Diving Tubbataha Reefs

June 11-16, 2017: Finally, it was time to enjoy our well-earned treat for all our hard work on MOKEN in the boatyard over the last couple of months. We were off to dive Tubbataha Reefs. This remote park, comprised of two small atolls and a reef are located smack in the middle of the Sulu Sea, far from land. It’s a marine protected area and a UNESCO site too, and highly rated as some of the best diving in the Philippines.

While you can get here by private yacht, if you get the right permits, there is a lot of current so having a live boat is essential unless you want to end up bobbing endlessly around the Sulu Sea. Add to that, Tubbataha has a short diving season, generally from March through June. Together with our friend Rich, we booked onto the final trip of the 2017 diving season with M/Y Sakura Charters, owned by Dino and Let, who are friends of Rich’s.

Sakura is at the budget end of the liveaboard charter spectrum servicing Tubbataha. With just ten guests plus crew, it was cozy. Bunks are dorm style for the most part, but we managed to score the only private double bunk. It doesn’t really matter which bunk you are assigned, as most of the guests and crew end up sleeping outside on deck anyway…at least until it rains.

We boarded Sakura in Puerto Princessa on Sunday afternoon and were underway just before dark. This put us in to the reef for first light and soon we were gearing up and blowing bubbles at Malayan Wreck. Over the next four days, we did 15 dives spread over the three areas of the park. With two chase boats, we were split into two groups of five divers each with a guide.

Here’s a sampling of our videos and photos of the trip.

2017 Tubbataha Reefs Dive Log

Date Area Dive Site Buddies Highlights
June 12 North Atoll Malayan Wreck M/Y Sakura Checkout Dive, Wreck, Sweetlips
June 12 North Atoll Shark Airport M/Y Sakura Sharks
June 12 North Atoll Shark Airport M/Y Sakura Sharks
June 12 North Atoll Shark Airport to Washing Machine M/Y Sakura Sharks
June 13 South Atoll Black Rock M/Y Sakura Manta
June 13 South Atoll Black Rock M/Y Sakura Manta
June 13 South Atoll Ko Ok M/Y Sakura Schooling Fish
June 13 South Atoll Ko Ok M/Y Sakura Bumphead Parrotfish
June 14 South Atoll Dulsan Wreck M/Y Sakura Sharks
June 14 South Atoll Dulsan Wreck M/Y Sakura Barracudas, Sweetlips, Turtle
June 14 North Atoll South Park M/Y Sakura Shark Nursery, School of Bumphead Parrotfish
June 14 North Atoll South Park M/Y Sakura Sharks, Drift
June 15 North Atoll Wall Street M/Y Sakura Sharks, Drift
June 15 Jesse Beasley Reef Jesse Beasley M/Y Sakura Reefs, drift
June 15 Jesse Beasley Reef Jesse Beasley M/Y Sakura Reefs, drift

After three days on board Sakura, we stepped onto the only land in the park where visitors are allowed. A small sand spit is the home of the ranger station. There is no drinking water in the park, so all supplies have to be brought in by boat. The rangers live and work in the park for two months at a time.

All too soon, our diving adventure was done. The crew hauled the chase boats back on board near sunset after our final day of diving at Jesse Beasley Reef and we made our way back to Puerto Princessa, arriving well after dark on Thursday night.

Thanks to Dino and Let, our dive guides Third and Kevin, all the crew of Sakura and our fellow guests and new dive buddies for making it such a memorable experience.

Links

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

M/Y Sakura Liveaboard Charter

 

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