Apo Reef and Coron

The Apo Reef and Coron cruise is an adventurer’s dream cruise, mixing world class scuba diving in a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for crystal clear visibility and healthy marine life with excellent wreck diving opportunities in one of the most ruggedly picturesque places in the world. The Apo Reef and Coron cruise also includes unforgettable land excursions around limestone islands and offers our guests a unique chance to encounter the critically endangered Dugong or Sea Cow, a rare sea mammal specifically found in the waters of Busuanga.

Apo Reef

Crystal blue waters, dramatic drop-offs, and memorable pelagic encounters are best used to describe Apo Reef, an underwater lagoon located in the West Philippine Sea off the west coast of Mindoro.

Rated as one of the best but least known diving destinations in the world, Apo Reef is the second largest contiguous reef system in the world, next to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Apo Reef Natural Park consists of the three islands; Apo Island, Binangaan, and Cayos del Bajo. The largest of the three, Apo Island, has a shallow lagoon with a depth of 2 meters to 10 meters and is surrounded by mangrove forests which serve as source of food, nursery and spawning ground of several coastal and marine species of fauna and sanctuary of birds. Its expansive coral reef system, approximately 34 sq. km. wide, is home to different species of fish, marine mammals and invertebrates.

Its stature as a marine sanctuary has helped maintain its reefs’ pristine condition, with all sorts of tropical fish calling it home. Crystal clear waters allow divers to peer out to the blue for pelagics such as mantas and whale sharks, while reef sharks and eagle rays regularly coast along the reef. Dolphins and pilot whales are also regularly sighted cruising around the marine protected area. A full day of diving is dedicated to this special marine protected area before embarking on to the Busuanga group of Islands in Palawan, more commonly known as Coron.

Coron

Spectacular limestone karsts and hidden lagoons make Coron one of the most picturesque places in the world. Underneath its natural beauty lies dozens of WWII wrecks undisturbed for decades, aptly rewarding Coron the title Wreck Diving Capital of the World.

Coron’s giant wrecks are excellently intact, and most lie shallower than any other wreck in the world. Due to the sheer size of these well-preserved wartime artifacts, some would choose to do more than one dive to satisfy one’s inquisitiveness.

Unique marine life such as crocodile fish and seahorses have called some of these wrecks home. Schooling fish such as snappers, fusiliers, and batfish, are also commonly found, while sea turtles have also claimed permanent residency in many. Whale sharks and mantas are also known to grace the blue.

There is however definitely a lot more to Coron than just wreck diving. The very rare opportunity to encounter the critically endangered Dugong or Sea Cow in their natural habitat is also offered in Coron. Once believed to be mermaids, these shy and gentle creatures graze on sea grass and grow up to three meters long and weigh up to 400 kilograms. Due to their docile nature, these animals make an easy target for coastal hunters and are sought for their meat oil, skin, bones, and teeth. Through steadfast conservation efforts, the dugongs are now legally protected within their range of habitat and are slowly fighting their way against extinction.

Another unique opportunity offered in Coron is diving the fresh and salt waters of Barracuda Lake. Considered as the “craziest dive site of the Philippines”, enchanting Barracuda Lake offers divers with crystal clear waters and intriguing underwater rock formations set against a backdrop of imposing jagged limestone walls. But apart from its natural beauty, it is the major thermocline/heliocline experience that always leaves guests bewildered.

A special full day excursion is also included in our Adventure Cruise itinerary for our guests to experience and truly appreciate the amazing beauty of Coron. The trip includes visits to the Twin Lagoons and Kayangan Lake, a festive barbecue lunch by the beach, a relaxing afternoon session in picturesque Siete Pecados, and finishes the day with an invigorating dip in Maquinit Hot Springs.

The Wrecks of Coron

In September of 1944 during World War II, US Admiral “Bull” Hasley had the task of securing the area in preparation for the US landing on Leyte. Seeking safe passage for an aircraft carrier through the uncharted Calamian group of islands, he sent out several waves of reconnaissance aircraft to photograph the area. This resulted in a mapping officer noticing that some of the islands had changed positions relative to the surrounding land, as these islands turned out to be a camouflaged Japanese Naval fleet. Realizing this, Hasley immediately ordered an air strike, and at 0900 hours on the 24th of September 1944, Task Force 45 carrier-based bombers attacked and sank at least 24 vessels around the Busuanga and Coron Islands, resulting to what a lot of divers now regard as the Wreck Diving Capital of the World.

Inclusions
  • Full board accommodation in twin or quad sharing cabins. Single occupancy rates available.

  • Five (5) meals a day (including light breakfast and afternoon snacks). Unlimited coffee, tea, juice and drinking water.

  • Diving (3-4 non-deco dives a day), service of a dive master, full dive tanks and weight belts.

  • FREE UNLIMITED NITROX (for bookings fully paid 6 months prior to the scheduled trip).

  • International and domestic air transportation.

  • Hotels and meals before and after the cruise.

  • Dive, travel, and medical insurances.

  • Soft drinks, beer, wine or spirits (minimal corkage fees apply).

  • Diving equipment rental.

  • Nitrox diving (for bookings fully paid less than 6 months prior to scheduled  trip).

  • Park entrance fees and dive permits.

  • Crew gratuities.

The Dugongs of Busuanga, Coron

The gentle Dugong (Dugong dugon), or Sea Cow, is adapted for life in the sea with a streamlined body, wedge-shaped tail and strong flippers. Eating up to 30 kilos of seagrass every day, these huge herbivorous marine mammals can grow up to 3 meters long and weigh over 400 kilograms. In the Philippines, they inhabit the shallow sea grass meadows of Busuanga Palawan, Guimaras, Iloilo, and some parts of Mindanao. Encounters with these shy creatures are extremely rare.

Dugongs are thought to live as long as humans (about 70 years), but give birth to just one calf every 3 to 5 years. They are globally classified as vulnerable and are considered critically endangered in the Philippines because of their sparse numbers. They face a high risk of extinction in the wild due to a number of factors including accidental gill netting, hunting for their meat and oil, and habitat and food loss. Without substantial and effective interventions, dugongs will become extinct across much of its range.

Trip Highlights
  • Apo Reef

  • Pandan Island

  • Coron Island (Expedition Trip only)

  • Wrecks of Coron (Expedition Trip only)

  • Dugong Diving (Expedition Trip only)

  • Coron Island Full Day Excursion (Expedition Trip only)

  • Puerto Galera (Encounter Trip only)

  • Verde Island (Encounter Trip only)

*Actual route is subject to change under Cruise Director’s discretion and/or in the event of change in weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

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