Tubbataha: What the heck is it?

The Tubbataha Reef

The Tubbataha Reef

Tubbataha. Dear reader, the first word of this article is not a typo error. Even though Microsoft Word disagrees with me as I type it every single time, I assure you that it is not. Tubbataha is, in fact, an atoll coral reef that’s located in the Sulu Sea of Southeast Philippines. I’ve been told by many wise people that research will do you good before you start your article. I followed their advice, and the results scared me.

I was doing some research about Tubbataha Reef. Everything was pretty standard until… until I saw two sites that gave different measurements of how much water the Tubbataha Reef actually comprise. One site claimed that it has 33,000 hectares worth of water. The other site responded, “Nah! Are you kidding me?! Our calculator indicated 95,000 hectares of water!”

Who to believe? Did my good friend, Google, betray me? Does Tubbataha Reef warp its size depending on the temperature? Are you expecting me to go all the way to Tubbataha Reef with a ruler just to find out? You know what, forget it. Let’s just conclude that even math cannot comprehend the beauty of Tubbataha Reef. Everything about this place exemplifies wonder, poetry and art. Well, except for its name. But don’t be sad, Tubb! I once met a person named Kwanza’cha. And that’s only her nickname.

“Sounds great! How do I get there?!”

Well, it’s not that simple. To get to Tubbataha Reef, you must first get to Puerto Princessa. Don’t worry, that’s still located in the Philippines.  There, you will find the only liveaboard dive boats that will take you to Tubbataha Reef.  It’s a 180 km travel so make sure to bring something that will keep you from getting bored. Bring a PSP, a Rubik’s Cube, your wife… something… anything.

Are you cheap? Because if you are, don’t even think of saving some cash by swimming your way to Tubbataha Reef instead of taking the liveaboard boats. Remember, that’s 33,000 (or 95,000) hectares worth of salty water!

Once there, take long deep breaths and savor the air of your accomplishment. Tubbataha Reef is composed of two atolls. The north atoll is called Bird Island while the south atoll is known as Lighthouse. Getting tired of all the names? If you are, then prepare to be blown away. Twenty-six kilometers from Tubbataha lay… wait for it… Jessie Beazley Reef. “Oh yeahhhhh…”  If “Tubbataha” was a turn-off at first, “Mr. Beazly” here is love at first sight. But if a reef named Jessie Beazly won’t convince you to visit it, I don’t know what will.

“Now that I’m here… Now what?!”

Enjoy yourself! Look around! Take some pictures with your family or friends! Dive! Take some more pictures! You have 95,000 (or 33,000) hectares of water to explore! Go crazy!

Okay. Since there are so many things to see here in Tubbataha, I am going to divide this section of the article into two parts: Those with no life and those with life.

First, the lifeless…  There are sandy lagoons, steep walls, and continuous reef platforms. Photographs near these beauties are a must, especially during the nighttime where the currents are calm. By the way, divers are only allowed to dive in Tubbataha Reef from the months of March to June due to unpredictable weather conditions.

Next, we’ve got those tiny little critters that kids always wanna take home as pets. You will see different types of pipe fish and shrimps and all other creatures that are far more colorful than your Rubik’s Cube. Also, you will encounter nudibranches. Wow! That’s a fun word to say! Nudibranches! Nudibranches! Enough of that. Now where was I? Oh yeah. Nudibranches! And yes, of course, you’ve got sharks, mantas, rays, tunas and barracudas. But in the world of Tubbataha, everything is bigger! Because the place is so clean, marine life here lives longer, thus, they grow bigger.

Tubbataha, Jessie Beazly, nudibranches- You gotta admit, the place is indeed unique. So divers of all origins, shapes, sizes and names (Kwanza’cha!), I invite you to this place of constant relaxation and attempts at pronunciations. Treat yourselves to some scuba diving fun here and familiarize yourself with the name that is Tubbataha. Yes, even you, Microsoft Word.

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