Saturday, 5 March 2011

A Diving Mecca --- Tubbataha!

Note: This is before the advent of my underwater photography hobby and before I owned a digital camera with an u/w case. Topside photos were taken from my digital camera and videocam. Underwater photos taken from Neil's camera.

Off Palawan...a diver's the Philippines...

May 2005 

Since I became a scuba diver, I have dreamt of diving in places that are known to have rich underwater life...Great Barrier Reef, Maldives, Palau...Apo Island, Apo Reef, Malapascua...and especially our very own, Tubbataha Reef in Palawan. Known to be one of the World Heritage Sites, your being a diver is never complete without Tubbataha. It is every diver's dream...every diver's mecca( well, at least to us Filipinos).

That dream of mine came true last month. I joined a 5-day live-aboard to Tubbataha. Since it is in the middle of the Sulu Sea (between Mindanao and Palawan), the only way to explore Tubbataha is via a live-aboard boat. The boat practically becomes your "home" for the next 5 days.

We were blessed with good weather and calm seas as we left the port of Puerto Princesa. When we reached North Tubbataha, we were greeted with an almost "lake like" calm, birds chirping, and one lone islet they call "Bird Island". The you turn 360 degrees, is the far as your eyes can see. What struck us most is the unbelievable clearness of the can see 100 feet below! That stirred my excitement for the days ahead not doing anything except eating...diving...eating...diving...eating...napping...diving..eating...diving...night diving...dinner..sleeping (repeat 5X). Wow! What a life!

Day 1 : North Tubbataha 

Our first dive was a wonderful welcome. As we all excitedly exit from the chase boat, we knew it was going to be a great, great experience for all of us. True enough, as we descended, I could not help but notice the rich marine was like watching Finding Nemo all over again! Then, glancing into the deep blue, I saw a Manta Ray whooping past...whoa! Then, came juvenile reef sharks..1..2,3...4...5,6,7...8, sea turtles...1....2....3, huge fishes, colorful fishes...."dive overload"! Not bad, indeed, for a first dive! 

Dives 2, 3, 4 and the night dive were just as colorful! Reef sharks were everywhere...sea turtles gracefully "flying" by or quietly feeding...huge napoleon wrasse, jacks, tunas, triggerfishes. During our first night dive near the Ranger's Station, we were greeted by a stingray "sleeping" on the sandy bottom just 20ft below.

At 6:00pm, we were off to the Black Rock area...

Day 2 : Black Rock

As we woke up at 6:00am, we were greeted by the stillness of everything. The only thing that broke the sea and sky scenario is a lone island they call "The Lighthouse". We geared up for our 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th dive, anticipating another great dives ahead. True enough, though we did not get to see a Manta nor a Hammerhead, we chased a school of large Baraccudas....hundreds of them...then, the usual "staples"...reef sharks...sea turtles .... napoleons ... tunas...jacks...

After the 9th dive, decided to miss the night dive to give my body a rest from all those "compressed air"....

Day 3: South Tubbataha

This time, no island in sight....all you see is amazingly calm seas and clear skies...

Our 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th dives were as will come to realize that, indeed, Tubbataha is a haven underwater...incredibly rich marine life...

On the 11th dive, I have seen so much huge fishes that I have started to miss "Nemo", I particularly looked for clownfishes...1, 2, 3 pairs in 3 sea anemones...okay, so they also live in Tubbataha!...hahahaha

Our night dive was particularly interesting as we saw 2 flounders that look like flat brownish paper, lying very still...a mooray eel traversing the sand bottom... huge lobsters...sleeping sea turtles disturbed by our lights...

Day 4: Malayan Wreck

Our last day of diving. This, time...seeing sharks, sea turtles, jacks, barracudas is no longer if in a farewell concerto, everyone of them showed up to say goodbye to all of us...15th, 16th, 17th , 18th dives.

Wow! 18 dives in 4 days....I am really making a career out of this, don't you think? It was the most wonderful 18 dives I have ever done in my 8 years of diving....and, wherelse but in the Philippines' TUBBATAHA!!!

See you again soon!

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