|Scuba Diving Fun at Subic Bay – Olongapo. Photo from Arizona Dive Shop @ Facebook.|
With 534 new registered islands, the country is giving us new reasons to have more fun in PH. Inevitably, locals and tourists rejoice as they anticipate more opportunities to explore the magnificent waters of this tropical Asian country. This paves the way for a major boost in tourism, especially now that the Philippines is earning a reputation as a hotspot for sport diving.
Subic Bay is best known for its war wrecks, which helped shape its image as one of the most popular dive destinations in the world. With varying depths and structures, the wreck sites offer countless diving opportunities for beginners and more advanced divers.
And whilst wreck diving is an entertaining pursuit in itself, divers and trainers alike also enjoy discovering the stories behind each site. In more ways than one, this sport offers enthusiasts a chance to dive into the waters and sail back into history at the same time.
|US Tank found at one of the dive sites. Photo from Arizona Dive Shop @ Facebook.|
Situated about 60 miles north of Manila, Subic Bay has deep waters that open to the West Philippine Sea. It is bordered by the town of Subic, the city of Olongapo and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ), which had been the largest US Navy Base outside the USA.
The area had been home to 19 wrecks that date back from the Spanish-American war to the Second World War. After years of exploration, divers and locals discovered that the wreck site includes WWII wrecks, cargo ships, battle ships, landing ships, patrol boats, antique steam ships and even submarines and airplanes.
What makes Subic Bay a unique dive destination is it offers divers over a dozen wrecks within 20 minutes, compared to the three or four wrecks that other areas offer within an hour-long boat ride. There are also numerous dive centres that provide lessons with various levels of difficulty.
If you are interested in exploring the wreck sites in this area, we can get you started by teaching you a thing or two about some of them. Here, you can find a brief history about 11 of the more popular sites and some tips to keep in mind.
|Subic Bay treasure diving interest points. Photo from Arizona Dive Shop @ Facebook.|
Given its shallow depth and its impressive features, the USS New York has become the most sought-after wreck in the Philippines and one of the most dived wrecks in Asia. However, most of the dive centres require advanced diving skills before letting anybody to explore this battleship.
Visibility here can change quickly, so beginners are advised to try other wrecks instead. Qualified and technical divers, however, are allowed to explore the maze-like engine compartments and descend deeper into the sea bottom through different entry points.
Also known as The Hell Ship, Oryuko Maru was a Japanese WWII ship located within a few hundred feet of the USS New York. Although this is not the best wreck site in the area, it is worth a dive for its bloody history, which dates back to the WWII era.
Oryuko Maru transported 1,620 Prisoners of War (POW) in the cargo without a label. When the ship was attacked by a US aircraft, the Japanese brought some of the POWs on the deck so the aircraft would be forced to call off the attack. After forcing the POWs to swim ashore, the aircraft assumed that the ship was empty so they attacked and sank her close to the shore.
A few days after the Oryuko Maru was sunk, Seian Maru followed suit. This 3,712-tone freighter was serving the Japanese Navy when it was bombed by the US aircraft. Being close to the shipping channel, both the Oryuko and Seian Maru are not dived very often. For one, getting permission to dive these shipwrecks may be difficult.
Located inside the Triboa Bay, the Landing Craft Utility (LCU) is now one of the most sheltered dive sites, being home to a collection of lionfish species. Having a depth of 10-21 metres, the vessel is still intact and one single dive will make you appreciate its features. It is believed to have sunk in the 1950s during an airport construction. The small wreck is easy to navigate, which makes it ideal even for novice divers.
Like the LCU, the Japanese Patrol Boat is situated inside the Triboa Bay. The vessel sank during the WWII when the Japanese occupied Subic Bay. It is a 105-foot long vessel converted to military use but due to an earthquake in 2015, some of its interiors were closed and the pilot house was flattened. With features that offer a glimpse into the Japanese occupation in the country, it is perfect for underwater photography.
Originally named MV Hermes, the USS Lanikai probably has the most interesting history amongst the wrecks in the site. She was initially used as part of the US Navy’s plan to form a defensive information patrol, but the attack on Pearl Harbour left her stranded in Manila Bay.
She hopped from island to island until she was forced to return to her owner in Manila. After countless heroic exploits, the USS Lanikai was sunk by a typhoon in 1947. It was also interesting to note that this ship was owned by MGM studios and was shown in the movie Hurricane. Because of its depth, it is ideal for deep, advanced and technical divers.
Whether you are diving for the sake of fun or photography, the El Capitan has something for everyone, except perhaps for technical divers. Ideal for novice penetration, this is the best training site as chosen by dive centres. With many nudibranchs amongst the coral and reef fish, it also makes the perfect wreck for photography shoots.
If you are a novice diver, the LST might not be the best choice for you. Regarded as an outstanding deep dive site, The Landing Ship Tank (LST) has become the favourite destination of experienced and technical divers. If you want to catch a historical perspective on the WWII Pacific Campaign, we encourage you to dive into the LST. It is worth a visit if you are in for wreck penetration and photography purposes.
Also known as the Sunken Tin, San Quentin is famous for being the only dive site in Subic Bay that has currents. At times, the surface currents get strong enough but not dangerous to keep divers at bay.
Since it had been over a century when the ship had been sunk, it is now covered in coral and home to sponges, nudibranchs and a variety of giant clams and fishes. San Quentin is also regarded as one of the best shallow sites in the area fit for open water and novice divers.
The Barges is a series of floating docks sitting on a sandy bottom located in front of the Grande Island. The site offers a great marine life that anybody can appreciate even at night time. It is home to sea creatures such as lionfishes, shrimps, nudibranchs, pipefishes, gropers and more.
Lying several kilometres outside the bay, the F4 Phantom is one of the few remaining aircraft wrecks available in the area. It is a relic of the US Navy’s long involvement at the bay. The best part about it is technical drivers can sit on the pilot’s seat as there are no ejection seats visible. With a depth of 45 metres, this is an ideal site for technical training courses.
These are just some of the best wreck sites you can find within the rich waters of Subic Bay. Still, no matter your skill level, you will always find something that you will absolutely love and enjoy. The best part? As a famous tourist hotspot in the country, Subic Bay boasts a variety of accommodations and activities. After diving into the wrecks, you can drink the night away or have fun with your friends in the various restaurants and night life spots around.