A guide to diving Tubbataha: What to expect when exploring the protected UNESCO World Heritage Site via liveaboard
It’s quite something to be able to dive and explore a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Around the world, a handful of such spots exist—the Galapagos Islands, Komodo National Park, the Great Barrier Reef—and believe me, I will conquer all of them (and more) eventually, but now, right now, I want and need to share the beauty of one of these places with you, and that’s Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.
A 130,028-hectare protected marine area located right smack in the middle of the Sulu Sea in the Philippines, Tubbataha was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1993. Tubbataha really has all the makings of a perfect dive destination, and I could go on and on about its impressive facts and figures: it’s also an ASEAN Heritage Park, it’s home to nearly half of all coral species found in the world as well as over 180 threatened (or near threatened) species… there’s so much to say about just its credentials alone.
Here’s the thing though: you can only dive Tubbataha from mid-March through mid-June—just three months a year. When the dive season is over, weather and sea conditions become unfavourable. Also, because of its remoteness, the only way you can dive Tubbataha is to book a spot on a liveaboard. Sure, from what I’ve just told you, it’s hard to imagine any diver who’d want to immediately stick Tubbataha in his must-visit list, but I do believe one of the reasons the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site is in tip-top condition is due to its “exclusivity”. And, I have to say that this very “exclusivity”, coupled with the incredible conservation efforts of the marine park rangers (more on this later), is what made my dive trip the best one yet—so much so that I freak out each time I think about how I’m ever going to top this trip!