Tubbataha Reserves National Park is definitely a contender for the world’s greatest marine life sanctuary. Although relatively small at just under 1,000 square km, it packs in two expansive atolls, several massive coral reefs and over a thousand species of marine animals. Home to large numbers of sharks, whales, dolphins and turtles, Tubbataha is regularly numbered among the best dive sites on the planet.
Tucked away in the Sulu Sea between the Philippines and Malaysia, the islands of Tubbataha were explored in both the pre-Columbian and Colonial eras. Beyond these early explorations the atolls were generally left alone and uninhabited well into the 20th century. Only in the 1980s, when fishermen began arriving in the Tubbataha area in increasing numbers, did the government act to protect the area. This was due in large part to the scuba diving community who wished to keep the atolls pristine. In 1988 the areas was designated as a national park. A few years later it became a world heritage site.
Tubbataha consists of two coral atolls, the North Atoll and the South Atoll, as well as other coral reefs. A huge array of fish can be found here, including Lionfish, Clownfish and Barracuda. There are also Moray Eel, Manta Ray and Green Sea Turtle. Shark species include Whale Shark and Tiger Shark. The atolls are also a good are for spotting Whale and Dolphin.
Tubbataha Reefs National Park is located in the north central Sulu Sea, approximately fifty miles southwest of Puerta Princesa and 200 miles south of Manila. Access to the area is by boat only, and most visitors to the atolls generally anchor here and stay aboard their vessels. The park is open year round, though seasonal weather may result in restrictions or closings. The cost of admission is $75.00. Web: www.tubbatahareef.org (official website).