On the 17th of March 2006 is the start of the weekly dive trips to the famous Tubbataha Reefs with the MY Tabibuga. These best-known reefs for diving in the Philippines are 182km (98 nautical miles) south-east of of Puerto Princessa on Palawan Island, where our trips are starting. Together with Jessie Beazley Reef these make up the Tubbataha national Marine Park. The Tubbataha Reefs consist two extensive atoll-like reefs separated by a channel 7km wide. At low water they are several sand cays. At the northeast end of the north reef is Bird Islet, a cay with sand, grass and some mangroves; it is used by Brown Boobies and terns and as a nesting beach by turtles. The South Islet has a prominent black rock and some sandy cays at the northeast end, and at the southern end a solar-powered lighthouse where gulls and terns nest. To the east of the lighthouse, high and dry on the reef, is a wreck of the Delsan, an old carrier.
All these reefs consist of vertical walls or near vertical drop-offs rising out of great depths. There is evidence of some blast-fishing on the shallow reef-tops, but the reef areas are so large that is not does become a problem – more significantly, blast-fishing is not very efficient in deep water, so the walls are little affected. Also in the mean time the reefs are patrolled by the coast guard. The shallow reef-tops are teeming with all the local reef fish; in many places stingrays, Spiny Lobsters, immature Manta Rays, Turtles on mass, Leopard and Guitar Sharks are common. The walls are covered in huge barrel sponges, gorgonian sea fans, soft corals, hydroids, black corals Tubastea corals. Caves in the walls often contains resting Nurse Sharks and Whitetip Reef Sharks are all over the reefs. But it is off the walls in deeper water that these reefs show the true worth. Shoals of angelfish, butterflyfish, pennantfish, Rainbow Runners, Moorish Idols, fusiliers, jacks, snappers and sweetlips follow you around. Large trevally, tuna and barracuda come out of the blue. Grey Reef Sharks patrol; giant Manta Rays fly overhead and Eagle Rays pass by. There are many species of nudibranchs, flat worms, sea cucumbers, sea stars and, of course, colourful crinoids everywhere. On our last trips in 2000/ 01/ 02/ 03/ 04 we did snorkelling with two manta rays, before breakfast.