Wreck diving is an activity filled with adventure and adrenaline. It can feel surreal, floating through coral covered spaces which once buoyed human life on top of the ocean. These spaces are often eerie and mysterious, sometimes dark and gloomy, always fascinating to explore.
Wreck diving feels like a swim back in time as you see the artefacts of ages gone by, as every breath of air you take, and every space you explore remind you of how human we all are.
We have compiled a list of 10 of the best wrecks to visit on your next dive trip to Asia.
- Fujikawa Maru
Where: Truk Lagoon, Chuuk.
About the wreck: The wreck was a cargo ship travelling between the Orient and America. It was later converted to an armed aircraft transport ferry by the Japanese Imperial Army. It was sunk by numerous hits by aircrafts, dive bombers and torpedoes.
What can you see: The bow gun, fighter plane fuselages and plane parts in the holds. You can see the coral-covered telegraph annunciator and an air compressor nick-named R2D2. Qualified divers can penetrate the engine room via the staircase, extreme care should be taken as part of the engine room has collapsed. There is a number of small artefacts like gas masks, Mitsubishi aircraft wings and Zero fighter propeller blades to explore. In 1974 a glass shrine with the crew members’ names was placed on top of the bridge. The wreck is covered with beautiful hard and soft coral.
Required Qualification: Open water, advanced and technical divers all with wreck certifications can dive the Fujikawa Maru.
- USS New York
Where: Subic Bay, The Philippines.
About the wreck: She made her maiden voyage in 1891 and was commissioned for World War I, during which time she escorted a convoy to France and assisted a British vessel after the latter was attacked by a German U-boat. Early in 1932 she was sent to serve in the Pacific fleet and was decommissioned a few months later. She was scuttled in Subic Bay in 1941 and found her final resting place. The USS New York is 110m long.
What can you see: She lays on her port side with four huge turreted deck guns and a propeller visible. There is dense green algae suspended in the water around the wreck. You could spot large barracuda and perhaps even an eagle ray around the wreck.
Penetrating the wreck is definitely something to leave to very experienced, technical divers due to the conditions. This is evident in the memorial placed on the wreck for Steve Brittain, an experienced Subic Bay dive mater who passed away on the wreck in 2011.
Required Qualification: Advanced, wreck-certified divers can do limited penetration. Technical divers can fully penetrate the USS New York.
- USAT Liberty
Where: Tulamben Bay, Bali, Indonesia.
About the wreck: The Liberty was hit by two torpedo’s fired by a Japanese submarine while crossing the Lombok Strait in 1942. She was beached until an earthquake shifted it into the ocean in 1963. The wreck is 120m long and rests on her right flank.
What can you see: The Liberty is covered in coral and inhabited by humphead parrotfish, schools of trevally and leaf scorpionfish. The wreck is disintegrating but you can still penetrate some of the cargo holds. You can also see the bow, some guns, boilers, toilets and the anchor chain.
Depth: 5.- 22m
Required Qualification: All qualifications can dive the wreck. A wreck certification is required for penetration.
- Irako Maru
Where: Coron in The Philippines.
About the wreck: The Irako Maru is a Japanese refrigeration ship, sunk in September 1944.
What can you see: It is mostly intact with swim-throughs around the deck and bow. Very experienced, qualified divers can penetrate the engine room (read technical divers with appropriate training and equipment). You can see large rice boilers and food mixers amongst other things. There are schools of trevally, fusiliers and an odd green sea turtle hanging around the wreck.
Required Qualification: The wreck is deep with strong currents at times. Divers should hold at least an advanced certification with a wreck speciality. Only technical divers trained in deep wreck penetration qualifications and experience should penetrate the wreck.
- JAKE Seaplane
About the wreck: The wreck is 12m long with a wingspan of 14.5m. It was first discovered and dived in 1994. Not a lot is known about the wreck and it is said that the plane crashed during either take-off or landing due to engine problems.
What can you see: The wreck is upright with the starboard wing bent at a 30-degree angle. The engine, tail and one of the pontoons are broken off from the fuselage and can be found about 6m North of the wreck. The wreck, engine, tail and broken off pontoon is covered with coral. You can see artefacts like radios, ammunition and even a small bomb in the cockpit. There is a possibility of live ammunition being on the wreck and divers are cautioned not to touch any ammunition. There are octopi, cuttlefish and nudi’s around.
Depth: 12-15m with the reef and sandy bottom sloping down to 40m.
Required Qualification: Beginner divers.
- The King Cruiser
Where: Phuket, Thailand.
About the wreck: The King Cruiser is a 85m long and used to be a Japanese car ferry. It was later converted to a passenger ferry that ran between Phi Phi and Phuket. In 1997 she struck Anemone Reef on the way to Phuket and sunk with over 100 passengers on board. Luckily all the passengers survived. The ferry is 85m long and 35m wide.
What can you see: The ferry sits upright but is too unstable to penetrate. There are large schools of snappers, barracuda, rabbitfish, fusiliers and goatfish.
Required Qualification: Due to strong currents and bad visibility at times, this is a dive for experienced divers. Penetration is not recommended.
- Duke of Sparta
Where: Ambon, Indonesia.
About the wreck: The wreck was sunk in the 1950 but exploration thereof only started in 2009. She made her maiden voyage in 1940, was sold to an Italian company in 1951 and bombed by Americans in 1958 during Operation Haik. She finally sunk in Ambon in 1958.
What can you see: The ship is mostly intact and thus penetration is possible for wreck-certified divers. You can visit the stern, aft deck house and see the aft cargo winches. There is a diversity of tropical marine life including reef octopi, scorpion fish, frog fish and morays.
Required Qualification: Open water and above. Only divers with a wreck specialty should penetrate the wreck.
- SS De Klerk
Where: Labuan, Malaysia.
About the wreck: There isn’t consensus on how the wreck sunk. One theory is that this steam engine was scuttled by the Dutch in 1942 to avoid the Japanese from gaining the vessel. The Japanese salvaged the vessel and renamed it Imabari Maru which sunk after striking a mine sometime between 1944 – 1949. The vessel was transporting slave labour from Singapore to Manila when it sunk. A different story says she was sunk by the Australian Air force.
What can you see: She lays on her port side with a large hole blasted into her starboard side. You used to be able to see a steel propeller at the stern – this is now partially covered by sand. The ship is intact but collapsing in on itself. You can see various war artefacts, china crockery and bottles. You might also see some human remains and the sight should be treated with respect for those who passed.
Required Qualification: Advanced and wreck specialty divers.
Where: Kuching, Malaysia
About the wreck: The Sagriri was a Japanese battleship sailing towards Kuching in order to take control of Borneo in 1941. It was attacked by the Dutch armed forces and is one of five ships sunk during this battle. Only three of the sunken ships have been discovered so far.
What can you see: Most of the wreck is still intact but it is becoming damaged by each new monsoon season. You can see guns and ammunition on the deck. You can see parts of the engine, a wooden pail and signal lights. The wreck in covered in hard and soft coral.
Required Qualification: Advanced to experienced divers with at least 50 logged dives due to the depth, strong currents and visibility on the wreck. Only wreck divers should penetrate the wrecks.
- Dona Marilyn
Where: Malapascua, The Philippines.
About the wreck: The Dona Marilyn was a passenger ferry running between Cebu and Manila. The ferry sunk in 1988.
What can you see: The wreck is 100m long, intact and resting on its starboard side. There are long fishing nets wrapped around parts of the wreck. You can also see white tip reef sharks and blue spotted stingrays around the wreck.
Required Qualification: Advanced or higher.
Wreck diving is an amazing experience to witness important parts of history. It is a reminder of great storms, and often, of great battles fought and lost.
While some wrecks lay in shallow water with calm conditions, you should never penetrate wrecks without the proper training and experience. Deeper wrecks are often found in areas where the conditions are more difficult to dive in and should only be dived with good judgement and adequate training and safety precautions.
*A version of this article first appeared at www.scubadiverlife.com