Highlights of Tubbataha Reef
Introduction to Tubbataha Reef
Tubbataha Reef is found in the Sulu Sea in the Philippines, at approximately 98 nautical miles, or 181 kilometers, southeast of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan Province. The reef was formed from deep volcanic activity in the Sulu Sea. It is an atol coral reef, that is, a coral island that encircles a lagoon. This coral reef is composed of aragonite structures, carbonite minerals, made by living colonies of animals having few nutrients. There are more than 1000 species of animals abiding in the reef and many of them are on the list of endangered species. The site is protected as the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park as a marine sanctuary. The name “tubbataha” is a composite of two Samal words, tubba taha, which translates into “a long reef exposed at low tide.” Samal is of the Sama languages native to the Sulu Archipelago in Southeast Asia.
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Guide to Tubbataha Reef
There is a 8 kilometer-wide channel that separates the two atoll corals of Tubbataha Reef. The smaller of these two coral atolls is the South Atoll, which is anywhere from 2 to 5 kilometers long and 3 kilometers wide. This southern reef is triangular in shape and has a South Islet composed of coralline-sand cay of about 800 square meters. The bird species that inhabit its nesting site include the crested tern, sooty tern, brown boobies, and red-footed boobies. There are also turtle nests located on a few beaches of the endangered green and hawksbill turtles. The larger atoll is the North Atoll which measures 16 kilometers in length and 5 kilometers wide. The North Reef is long and oblong in shape and possesses a 2 kilometer wide continuous reef platform. The most notable feature of this area is the North Islet which is home to birds nests and marine turtles. One attribute of the reef’s seaward face are walls that are perpendicular in orientation and go down to 40-50 meters in depth. A small, solitary island emerges from the water of both reefs.
Currently, no one has settled in the reefs or on the islands permanently. Fishermen frequently go to the area on a seasonal basis and have built temporary shelters on the islets. The site is a popular spot for divers, especially experienced ones. This is because the reef’s coral walls terminate suddenly, plunging down to impressive depths. Numerous colonies of fish inhabit these walls including hammerhead sharks,manta rays, giant jacks, tiny Moorish idols, as wells as moray eels abiding in this natural sanctuary. There are even hawksbill sea turtles who are endanger of extinction and are the only species in their genus. Among the animal species abiding in the reef are tortoise, the previously mentioned manta rays, clownfish, lionfish, and sharks.
The vibrant corals occupy over two-thirds of the site and the reef itself is a refuge for its marine creatures. This vast and multifarious ecosystem is comparable to theGreat Barrier Reef off the coast of northeast Australia’s Queensland. There can be up to 500 varieties of fish and 350 varieties of coral.
Apart from its role as the refuge of marine life, Tubbataha Reef is also famous as a bird sanctuary. There is a small lighthouse island that is home to numerous seabirds located at the South Atoll’s southern point. Among the bird species are red-foot boobies numbering in the tens of thousands as well as terns. The frigate birds use the site as a stopping place on their yearly migration route. There is a small monitoring station situated on one of the sand bars by the Philippine Coast Guard to reduce the risk of outside intrusions.
Plant life in the area include four species of grass and four species of trees. Moreover, ten species of macroalgae inhabit the area as well as prominent seagrass beds in the shallower parts of the lagoon and reef.
Tubbataha Reef is in the path of north-east and south-west monsoons. Turbulent seas are characteristic in the area from November to March and from July to October during the north-east monsoon season.
The park is under the technical supervision of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) as well as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). In addition, it is under the administration of Cagayancillo town on Palawan.
Video of Tubbataha Reef
History of Tubbataha Reef
In terms of modern conservation, the Tubbataha National Marine Park was founded on 11 August, 1988 in the Central Sulu Sea. This is a marine sanctuary of massive size with an area of 332 square kilometers. Under President Gloria Arroyo in 2006, the outer reaches of the park were extended by 200%. Currently, the park is now 239,000 acres in size and protected by armed rangers at all times.
Over the years, the Tubbataha Reef site has remained in a mostly immaculate, natural state because it is so far from large population centers. Unfortunately, disturbances from large scale gathering of marine turtle eggs and sea birds, spear fishing, and blast fishing have been on the rise. In fact, a commercial enterprise proposed to found a seaweed farming operation of large proportions but this effort was thwarted.
Tubbataha Reef was submitted as a candidate for the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Also, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage site list in December of 1993 under the private jurisdictional management of the Philippines Department of National Defense (DND).
As pertains to juridical data, the reef was established by Proclamation in 1988 and is protected under Presidential Decree. The tenure of the land and water is in possession of the Philippine government.
Getting to Tubbataha Reef
In order to enter the reef, an entry permit must be applied for before a permit is issued. There is an entry fee of 3,000 Php for each person but there is a 50% discount for repeated visits within one season. However, minors under the age of 12 are exempt from this fee.
By Plane and Boat:
From Manila, there are flights to Puerto Princesa City that take an hour. The dive operators themselves will shuttle visitors from the airport to the wharf. The trip to the park from Puerto Princesa takes about 10 hours and visitors usually arrive at Tubbataha at about 6am. Getting to Tubbattaha from Puerto Princesa City is possible by boat from the middle of March to the middle of June. Ships dedicated to diving are usually booked a few years in advance so plan accordingly, particularly during Easter holiday and the Asian holiday of “Golden Week.” Dive operators include Cruise Island Adventure, Moonshadow, Atlantis Dive Resorts Philippines, Palausport, Hans Christian Andersen Cruise, Sakura, and Karen Joy.
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