Palawan is considered the last frontier of the Philippines for its many natural resources and magnificent sites. It is home to internationally known white beaches, the breathtaking Underground River, Honda Bay, the infamous Iwahig Penal Colony, and a number of first-class dive sites. But clearly the most important natural wonder is the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, which is the best dive site in the Philippines and one of the very best in the world.
In December 1993, the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park was chosen as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This accolade means it is an important natural asset for humankind’s heritage. It was also nominated as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
Where is it?
Tubbataha is in Puerto Princesa, the main city of Palawan, which is a narrow archipelago on the western border of the Philippines. Exactly, it is located in the middle of Sulu Sea, about 181 km southeast of Puerto Princesa proper, about 10 to 12 hours away by boat.
What makes it unique?
Tubbataha reef is made up of two coral atolls: the South Atoll (5 km long and 3 km wide) and North Atoll (16 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide), which are separated by a deep channel that is 8 km wide.
An atoll is a coral reef island that may be circular, oval, or horseshoe-shaped. The atolls in Tubbataha are horseshoe-shaped and each has an islet protruding from the water. They make a truly spectacular view from the air, which is kind of a hint of the beauty that waits underwater.
Divers are treated to an array of colorful fish, which include hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, tiger sharks, white sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, barracudas, napoleon wrasse, moray eels, parrot fishes and clown fishes. Tubbataha is also home to the endangered hawksbill sea turtle.
As though the beautiful marine life forms aren’t enough to amaze you, Tubbataha is also a bird sanctuary. The mesmerizing Tubbataha Bird Islet, which is only 12,000 square meters at the North Atoll, is a highly restricted off-limit bird sanctuary, because a number of endangered bird species are found here, such as the Philippine black noddy, brown-footed booby, red-footed booby, brown booby, crested terns, sooty tern, brown noddy, white egret, lesser frigate bird, greater frigate bird, Christmas Island frigate bird, plover, and whimbrel.
What is missing?
Another reason why Tubbataha is a favorite spot for tourists and adventure seekers is for the things that are not there. Nobody lives in Tubbataha and there are no walking vendors selling all kinds of stuff to tourists. To maintain its natural beauty and protect the endangered animals, the Philippine Government had ordered rangers to guard the reef 24 /7.
Going to Tubbataha
The best months to visit are from March to June, but be sure to book early because boat and dive reservations are always full. In fact, many enthusiasts book their reservations years in advance. Entrance fee to Tubbataha Reef Marine Park is PHP 3,000.00 (about USD $75.00).