Asia,  Philippins,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Coron (Philippines): wreck diving and hot spring

The El Nido – Coron trip is one of the most beautiful boat trips I have ever done. It lasts between 6 and 7 hours and the magnificent landscapes pass before our eyes, on the horizon there are always 2 or 3 islands, with or without beach (the Philippines have more than 7000 islands in all). One is never bored. We discover the virtues of slowness and (almost) regret that the trip is so short

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

Contrary to what we can read online, the crossing from El Nido to Coron and vice versa has become very safe thanks to the use of big bangkas (and not the small ones like a few years ago, see photo) even if navigation is still difficult because of the many hidden rocks present in the archipelago. The price (1100 pesos/person) even includes a lunch, simple but consistent, cooked directly on the boat as well as a bottle of water



We are only about ten to travel while the boat can contain a maximum of 80 (30 would have been ideal) so everyone took a bench each for … To sleep. In spite of the unbearable noise of the engine (during 7 hours). JB has the advantage of being equipped with his noise reducing Bose headphones, I have to be content with my earplugs

Look at these landscapes



We arrive in Coron (finally at Busuanga island; because Coron is composed of several islands) around 3 pm and the tricycle drivers are already waiting for us at the port. I like it when there is no intermediary like that, that it is the drivers themselves who accost us rather than being accosted by a guy who will “sell” us to his “brother”… The ride costs 50 pesos (with luggage), but if we take the tricycle for a short distance, and without luggage, it’s 10 pesos/person

Our hotel Apartelle de Gabrielle (which we recommend) is 15 minutes walk from the city center which saves us from the incessant noise of tricycles. It was very difficult for us to find a good, cheap hotel with a private bathroom, because all the economic hotels here only offer rooms with a shared bathroom. Not at all compatible for a seaside resort: when we come back from a long day at the beach, we have only one desire: to rush under the shower without waiting

We walk a little to the port of the city center (where the excursion boats leave). There are travel agencies and diving centers every 5 meters. The obsession of tricycles seems to be the hot spring 30mn away from the city. Every time we pass in front of a tricycle, it tells us “hot springs, sir?”. It is probably the most profitable race for them: 300 pesos round trip, including an hour of waiting + 50 pesos/hour extra. We may not resist for a long time because I really like hot springs

The port in the city center is well laid out and very clean for walks. I admire the beautiful sunset while JB plays basketball with the tricycle drivers. Basketball is the national sport here, even in the villages there is a basketball court. JB’s level in basketball is quite dismal but his large size will amuse his partners a lot

We notice a bui bui which is very popular with the locals. It makes us so good to see a real local scene after those few days in El Nido where we find more pancakes in Nutella than local fish

We then dine at the Philippine restaurant Levine’s which offers an authentic and very accessible menu (150 pesos the dish on average or 3€). For lunch, this restaurant sells small portions at 50 pesos and rice at 10 pesos. Please note!

Everywhere in the street there is a good smell of barbecue. Skewers are sold everywhere. However, since meat is expensive, these skewers are made of organs rather than meat (or pieces of not noble meat with a lot of fat). It costs between 10 and 15 pesos. JB and I have recently had problems with food poisoning in Vietnam and Thailand so we are abstaining for the moment but there is a good chance that the appetizing smell will eventually overcome this wisdom..

Day 2 : Motorcycle excursion

We rent a motorcycle for 5 hours (300 pesos), the motorcycle worries us a bit: no rear-view mirror, no helmet, no turn signals, one of the brakes that the renter advises us not to use, …. We even have difficulty to open the trunk so a part of our things will remain stuck inside all the afternoon. We took a more difficult way (thanks Google Maps) because the motorcycle renter told us that the two ways were the same (no it is false!). While trying to get the motorcycle out of a small ditch, JB drove straight into the corn. Moreover, when we arrived at the beach, we realized that there was nothing to eat (no store, no restaurant). In short, it was all wrong from the beginning to the end of this trip, a concentrate of “10 things not to do when you rent a motorcycle”, but fortunately we are safe and sound

The purpose of this motorcycle trip was to go to Cabo Beach, one of two beaches east of Busuanga Island. The view is incredible (see photo), however there is some garbage and a lot of leaves in the water, which makes swimming less fun than on the islands next door. The advantage is however the calm, we are indeed only four on the beach, the two of us included


There are 5 dogs in the area, they are very interested in my packet of chips so I made a distribution of chips to the dogs, which JB dislikes a lot because the dogs follow us afterwards. In short, don’t do what I did, at the time, I found the idea very good, and I was happy about it, but with hindsight, it was actually a bit risky. It’s hard not to crack in front of those balls


We then went to the “Hot Springs”, the hot spring that the tricycles have been telling us about since our arrival, but we went there with the motorcycle we rented. The place is composed of 3 outdoor swimming pools, of the same temperature, with a magnificent view on the mountains and this small bamboo bridge. The water must be 40 degrees, it’s perfect for me but a little hot for JB. Moreover, there is no shower (despite the 200 pesos of entry/person that we had to pay)… so I recommend this spring to those who, like me, like to take very hot baths


We go back to the city by the other way, much nicer, passing through small villages and watch the school exit. The students all take shared tricycles to go home, or they walk. Only the richest among them ride home on mountain bikes (and attract the jealousy of others)

We succumb to the delicious smell of the skewers but take an antibiotic each (as advised by our Thai doctor we had consulted for food poisoning in Krabi) to avoid any problems. It is better not to fall sick, because tomorrow is the big day!


Day 3 : Wreck diving

We went through Coron Divers, a very serious diving center with French-speaking Dive Masters, to the care of the customers. Frankly, when you aren’t very experienced, you have to be able to trust them and with them, you know that you are taken care of. Moreover, for JB who only did a few days of diving to pass his PADI, it is important to have someone to guide him in French to be fully reassured

So it is Maël who took care of it, a very nice expatriate, patient and pedagogue, who gave up everything to settle in the Philippines and live from his passion (model to follow!)

Because (thanks) to the low season, we have the boat only for us two. We are thus entitled to a captain, a cook, a sailor who will dive with us and Maël… only for us! I accompany JB to do some snorkelling and especially to eat 😀 (as usual, we have the right to a feast on the boat, I tell you about it or not the Philippine grilled fish??)

Then, on the first picture, you can see the Lusong Gunboat, a 25 meters Japanese submarine hunter. The highest part is only 3m deep so when the water is super transparent like today, we can see the Gunboat from the boat


While JB is diving, I have to decide if I’m snorkelling or not. I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to going in the water… but the captain is so nice that he took me snorkeling and made sure I don’t get hurt with the corals. So much kindness touches me a lot and gives me the courage to snorkel on my own afterwards. Moreover this site is very beautiful because the reef is magnificent and we can see the wreck well

All pictures and videos were taken by the team with our Go Pro, to let JB focus only on his technique and enjoy without worrying about taking pictures (it’s really too good this dive center, isn’t it?)

On the second picture, JB is about to enter the Morazan, a 93 meters long Japanese cargo ship


JB makes a third dive on the Tangat Wreck, a 127 meters long cargo ship, captured and used by the Japanese. Many fishes answered present including a 1.5m tuna (which looks like a shark (argggghhhhh) and Nemo’s family (ohhhhhhhhhhh!!!!)

These three ships were sunk in September 1944 by the US Navy air force

Day 4: Tour B

As for El Nido, Coron offers boat tours to visit other small islands. We stay on Busuanga Island (the largest, where there is an airport) and take a boat trip to visit the island next door (Coron Island), very famous for its corals, lakes and double lagoon


I’ll tell you right now: it’s hard to have a better day than this one. This is by far the best boat tour in the Philippines. The program is perfect, we love all the stops we made

First of all, the Twin Lagoon. Two lagoons are connected via a small hole under a huge rock. If the tide is low, you can pass to the other lagoon through this hole, otherwise you take the stairs and you have a superb view like this one on the 2nd lagoon


The first lagoon is filled with sea water, while the second is filled with fresh water, mixed with 30% sea water. When you swim near the entrance of the second lagoon, the water is sometimes warm (sea water) and sometimes cold (fresh water). There are a lot of fish in the 1st lagoon, but not in the second one

Here is the 1st lagoon


Then we visit the Skeleton Wreck, where there are a lot of (striped) fish, they are very sociable and swim around us. They are very curious and unfaithful: as soon as there is a new boat arriving, they drop us to turn around the other boat and other tourists. We see the boat quite well while snorkelling, even if the shallowest part is at 5 meters. Here is JB doing snorkeling with his friends the fishes


Another picture to show you how close the fish are to us poissons-coron

We stop at Smith Beach for lunch. It rains just as we take shelter in one of the many huts on the beach


What do you see in the water? A huge starfish. In spite of the prohibition to touch the fish/corals and others, the Chinese tourists present on our boat took this starfish out of the water to take selfies with it. OMG!


We do some snorkelling 2mn by boat from there, at the Reef Garden, and see a big turtle (see picture below, top right). We follow it for a few minutes, until it goes down too low and becomes invisible. It’s magical! The corals are very pretty and keep beautiful colors contrary to El Nido


We finish the tour at Barracuda Lake, a lake composed of 70% fresh water and 30% salt water. It’s very deep and we don’t see much (there are only small fish and a rather muddy bottom) but it feels good to swim in rather fresh and warm water. It’s like going to the Hot Springs, but much bigger. The favorite activity here is diving. barracuda-lake-coron

Day 5: Rest

It is raining ropes and we spend the whole day resting before tomorrow’s transport day to Puerto Galera. We have lunch at Winnie’s Restaurant, and dinner at Levine’s

I realize that only 2 months separate us from our trip to South America and start to freak out: I still haven’t made any progress in learning Spanish. I take advantage of the rain to get back into it and get a taste for it

At the moment, I am learning Spanish with

  1. The Michel Thomas method 100% audio (13 CDs that I took the care to burn in MP3 before leaving, 1h20 per CD, corresponding to the beginner & intermediate level). You learn virtually with a teacher and two other students (actors) who aren’t very talented on purpose. We learn Spanish first with similar words in French and then one or two new words in each 5 minute lesson. The teacher essentially asks questions like “How would you say “if it’s too expensive, I can’t buy it?“”
  2. Travel Spanish for Dummies, which contains important phrases for any trip to Hispanic countries
  3. Small guide : Spanish: the essentials with grammar and vocabulary sheets by theme

As you can see, the emphasis is on my ability to communicate, not on my ability to conjugate verbs and master grammar

I understood why I could never complete my Spanish learning: I had no practical goal. I started Spanish late (in business school) and at that time my goal was to find a well-paid internship abroad to perfect my English. I didn’t intend to work in Spain, I only went there twice, and I don’t listen to songs in Spanish

This isn’t the first time I have had to learn a language in express mode. The first time was for Mandarin: 2 days to learn how to haggle, ask for directions. I was doing very well. The second time was for English (in Vietnam, you only learn one foreign language), so when I came to study in France, it was essential to reach the 3rd level in only 3 months. Challenge successful thanks to my 3 teachers and 6 hours of English/day including a huge text extracted from the famous TOELF test to be translated every day

Having a practical goal for the trip to South America really motivates me and I sincerely believe that I will be able to reach my goal (to understand and be understood) within 2 months. Add to that 6 months of practice there and my Spanish will be almost fluent (delighted with that prospect)

Part 2: Practical Tips

How to get there

From Manila: Plane to Busuanga Airport
From El Nido: Boat from 6-7am, departure every day EXCEPT Monday, at 8am. 1100 pesos/person
From Mindoro: 5-6h boat from San Jose


  • Food: cheaper than El Nido, we do very well for 300 pesos/meal
  • Skewers: between 10 and 15 pesos per skewer
  • Rates for Coron Island Tours

    • Diving, 3 tanks: between 2800 pesos and 3300 pesos
    • Tours: between 750 pesos and 1500 pesos/person

      • Tower A: 750 pesos/person
      • Tower B: 950 pesos/person
      • Coron Island Ultimate Tour: 1500 pesos/person
      • Tower C: 1200 pesos/person
      • Tower D: 1200 pesos/person
      • Tower E: 2400 pesos/person
      • Mask and snorkel rental: 100 pesos at the hotel, or 150 pesos on the boat

  • Tricycle: 10 pesos/person/run, if transport with luggage from the port: 50 pesos/tricycle
  • Scooter rental: between 300 pesos (< 5h) and 600 pesos (24h), with more or less 80 pesos of gasoline. An ID or passport is required as a guarantee.


  • If you go to Cabo Beach or Hot Springs on your own, take the path along the ocean, it is much more practical.
  • Go to the Hot Springs early in the morning or after 4pm otherwise it will be too hot. Bring plenty of water (there is a store if you need it) otherwise you may get dehydrated
  • For boat excursions, always bring some change, to rent the masks or pay for a coconut
  • Remember to take a waterproof bag to put your stuff on when you go on a boat trip

Our addresses

  • Hotel: Apartelle de Gabrielle, double room with private bathroom (rare at this price) for 20€/night. Friendly team, the prices charged by the hotel for tours, linen, mask rental, and massage are cheaper than elsewhere
  • Diving center : Coron Divers, super pro and with the small care, with French-speaking guides if need be


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