Tubbataha Reef Natural Park (World Heritage)

Tubbataha Reef Nature Park, the reef system with its unique underwater world in the approximately 332 km² national park is located in the Sulu Sea and consists of two atolls.

In the center of the two reefs are shallow, sandy lagoons, an ideal habitat for stingrays and turtles. Tubbataha is considered to be one of the most beautiful reef landscapes in the world. The dive sites already enthusiastic JY Cousteau .

Tubbataha Reef Natural Park: Facts

Official title: Tubbataha Reef Natural Park
Natural monument: since 1988 marine reserve of 332 km² and since 1990 part of the Palawan Biosphere Reserve; North Reef and South Reef, the only two atolls in the Philippine archipelago, separated by an 8 km wide canal; North Reef with 16 km long and 4.5 km wide “platform” that encloses a 24 m deep lagoon; North Islet, a coralline sand reef and breeding ground for sea turtles; South Reef, a shallow, narrow, triangular reef 1-2 km wide around a lagoon; South Islet, a coralline sand reef of 800 m²
Continent: Asia
Country: Philippines
Location: in the middle of the Sulu Sea, southeast of Puerto Princesa (Palawan Province)
Appointment: 1993; 2010 Reclassified and renamed Tubbataha Reef Natural Park
Meaning: an almost untouched atoll reef with a wall that plunges 100 m perpendicularly into the depths of the sea
Flora and fauna: Tree species such as coconut palm, Terminalia catappa and Pisonia grandis, as well as grasses such as Melapodium divaricatum and Chloris inflata; 64 bird species such as red-footed booby and brown booby, sooty tern and common tern; Breeding ground for the hawksbill turtle and green turtle; 379 species of fish such as blacktip and whitetip reef shark as well as manta, as well as killer clams and digging giant clams; 46 species of coral

Barrel sponges, suppository corals…

Before the first rays of the sun break through the clouds, the machine on the »Aquastar« stops. The passengers stand curiously at the railing. On a flat sandbar with a few dry trees you see a lighthouse, which seagulls and sea swallows are buzzing excitedly around. In the distance, the wreck of a small freighter juts out of the shallow water. These are the only striking points in the blue-green monotony, clear indications of the threatening obstacles in the vastness of the Sulu Sea. What demanded great caution from the helmsmen during the long night voyage, now fills the divers on board with joyful excitement: The Tubbataha Reef is considered the jewel of the Philippine underwater areas, and some connoisseurs even exuberantly praise it as one of the most beautiful diving spots on earth.

According to scientific findings, in the triangle between the Philippines, the Malay Peninsula and New Guinea, most of the Pacific marine organisms evolved millions of years ago before they colonized the rest of the oceans. Therefore, this area has the greatest diversity of marine fauna.

Unfortunately, human unreasonableness and greed for profit have hit the reefs badly. Apart from the ruthless advance of modern trawlers with trawls, the “home-made” dynamite and cyanide fishing leads to severe damage. Even here, far away from human settlements, maritime life has been destroyed for many generations. The “Tubbataha National Marine Park” foundation was established in 1988 to protect the remaining coral gardens in the Sulu Sea, which were only superficially damaged. That this does not mean one hundred percent protection of the reef became clear when a mine clearance ship of the US Navy ran aground in the naval protection park on January 17th, 2013 and destroyed approx. 1000 m² of the coral reef.

The men and women of the »Aquastar« are on their first excursion into the depths. In the sometimes strong currents, they initially float over the reef roof, which in places extends up to two meters below the surface of the water. It shines like a colorful carpet in the glaring morning light. Juggler fish flash in all colors of the rainbow between bizarre antler corals. A blue and yellow doctor fish circles in front of a coral tower, at the foot of which the long spines of a black sea urchin demand a respectful distance. Green-yellow and reddish-colored parrot fish are busy cutting off coral branches with their strong jaw teeth. Stingrays and fiddle rays flit like shadows among the divers. A group of young manta rays disappear into the curtain of dark blue that

As with all reefs of the Sulu Sea, the walls of the local reef rise vertically or at least almost vertically from a depth of up to a hundred meters. Even a perfectly set up aquarium can only give an idea of ​​what this maritime wonder world has to offer in all its natural fascination and diversity. The corals, which belong to the hollow animals, are most abundant just below the low water line. Filigree-edged plate corals alternate with mighty sticks of bulging brain corals. In between, like flying sparks, dance red canaries, fish from the subordination of the perch, the largest representatives of which, the groupers over three meters long and weighing up to 450 kilograms, prefer the lower floors of the “coral house”. A lobster is hiding in a narrow cave,

Huge barrel sponges, suppository corals and sea feathers grow on the slope, on the surface of which it fans and pulsates incessantly. In the schools of angelfish and banner fish, fusiliers, jackfish and sweetlipfish, it twinkles and glitters hundreds of times.

Finally, the big ones of the reef can also be seen: barracudas, black tip and white tip reef sharks patrol around. It is their realm that human visitors are allowed to experience as tolerated guests.

Tubbataha Reef Natural Park (World Heritage)