Reached only by liveaboard, the Tubbataha Reef is located bang in the middle of the Sulu sea and is home to the very best diving found anywhere in the Philiipines.
The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a World Heritage Site located in the middle of the Sulu sea, and is made up of almost 100,000 hectares of Marine Protected Area. Since it was discovered in the 1970s, the Tubbataha has become well known as the very best of the Philippines diving and one of the top spots for diving worldwide. Being located in the middle of the Coral Triangle, the highest marine biodiversity on earth, the plethora of marine life found here is simply astonishing.
One of the things about this marine park is that it is so isolated that it can only be reached by liveaboard (around 14 hours from Puerto Princessa), naturally preventing day trippers or overcrowding and conserving the reef more than if it were located close to land. The park itself is made up of two coral atolls - the north atoll and south atoll - and the Jessie Beazley reefs located a little further north. These reefs are home to a very high density and biodiversity of marine life and thus a diver's absolute paradise!
The reef system has over 600 species of fish and 300 coral species, as well as being a nesting site for hawksbill and green turtles and many species of bird. The North Atoll has a field station that is manned year-round by rangers and often trips involve a visit to discover about the conservation and protection of this delicate marine system. The reefs are made up of endless reef flats and vertical walls dropping to over 100m in depth, as well as large areas of deep sea. Thresher sharks, hammerheads and whale sharks can be seen on the walls, whilst the shallow reef tops are overflowing with colour reef fish, sting rays, manta rays, turtles and much more. Huge schools of jack fish and snapper hang out with a large barracuda presence as well.
Diving can be challenging in the Tubbataha and there is only the small window of March to early June that the liveaboards can actually get out there, when the sea conditions are calm enough. However, if you can make it out there during this brief window, this is likely to be one of the best dive experiences you can have.