This was going to be a special trip for the Philippine Siren because a group of many marine life researchers and people working in or on the Ocean were going to dive Tubbataha with us! We chatted with the group leaders and made some plans for what looked to be a very nice week with extra activities such as presentations, a barbeque at the ranger station and talktails… talks with cocktails. After the formalities and getting clearance from the coast guard we set off on the eleven to twelve hour boat ride to the Tubbataha Reefs National Park.
We arrived early in the morning at Malayan Wreck dive site for the first two dives of the cruise. They easy with a slight current and we got to see some cool stuff straight off the bat: big schools of bigeye barracudas and blacktail barracudas, bumphead parrotfish and the inevitable grey reef and whitetip reef sharks. Not bad at all! After the dive we drove the boat over to a buoy near the ranger station and we dived the site Gorgonian Wall. That was a beautiful reef to drift-along. A very small current took us along the soft and hard corals in slow motion.
The next morning, we set course for the southern tip of the South Atoll where we would be diving our dives of the day. First up was Delsan Wreck. Once again a small current took us over this dive master’s favorite. A big school of bigeye trevallies and the walls of small fish were only some of the many highlights of the dive. Coming up from the dive we were surprised by the crew who had put the sails up while we were diving. That was a photo opportunity for our guests and after the breakfast we went around the boat for some shots. But before we went out we saw a pod of spinner dolphins near the boat, some of the guests too snorkel gear and jumped from the dinghy near the dolphins, which soon turned in another highlight of the day! Next up was Staghorn point and that again left some of the divers in awe. The pristine healthy corals on the reef made for a lovely easy shallow dive in only 10-15 meter. We spotted two tawny nurse sharks and were surrounded by snappers, sweetlips, damsels and anthias. What a great spot! The third dive was back at Delsan Wreck again and finding the same abundance of fish we again concluded that this is one of our favorites. The fourth dive was at Southwest Wall and drifting along the beautiful wall we spotted: grey reef sharks and whitetip reef sharks, a hawksbill turtle and we had a massive school of bigeye trevally do the typhoon-thing around us.
On special request we organized a short night dive. The divers jumped in together at Triggerfish City where we roamed the reef top. We caught a huge green sea turtle in our light beams and actually got to see some macro life. During the day you see so much life in the Tubbataha Reefs National Park, but hardly ever you see small stuff. In the night dive we finally saw some shrimps and crabs: a novelty!
WHALE SHARK! How cool it is to begin the day with a dive in which you encounter the biggest fish. This one was about 7 to 7, 5meters! Besides that we saw big schools of blacktail barracuda and bigeye trevallies. The current was medium to strong on the corner and it resulted in happy smiling faces on the surface. The next dive at Black Rock was labelled ‘The best dive so far’, by some of our guests. We loved hearing that obviously, and agreed that it had been very nice spotting four mantas, some hawksbill turtles and a tawny nurse shark. The third and last dive of the day was at Black Rock South; an all-time favorite for the dive crew. The absolute highlight of the dive was a green sea turtle sitting in bright sun beams on top of a huge boulder that was filled with waving soft corals while he was surrounded by tens of thousands of damsels and colorful anthias. One of our guests called it ‘magical’; and it was!
Early morning, the captain headed north to the North Atoll. The first dive was at Shark Airport and indeed we spotted a few of these grey silver creatures. We added a marbled stingray to the list and look back on an extremely relaxed morning dive. After breakfast, we hopped on the dinghy and drove a bit closer to the bird islet. We spotted sterns and brown and red-footed boobies above water and a tiger shark, a porcupine ray and numerous turtles in the water. The next dive site Northeast Wall was labeled ‘gorgeous’ by our guests. And we agree. Imagine a steep wall with lots of overhangs, crevices, chimneys and swim-throughs. Cover that picture with sea fans and dot it with black snappers, midnight snappers, surgeonfish and all of the other usual reef suspects. Now add some Hollywood-approved beams of sunlight and you’ve got what we drifted along. Not bad huh? The last dive of the day was a combination of Shark Airport and Washing Machine and one of the highlights of the plunge into the depths was a very relaxed marbled stingray that stayed put lying on the reef wall and gave us the opportunity to take a good look at, and some really nice pics of him.
We made sure to be at the Jessie Beazley Reef nice and early in the morning. The last two dives of the trip were at this lovely spot in the middle of nowhere. Steep dramatic walls and huge coral gardens can be found underneath the surface and most guests are flabbergasted by the numbers of fish that dart around. They might be the usual suspects, but still it’s impressive to see them in such big schools. One unexpected encounter in the first dive has to be mentioned; we saw a nice chunky silvertip shark. For some that was the first time in their lives. The second dive we jumped in at the site Southeast Wall. Some of the divers got a taste of real genuine strong Tubbataha current and ended the dive, while others had stayed on the shallower parts and had a relaxing last dive over coral gardens. Everybody surfaced smiling though.
On the afternoon, we all raised our glasses to a successful week. We toasted on trips to come and took some funny group pics on the sundeck. Douglas, one of the guests, brought with his guitar and sang some singalong songs and added one written by himself on past week’s cruise.
What an incredible week full of interesting talks on marine life!!! We hope to see you soon on board!