This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Tubbataha

Tubbataha Underwater Wonder

Our hearts were set to dive the Tubbataha underwater wonder this season, even if it means we had to put our faith in Expedition Fleet once again. It’s funny how we were all mum about the whole thing, up to the night before we left for Puerto Princesa; a complete opposite to the noise barrage we created the first time. We were so afraid to jinx ourselves. We even booked an earlier flight to Puerto Princesa, so that we have allowance for flight cancellation or delays. We were paranoid like that.

Stella Maris of Expedition Fleet

When the boat set sea at 7:00 p.m., we were bursting with excitement but tried (really hard) to conceal it. Stephen would periodically remind everyone, “bawal magsaya” (no display of happiness), because the last time, we also took off, but ended up in Mamburao (hence, the group name). It was deja vu when the boat manager did his briefing. We cracked plenty of inside jokes that we had to explain to our new boat mates what happened the last time (flashback: Almost Tubbataha). We were 10 from the old gang and made up half of the divers.

Tubbataha underwater wonder was everything promised and more! The minute we back rolled into the water, I’m transported into a fantasy world of bedazzling colors and shapes. It was a feast for the eyes to have enchanting wall of corals to one side and bottomless abyss of blue on another.

For 50 minutes every time, I feel like a part of the underwater world, finning weightlessly alongside free swimming pelagic: sharks! school of jacks, barracudas, sea turtles, rays, wrasses, groupers, and all those I have yet to consult my fish book.

Shark Diving in Tubbataha

Speaking of sharks, everyone I know knew the sharks had been elusive to me. With almost a hundred dives coming to this trip, I have never encountered one. I warned my dive buddies that I am a living shark repellant.

But this Tubbataha underwater wonder dive trip broke the spell. On my very first dive at the North Atoll Amos Rock, I encountered my first to 50th shark!

Happy to see sharks underwater for the first time

Delsan is a super highway at rush hour where it literally confused us where to focus our attention. We saw a turtle digging as if the world depended on it. Shortly came a densely packed school of jacks on the left, then to our right a long school of barracuda trailed by a couple of white tip sharks. Seriously, is this Shark Tale?

Tubbataha – School of Sharks

school of jacks tubbataha

Tubbataha – school of jacks

school of barracuda tubbataha

Tubbataha – school of barracuda

This is also where I dove the deepest at 40m. I actually didn’t realize it because of the incredible visibility.

They told me that by third day, I’ll be tired of sharks. They obviously didn’t know what they were saying. On our last day of diving, at the Shark Airport, where full grown sharks rest at shallow depth, my heart still beats like mad at these close encounters. It was a fantastic way to wrap this dive expedition.

at shark airport

Life in Tubbataha

Is out of this world! “Eat, Sleep, Dive, Repeat” literally.

We did 4 dives per day and ate 5 times a day. If we were not doing either, we were talking about the last dives, reading books on fish, or watching videos about the ocean.

During the introduction by the boat manager at the start of the trip, he told us that we will be hearing bells a few times a day. This will only mean two things, either it’s time to eat, or it’s time to dive. And if we were confused which is which, he suggested to “just touch your hair. If hair is wet, it’s time to eat. If it’s dry, it’s time to dive.” It’s funny even if we’ve heard the line the last time.

Tubbataha Liveaboard

watching videos of the just concluded dive during safety interval time

100th Dive

This trip was made 10x more memorable because it was shared with a bunch of my closest dive buddies. I’m so glad I decided to rebook for this trip. Who else but your dearest friends would celebrate your 100th dive with a full production number? We set aside time for photo shoot underwater and a surprise presentation of my SDI Advance Rescue C-Card by friend and instructor, Neil.

100th Dive Tubbataha

my inner designer at work

Dive Tubbataha 100 Dive

Awarding of my rescue diver card by Neil

almost all of us first time liveaboard diving

Tubbataha Ranger Station

On our last day, we visited the ranger station on a white sand atoll. A team of rangers is stationed all year round to police the reef. We went over to say hello, took photos, and bought souvenirs that help fund the Tubbataha organization.

Mamburao 10

Roll Call of Mamburao 10

Mamburao 10


Dive Tubbataha Log

Day One (April 17, 2010)
Dive # 1: Amos Rock
Dive # 2: Gorgonian Channel
Dive # 3: Wall St. – Amos Rock
Dive # 4: South Park

Day Two (April 18, 2010)
Dive # 5: Ko-ok – South Islet
Dive # 6: Lighthouse
Dive # 7: Staghorn
Dive # 8: Delsan Wreck/Crack

Day Three (April 19, 2010)
Dive # 9: Delsan Wreck/Crack
Dive # 10: Delsan Wreck/Crack
Dive # 11: Delsan Wreck/Crack
Dive # 12: Staghorn/Triggerfish City

Day Four (April 20, 2010)
Dive # 13: Black Rock
Dive # 14: Black Rock
Dive # 15: Malayan Wreck
Dive # 16: Ranger Station

Day Five (April 21, 2010)
Dive # 17: Washing Machine
Dive # 18: Shark Airport
Dive # 19: Washing Machine
Dive # 20: Washing Machine

Malayan Wreck

Additional Note:

On April 6, 2010, Republic Act No. 10067 was signed into law by President Gloria Macapagal. The landmark law establishes a 10-mile buffer zone around the park and increases the penalty of violators where the fund will be for the sole use of its management.

Fore more tubbataha info:

Tubbataha Underwater Wonder

Tubbataha Underwater Wonder


An edited version of this article was published in Zest! Zest Air’s Inflight Magazine July, 2010 issue.

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