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.

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