First thing to say about the Tubbataha Reef is that you would have to try really hard to find a more remote and stunning place to dive. You take a grueling flight into Manila that takes about 24 hours of flying and airport time from the west coast and that’s only the start. Here is where Atlantis Resorts and Liveaboards shines! They meet you at the airport with a cold bottle of water, get your luggage and you into vans and take you to Terminal 2. You’re thinking, same airport, right? Wrong! Different airport for domestic flights. Atlantis stays with you through the check-in at Cebu Pacific and you’re off the Puerto Princessa. Again, the Atlantis people pick you up and transfer you and your luggage to the Atlantis Azores, their liveaboard dive boat, and you’re off again. The pictures above show the stunning sunsets & sunrises and there are 3 turtles on one coral head in the other. That is unbelievable! That was a first.
The Tubbataha Natural Marine Park is 90 miles from land in the middle of the Sulu Sea. There is virtually no land anywhere there, it’s crazy! You can see how calm the seas were from the first picture in my post. There are a couple of sand spits always visible and more at low tide. One of the sand spits has the ranger station and the other has a lighthouse. The entire area is protected and is a no fishing, no take zone and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It really shows in the fish life and marine & reef health. It is actually a group of Atolls but with the lack of land showing, you would never know it. The huge schools of fish, numbers of Pelagics -Shark, Turtles, Whalesharks, etc. is amazing, considering this is Asia. Most parts of Asia have depleted the fish populations and with shark finning rampant, their numbers are dangerously low in places. I was very impressed. The reefs, walls and coral are incredibly healthy & vibrant. You can see from the sharks above, they’re not afraid of divers here. I loved that!
I has some firsts here. Above is a marble ray. It was stunning. There were many varieties of moray eels too. I can stress enough how healthy the marine life is here. Literally thousands of fish of every size and shape EVERYWHERE! There is also a lot of little critters to see like nudibranchs and tiny (1/4″ or so) creatures like the pygmy squid below left and pygmy seahorse right. I had to have the dive guide put his finger behind it to find it in the camera lens. I was expecting big things not tiny! I always wonder, who ever found these things in the first place. You can’t believe how small they are!
The Atlantis is a really beautiful liveaboard with a fabulous staff that works very hard to please the guests. The food is the best I have had on a liveaboard. If you go on a night dive, they ask you what you want to drink after like tea, hot chocolate with baileys or for me, a glass of wine. I was met with my wine after a hot shower on the back of the boat. Nice!! I have been on a variety of liveaboards and I have to say this one is really very good. The staterooms are not large but adequate and functional, the bathrooms are pretty big and they are 110 power so you don’t have to use adapters or converters. That is a HUGE plus! They do several different itineraries during the year and I may have to try another one in the future.
This is only the first of my posts about the Philippines. I will be visiting Puerto Galera and Dumaguete in the next few months so stay tuned. So far, the Philippines diving is very impressive indeed!