A perfect liveaboard dive cruise in Tubbataha!

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The Philippine Siren crew got ready for another amazing liveaboard dive trip to Tubbataha Reefs. Reaching the Park, we started the day diving at Malayan Wreck twice, located at the Northwest tip of the North Atoll. School of big-eye trevally was seen at the reef margin, grey reef and white sharks were present swimming along the wall, Different schools of reef fishes were also enjoying the current such as: fusiliers, surgeonfish, pyramid butterflyfish, as well as yellowtail and blacktail barracuda. One the second dive, while cruising the gorgonian-filled wall, an unexpected friend showed up –Mr. Scalloped Hammerhead Shark. He gave us quite a show by swimming in circles several times before moving ahead into the blue-ness of the ocean. Everybody was thrilled and excited seeing our old friend. Next on the diving schedule was Gorgonian Wall. Another dive site with impressive collection of gorgonian sea fans on the wall, divers enjoyed the colors and the abundance of marine life inhabiting the site. Quite a few of sea fan resident, denise pygmy seahorse, were spotted in yellow and purple sea fans. A marbled stingray and was seen as well as painter spiny lobster. At Amos Rock., the ever-solitary and ‘relaxed’ tawny nurse shark was spotted resting on a sand patch. Moving around the reef were of course the usual suspects: fusiliers, snappers, sweetlips, parrotfish, trevally, grey reef and whitetip reef sharks. Not to forget the denise pygmy seahorse that is an instant favorite of divers.

At South Atoll, starting at Delsan Wreck. Famous for the fish action happening in this dive site, we were not disappointed at all. Reaching the corner, lots of sharks swam by, accompanied by giant trevally and dogtooth tuna. At the corner, the big guys were patrolling and circling around: grey reef, white tip, giant trevally, and dog tooth tuna. Moving forward, there was some feeding action in an area occupied by barrel sponge, sea fans, staghorn corals. It was such action-filled participated by grey reef, whitetip dogtooth tuna and giant trevally that another action immediately followed- a school of yellow-fin barracuda was hunted by the sharks and trevally. All the while the divers were just hovering and witnessing the action unravel. After this, everyone was just amazed at the scene that when we all broke the surface, divers exclaimed, “Wow! That was an awesome dive!” Indeed, it was. Staghorn Point was with no doubt to be everybody’s favorite. This divesite offers fields and hills of staghorn corals as far as the eyes can see. Cruising above the corals, zillion of Anthias and damselfish sink in and out, their body movement while facing the current actually create hypnotizing effect. Some other bigger fishes stay stationary, maybe move a bit, and make a dramatic effect in the scenery. Towards the end of the dive, a school of big-eye trevally came into view and allowed divers to digest the unending beauty of the dive site. Another awesome dive just completed. For the third dive of the day, it was Delsan Wreck again. Apart from the action-filled corner where the big guys, dogtooth tuna, whitetip and grey reef sharks, and the giant trevally prevail, a big reef octopus was spotted walking on the rubbles.  Fourth and last dive of the day was at Southwest Wall. As if the awesomeness of the day’s diving is not yet finished, we are graced by a wall dense in gorgonian sea fans, barrel sponges and coral bushes. Among these beauties, we found denise pygmy seahorse and the lovely ornate ghost pipefish. On the wall crevice, we found spiny lobster, giant moray eel and some whitetip reef sharks resting. At the reef top, there was beautiful coral display and there lived massive amount of Anthias and damsel fish. Bigger fish such as sweetlips, snappers, surgeonfish and parrotfish gave us a wonderful display of color as well as swimming cleverness by dodging divers that come close. Once again, it was another awesome dive that is a perfect way to end the day.

The overall collective experience of today would be ‘exciting’. And here is why:
First dive was at Shark Airport that ended in the neighboring site called Washing Machine. The whole food chain start to appear little by little at shallow waters: mature grey reef and white tip sharks set in motion facing the current, schooling fish such as surgeon fish, fusiliers, snappers, trevally and others were busy feeding. Big school of big-eye trevally in hurried pace and forming their tornado routine was seen, next to it was also a school of blue trevally mirroring the motion set by its cousin. Coming to safety stop, the washing machine current was still evident but divers were cautious and stayed well within the limits. Back at the surface, it was mix emotions of excitement and relief. Second dive was at the same dive site but with an overlap from the other adjacent dive site called Northeast Wall. We cruised the beautiful wall with expected curiosity- on the crevices, overhangs, chimneys, and steps, A nurse shark was seen resting in a crevice, full body exposed to divers especially photographers. The reef top drew a lot of excitement when turtles, lazily resting and swimming, were seen – 5 Green Sea turtles, all small and active while one of them hung in midwater allowing surgeonfish to feed and clean its body and legs; one Hawksbill turtle was busy minding his business of eating and munching away on corals. The parting scene was a school of diagonally-banded sweetlips above a hill of corals, hanging in the current. On the third dive, we jumped at Northeast Wall. Few minutes into the dive, the temperature dropped and the cold water started to be realized. While adjusting to the temperature, an unexpected friend showed up at around 26meters- Mr. Tiger Shark!! He came close and did 2 circles before going back to the blue. Totally unexpected! After this, a tawny nurse shark was seen resting on a crevice, mindless of the divers who were excited to take its photo. Ending the dive was a scene of beauty- hills of corals and many different fish thrive to survive life, namely: Anthias, damsel, butterflyfish, bannerfish, surgeonfish, even the mighty Titan Triggerfish. Last dive of the day was at Wall Street . Big schools of sailfin snappers in hurried finning, lunar fusiliers in their usual hurried pace also, other usual friends such as surgeonfish, butterflyfish, bannerfish, damsels and Anthias. Not to forget at least 4 denise pygmy Seahorse were spotted on different gorgonian seafans on the wall. It didn’t stop even until all divers broke the surface. At that time of the day, this excitement was without a risk. But glad to have everybody back on board, while the sun, big and orangey-bright was slowly setting in the far distance. What an exciting day it has been!

Back in the South Atoll, first dive was in Ko-ok– local name for seabird. We kept the reef to our right side at the beginning of the dive while enjoying a small current. Seen at the reef top were already many different kinds of fishes: school of diagonally-banded sweetlips, humpback snappers, harlequin sweetlips, millions of Anthias and damselfish giving life to the reef margin. Along the wall, massive amount of fish life was alive and happily swimming around: fusiliers, snappers, surgeonfish of different kinds, butterflyfish, bannerfish resting on corals at the beginning of the wall. Out in the blue, a tornado of blackfin barracuda was doing its routine, to the delight of the divers. Of course, the big guys were also present: a pack of dogtooth tuna was swimming back and forward the same with giant trevally, getting curious with divers; also grey reef and white tip sharks were busy feeding in the current. A big marbled stingray was spotted resting and getting cleaned by a cleaner fish on a crevice in the wall. There was just so much color and life in this dive site that 60 minutes flew by like a snap. Second dive was at Black Rock North, located at the Northeast tip of the South Atoll, Keeping the reef to our right side; we drifted with a small current, cruising the beautiful while keeping an eye in the blue for bigger fish. There were a few such as a pack of dogtooth tuna, giant trevally swimming back and forth, white tip and grey reef sharks feeding in the current. Lush soft corals, big barrel sponges, massive sea fans covered the reef top, along with healthy hard corals here and there and all these separated by bright white sand. It was quite scenic and haven for photographers. Third dive of the day was at Black Rock. Glad for the small current, divers enjoyed a nice cruise along the wall. Before turning the dive to shallow waters, our gentle friend whale shark made an appearance in the deep, although only for a brief moment. It was truly a wonderful dive from beginning to end. We head back to Delsan Wreck for the fourth dive. The same as the other dives of the day, there was a mild current in one direction to begin with and changed the other way after maybe 20minutes. Nevertheless, the cruise along the wall was not for naught. Lots of schooling fish darting around by the reef margin and in the blue such us: many kinds of surgeon fish and fusiliers, also butterflyfish and bannerfish, rainbow runners, Anthias and damselfish and of course the big guys dogtooth tuna, giant trevally, grey reef and whitetip reef sharks. A blue-spotted ribbon tail ray was spotted hiding in the sand. A reef octopus was also spotted out in the rubbles, changing colors and dodging some goatfish. It stopped when we hovered to look at it. But he kept changing colors until it finally slid into a small hole, enough only for its tentacles but not the head. Its eyes were still alert to our movement but it stood erect and proud. And then we left it to resume what it was doing. Breaking the surface, big orange sun was setting in the horizon- leaving an amber-colored sky and contentment for the human kind.

We’re back in Jessie Beazly for the 2 last  dives of the Tubbataha liveaboard diving cruise. Keeping right shoulder to the reef, we began a slow descent along the wall which was covered in corals and seafans. Not long after, a school of midnight and black snappers were spotted at a deeper depth. After which, a big school of big-eye trevally was playing along the wall, ducking to the deep and back again to shallows- their silver body creating a sight of glitter and sparkle. Cruising along, two big spiny lobsters were seen in two different crevices. Halfway through the dive, we decided to spend time at shallow waters (at 10m) and enjoy the fields of hard and soft corals. Amongst the corals are millions of Anthias, damselfish and then schools surgeonfish, fusiliers, sweetlips, trevally and many more. Divers felt privileged to have experienced a beautiful and healthy reef.  Second dive was on the other side of the corner, keeping the reef to our right side. Upon descent, we were greeted by fields of lettuce corals and above them were zillions of colorful small fishes. Along the wall, both juvenile white tip and grey reef sharks were patrolling the reef edge, and they weren’t so shy. It was indeed a good way to end the diving for this trip.

The contagious cheerful personality of the 16 guests added to this awesomeness of this trip and one thing, among others, that they will be remembered of. Thank you.

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