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Scuba Diving in Coron, Palawan, the Philippines
Dive Site: Barracuda Lake
Location: Coron Island, Palawan, Philippines
Description: Freshwater lake
Depth: 30 metres + (100 feet)
Visibility: 5 - 30 metres (15 - 100 feet)
Barracuda Lake is a lake in a volcano crater. It must have links to the sea as there are some salt water fish and crustacean species living in it. I saw a large grouper and a trevally when I dived here and there are lots of small goby type fish in the shallows. The lake itself would be worth a visit just for the spectacular setting it is in. You approach by boat and have to clamber over the rocks to get down to the peaceful and picturesque crater itself. You don't need to use a wetsuit for this dive as after the first 12 to 13m you reach an intense thermo- & halocline where the water temperature rapidly rises from about 27°C to 38°C. It is uncomfortably hot on the way down and then on the way back up the top layer feels freezing! There's not a lot to see at the bottom of the crater and the silt kicks up really quickly. On the way back out keep your eyes open for shrimps. If you put out your fingers they will come and give you a clean! A must dive when in Coron. In Jan 2009 it cost PHP75 per person for entry.
This site is a different type of diving that one must experience.
The thermoclines in this lake are extreme. The temperatures reach up to 38°C. You are able to see the thin layer that separates the hot and cold water. To reach this dive site, it requires a 10 to 15 minute hike with your full gear on (excluding the fins of course). Be sure to ditch your wetsuit. You'll probably sweat a lot if you don't (no kidding!).
Jel, PADI Advanced Open Water Diver
Hi Jel, I am happy that you have enjoyed our country especially the diving side of it, awesome no? I totally agree with the thermocline and we pretty much experience the same thing by just going to the dive site, ain't it cool? However, the thin layer you mentioned is called a "heliocline", it's the separation of salt water and fresh water due to density differences . It creates a film or sometimes a foggy appearance effect. It's an eerie-fun experience as it makes you feel you are going out of the water, only to find out that you just passed the second surface.
We were unable to fit in this dive in the time we had - I mean, lets face it - if you are a wreckie like me then are you going to hike your gear in 100 degrees up the side of a hill just to dive in a lake that has a resident Barracuda that you sometimes see? To be perfectly honest Jim at Seadive said that if I did the dive and didn't enjoy it then I wouldn't have to pay so there's obviously more to it than first meets the eye. It IS a saltwater and freshwater lake with weird haloclines and weird thermoclines too. A buoyancy nightmare me thinks! Oh, did I mention zero viz below 40 metres?
Martin Frankcom, BSAC Advanced Instructor
I have dived Barracuda Lake several times, the first being my advanced course multi level dive many years ago. It is a strange dive with the thermocline but one I have recommended to many. The visibility changes and it has been from 80+m down to 15-20m because of a plankton bloom on my dives.
It is worth doing for the strange experience of the thermocline alone where you can have half you mask in prefect visibility and half in the salty low visibility water. The lake has some very stunning limestone structures along the wall. It is a beautiful site even to snorkel; if you can get down to 16m you can start to feel the thermocline. Sea Dive has always provided a very good service to my friend and I would recommend them without reserve. They also have a hyperbaric chamber on site that they provide free to local pearl divers and charge only for the oxygen for western divers.
Like everyone else, I've been to Coron a couple of times to dive the wrecks, but without question Barracuda Lake is a must do for any visiting diver. The walls of the lake are very odd looking limestone formations and it looks like a landscape from another planet. In several places the bottom is a gelatinous silt through which you can easily thrust your arm all the way up to your shoulder. It has the most insane thermoclines I've ever experienced, with very definite visible boundaries.
Temps ranged from 86°F at the surface to an amazing 97°F at around 60 feet. At about 105' there was a brackish layer about 3-4 feet thick, inside of which was near zero viz. But once you get underneath that layer - bang, crystal clear water with unlimited visibility. There are a few interesting little fish, a million snails, and some pretty good sized shrimp that like to come out from under their rocks and nibble at your fingers. The only thing I didn't see underwater was the barracuda! Aside from the unique dive environment, the surface scenery is awesome. Make sure to take a camera along.
We did this dive 20 years ago, before fees to enter the crater were mandated. There were two baracudas swimming along with us and the thermocline was apparant and clear. It was eerie and dark but worth the experience for any divier. We climbed down a crevice of rock to enter the crater, fully suited in our gear. Our divemaster was Gunther. A must dive and arguably my favorite of the many great dives in Coron.
Lenei Jimenez | 04/10/09
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