More than being a top diving spot in the Philippines, Tubbataha Reef offers a grandeur like no other. This spectacular underwater world is considered as one of the most pristine coral reefs in the world. 

Surrounding you are fresh air and turquoise water that’s so clear and pristine you can see corals and fish 30 feet below.

Tubbataha Reef is known for its extraordinary biodiversity, abundant marine life and breathtaking drop-offs into the open ocean. The area covers 130,028 hectares of high quality marine habitats containing three atolls and a large area of deep sea. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is home to a great diversity of marine life—whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles and Napoleon wrasse are among the key species found here. 

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park lies in a unique position in the middle of the Sulu Sea, and is one of the Philippines’ oldest ecosystems. Aside from being a famous diving spot, it also plays a key role in the process of reproduction, dispersal and colonization by marine organisms in the whole Sulu Sea system, and helps support fisheries outside its boundaries. 

It is legally protected through national protected areas legislation and a range of other environmental legislation which enable action to be taken against a wide range of threats including illegally fishing. 

Tubbataha Reef Facts

a shark under a coral reef in tubbataha

– Tubbataha Reef was discovered by divers in the late 1970s.

– Tubbataha is home to 374 species of coral and almost 500 species of fish. 

– Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park also protects one of the few remaining colonies of breeding seabirds in the region.

– The reefs of the property support almost 90% of all coral species in the Philippines.

– The Tubbataha Reef location is within the Coral Triangle, a global focus for coral biological diversity. 

– In 1988, President Corazon Aquino designated Tubbataha a national marine park—the first in the Philippines’ history. 

– UNESCO inscribed it as a World Heritage Site in 1993.

– Fishing in Tubbataha Reef is prohibited. 

Dive Season

a diver under a school of fish in tubbataha reef

Unlike other diving spots, Tubbataha’s dive season is just three months long. The best time to dive there is from mid-March until mid-June. At this time of year, diving conditions are usually ideal–clear skies, calm seas, and visibility between 98 and 148 feet.

What to do before Tubbataha Reef Diving

colorful coral reefs in tubbataha reef

Before planning a dive to Tubbataha, you must first secure a Permit to Operate from the Tubbataha Management Office at least two months before first entry to the Park.

Private boats and other non-commercial trips must have Entry Permits before their scheduled trips.

Individuals or organizations wanting to conduct research in the Park must secure a Research/Monitoring Permit. Similarly, any person or company wanting to photograph and/or film in Tubbataha for commercial purposes must secure a special permit from the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB).

The complete guide on the online permit application can be seen here.

Tubbataha Reef Diving Cost

Most people visit Tubbataha by booking on liveaboard dive boats as early as a year in advance. Costs vary by dive boat and number of diving days but range from $1,000 to over $4,000. 

Getting to Tubbataha Reef Location

From Manila, you can take a flight to Puerto Princesa. Dive operators usually transport their guests from the airport to the pier, just minutes away, where their boat awaits.

From Puerto Princesa, it takes around 10 hours to get to Tubbataha.

Tubbataha Reef Threats

a colorful crab in tubbataha reef

While the Philippines is considered a Biodiversity Hotspot, one of the world’s most biologically rich countries, it is also among the most threatened—one of the Tubbataha Reef facts we must face. 

Illegal fishing

One current problem in Tubbataha is that Topshells, the protected shell species Trochus niloticus, are being stolen at night by people entering the park by boat from mainland Palawan. The Topshells are sold and made into shirt buttons, jewellery and ornaments. Topshells are important to marine ecosystems because they act as natural ‘cleaners’ of corals and serve as food for other marine life. From 2006 to 2008, the population of Topshells in Tubbataha declined 80%. 

Marine debris

Plastic waste is one of the biggest Tubbataha Reef threats. Plastic is a threat to marine animals as it is often mistaken for food, which can cause injury or death. Birds’ nests in Tubbataha are frequently built from plastic food wraps, while abandoned fishing lines made from nylon have caused the death of numerous seabirds. The Marine Park Rangers conduct regular surface water and coastal cleanups and non-biodegradable garbage is transported to the landfill site in Puerto Princesa City.

Climate Change

This is perhaps the biggest threat to the future of Tubbataha. Climate change can result in ocean acidification and increased water temperatures. When this happens, corals may expel their zooxanthellae, which leads to a white appearance (bleached). Although just because a coral bleaches, it doesn’t mean it’s dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are at risk of dying.

In 1998 and 2010, the Philippines experienced major bleaching events, the latter affecting 95% of corals. Both were caused by an El Niño weather phenomenon that increased the temperatures in the Indian Ocean and waters off Southeast Asia.

Compared to other Philippine reefs, the corals of Tubbataha have recovered well from the bleaching events. Scientists think that this is due to the reef’s protected status, they can recover from one stress because they do not have to deal with others, such as pollution and fishing.

If we don’t slow global carbon emissions, the reef will face severe heat stress annually by 2040, according to a UNESCO report.

For now, though, Tubbataha stands tall and its protectors will defend it until the end. Let’s do our part so we can save Tubbataha Reef—the country’s very own cradle of marine life, the crown jewel of Philippine seas. 

 

 

Disclaimer: ZEN Rooms claims no credit for images featured on our blog site unless otherwise noted. All visual content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. We try to link back to original sources whenever possible. If you own the rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on ZEN Rooms, please contact us and they will be promptly removed. We believe in providing proper attribution to the original author, artist or photographer.

If you’d ask scuba divers where’s the best place to dive in the world, for sure, the Philippines is on their list. With 7,641 islands to explore, it makes sense that the Philippines is one of the best diving destinations in the world because there are many great diving spots in the Philippines.

What invites the divers across the world is the Philippines’ water treasure. They have spectacular reefs, whale sharks, mantas and underwater UNESCO World Heritage sites. No wonder the Philippines has been recognized as the world’s leading diving destination in the 2019 World Travel Awards.

Here are the top 10 best diving spots in the Philippines!

1. Tubbataha Reefs, Sulu Sea

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Palawan, in the heart of the Sulu Sea. It is rich with such great underwater creatures and reefs that’s why many would agree that Tubbataha is the best diving spot in the Philippines.

However, Tubbataha is only for experienced divers as the currents can be dangerous. The rewards are great, though—sightings of white and blacktip reef sharks, whale sharks, mantas, turtles and hammerheads.

This definitely tops the 5 diving spots in the Philippines.

2. Anilao, Batangas

One of the country’s most popular diving spots is Anilao, Batangas. Anilao is rich with beautiful sightings of colorful coral reefs, fishes, turtles, sharks, barracuda, pygmy seahorses, and rare critters. It’s a great diving spot in Batangas because it’s literally a heaven-on-earth for muck diving, blackwater diving, and macro photography. 

3. Coron, Palawan

If you’re the kind of diver who seeks history underwater, then Coron is the best place to be! Coron is home to several World War II wrecks; Japanese supply ships that were sunk by American forces in the battle of Coron Bay in September 1944.

Vessels like Akitsushima, Iraku and Olympia Maru are big, ghostly and fascinating to visit. And to add to Coron diving spots, make sure you also dive the famous Barracuda Lake and Gunter’s Cathedral. 

4. Apo Reef, Mindoro

Often referred to as “little Tubbataha,” Apo Reef Natural Park is a 27,469-hectare natural marine park between Mindoro and Palawan provinces.

Apo Reef is home to the world’s second-largest continuous coral reef, and the largest atoll in the Philippines. You’ll see plenty of sharks, turtles, bumphead parrotfish, huge schools of snappers and tuna, manta and eagle rays, as well as other pelagic species. That’s why many divers consider this as one of the greatest diving spots in the Philippines.

5. Dauin, Dumaguete

Another world-class diving spot in the Philippines is in the province of Negros Oriental. Most of the best diving spots in the Philippines are located along the coastline of Dauin in Dumaguete City.

The place is best known for its excellent muck diving, great coral reefs nearby, and its assortment of luxurious beachfront dive resorts which are relatively affordable compared to other diving destinations in the world. 

Dauin closes the list of our top 5 diving spots in the Philippines.

6. Moalboal, Cebu

Don’t be surprised when millions of sardines welcome and swim with you when you dive in Moalboal. Seeing the huge school of sardines is the highlight of diving there, making this one of the best diving spots in the Philippines.

Another great diving spot in Moalboal is Pescador Island, just a 10-minute boat ride off the beach. There’s also a sunk Cessna plane wreck at Rhonda Bay with some massive gorgonian fans at 30 meters best for morning dives.

Moalboal delivers a good array of great diving with little effort required to access it. This is perfect for backpackers and scuba diving newbies.

7. Malapascua Island, Cebu

Aside from being one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines, Malapascua is also a great Cebu diving spot.

It is most famous for the almost certain chance to see Thresher Sharks. You can also see whitetip reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, manta rays, devil rays, mandarin fish, pygmy seahorses, ornate ghost pipefish, frogfish, blue-ringed octopus and a huge variety of nudibranchs and shrimps.

The best diving spots in Moalboal are Monad Shoal, Gato Island, and Kemod Shoal.

8. Donsol, Sorsogon

Swimming with the whale sharks is the most famous activity in Donsol, Sorsogon but it is now emerging as one of the top diving destinations in the Philippines. It boasts of an impressive mix of corals, rock, and sandy bottom formations.

Donsol has become famous to the tourists because of its abundance of marine life and fish species. There are also some wrecks in the area but only those with technical diving experience can go there.

9. Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro

Just like the diving spot in Batangas, Puerto Galera is just close to Manila. It’s just a 2-hour drive which makes it frequented by tourists in search of diving spots without hopping on a plane.

Puerto Galera is a diving paradise boasting its crystal clear waters and abundant marine life. While there are several dive sites worthy to be noted, the most sought after spot is Canyons where currents sweep divers through three beautiful canyons covered in a variety of soft corals and sponges. And while inside these structures, you’ll find large schools of fish including barracudas, batfish, snappers, emperors, and trevally.

10. Bohol

Bohol is mostly known because of its Chocolate Hills but aside from this, the province is also becoming famous for its great scuba diving spots that include the islands of Balicasag, Cabilao, and Panglao. 

What attracts scuba divers there is the great diversity of marine life there. You can find eels, octopus, sea snakes, many different species of fish, hammerhead sharks, and of course, the coral reefs.

BONUS!

Suba Lagoon, Siargao

To complete the list of diving spots in the Philippines, we’ll close it with Siargao’s Sugba Lagoon. It is a famous Siargao diving spot because of its great view and turquoise waters. Although it’s one of the famous diving spots in the Philippines, tourists go here just to take photos for the fear of heights. Whatever the case is, Sugba Lagoon is a great place to be!

If you’re planning to visit these areas, we’ve got properties for you. Book budget hotels in the Philippines at www.zenrooms.com.

Disclaimer: ZEN Rooms claims no credit for images featured on our blog site unless otherwise noted. All visual content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. We try to link back to original sources whenever possible. If you own the rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on ZEN Rooms, please contact us and they will be promptly removed. We believe in providing proper attribution to the original author, artist or photographer.