Subic Bay scuba diving, instantly conjures up images of wrecks, good accessible wrecks. Wreck divers the world over have heard about and in most cases have even dived, these high quality wrecks. Subic Bay scuba diving is one of only two high concentration of wrecks in the Philippines the other site is off Coron in the islands north of Palawan.
The majority of the wrecks are a result of either the Spanish – US war in 1898 or World War II, where a number of Japanese vessels were sunk by US aircraft.
Subic Bay scuba diving revolves around the wrecks that dot Subic Bay, it is no wonder with Subic Bay being a natural safe harbour for vessels to make repairs and take on stores, the only problem was there is nowhere to hide during an air raid. The bay has a number of highly accessible wrecks, out of a total of more than thirty, in various degrees of decay, the majority of which can be penetrated to some degree.
When to dive
There are some great dive shops that will take you out to dive these wrecks, with all scuba dives lead by either an instructor or a dive master. The visibility can be fickle at times as you are inside a bay, with some of the wrecks scuttled or bombed in shipping channels. You can scuba dive Subic Bay pretty much all year round as there is always a wreck sheltered from the elements. The time of the year with consistently good weather and good visibility is between January and the beginning of June.
Subic Bay scuba diving is centred around the wrecks in Subic Bay, so if you come scuba diving in Subic Bay think wrecks. Below is a description of the wrecks you are likely to encounter if you are lucky enough to scuba dive Subic Bay.
El Capitan The El Capitan is a really good shallow dive and is used as the second dive of the day. It was a freighter of nearly 3,00 tones just under 130 metres long. She crashed in Ilanin Bay where she rests on a sloping bottom, with the deepest point being less than 18 metres and coming to within 5 metre of the surface. As you arrive at the dive site, which is a gorgeous little bay sheltered from most of the elements, you find it hard to believe that such a great wreck lies so close to the shore.
The hull of the El Capitan has seen better days and has collapsed in a number of places. It is now home to an abundant array of marine life and has some good photo opportunities utilizing the natural light squeezing through the holes in the superstructure. Highly recommended dive.
Hellship – Oryoku Maru Hellships was the name given to unmarked Japanese freighters during World War II. They were used to carry Allied prisoners of war. These hellships, being unidentifiable were targets for the allied forces who frequently bombed and torpedoed them, not knowing that there fellow soldiers were on board as prisoners of war.
The Oryoku Maru was a hellship. On 15th December 1944, she had 1,619 American and British prisoners of war on board when she was sunk, under heavy bombardment by US fighters whilst on its way from Subic Bay to Japan. She was less than half a kilometre off the Alava Pier when attacked, taking 300 prisoners of war to her watery grave.
The actual dive site is only in 18 metres of water. As the Oryoku Maru was sunk in the shipping lanes she crushed by explosives so she was not a threat for other vessels trying to navigate Subic Bay. It is now a mess of iron which has provided many marine organisms a home and has brought the Oryoku Maru to life with the fantastic coral growth and colours.
Seian Maru During an air raid on Subic Bay, the 3,712 tone freighter, Seian Maru was bombed and sunk. Only 4 days after the bombing of the Oryoku Maru on the 19th December 1944.
She now lies in 28 metres of water and lies on her portside, her starboard side is as shallow as 15 metres. Due to her proximity to the pier and river, visibility can be a bit scratchy, you need to pick the tide right. The wreck has collapsed at amidships, which was probably caused from bombing than anything else. Some nice penetrating swim throughs.
LST (Landing Ship, Tank) This is one of the larger LST that litter the floor of Subic Bay. She was scuttled in 1946 in the middle of Subic Bay between the southern tip of the runway and Grande Island. This LST lies upright in 35 metres of water, visibility on this dive site is generally better than average. The LST is still in relatively good condition.
USS New York / USS Rochester This would have to be my favourite wreck dive in Subic Bay. She has had three different names during her years of service, with her original name New York the common name she is referred to in her peace. During the first World War she was renamed the Saratoga. She was known as the USS Rochester at the time she was deliberately scuttled in January 1944. At the time she was in dry dock waiting to be scrapped used for spare parts, but the onset of the Japanese march into the Philippines found the USS Rochester scuttled.
The USS New York rests in 28 metres of water and is only half a kilometre off the main pier of Alava and is less than a five minute boat trip. She can be penetrated, swimming up and down the corridors exploring all the nooks and crannies. The visibility can be variable depending on weather conditions and time of year. Lots to see and never enough time to see it all.
Patrol Boat (Japanese) This Japanese vessel was also bombed by US forces in 1944. She now lies in Triboa Bay on the southern side of Subic Bay. She lies in 25 metres of water in an upright position. Marine life is overwhelming with lots of fish life and corals that have taken up residence and providing numerous homes for other marine organisms, getting into the patrol boat is not really worth it as it is tight entry with not a great deal to see.
San Quentin During the Spanish – US war in 1898 the Spanish scuttled the San Quentin in the hope of blocking the passage, between Grande Island and Chiquita Islands, to the Americans who were relentless in there approach. The San Quentin lies in only 12 metres of water and is often frequented by great visibility being exceptionally close to the entrance to Subic Bay.