Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a protected area of the Philippines located in the middle of Sulu Sea. The marine and bird sanctuary consists of two huge atolls (named the North Atoll and South Atoll) and the smaller Jessie Beazley Reef covering a total area of 97,030 hectares. It is located 150 kilometres southeast of Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan province. The uninhabited islands and reefs are part of the island municipality of Cagayancillo, Palawan, located roughly 130 kilometres to the northeast of the reef.
In December 1993, the UNESCO declared the Tubbataha Reefs National Park as a World Heritage Site as a unique example of an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species; the North Islet serving as a nesting site for birds and marine turtles. The site is an excellent example of a pristine coral reef with a spectacular 100-metre perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons and two coral islands.
The national park and the rest of the Philippine archipelago is part of the Coral Triangle, recognized as a center of marine biodiversity containing 75% of the described coral species and 40% of the world's reef fish. The area is under a grave threat due to overfishing and destructive fishing practices. Research of scientists visiting the reefs since the 1980s revealed that the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park contains no less than 600 fish species, 360 coral species, 11 shark species, 13 dolphin and whale species, and 100 bird species. The reefs also serve as a nesting ground for Hawksbill and Green sea turtles.
The Tubbataha is made up of two coral atolls or reefs called the North and the South separated by a deep 8-kilometre wide channel. Each atoll has a lagoon in the middle and small sandy islets. North Atoll, the larger of the two, is 16 kilometres long and 5 kilometres wide. The ranger station is located on an islet on the southeast edge of North Atoll. A small islet called North Islet lies in the northern edge of the reef's lagoon. Amos Rocks is located near the southwestern tip of the reef. South Rock is at the southern tip of the atoll on a sandy cay. South Reef is 5 kilometres in length and 3 kilometres in width. Tubbataha Lighthouse is located near the southern tip of South Atoll on a small low islet called South islet. A rock called Black rock lies on the northern edge of South atoll.
The park is open year-round.
Individuals or companies conducting commercial dive operations in Tubbataha must secure a Permit to Operate from the Tubbataha Management Office at least two months before first entry to the Park.
Private boats and other non-commercial trips must have Entry Permits before their scheduled trips.
Individuals or organisations wanting to conduct research in the Park must secure a Research/Monitoring Permit. Similarly, any person or company wanting to photograph and/or film in Tubbataha for commercial purposes must secure a special permit from the TPAMB.
P 3,000 per person; 50% discount for repeat visitors within the season.
Vessel entry fee:
Tubbataha is considered as one of the best dive sites in the world. Trips to Tubbataha National Marine Park from Puerto Princesa operates during the diving season from mid-March to mid-June, the period where the waves are calmest, skies clear and water visibility of about 30 to 45 metres. The park is about ten hours by boat from the Puerto Princesa. All trips are vessel-based or "liveaboard" as there are no accommodation facilities. Visitors stay on the yacht/boat throughout their stay in the park. During the diving season, ships dedicated for diving are usually booked years in advance especially during Easter and the Asian holidays called "Golden Week".
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