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The two atolls of Tubbataha Reef offer some of the best liveaboard diving amongst huge predators, small critters and colorful coral.
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Tubbataha Reef, translated from Samal (a seafaring community) as Long Exposed Reef at Low Tide, is one of the best scuba dive destinations in the Philippines, some even might say of the world. It consists of the two atolls Tubbataha Reef North Atoll (Bird Island) and Tubbataha Reef South Atoll (Lighthouse Island) separated by a deep channel of approximately eight kilometers wide. The atolls itself are large enough to provide many different dive sites such as spectacular walls, shallow bright coral dives, stunning sheltered night dives if currents are low and two completely different inner lagoons. It is located in the center of the Sulu Sea between the Philippines, Malaysian Borneo and Indonesia and is considered one of the most diverse ecosystems worldwide. Tubbataha Reef has been awarded the status of Marine Park in August 11, 1988 and nowadays has an area of almost one thousand square kilometer. It was declared a UNESCO World heritage area in December 1993 and is constantly guarded against pirates, fishery and coral collectors. Divers that want to enter the park should pay a fee of roughly sixty dollars and have to show their certification card.
Liveaboard trips are the only way to get to the Tubbataha Reefs, since there are no accommodations on the island except from some seasonal shelters built by local fishermen on top of the two small islets that just reach the surface. Tours most often start at Puerto Princesa, Palawan, about 150 km to the northwest. Since the season only runs from March to June, you should book in advance as many tours are quickly fully booked. There is a small monitoring station to take a look at the red-footed boobies and frigate birds that migrate here.
You can visit the magnificent hard corals, soft corals and reef fish of the two atolls but also of the nearby Jessie Beazley Reef. Its spectacular walls provide for huge and many fish such as giant jacks, barracudas, eagle rays, hawksbill sea turtles and manta rays. There are eleven different shark species to be found around the island including hammerheads, leopard sharks, guitar sharks, black tip reef sharks and nurse sharks. It is possible to dive and snorkel with the majestic whale sharks, but also with small critters such as the tiny seahorses and pipe fish. Coral life is healthy and more than half of the world's existing coral species have been found at Tubbataha Reef. Parts of the reef are uncovered during low tide, so be careful there. It is in a well maintained and protected offshore diving destination that provides some of the best diving in the world.
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