Manta Ray in Tubbataha


Manta Ray are  filter-feeding cartilaginous fishes that could grow to as much as 23 feet wide. Despite their imposing size and gaping mouths, they pose no threat to man and have no stinging barb like that of the sting ray’s.  Manta rays have a pair of large triangular pectoral fins that allow them to effortless glide and cut through the water with extreme precision and grace. Watching a manta move in the water is almost similar to watching a large predatory bird glide in air thermals.

Mantas primarily eat zooplanktons suspended in the water. Shrimp, krill and planktonic crabs are the chief part of the ray’s diet. An individual manta eats about 13% of its body weight each week.Mantas visit cleaning stations on coral reefs for the removal of external parasites.

This was a manta we spotted at Black Rock (South Atoll) at Tubbataha. It was an average-sized manta that lingered in a known cleaning station on the reef. This manta has been photographed by many divers this season in roughly the same spot.

Tubbataha Reef awarded by TripAdvisor


Travel site Trip Advisor recently awarded Tubbataha Reef a certificate of excellence for consistently being rated highly by visitors who have gone to the marine park. It is currently rated as one of the best attractions of Palawan and in the Philippines in general. To date, there are 73 reviews that show glowing recommendations and accounts of their Tubbataha diving safari.

Most of the reviews dwell on the variety and quality of coral reefs at Tubbataha. The park lies at the heart of the Indo-Pacific Coral Triangle and is home to many species of coral, fish and other marine organisms.

You may read more reviews of Tubbataha on the official TripAdvisor page.

Ten ways to be an ally of the ocean


1. Save Energy

Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that shows that climate change is raising water temperatures and it negatively affecting marine life in the planet’s oceans, mankind has been slow to move towards using more environmentally-friendly modes of producing energy. To address this problem at the lowest possible level, you can reduce your own consumption of energy at home by using energy-efficient lighting and being conscientious of how you use electronics and air-conditioning. Electing to walk or take a bike take a bike instead of driving if possible to reduce your carbon footprint. Amplify this by encouraging your family and friends to do the same.

2. Make Safe, Sustainable Seafood Choices

The insatiable appetite of man for seafood has triggered the overfishing of the oceans. According to the WWF, 85% of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond the biological limit that the environment could naturally replenish the fish stocks to and management would be required to allow these areas to recover. If we are unable to address the situation, we could face a very real possibility of fish stock collapse.

3. Limit Your Use of Plastic

According to a report filed by CNN, there could be as many 12 million tons of trash that ends up in the ocean. Virtually every bit of plastic that has ever been produced is still existent in one form or another and once they reach the oceans, they could affect marine life and the water quality in various ways. Many sea creatures have been known to have been found with digestive systems filled with pieces of plastic.  Turtles have been known to choke on larger pieces when they mistake plastic as food.

4. Help Take Care of the Beach

Whenever you go to the beach, make sure that you do your part to clean up after yourself. Enjoy the beach without taking anything like rocks, sand or coral. Do your best to encourage your family and friends to keep the beach clean as well.

5. Don’t Purchase Items That Exploit Marine Life

Certain products contribute to the harming of fragile coral reefs and marine populations. Avoid purchasing items such as coral jewelry, tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles), and shark products. Continuous patronage of these products can increase the willingness of poachers to harvest threatened species to feed the market’s demand.

6. Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner

Read pet food labels and consider seafood sustainability when choosing a diet for your pet. Never flush cat litter, which can contain pathogens harmful to marine life. Avoid stocking your aquarium with wild-caught saltwater fish, and never release any aquarium fish into the ocean or other bodies of water, a practice that can introduce non-native species harmful to the existing ecosystem.

7. Support Organizations That Help Defend the World’s Oceans

In the Philippines, the World Wildlife Fund is very active in conservation efforts. Save Philippine Seas has been very active in communities both in cities and in the provinces to help educate Filipinos about the importance of the sea’s well being and how it impacts everyone economically. The Lamave Project has also be invaluable with its contributions in helping us understand the impact of whale shark interactions in Oslob as building the biodiversity catalog of the Tubbataha Reef National Park.

8. Be More Socially-Aware

Be on the alert for ocean policies that public officials and government departments. You can do this by following the non-government organizations that advocate in behalf of the sea’s welfare. Be aware of the practices of restaurants and grocery stores and try to learn more about how the food you it is sourced and processed. Be vigilant about reporting any sighting of illegal fishing and prohibited sale of protected species.

9. Travel and Enjoy the Ocean Responsibly

Practice responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything overboard, and be aware of marine life in the waters around you. If you’re set on taking a cruise for your next vacation, do some research to find the most eco-friendly option. As a diver, make sure that you follow the recommendations of Green Fins – do not stir up sediment, do not risk damaging coral by touching it, do not harass and touch marine life and do not feed the fish.

10. Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life

Be an active learner about the oceans and always read up about new discoveries about the oceans. The more you know about the oceans, the more you can do to help save it. If you really want to help more, all the NGOs mentioned in this article allow for volunteers to assist them in various capacities – from anything from being writers, photographers, project managers and even being actual scientists.

The Coral Triangle – The Amazon of the Oceans


The Amazon Rainforest has long been considered as the lungs of the Earth due to its great size and biodiversity. Scientists have found the underwater version of the Amazon in the Indo-Pacific Coral Triangle. This area is now believed to be a great ocean resource that might serve a great purpose in helping the oceans and seas recuperate from fast depletion because of climate change and commercial fishing.

Six countries are within the Coral Triangle – The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Timor Leste, Solomon Islands and Fiji. The Philippines is in the triangle in its entirety and Tubbataha is deep at the heart of this region.

76% of coral species could be found in the Coral Triangle.
6 out 7 marine turtle species are in the Coral Triangle.
37% of all reef fish species can be found in the Coral Triangle.
100 million people are dependent on the Coral Triangle’s resources.

The Barracudas of Tubbataha


The barracuda is a ray-finned fish known for its large size and fearsome appearance. Its body is long, fairly compressed, and covered with small, smooth scales.  Juvenile barracuda often congregate in large schools while adults tend to be more solitary. Barracuda have long had the reputation for posing a risk to swimmer and divers due to their ability to lunge at prey using bursts of speed and seemingly menacing under bite. Fortunately, attack on humans have been rare.

A school of barracuda can be a tantalizing sight due to how well the species’ small, smooth scales reflect the light. Combined with the great visibility of Tubbataha, it does make for a great spectacle.

Here’s great footage of the school of barracuda that one of our live aboard groups encountered during the 2015 season.

The sharks of Tubbataha


Tubbataha is home to at least fourteen (14) species of shark. Seasoned zoologists and filmmakers trooped to the Tubbataha reefs have been working doubly hard in recent weeks to further understand the intricacies of the reef and the its bigger role as a shark sanctuary not just for the Philippines’ waters, but for the entire region. While it’s quite rare to see sharks in most other dive sites in the Philippines, the reef’s status as a protected area has allowed certain species of shark to thrive.

According to a 2011 study by Conservation International, the most common species of shark in the park is the white tip shark. Following closely are the grey reef sharks and silver tip sharks. The usage of Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) and footage from dive boat operators has allowed experts to conclude that there are at least five (5) tiger sharks in the park. Whale sharks and hammerheads have also been spotted in Tubbataha on occasion.

The Large Marine Vertebrate (LaMaVe) Project has been investing on sophisticated equipment to carefully monitor the various species of shark in Tubbataha but the diving public has also been instrumental in the identification individual species. Footage and photos donated by divers have been invaluable in estimating the  numbers and movements of whale sharks and tiger sharks in the park.

How big is Tubbataha National Park?


Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park is located in the middle of the Sulu Sea. Only a few bits of rock and sand are above the water line for most of the day but underneath the waves lies a grand display of biodiversity.

The park covers three coral atoll formations – the North Atoll, South Atoll and the smaller Jessie Beazley Reef. The area covered by these atolls along with the surrounding waters put the total area of the park at 969 square kilometers (374 square miles)!

If you need greater contextualization, here are some scales that would help you appreciate this number.

Tubbataha is roughly one-and-a-half times larger than Metro Manila (609 square kilometers)!

The park is also larger than six other Philippine provinces (Batanes, Camiguin, Siquijor, Biliran, Guimaras and Marinduque).

Compared to international cities, Tubbataha could be closely likened to Bangkok (Thailand), Perth (Australia) and Frankfurt (Germany).

If we were only to measure the area of the actual atolls and not the entire area covered by the park, the figures would be as follows:

North Atoll  – (16 kilometers long x 5 kilometers width) = 80 square kilometers
South Atoll – (5 kilometers long x 3 kilometers width) = 15 square kilometers
Jessie Beazley Reef  = roughly 0.80 square kilometer

Even by these figures, the atoll structures are still comparatively big. For geographical references, the atolls combine for almost five times the size of the city of Makati.

Tubbataha really is vast and this makes it a great sanctuary for marine biodiversity. Various surveys in the area has allowed scientists to conclude that the area is home to at least 360 species of coral, 600 species of fish, 11 species of sharks and a dozen dolphin and whale species.

Tubbataha Wiki Page

Tubbataha 2015

Here’s what satisfied customer, Cris de Leon Hinlo, has to say about Tubbataha this year, along with some amazing photos of what they saw:

It’s Tubbataha season once again! As we boarded the Oceana Maria Scuba (or OMS as we fondly call our yearly ride) in Puerto Princesa, we eagerly anticipated the adventure that would unfold before our eyes… and Tubbataha never disappoints.


An octopus out in the open… he wasn’t shy at all.


Marble rays in the deep… there were actually 3 of them, but I only got a shot of this one.


A sleeping turtle firmly wedged in the corals.


Another turtle with Elaine Kunkle.


And another with Juan Naval.


Whalesharks on a lot of our dives. But I was always at the wrong place…either below it or above it… never in line with it. This one was on the surface as we began our dive. Even the chase boats saw this as it lingered on the surface.


Jacks, jacks, jacks everywhere.

Dive in Tubbataha this Summer!


Tubbataha diving season is just around the corner! If you’re looking to dive in Tubbataha this season, we are happy to inform you that we still have open slots for the following dive trips:
May 6-11, 2015 (4 diving days)
May 19-24, 2015 (4 diving days)

The cost for a berth on these trips is $2,000 inclusive of park fees in Tubbataha National Marine Park. This would be inclusive of accommodations onboard the Oceana Maria (twin-sharing), full-board meals and dive master service. The dive schedule is entirely up to the divers and we are very flexible with the number of dives and dive spots based on the guests’ preference, skill and experience.


These two trips will start and end from Puerto Princesa, Palawan. For charter inquiries, please refer to our schedule

To book your Tubbataha trip, please email us at or call +632 812 8882 / +63905 493 5435. We hope to see you on board!

Tubbataha: At the heart of the Coral Triangle

The waters surrounding the archipelagos of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon islands form what is referred to as the Coral Triangle. Within this region lies the global center of marine biodiversity and due to this, it has even been given the nickname Amazon of the Seas.

Tubbataha Reefs National Park is nestled in the middle of this triangle. It is bound by the long island province of Palawan to the west and the Visayas group of islands to the east. The reefs jut out from the vastness of Sulu Sea and is arguably, the most sought after diving destination in the Philippines.

Thanks to its status as a National Park and a UNESCO Heritage Site, Tubbataha has enjoyed protected status that has allowed its resident marine population to flourish. While sharks can be hard to spot in other dive spots due to overfishing, sharks normally found in tropical waters (from reef sharks to whale sharks and sometimes even hammerheads and tiger sharks) are abundant. Even at the surface, it is not unusual to see pods of dolphins swimming through the reef.

Tubbataha is comprised of two huge atolls (the North and South atolls) as well as a smaller Jessie Beazley atoll. The reefs are 150 kilometers away from the nearest major city – Puerto Princesa in Palawan – making liveaboard accommodations necessary if one were to efficiently explore the area for diving.

Oceana Maria Scuba makes trips to Tubbataha during the diving season (March to June). Here are the schedules.

We hope to see you aboard!