Tec diving — Two great wreck dives in Cebu

I took my first steps in technical diving in February 2015 with Greg Maciejowski in Cebu (TDI Advanced Nitrox and Deco Procedures). On my most recent trip to the Philippines in March-April 2015, in Cebu again, I had my first opportunities to practice ‘tec’ diving outside of a training context. My Hong Kong diving buddies for this trip are all experienced tec divers, so I was lucky to be able to dive with them and gain more experience.

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Very excited about doing my first tec dives after training – Photo credit Eian Kee

The Mogami Maru

During our stay at Malapascua, we first did a couple of deep wall dives with staged deco. One was on the Exotic house reef, as a kind of group warm-up, and the second was over at Kemod shoal, where we tried (but failed) to see hammerheads (discussed in this post). But the tec dive we were all looking forward to here was the locally named ‘Pioneer Wreck’, believed to be the Mogami Maru, a Japanese vessel sunk in 1944.

The wreck lies in 42-54 metres of water and therefore is only accessible to tec divers. I have great respect for Exotic’s boat crew who found the spot in the middle of the sea without using GPS and quickly anchored (there is no mooring). We descended through a rather murky layer of water but when we arrived on the wreck, the visibility opened out and we were greeted with a sight that few Malapascua tourists get to see — a relatively intact ship standing perfectly upright on the bottom, looking very mysterious in the eerie, green-filtered light.

My buddies entered the gaping cargo hold, easy to penetrate. Meanwhile I circled around the top of the wreck with Paul, our technical guide from Exotic, snapping away to my heart’s content. Paul pointed at something inside the wreck which just looked like a big, flat panel to me until the whole thing rippled and moved — it was the flank of a giant grouper, the size of a small lantau cow! He also showed me something in the wreckage that looked like a human femur, and based on this account, can be assumed to be the remains of one of the sailors that perished here over 70 years ago.

The wreck was a living place however — heavily encrusted in coral and teeming with small fish. We spent 30 minutes there — possibly the shortest 30 minutes of my life — before we had to begin our planned ascent. We didn’t get to see it all and I hope to revisit it and spend a longer time (and take more pictures) once I have completed my Extended Range training in the future. For now, here are some shots from the dive (click to view gallery):

The San Juan Ferry

Two days later, the technical wreck diving continued. My Hong Kong buddies flew home after Malapascua and I carried on alone to Mactan Cebu for a couple of days’ diving with Greg, who’s based at Kontiki Divers. Along with another visiting tec diver, we carried out two dives at the San Juan Ferry wreck, also known as the Liloan wreck. It’s an hour’s boat ride from the dive shop and makes a nice day trip.

This wreck is very large and much more recent, sunk in 2000 in mysterious conditions. Apparently the engine is missing from it which does not suggest an accident. In any case, no one perished in this sinking. It lies on its side on the sea floor which is at 50 metres; the top of the wreck is at 35 metres. It is a huge, boxy thing with some large open areas to swim in and out of, and the funnel, mast and propellers are intact. There are some big soft corals growing on it and it’s a very enjoyable dive.

The top of the wreck is within recreational limits but dive time would be short; only technical divers can get the best out of this site. We did two dives on this occasion, the first to 45 metres, the second to 40, and the site was so large that we still didn’t cover all of it. Visibility was rather low on this occasion; I’m told it varies, but I was still able to take some photos:

I’d like to say a big thanks to Eian for organising the Malapascua trip, and also to Greg at Mactan. I’m looking forward to visiting more great wrecks in the future now that I have access to a little bit more of the ocean.

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