Tubbataha Reef: A Long Reef Exposed At Low Tide

Tubbataha Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Since the discovery of the  Tubbataha in the late 1970s, it has been recognized as one of the most remarkable coral reefs on our planet. The CNN travel website, cnngo.com, ranks it as among the top eight dive sites in the world.

According to Wikipedia:

The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Filipino: Bahurang Tubbataha) is a protected area of the Philippines located in the middle ofSulu 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 (239,800 acres; 374.6 sq mi). It is located 150 kilometers (93 mi) southeast of Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan province.[2] The uninhabited islands and reefs are part of the island municipality of Cagayancillo, Palawan, located roughly 130 kilometers (81 mi) to the northeast of the reef.[2]

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-m perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons, and two coral islands.[3] In 1999, Ramsar listed Tubbataha as one of the Wetlands of International Importance.[4] In 2008, the reef was nominated at the New 7 Wonders of Nature.[5]

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.[6] The area is under a grave threat due to overfishing and destructive fishing practices.[7] 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 whalespecies, and 100 bird species. The reefs also serve as a nesting ground for Hawksbill and Green sea turtles.

Because of its isolated location, Tubbataha can only be visited on a liveaboard boat. Divers can experience the reefs’ dramatic underwater terrain, awe-inspiring biodiversity and encounter large marine animals such as sharks, turtles and manta rays.

Tubbataha is a combination of two Samal words which are “tubba” and “taha” which means, “a long reef exposed at low tide”.

Source: Youtube by DazzlingPhilippines.

As a visiting diver, you will play an important role in Tubbataha’s future, as your conservation fees provide the funds needed to protect the park from illegal exploitation.

(Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anderson Bomjardim) March 20, 2013.

According to a report from Andrea Germanos, Staff Writer of Common Dreams, the United States has agreed to pay the $1.9 million in compensation for the damage to the reefs caused by U.S. Navy minesweeper.  And then, as early as the first quarter of 2015, local news in the Philippines carried a banner story about the Philippines receiving the amount for the rehabilitation of Tubbataha Reefs. 

According to Germanos, the USS Guardian rammed into the reefs and got stranded there for the next two months and had to be cut into pieces to be extricated.  This happened in January 2013.

A UNESCO  World Heritage site, the park website describes it as being at the heart of the global center of marine biodiversity.


Hereunder is a video about Going to Tubbataha Reefs, uploaded on youtube by Chris Hewett.


According to the website of Tubbataha Reefs, there is one Manta Rays that is a resident of Tubbataha reefs.  Here’s the article:

Reef Manta Rays

Philippines’ first record of Manta alfredi

In 2012, using data collected by research volunteer consultant Dr Terry Aquino, marine scientist Dr Will White confirmed that the Manta Rays in Tubbataha are Manta alfredi, a reef based species, rather than Manta birostris, a pelagic species roaming the open seas.

This is exciting since there was previously no record of Manta alfredi in the Philippines.

The Reef Manta Ray (Manta alfredi) is found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. However, actual populations seem to be sparsely distributed.

Manta alfredi is considered “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List Status and an average of 30% decline in its population is suspected. They have a low reproductive rate with females bearing a single pup only once in two to three years.

Mantas are majestic creatures, loved by scuba divers. They are highly sensitive to marine conditions and are therefore an important indicator of the health of the ocean ecosystems.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is located in the middle of the Sulu Sea, in the township of Cagayancillo, a part of the Province of Palawan.

The website further stated that “the park contains roughly 10,000 hectares of coral reef, lying at the heart of the Coral Triangle – the global center of marine biodiversity.  Scientists have been visiting these reefs since the 1980s, and their research has shown that Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is home to no less than 600 species of fish, 360 species of corals (about half of all coral species in the world), 11 species of sharks, 13 species of dolphins & whales, 100 species of birds, and also nesting Hawksbill & Green sea turtles.”

For additional information, please check this link:


How To Get There?

How to get here? You must go to Manila to book a flight to Puerto Princesa in Palawan. Once you’ve arrived there, dive operators will gladly guide you to the pier where the boat going to the reef is waiting. It’s a 10-hour ride to the park and usually, the boat drivers will suggest that you’ll leave at around after dinner so that you arrive there by early morning the next day. It may seem that the travel takes a lot of time before you reach the reefs but I tell you, it’s worth it.

If you’re a diver and you haven’t been to the mystical Tubbataha Reefs then you’re missing out a big part of your diving life. It’s the best place to be.


Since the Manta Alfredi is sensitive to marine conditions, it is, therefore, good to know, that for as long as these Manta Rays are present in Tubbataha, we can conclude that the reefs’ ecosystems are healthy.

The Management of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park had been actively engaged in various activities that allowed scuba divers and tourists to explore the reefs but on top of their agenda was the protection and conservation of Tubbataha.

For more topics about the Tubbataha Reefs, please visit this link: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/653


Map showing the Tubbataha Reefs.  Located in the middle of Sulu Sea between Palawan and Panay.


Earthniversity is thanking its various sources of information and videos used in this post.  Thank you very much.

Scuba Divers and Underwater Heritage Sites

The island of Negros and the neighboring islands of Cebu, Malapascua, Siquijor, Apo and Panay in Central Philippines are endowed with beautiful dive spots that attracted local as well as international dive enthusiasts. The islands are surrounded by deep blue waters with rich aquatic life, coral reefs and sunken ships that made it as one of the favorite scuba dive sites in the Philippines.

Source: http://www.sipalay.cn/images/map_visayas_001_lbs.jpg

The Island of Negros where I was born and raised is divided into two provinces, the Oriental Negros in the east and the Occidental Negros in the west. I live in Negros Occidental. In the southern tip of our province, is where you can find several (44) dive sites. One of the town that embraced the scuba diving tourism in our province is Sipalay. There you can find Dive Spot Resorts and PADI Centers.

Historical accounts have revealed that a few boats during the war and after the second world war were sunk around the areas in the Visayas. One of these was the ship SS Panay. Its remains can be found in Campomanes Bay or Maricalum Bay, (Province of Negros Occidental website). Another examples are: Abukama Ship, a Nagara Class Cruiser bombed by the US Aircraft off Negros Island on October 26, 1944 (Wikipedia) and Fujinami, a Yugomo Class Destroyer that was sunk by US Aircraft 80 miles north of Iloilo on October 27, 1944 (Wikipedia). There were many others that can be found around the waters of Cebu and other islands in the Visayas.

SS Panay on her resting place, Campomanes Bay or Maricalum Bay, Island of Negros.
Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/

It was believed that the ship was loaded with cargoes and ammunition to aid the resistance movement against the Japanese during the second world war. That sunken ship, therefore, is a rich piece of history of the second world war.

SS Panay
Source: http://www.benhavenarchives.org/wiki/S.S._Panay_(4.14.0296)

Source: Youtube, uploaded by Martin Yee. Earthniversity does not own this video but thanks to Martin Yee and Youtube.

With the popularity of scuba diving activities in the Southern part of Negros, these underwater heritage sites are now a concern not only for the local government units but also to the proponents of sustainable environment and development.

A few years ago, the United Nations call the attention of countries around the world to protect its underwater heritage sites because it is the common heritage of all people of all states and the world. The underwater heritage sites is not only for those people who have access to it like the divers but it is also for people who has no access to it, at the moment. While majority of the divers are educated in the proper care of the underwater heritage sites, there are unscrupulous divers who cannot resist the temptations of pillage and destruction on these sites. Therefore, changing the face of the Underwater Heritage Sites.

Heritage refers to inheritance or patrimony. The coral reefs can be considered as our natural heritage or inheritance from Mother Earth. Tubbataha Reef and Australia’s the Great Barrier Reef are examples of natural heritage sites.

Tubbataha Reefs is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located at Cagyancillo Town, Palawan.
Source is stated hereunder. http://i674.photobucket.com/albums/vv103/emmanuel_esber/Tubbataha%20Reef/56033393-1.jpg

The Great Barrier Reefs, Australia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Source: http://www.shedexpedition.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Great-Barrier-Reef-Marine-Park-Queensland-australia.jpg

It is therefore the responsibility of the Local Government Units to take the lead in the protection and conservation of these Underwater Heritage Sites so that the present and the future generations can learn from them.

Here are the suggested steps to follow in formulating a Heritage Sites Protection and Conservation Program.

1. Create a Technical Working Group or TWG, to conduct a research to identify the Underwater Heritage Sites and gather facts and figures about them. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is to conduct a Strategic Planning Workshop on the Protection and Conservation of Underwater Heritage Sites. The workshop should answer the following questions: 1) Who Are We?; 2) Where Are We Now?; 3) Where Are We Going?; 4) How Are We Going To Get There?

The final output of this workshop is the formulation of an Action Plan aimed at the protection and conservation of the LGU’s Underwater Heritage Sites. For a thorough discussion on the Strategic Planning activity, please refer to my previous post found here on this website. The title is: Strategic Planning Workshop on the Formulation of the Local Heritage Plan (Lecture Series 1-A)

2. Present the Plan to the Local Development Council so that the LDC can pass a Resolution approving it and submit the same to the Local Chief Executive. This LDC resolution should contain the proposed Action Plan.

3. Have this Plan on the Protection and Conservation of the Underwater Heritage Sites be approved by the Local Chief Executive who will then submit this to the City or Municipal Council for their review and approval. The Council’s approval shall be in the form of a Resolution or if the Plan submitted was exhaustive, the approval could be in the form of an Ordinance. This Ordinance will state the manner as well as penalties in the implementation of the Ordinance. An LGU department or office shall be identified by this Ordinance as the implementing agency or office, defining its roles and obligations to implement this Ordinance.

4. The Local Council’s approval will give teeth, so to speak, to the implementation of various Programs and Projects enumerated in this Plan.

5. Implementation of the Plan will follow. The Environment Office of the LGU will be the implementing agency in cooperation with multi-sectoral groups in the town or city.

6. Monitoring and Evaluation comes after the Plan, its programs and projects have been implemented.

7. Regular performance review of the implementation of the Plan maybe conducted.

8. From these activities additional inputs can be made by the LGU or Local Government Unit.

9. The Technical Working Group or TWG which was earlier organized shall be headed by the Environment Chief of the LGU with the Municipal or City Development Office as the Secretariat. This can be revised by the LGU to suit their needs.


The southern part of the island of Negros including the towns of Hinoba-an, Sipalay and Cauayan and the islands of Apo and Siquijor as well as the areas of Dauin and many others are rich in aquatic life, marine resources and underwater heritage sites. If the Great Barrier Reef of Australia is a Heritage and Protected Site, why not create these identified areas of the island of Negros as Underwater Heritage Sites Protected Areas?

Various stakeholders are involved in this effort of protection and conservation of our underwater heritage sites. Through Eco-Tourism, several stakeholders are economically benefited here. The scuba dive shops and beach resort operators are our partners in the protection and conservation of underwater heritage sites. They worked hard to construct beautiful resorts, put up facilities, conduct scuba diving activities and other related water sports and they deserve our attention as equal partners in ecological and sustainable development of the area.

They can be our partners in achieving the Sustainable Environment and Development of Southern Negros and the rest of the Visayas.

If you are a development planner, a member of the Local Development Council, a city or municipal official in the area, an officer of the environment and planning offices, or a concerned citizen as they say, these suggestions are for you. Please feel free to add, revise or improve the suggested activities to suit your local needs.

If you wish to comment on this post, please feel free to write it at the bottom of this page.

Finally, Earthniversity is re-posting the video uploaded by UNESCO on youtube. The title is: UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.


Earthniversity expresses its thanks and appreciation to our sources of information and youtube.