Coron Island Hopping Tour - How To Choose?
The one thing that is synonymous with Coron (and which should really be right at the top of any must-do list) is Island Hopping! The biggest challenge would end up being which tour to pick!
You will find that most tour operators all offer the same standard set of Island Hopping Packages:
Tour A - most basic tour including Kayangan Lake but excludes any equipment rental;
Tour B - includes Barracuda Lake and Twin Lagoon but excludes any equipment rental;
Tour C - Island Escapes;
Tour D - Reef and Wrecks;
Ultimate Tour - includes Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoon and use of snorkel gear & kayak;
Super Ultimate Tour - includes Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoon, Barracuda Lake and use of snorkel gear & kayak.
There are a few other options, but the above list is by far the most common you will encounter. At first it may seem overwhelming trying to figure out which tour you should choose and exactly what the difference is between the tours, but to be honest, you really shouldn’t overthink it.
Our recommendation is to simply make the following three considerations before booking your tour:
1 - BUDGET:
The price of the tours is mostly regulated across the various agencies, so there really isn’t much room for negotiating. If it’s low season, you might be able to knock 100 PHP off the asking price. That being said, it is important to clarify whether a mask and a snorkel will be included in your tour rate else you might find yourself having to fork out another 150 PHP to rent. Of course, if you already have your own snorkel gear, this is a good way to make a saving by booking the cheaper tour option. We chose the Ultimate Tour which was 300 PHP more expensive than the cheapest tour (Tour A), but it included free use of snorkelling gear as well as kayaking equipment - which we feel made it well worth it.
2 - ACTUAL SIGHTS:
Is there something specific which you absolutely WANT to see or are you just looking for a fun day of island hopping? If you specifically want to visit the famous Kayangan lake, then you will need to choose one of the two tours which include this destination. Other main attractions are Twin Lagoon and Barracuda Lake with the price of the tour usually increasing based on how many of these main attractions are included.
Note, often various tours will be grouped in the same boat if there are not enough people of the same tour to fill a boat. Our boat had a combination of people doing Tour B and the Ultimate Tour. Those doing Tour B did not get free mask, snorkel and kayak use and when the Ultimate Tour people were dropped at Kayangan Lake, those on Tour B were taken to Barracuda Lake. Most other destinations are not set in stone and can be changed on the day by the tour operator depending on their discretion and weather conditions. So if you want to see something specific, be sure to clarify this when you book!
3 - ACTIVITIES:
What do you want from your tour? Do you want to lie on a beach and relax? Do you want to snorkel around reefs or the shallow wrecks? Do you want to cram in as many places as possible on one tour (which means having less time at each individual spot) or would you prefer spending more time at each location? Tours A, B, Ultimate and Super Ultimate are good combination tours, whereas Tour C is focused on Island Escape and Tour D takes you to more reefs and wrecks. If you choose a tour based on wanting to be able to kayak, just note that most tour boats only have one or two kayaks available for the whole group, so if there are lots of people wanting to kayak you may only get a short turn! We were lucky in that no one else on our boat wanted to use the kayak, so we could use it whenever we were able to, but this could easily not have been the case.
Coron Island Hopping Tour - What To Expect
Firstly don’t have too many fixed expectations of exactly where you’ll be going or who you’ll be going with - what you should expect is a fun day in the absolutely stunning scenery and a delicious freshly cooked buffet lunch. It doesn’t really matter which agency you book with, everybody is grouped together at the pier and ushered into the appropriate boat depending on the tour choice you made. That being said, if there are not enough people doing a certain tour to fill the boat, people doing different tours will also be grouped together into a single boat. This really isn’t a problem and it may even give you a little more time in some places as the boat moves around between dropping and collecting the various groups.
Secondly, apart from the three main attractions of Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake and Twin Lagoon, all other beaches and snorkel locations are subject to change at the discretion of the tour guide on the day. This can also be due to weather conditions and our suggestion is just to go with it and enjoy the spots they do take you to.
Do not expect to be alone! Even in low season, there will be plenty of other boats following a similar route - particularly at the main attractions. Note that even if you have a private boat, unless you manage to reach a location really early or very late in the afternoon, you will still find the crowds. If you prefer to be alone, then you will need to arrange a private boat and go in search of a private beach (of which there are many) for the day.
CORON ISLAND HOPPING ULTIMATE TOUR
We chose the Coron Ultimate Tour and had a fantastic day which included visiting some of the premium locations, a fairly secluded lunch spot and two pretty good snorkel spots where it was possible to swim a little away from the crowds. Approach the day with a good attitude and you will not be disappointed in the incredible beauty that surrounds Coron!
CORON Private Boat vs Group Tour
The idea of a private boat cruise amongst the towering cliffs of Coron sounds idyllic, but it may not be within everyone’s budget nor may it be exactly what you had in mind.
If you are planning on visiting any of the three main attractions of Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake or Twin Lagoon, even a private boat will not guarantee you being alone at these places. If you can make it to these spots really early morning or very late in the afternoon, you should at least be able to avoid the tour boats who are usually there between 9 am and 4 pm.
If you want to spend a lot of time snorkelling in one spot or don’t want to be rushed from one place to another, then you will need to take a private boat. We did the Coron Ultimate Tour and could easily have spent more time at all the locations if we were able to - but then again, the day is only so long!
Another advantage of the group tours is the delicious lunch buffet selection that you will get. This makes your food planning easy and allows you to taste a few of the local dishes including fresh seafood. The selection and abundance of food served should be more than sufficient to skip dinner completely. Which makes the group tours even better value if you are travelling on a tight budget!
If you manage to get a group of people together, arranging a private boat might work out cheaper than joining a tour, but keep in mind that you will also have to pay the relevant entry fees (per person) at each attraction which can quickly add up as well as a fee for a guide if you choose to have one. If you do book a private boat and you want to leave early, you’ll need to organise it the day before including all your entrance tickets.
Personally we think that joining a group tour is an easy and convenient way to see the main attractions and would rather recommend the private boat option as a way to reach other destinations away from the most visited places where you could truly be secluded (with the exception of your skipper of course). Joining a group tour also have the added advantage of introducing you to fellow travellers if you are travelling solo.
CORON - Snorkelling, Free-diving And Scuba Diving Spots
Coron is often described as one of the best locations in the World for Wreck diving. 24 Japanese Ships were intentionally sunk on the 24 September 1944 by an American Air raid all around the coast of the island. These shipwrecks are mostly well preserved and the fact that they are all located in relatively shallow water makes it perfect for recreational diving. Keep in mind that the visibility is often quite poor (from 5m to 15m) and the marine life around the shipwrecks is sparse - with mostly Scorpion fishes, Crocodile fishes and Nudibranchs - plus the usual small reef-fish like Trigger-, Parrot- and Clownfish. Groupers and Barracudas can also sometimes be spotted. So if you come to Coron it is definitely because you are passionate about Wreck Diving, not just to see reef fish! But fear not as Coron is beautiful and divers coming there are usually delighted!
We chose to dive with the local Coron Divers Dive Center and were very happy with our experience with them. They were a professional bunch and attentive bunch and we appreciated the small groups and spacious boat. We ended up doing 3 dives with them and explored the wrecks of Morazan Maru and Teu Kaze Maru.
Although it's not one of the many WWII shipwrecks found in the waters off Coron, skeleton Wreck is one of the most popular spots for free-divers in Coron. It’s a sunken Chinese fishing boat where thousands of fish can be found swimming around the wreck. The boat has weathered well but left the ribs intact, hence the name Skeleton Wreck. The wreck lies at a slant, with the shallow tip only about 4-5m deep, so that you can still get a great view by simply snorkelling at the surface. Free-divers enjoy diving here as they can explore the wreck so much closer. There is plenty of sea life on and around this wreck and as a snorkeler, this is a popular spot - just don’t expect to be alone!
Lusong Gun Boat
Lusong Gun Boat is a huge WW2 era ship angled perfectly for both snorkelers and freedivers as the rear of the ship is only about half a meter deep while the nose of the ship is more than 6m deep. This means all levels of snorkelers and free-divers can get an up-close look of this sunken ship as well as the barnacles, corals, and fish that have taken over the ship as their home.
Coral Garden Reef
There are plenty of snorkelling spots referred to as 'Coral Garden' and close by to the Lusong Gun Boat shipwreck is a phenomenal snorkelling spot, called Lusong Coral Garden Reef. Here you will find huge corals of all different colours blanketing the ocean floor beyond which free-divers can further explore the deep, dark drop-off! We did a scuba dive at Twin Peaks Coral Garden which was a lovely shallow dive with plenty of colourful coral and sea life. We also snorkelled at another Smith Coral Garden which was a fantastic large area with very few people and beautiful coral.
Dibutonay Island is a fairly secluded island with a great reef for snorkelling. There is a section of reef that is separated from the island and simply bursting with fish, marine life and unique coral.
Sunset Lagoon and Cave
The lagoon has only a small inlet, with towering cliffs which appear to be closing in around you and you can swim to reach the inside of the cave.