Tubbataha Dive Sites Philippines
Tubbataha has a very limited dive season due to its remote nature. Liveaboards have a short window of opportunity to reach this amazing destination and spaces on board are highly prized.
Tubbataha dive sites offer an incredible experience for divers who join the fantastic liveaboards in the Sulu Sea. Diverse marine life complements the topography of walls, drop-offs and shallow reefs with coral bommies.
Tubbataha is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has enjoyed this status since 1993 and only accessible via a liveaboard cruise trip.
With over 550 species of fish, more than 360 species of corals, 11 types of shark and 12 species of whales and dolphins, it is something unique.
Diving takes place in four distinct areas during the cruise. The north and south atolls, Basterra Reef and the smaller Jessie Beazley Reef.
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Tubbataha Dive Sites Philippines - 17 LIVEABOARDS
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The North Atoll is the most extensive area of reef in the Tubbataha area and has several dive sites.
This dive site is named after the intense and unpredictable currents that occur on the site. These currents bring manta rays and sharks.
It is a sloping reef that starts at 12 metres to a deep drop off where grey reef sharks a white tip reef sharks are commonly found. Along with Napoleon wrasse, jacks and barracuda. Manta rays and hammerhead sharks are also seen on occasion too.
Malayan Wreck sits in 10 metres of water and attracts a significant amount of reef life both on the wreckage and the wall dive site.
Macro life is the focus of the area with juvenile harlequin sweetlips, ghost pipefish, nudibranchs and flatworms all found on the wreck. Turtles can also present here. The wall has gorgonian sea fans and several species of reef sharks.
Amos Rock is to the south of the Atoll and is a wall with sloping reef from 5 metres to over 70 metres. The site can have current which provides plenty of action with mackerel, snapper, groupers and fusiliers becoming active. Black tip, white tip and grey reef sharks are common. Eagle rays and manta rays can be seen along with turtles.
The healthy sea fans, whip corals and other corals provide shelter for Moorish idols, angelfish and surgeonfish. Pygmy seahorses are often seen in the gorgonian sea fans.
This dive site has sizeable gorgonian sea fans as the name suggests. In the sea fans, pygmy seahorses and long nose hawkfish can be found. Giant barrel sponges and soft corals provide shelter for sweetlips, triggerfish and other reef life.
In the blue water, silvertip reef sharks are often spotted along Black, white and grey reef sharks.
Shark Airport is a plateau dive that drops steeply after 25 metres where turtles and reef sharks are common. As this is a cleaning station, grey, white tip, black, silky and even guitar sharks pass through the area. There is always a chance to see whale sharks too along with rays and turtles.
Bird Island is a wall dive from 6 metres to more than 60 metres. This dive site has schooling fish and pelagic life.
Manta rays are common here with eagle rays, turtles and reef sharks. Crevices provide a home to reef sharks and leopard sharks that can be found resting. The wall is covered in gorgonians, soft corals and barrel sponges where groupers, surgeonfish and Moorish idols are seen.
South Atoll Dive Site Highlights
The South Atoll is the smaller of the two atolls but also has a lagoon in the centre, many sandy islets around and of course, fantastic diving.
The Deslan is a partially submerged wreck located on a sloping reef on the east of the atoll close to the drop-off. The site has schools of snappers and sweetlips surrounding the coral and crustacean encrusted wreckage as well as macro life.
When there are currents, grey, black tip and white tip reef sharks can be seen feeding here along with the rare sighting of tiger sharks.
Manta Rays and turtles are also spotted with barracuda and groupers and the occasional turtle.
Black Rock is a steep wall that starts after a gentle incline at 20 metres down to 70 metres. The wall is covered in coral and varied fish life.
The reef fish commonly found here are scribbled filefish, boxfish, leaf fish along with spiny lobsters and schooling rainbow runners and sweetlips. Hawksbill and green turtles are seen along with whitecap reef sharks, manta and eagle rays.
Lighthouse is a long shallow reef top at the tip of the atoll. Moorish idols, tangs, butterfly and angelfish hang out here. Anemone house the clownfish and turtles and blue spotted rays are seen in the sandy seagrass area.
Jessie Beazley Reef Highlights
This area is 20km from the North Atoll and was included in the marine park 2009 expansion, tripling the total size of the park.
Jessie Beazley is a small area compared the North and South Atolls. Nonetheless, it has a fantastic marine life with pristine coral on the plateau. The plateau is shaped like a mushroom and drops off to more than 50 metres deep.
The area is home to macro and pelagic life with diverse fish life and branching acropora corals.
Reef fish include bumphead parrotfish, Napoleon wrasse, triggerfish, boxfish, clownfish, anthias, batfish, frogfish and snappers.
Pelagic life includes black and white tip reef sharks, tuna and barracuda. For lucky divers, tiger sharks, great reef sharks, silky sharks and whale sharks can be seen.
Along the south tip of the reef system, this is the best place for manta and eagle rays along with the hammerhead, mako, and thresher sharks that sometimes visit.
Basterra Reef Dive Site Highlights
There are two shipwrecks here, the Tristar B on the north side and the Oceanic on the eastern side.
Tristar B lies at 10 metres on a gentle slope that then changes to a wall and drop-off. There is some old damage from dynamite fishing next to the structure that does not deter the fish life from inhabiting the wreck itself. Trevally, snapper, parrotfish and wrasse along with white tip reef sharks are here. Further along, the reef is in excellent condition with a multitude of fish life.
Oceanic is on an 8 metre slope and often has larger pelagic such as manta rays, reef sharks and turtles around. The sandy slope has blue spotted rays and giant clams. Hammerhead sharks can be in the deeper blue water and can be seen easily with the 40-metre visibility that is common here.
The southern area of the reef slopes down with good coral life to a drop off after 18 metres. Moray eels, flounders, reef sharks and stingrays are common. Hammerheads, manta rays and mackerel might be spotted in the deeper water.
In Tubbataha, there are restrictions on tourists setting foot on the sandbars. The only exceptions are for the ranger station where souvenirs can be purchased.
Marine Park and Conservation in Tubbataha
There is a small sandbar island which houses the ranger station of the marine park in the North Atoll. It is possible to visit the ranger station to learn about the conservation processes in place here.
The houses here are styrofoam reinforced concrete structures which house the 10 to 12 rangers present at any one place.
The work here includes:
- Regular patrols around the park
- Conducting scientific research and monitoring
- Briefing visitors during the dive season
- Surface and underwater cleanups
- Reporting and responding to unusual incidents, like crown-of-thorns starfish infestations