Coron, Palawan’s Paradise for Adventurers

Diving amidst WWII shipwrecks, paddleboarding on the most pristine lakes, climbing rock formations or listening to the stories of the Tagbanua people — the Calamianes Islands have everything you've ever dreamed of.

At the northeastern tip of Palawan is the Calamian group of islands, whose major islands include Busuanga, Coron, Calauit and Culion. Coron town is in Busuanga, about 30 minutes from the airport and where most visitors will base themselves; Coron Island is where the most popular sites are found, such as Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoons and Barracuda Lake. Off the island are a dozen Japanese shipwrecks between 10m and 40m deep that make for some fascinating diving.

The most popular spot is Kayangan Lake, with its crystal-clear waters and viewpoint of Coron’s most iconic lagoon scene. This is a magical place for swimming and snorkeling, and even freediving with its incredible underwater rock formations. (However, after two tourists died while freediving in the lake in 2017, visitors are now required to wear lifejackets when swimming in all the lakes.)

Certified divers who are also history buffs will waste no time getting to the shipwrecks of Coron Bay. These supply ships were laid to waste by an American squadron of dive bombers during a sustained air attack on the Imperial Japanese Navy on September 24, 1944. The exterior of the wrecks are encrusted with corals and teeming with marine life, while penetration dives deep into the boats will reward you with machinery and other artefacts. One wreck, the Lusong gunboat, is shallow enough for snorkelers to explore, with one end of the boat breaking the surface at low tide.

Wrecks are not the only diveable sites. Barracuda Lake, inside a former crater, has unusual rock formations and a thermocline — you just have to trek to the area for 30 minutes with all your gear on. For more traditional diving, Coral Garden has some of the best visibility in a marine protected area, while Siete Pecados will bring you encounters with huge schools of tropical fish.

 

A WWII shipwreck in Coron
A WWII shipwreck in Coron

 

Want to see Coron in a way that’s light on the environment? SUP Central, a newly launched tour group on the island, offers guided stand-up paddleboard (SUP) tours for all levels of paddlers. Taking off from Bacau Bay Resort, just 10 minutes from Coron town proper, paddlers are led through the verdant mangrove forests that surround the shoreline.

SUP Central co-founder Michi Calica Sotto considers this island her second home, after retiring from a 30-
year career in fashion in Manila. In Coron, she is a certified SUP instructor and a rising star in the arena of competitive SUP — on her free days, she uses the board to paddle out and buy seafood from the local fishermen.

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Respect the people of the land

Palawan is often branded as a resort wonderland, but it’s important for visitors to realize that the province is also home to several indigenous groups. One such tribe, the Tagbanua, has lived on these islands for thousands of years. Though the group has ancestral domain over Coron, mass tourism has led to its marginalization over the years. Many of the sites here are sacred to the Tagbanua and are therefore not accessible to the public, but the pressure is on for them to open up more areas to tourism. A few tours do offer interaction with the Tagbanua people by taking visitors to see where they live and to experience their culture, music and even enjoy their special coffee. This way, the Tagbanua get to participate in the tourism boom, while telling their own stories.

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More stories from our Travelers’ Ultimate Guide to Palawan

 

Written by

Audrey Carpio

Photographed by

Francisco Guerrero

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