|This view = the vacation is ON!|
One of the main reasons we chose the Philippines for our trip was its reputation as scuba diving destination. The area around Coron Town on Busuangua is well known as a destination for wreck diving, as about a dozen Japanese ships were sunk there during a WWII battle. After a little bit of research, we decided to stay at the Sangat Island Dive Resort since it looked like it was very close to the wreck sites - although a bit more pricey (especially since the only room available was a 4-person room), this turned out to be a great choice for a number of reasons. From the airport a van took us to Coron Town in about 30 minutes, where we hopped on a boat for the 40 minute ride to Sangat Island. Upon arrival we were greeted and given a couple fresh coconut waters...finally (~12:30pm local time) we had "officially" arrived!
|Fresh welcome drinks at Sangat Island - well deserved after ~20 hours of travel!|
The resort was a beautiful tropical island retreat - a nice beach with several bungalows along the water, some hours without electricity etc. Our room was waterfront, elevated up one story with some hammocks hanging underneath.
|Our first home in the Philippines - a beachfront bungalow for 4|
It had been about a year since our last dives, but we were confident we'd get right back into it...in retrospect, it might have been better for me (Todd) to have done a simpler intro dive. Between struggling with my buoyancy & my leaky mask (even though its my own!), I was sucking down air at a higher rate than normal, and had to borrow some air from Jojo in order to finish the dive. Still, the wreck was impressive - gigantic (over 300 feet long) and with some huge swimthroughs. We saw a turtle and a scorpion fish, among other marine life highlights. After the dive we did some snorkeling on the Sangat house reef, and joined the dive staff and other guests for dinner then drinks (the first of many San Miguels) under a beautiful starry sky.
|Beach at Sangat Island|
After falling asleep to the lapping waves out in front of our place, we were ready for more diving on day two. Our morning dive, again with Jojo, was at the Irako, an even bigger ship than the Olympia Maru the day before. Although my mask problems continued, my bouyancy control was much better and with a larger tank of air I had no issues on that front! The visibility at this site was the best of any of the wreck sites, and as we did a lap around the refrigeration ship, we saw some schools of barracuda and a few lionfish. We poked around the interior of the ship a little as well.
Our afternoon dive with with another divemaster, Luke, to the Morazan, the highlight of which were the giant boilers in the engine room (you can see some pictures & video from all the wrecks here on the Sangat website). This was the only dive site we visited where we saw another group of divers, which didn't help the visibility - at one point we had to turn around rather than try to feel our way through! After swimming through the wreck we finished by cruising over the side that is not buried into the ground (this one rests on its side), where we saw lots of different fish including clownfish, pufferfish, boxfish, and jackfish. By this point we had gotten back in the rhythm of diving, it would have been nice to stay another day and get a couple more dives in but our schedule required us to move on. Overall I've got to give a lot of props to the dive center at Sangat - our overall experience the best of any dive center we've ever used - first and foremost they are very safety-conscious at all times, they are prepared for a big schedule of dives each day, they have a respect for the environment and the sensitive nature of the sites we were diving (places where human lives were lost), and they were great folks to hang around with - either out on the boat, around the dock, or in the bar!
|Two thumbs up for Jojo and crew at the Sangat Island Dive Center!|
Before sunset we (and another couple) took out the kayaks from the resort in search of a hotspring that we were told was in the mangrove forest about a half-mile from the resort. It was really easy to kayak in the sea near the resort - there are so many islands in the area that it keeps the currents and waves pretty minimal. Along the way we passed giant limestone cliffs and saw some birds of prey hunting in the water, it was very picturesque (alas, we were in a hurry to get to the hotsprings so no pictures - sorry!). We cruised through the mangroves and found the hotsprings pretty easily - it was a nice place to relax for a bit:
|Hotspring, hidden in the mangroves on Sangat Island|
Sunset on the way back was beautiful - the water like glass and the colors on the horizon:
|Sunset on Coron Bay|
|Beachside BBQ dinner - our last night at Sangat|