just saw your blog and it’s great. The photo’s of scuba diving and coral reefs is outstanding. However, you’re Bubby is still catching her breath over them!

    We are so happy you’re able to keep in touch with us all. It makes us feel that you’re not so far away and that you are both well and happy.

    Have a wonderful time at your next stop. We love your website –keep it coming.

    Love and kisses, Bubby & Papa

    B

  4. brian m jones says:

    Hi Ben and Shana,
    what a great way this is to be able to follow your journey across south East Asia
    Karen and I are both very envious of you . I wish I could dive into W.W.2 shipwrecks. Actually I just wish I could swim!!
    Ben’s photographs are truly spectacular. Ben I do hope you will do an Album similar to the one you did for us of the Argentina trip. That was the best gift we have ever had.
    We have booked our flight to Bali and we are looking forward to being with you for a few days. I am off to Brazil again at the end of the month and I am not sure which is more dangerous where your are or Rio. Please take care.
    Dad

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