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Be careful in Coron: operator(s) taking non-wreck certified divers inside the shipwrecks

Discussion in 'Philippine Paradise Divers' started by Davi Magalhães, Jan 16, 2020.

  1. Davi Magalhães

    Davi Magalhães Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Brasília, Brasil
    I'm traveling Philippines for a month and I'm having a blast, after I'm back home I'll post a complete dive report. But, in the meantime, I'd like to warn everyone about what happened to me in Coron just a few days ago.

    I'm AOW certified with less than 40 logged dives and I decided to do fun dives with Reggae Dive Center because I saw some people on this forum recommending them and they're well ranked in TripAdvisor. They charge the highest price in Coron so I thought I would get premium service with them.

    When we arrived at the first dive site (Kogyu Maru), my divemaster asked me if I wanted to go inside the ship. I said "only if it's a swim through and it's not narrow". When we got to the wreck, we entered through a narrow but OK door and we were inside a huge hall that had many holes on the hull, there was plenty of light inside and I felt I could get out whenever I wanted, so I felt comfortable during the dive.

    On the second side site (Okikawa Maru), the divemaster asked me again if I wanted to enter the wreck and I said "only if it's like the first one", to which he said "yeah, it's pretty similar". Boy was he wrong.
    As soon as we entered, it was pitch black inside and very narrow. There were many moments where the other fun divers and I were struggling to go through passageways, and we had to detangle our regulators hoses many times (I asked them about this after we were back on the boat). There was a moment I felt I was in a videogame, dodging a barrier on the left just to have another one on the right, and then another one on the left again, all without knowing if I was going up or down.
    Overall, I would say we spent more than 10 minutes in complete darkness (apart from the flashlights), with very low visibility and, to me, no idea where I was going or where the exit was. I used way more air than my usual and I didn't feel comfortable at all, which didn't make me enjoy the experience.

    I talked to some of the other divers on the boat and many of them also had no idea what they were getting into before the dive. I was so uneasy after the experience that I decided not to dive again in Coron.

    Thankfully, no accidents happened, but I cannot think that the experience I had is OK or reflects what I learned during my OW and AOW courses. So, for the non-wreck divers out there, please be careful when going to Coron.
    wnissen and Lorenzoid like this.
  2. Pearlman

    Pearlman Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Bangalore
    I was wondering about exactly this for my upcoming trip this April - just last week. Thanks for posting. I'll be watching this thread for recommendations on a safety conscious dive shop.

  3. Peter69_56

    Peter69_56 Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Australia
    Get used to it. They do that in most 3rd world dive sites. It is more the norm than you think. Did everyone have at least 2 lights, I suspect not. Was there only one dive guide at the front, probably so. Were there lines run, I bet not. All it needs is for a new diver to panic and it can all go to hell in a hand basket in a few seconds. If you dont have the experience, then you will have to be the one to make the yes/no decision.

    An example I can give you is where I dived a wreck in Bikini. 4 divers to enter the wreck. A line was run most of the way in. The path was through a number of door ways, down a stair case, 180 degree turn and through more doors then into a small room. All heavily silted on the floor.

    3 diver entered (2 OC and 1 CCR). I (one CCR, that was me) stayed outside, as I was concerned about the skill of one of the divers, the poor line laying, and the significant silt, and was cautious enough to prepare in case it all went bad. I waited at the entrance and had they not come out on time I was preparing to go in and find them.

    After 15 min 1 OC diver came out, I asked where are the rest? Shrugged shoulders. He was low on air so I took him to the up line, then went back to the entrance and was deciding to run a line in and find them when the other 2 came out. Back on board it came about that one OC diver went into the room, the second OC diver silted out the whole area (including the CCR diver) and did a runner. The first OC diver was in the room waiting to die when the CCR diver (who was covered in the silt out) went in, looked and got him out before I went in. The first divers reason for doing a runner was, well I thought S....... was dead so I thought no use us both dying so he left. In his rush to get out he silted everything so badly the CCR diver didnt know who was where.

    So much for dive buddies, friends.

    My comment to the first OC diver who was trapped was, I would not have left you in there. I was coming to get you. He did the right thing and stayed there as he couldnt see the line, and had he guessed it, probably would have gone in a wrong direction and got lost and then out of gas.

    Now that was supposedly (all) experienced technical divers. So how would a novice have coped in the same circumstance.
  4. Goingforsound

    Goingforsound Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Philippines / Burkina Faso
    Really liked the diving in Coron. But yes, safety is not priority.
  5. KDAD

    KDAD Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Northern New Jersey
    I think that would many of the other popular countries for diving in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean have more wrecks than reefs we would hear the same about them. The ones that do have reef tunnel swim throughs all seem to take anyone in them.
  6. lexvil

    lexvil Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: jamestown, ca.
    Now you are mostly wreck qualified, if he was an instructor for $200 you would get the card. He did ask and you did enter, you are responsible for your own safety and if you were uncomfortable staying on the outside was your best option.
    Jonn, Bob DBF, Allison Finch and 4 others like this.
  7. dlofting

    dlofting DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Unless I can see the exit from the entrance I always say no thanks. That goes for swim throughs too. I'm not trained and don't have the gear for overhead environments.
    Khrissi likes this.
  8. Lorenzoid

    Lorenzoid idling in neutral buoyancy

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Atlanta, USA
    I think that's the key for handling these types of situations. You have to make it clear during the pre-dive briefing that you can't give the DM a definitive yes or no until you actually SEE the alleged "swim-through." So, during the briefing you advise the DM that he needs to pause at the entrance and get your "okay" before you will proceed through, and if you do not give the okay, then you and the DM will swim around the outside. If you don't make this clear during the briefing, then despite your best efforts at quizzing the DM about the extent of the alleged swim-through, you have set yourself up for falling into the "trust-me dive" trap when you're put on the spot.
  9. Jay

    Jay Need to dive more!

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Melbourne, OZ.
    Oh dear, “similar”, well I guess they’re both dives on a wreck ...

    Coron might stretch the Padi swim-through definition a tad (light-zone, 40m linear) in some of the wrecks.

    Silt doesn’t seem to be an issue there, but I don’t know why they don’t run some permanent lines (some areas on some wrecks).
    Skulmoski likes this.
  10. alunharford

    alunharford Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Hong Kong
    The middle finger is one of the most important hand signals in diving, and I teach it to all my students. It means "I'm not entirely comfortable with this change to the dive plan". You should really have used it in this situation.

    Reggae divers are one of the best operators in Coron. That means there wasn't carbon monoxide in the tanks when I went there. It's not a high bar, but most operators don't meet it. Actually they seemed pretty good but most of their customers expected to be taken inside wrecks despite being totally unqualified and unequipped.

    You need to be able to look after yourself when diving in Coron. That means setting clear boundaries about what is acceptable and unacceptable before the dive, and aborting the dive if unacceptable things happen. It also means you want to take equipment with you, including analyzers etc most divers won't carry (there are no reputable operators to get a fill from).
    Esprise Me and Barmaglot like this.

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