Diving Tubbataha is like diving a National Geographic documentary!
The Philippine Siren welcome on board a nice mixture of people from all over the world, with (at least) one thing in common: they were all eager to dive Tubbataha.
We arrived to the Tubbataha Reefs National Park just before a gorgeous sunrise and knocked the doors for an early wakeup call. Our first dive was a check dive and it was a great one straight from the bat. Hardly any waves, good visibility and lots of sea life darting around. We spotted plenty of whitetip reef sharks, and grey reef sharks. The highlight of the dive was a massive school of bumphead parrotfish in the shallows. On the surface we saw a nice pod of dolphins playing around near us. The second dive at Malayan Wreck brought us similar stuff in abundance. All the usual suspects were represented; we saw big schools of surgeon fish, pyramid butterflyfish, redtooth triggerfish and zillions of damsels and Anthias.
Next, Wall Street! A very gentle current took us along the wall that is filled with big gorgonian sea fans, barrel sponges and nice coral formations. There were fish everywhere and the guests loved it. The last dive of the day was at Amos Rock where we had a nice dive along its steep wall and its bustling reef edge. We surfaced to a fantastic sunset and called it a (lovely) day.
We arrived at the dive site Delsan Wreck finding mirror-like condition. We jumped in and found that there was a nice current bringing in all the big schools of fish. We spotted bigeye trevally, chevron barracuda and surgeonfish in big schools. And then there was the pack of whitetip reef shark and giant trevally hunting the whole bunch. During the second dive at Staghorn Point we spotted the first small manta ray of the trip, as well as a whole bunch of green sea and hawksbill turtles.
Dive three was again at our favorite site Delsan Wreck. And with changing currents and a billion fishes it already was a fantastic dive and added to that we saw a great hammerhead, a marbled stingray and a whale shark. The last dive of the day at Southwest Wall was a neat drift dive with two big schools of bigeye trevallies as highlights. It was also one to remember for another reason. After the dive and climbing back on the dinghy one group of divers spotted fins in the distance on the surface. When they got over there to check it out they found a turtle being chased by a massive tiger shark. The fight was going on right underneath the dinghy. The shark had the turtle in its mouth, but let it go and started circling the dinghy as if it was playing a part in a scary shark Hollywood B-movie. Either way, it resulted in nervous laughter and excitement. What a great opportunity to watch this majestic animal.
We started the day with yet again a unbelievable calm and flat sea. We had a light breakfast and got ready for a gentle drift dive at Ko-ok. We found big schools of bigeye trevallies and also a school of bumphead parrotfish, some of which were quite feisty having a go at each other. On the other side of the northern tip of the South Atoll lies the dive area called Black Rock. That’s where we spend the rest of the day diving. The first dive brought us mantas. We spotted at least 3-4 individuals. The second dive in the area was all about underwater scenery. We send the 60 minutes on the reef top edge which is covered in gorgeous hard and soft corals. Big schools of reef fish and the sunshine hitting the reef top made this dive a favorite for the underwater landscape photographers. For the last dive of the day we were back at the corner of the atoll where currents prevail and all the good stuff hangs out. We were not surprised finding another manta and to top it off, we had a blacktip reef shark encounter which is quite rare in this area. Not bad. Not bad at all!
We arrived at Shark Airport dive site just before the dive briefing, and were eager to get wet again. A nice drift dive took us along the beautiful coral walls. There were many thermoclines and the reef fish were swimming around franticly snatching up the goodies from the depth. Highlight of the dive was a scalloped hammerhead sighting. The scalloped hammerhead – or one of his cousins – was back for the second dive and third at Northeast Wall, and Washing Machine. And he brought another distant family member; a whale shark. The coolest thing about it was that for some today brought either their first hammerhead, or their first whale shark ever. On the last dive of the day, at Wall Street, the amount of midnight snappers, surgeon fish and bluefin trevally were astonishing.
It’s becoming a tradition to do the last two dives of the trip at Jessie Beazley Reef. It’s a tiny dot in the Sulu Sea that has unbelievable amounts of fish. They might be the usual suspects on the reef, but the amounts of them are sometimes astonishing. Especially when there is a bit of current running, the schools of fish and their activeness can be overwhelming. We jumped in and were not disappointed. The highlights of the dive definitely were the thresher shark sighting and the silvertip that was patrolling the reef top edge. Dive two brought us more goodies; we again saw lots of whitetip reef sharks and grey reef sharks, some of them lined up lying on the rubble. We might have seen a glimpse of the thresher again, but we weren’t completely sure. Either way, it was a nice and colorful dive to end the trip with.
After the dive we got back on board, lifted the dive platform and set off to Puerto Princesa. On the way we toasted on a great trip in the Tubbataha Reefs National Park and shared some laughs and good memories of the past week. At night we had our last evening barbeque and watched the lights on Puerto Princesa’s Bay Walk.
Thank you everyone! It was a great trip! It wouldn’t have been the same without you! We hope to see you soon one day!