Tucked away among the 7,107 islands in the Philippines is a little piece of magic called Barracuda Lake. A crater of blue water enclosed by limestone cliffs that stretch up to meet the even bluer Filipino sky, Barracuda Lake is luxuriously warm and impossibly clear – a rare calm haven for divers and snorkelers. Locally known as Luluyuan Lake, this body of water is just a 20 to 25 minute boat ride from Coron on Palawan, leaving from Lualhati Wharf, and beneath the calm waters, the feeling is not unlike walking on another planet.
The local Banca boats beach close to the entrance to Barracuda Lake upon arrival. A wooden walkway and steps lead visitors from the beach and through some limestone formations to a narrow wooden platform that is suspended over the lake. The walk takes about 10 to 15 minutes, offering ample time to take in the magnificent views. Conveniently, all diving and snorkeling activities take place directly from the wooden walkway.
Barracuda Lake – named after the large barracuda fish skeleton discovered in it – is a truly unique diving experience. As if the clear blue water contrasting against dark limestone cliffs wasn’t enough, this lake holds a secret not visible from the surface.
Diving in Barracuda Lake combines an unforgettable diving opportunity in tropical Coron with the feeling of walking on the moon – the uncanny experience of feeling caught between two worlds over and over. First, there is the moment when your body passes between two layers of water that differ in temperature by 10 degrees Celsius; then there is the weightlessness of floating and playing in a space where gravity seems to have lost its effect on you and everything around you.
The water temperature at the top of the lake is around 28 degrees Celsius. At a depth of around 14 meters the water temperature increases from 28 degrees Celsius to 38 degrees Celsius, giving divers an opportunity to fully experience the thermocline, an area where water of different temperatures mix. The water becomes cooler again closer to the bottom. It also changes from a clear blue to tea brown at 34 meters. This is due to the tannic acid from leaves that fell into the lake.
Not only is the experience of the temperature change interesting, at 4 meters the water changes from fresh water to salt water. Here divers can see a heliocline (an area where water with different salinity contents mix). It looks almost like a long, thin, black-grey, horizontal tornado in the distance. Another heliocline can be seen at 14 meters.
The bottom of Barracuda Lake is a thick, soft, silky, silty sand. Divers often remove their fins in the shallows to play around in the sand and amongst the rocks and submerged tree-branches. This creates the effect that is often likened to what it might feel like to walk on the moon.
Despite its name there aren’t many barracudas in Barracuda Lake. The large, resident barracuda is about 1.5 meters long and likes to hide among the rocks at the far side of the lake. Although they can be quite shy at times, sometimes they come out to show divers around their space.
Even if the barracuda doesn’t appear, this is the perfect opportunity to take in those impressive helioclines as you look out toward the other side of the lake, hovering in the middle of the luxuriously warm water.
Descending into Barracuda Lake offers a sensory experience unlike any other dive site. The change in water temperature, mixed with the difference in salinity make for a constantly changing environment – one that every diver needs to experience. The water is warm and clear and, although the marine life is a bit scant, the weightless feeling of walking (or, yes, even dancing) on the moon is not to be missed.