Diving in Tubbataha is breathtaking!

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The Philippine Siren welcomed on board a brand new groups of divers ready for their liveaboard dive trip in Tubbataha. After a quick talk from the Tubbataha management Office about Park rules and regulations, we lifted the anchor and sailed away to Tubbataha for another amazing dive trip. We commence the day’s diving in Malayan Wreck, southwest of the North Atoll. Not only was it nice and comfortable diving, there were sightings if interesting marine life all over the dive site, namely: school of blackfin barracuda, surgeonfish, Randall’s fusiliers, oceanic triggerfish and midnight snappers. Likewise, a ‘train’ of mature grey reef sharks were swimming against the current and a bunch of baby grey reef sharks were also present; whitetip sharks circling around a cleaning station; hawksbill turtle undisturbed and munching away on corals. Second dive we also dived in Malayan Wreck but entry was a little bit closer to the corner. With a small current, we drifted and enjoyed sightings of reef fishes: baby eagle ray at the beginning of the dive, school of barracuda and big-eye trevally by the edge of the reef, whitetip reef sharks lying on crevices, and a small school of dogtooth tuna (maybe 8) swimming hastily on the reef margin. Hawksbill turtle was seen again munching away on coral while 4 couples of fire dartfish (juvenile and adult ones) were darting and playing above a sandy patch. Third dive of the day was at Gorgonian Wall. With the abundance of gorgonian sea fans, small and massive ones, it is almost guaranteed to see a pygmy seahorse. On this dive, 3 were seen of different colors (pink/purplish and yellow). Another pride of this dive site was the ornate ghost pipefish, marbled stingray and 3 different kinds of anemonefish, namely: Clark’s, Orange and Pink anemonefish. Fourth and last dive of the day was at Amos Rock. Here, there are also numerous amount of gorgonian sea fans and with it, 4 pygmy seahorses were seen during the dive: two (orangey and pink) were seen in the same sea fan, and the other two in different sea fans. Some whitetip sharks were ‘sleeping’ in crevices while schooling of fish was playing by the wall: bluestreak, randall and solar fusiliers; midnight snappers. Giant clams were also seen as well as nudibranchs- in particular, Anna’s chromodoris that were mating.

Calm waters have prevailed the first dive of the day at Delsan Wreck. where a good number of giant trevally was seen swimming and getting closer to the divers. Likewise, dogtooth tunas swimming almost in a train-like routine while the grey reef and whitetip sharks circling around the deep waters like they always do. Schooling barracuda and big-eye trevally favored the shallow waters and to the delight of the divers, of course. One surprising sighting was the day octopus in its usual behavior of changing its body colors to adjust to its environment. Still with calm waters and  clear visibility, the second dive at Staghorn Point was stunning to say the least. With hills and fields of staghorn corals, inhabited by zillions of anthias, damselfish and other awe-inspiring small fish that live off the corals, the overall experience was profound and memorable. Add a tornado of big-eye trevally that did not shy away from the flock of divers to an already marvelous experience, not a single diver came up without a smile painted on his/her face. The fish-action-packed-corner at Delsan Wreck proved to be consistent with marine life. A good number of giant trevally and dogtooth tuna were swimming past and through divers seemingly undeterred by many divers hovering around to get to know them better. White tip sharks and grey reef sharks were keeping it business as usual, circling and getting cleaned at deep waters. Past the corner, we were welcomed by different species of damselfish and anthias, titan triggerfish swimming aimlessly around, school of big-eye barracuda and some solitary giant barracudas as well as schools of fusiliers, midnight snappers swimming by the reef margin. A lone hawksbill turtle was seen finding himself food on the corals, while the gentle giant Humphead wrasse was also busy picking food for itself. Last dive of the day was at Southwest Wall which is known for massive gorgonian sea fans and barrel sponges sticking out of the wall. What you get out of this is a beautiful and colorful wall perfect for wide-angle photography. Fortunately, this dive site also prides of macro stuff such as the cute and tiny Denise pygmy. Along its wall, lots of schooling fish thrive such as surgeonfish, black and midnight snapper, as well as fusiliers. By the reef margin or the reef top, colorful fishes abound namely angelfish, harlequin sweetlips, parrotfish, bannerfish, butterflyfish and the likes. It is such a healthy coral reef that never fails to amaze divers.

Shark Airport Wall had this morning clear visibility and lots of fish action from beginning until the 60th minute of the dive. The reef margin was teeming with small fishes: anthias of different colors, damsel fish small and mature ones darting in and out of corals. Out in the blue, imagine a big school of Randall’s Fusiliers, with a yellow blotch on its forebody, swimming head down from shallow to deep, it was almost like a meteor fall of fishes. Behind this display would be a rainbow of fishes and their distinct colors: white and yellow for pyramid butterflyfish, blue for Lunar fusiliers, grey and white for blue-axil chromis damselfish, red and orange for humpback snapper. Then talk of big fish, there were few white tip reef sharks and grey reef sharks swimming around the shallows and deep. But their distant cousin barracuda were in for a show. Big school of Big-eye barracuda hovered above the reef margin, while pickhandle barracuda teamed up with few surgeon fishes, blue fin trevally and the sad-looking sailfin snapper to snatch the highlight of the dive. The divers were just in awe. Second dive was next door dive site called Northeast Wall. Easily picked to be everybody’s favorite, this dive site sparks curiosity because of the cracks, crevices, canyons, and overhangs that make up its wall. It has a dense collection of beautiful sea fans hanging under the overhang ceiling or sticking out into the blue, and in them, pygmy seahorses thrive- at least two have been spotted on this dive. Up in the reef top, you find hills of staghorn corals, white sand, boulders that are inhabited by a variety of reef fish. One of the highlights is the group of diagonally-banded sweetlips sitting above a big boulder. Stealing the divers’ attention is the skittish juvenile rockmover wrasse hopping just above the sand. And while skimming through the reef flat, a turtle swam by, a group of longface emperor was gathered above a table coral and a school of blue trevally swam by the edge. A lively and wonderful sea-garden so to speak. Next on the diving schedule was Washing Machine. Threading along the wall, it was already teeming with fish action. Lots of schooling fish passing by and retracing such as blue trevally, fusiliers, damsels, humpback snappers, big-eye barracuda swirling in a tornado-like formation. Amidst the fish action, a big star puffer swam towards us, and turned to let us know that its fin was stuck to a piece of orange crinoid. While it was finning, the crinoid pulls the skin of its body. It must have been painful, so one diver slowly went behind and carefully pulled the crinoid off its fin. The big star puffer showed its thanks by staying and allowing divers to take photos. It was just incredible for all. Last dive of the day was at Wall Street; a dive site with a beautiful wall and reef top as well as a lot of fish life, big school of lunar fusilier, Randall’s fusilier, blue trevally, surgeonfish, snappers and many more. But the highlight of this dive was the breathtaking jumping and swimming of a Denise pygmy seahorse from one sea fan to the other. It was a treat everybody loved.

Back in the South Atoll,  we started at Ko-ok, a beautiful dive site at the Northwest tip of the South Atoll. Jumping in the water, divers were greeted already by a group of bumphead parrotfish cruising in a train-like motion at 2 meters of water and almost followed immediately by a tornado of big-eye trevally occupying the reef margin. Dipping into the deep, the wall was beautifully covered by gorgonian sea fans of different colors. One of which, housed two cute Denise pygmy seahorses at around 18 meters. Back to the reef margin, we saw  a big and mature nurse shark resting on the sand at shallow waters. Back at the surface, everybody was all smiles and gave one another ‘high-five’ for a meaningful and successful dive. Still with flat waters, divers readied themselves for the next dive at Black Rock. This dive would have to be summarized by the sighting of one of the most revered rays in the world, THE Manta Ray. This sighting is one of the most satisfying feelings a diver can ever muster. It’s as if everything moves in slow motion, mirroring the gentle sway of the Manta’s wings. And while it hovers above the reef, it moves towards divers, open its flaps and stops for everybody to take a good look at. Not only once or twice did it come back, but four times. On the third time, there were already two of them. They stayed until it was time to do the safety stop and be back at the surface. Wonderful. Truly wonderful.  Black Rock South spoke of beauty and class. It was a breathtaking cruise along the reef margin and the reef flat. The dive site is home to footages and documentaries made by researches, amateurs, pros and the likes. Black Rock South prides of beautiful boulders covered in soft and hard corals and in them live zillions of small colorful fishes. Out in the blue and darting into the shallows are big schools of fusiliers, rainbow runners, black and midnight snappers, pyramid butterflyfish, the stationary bannerfish hanging on edges, harlequin sweetlips that are spread in a wide area but gives depth and substance in the scenery. There was no current in this dive and so everybody had a chance to also observe fish behavior such as a pre-adult Harlequin sweetlips burying its lush lips in the sand trying to catch crustaceans. Funny, isn’t it? But witnessing this gave the divers a better perspective of marine life. Going into the fourth dive at Black Rock North , everybody went with the slight current, drifting into the heart of the dive site where bigger fish usually hang around- giant trevally, dogtooth tuna, grey reef and whitetip reef sharks. Back in the boat, the sun bids farewell in the most dramatic flair out in the far distance- the amber-colored rays hugging the horizon. It paints a smile on your face, right? 🙂

It was a bright and sunny on the last day of diving. This was spent in Jessie Beazley, a neighboring reef of the two other Atolls, smaller but equally beautiful and breathtaking. First dive was on the Northeastern tip of the atoll, Divers were just in awe on the abundance of fish life. Literally, even at deep waters, schools of many different fishes darted around such as: different kinds of fusiliers as well as surgeon fish, damsel fish, big school of rainbow runners that looked like a bullet train with its swimming skills. From beginning to end, the reef catered us with beautiful soft corals and hard corals. It’s amazing how healthy this reef is. Second dive was at the same sport, although a little bit to the corner as the starting area. The usual suspects have been seen swimming along the wall. In addition to this, a small school of baby grey reef sharks were swimming at 20meters, sometimes cutting through the schools of others fishes. The beauty of this plateau lies in the variety of corals and marine life. It’s hypnotizing. And each time you turn your head, you see something different. Saying that, a white leaf scorpionfish was spotted hidden among staghorn corals just before the safety stop.

After the second dive, it was time to attend to post-dive equipment routine. In other words, the dives have been completed and it was time to head back to mainland. And so we did. Cleaned the gears and hang them to dry. It was still flat waters so the journey was smooth and the much anticipated Group Picture finally happened at the sun deck!
I must say it was a successful, wonderful and meaningful trip having new and repeater guests onboard. We wish everybody the best on their post-Siren activities as well as their onward travels within Philippines and abroad.

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