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The Tubbataha Reef National Park: A Masterpiece in the Depths of the Sulu Sea

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The Tubbataha Reef National Park is formed from millions of years of underwater volcanoes. Though today the volcanoes are extinct, the remnant of what is left behind is a stunning testament to the beauty of nature. Considered to be one of the top coral reef formations in the world, the National Park sanctuary is one of the most important attributes to the Philippines.


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Tubbataha Reef received a Unesco World Heritage Site recognition is 1993 and has gained national and regional recognition to its importance around the globe. Located 155 kilometers southeast of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, the park consists of 130,000 hectares, with additional areas in reserve.




Only one other reef in the entire world is bigger the Tubbataha, the Great Barrier Reef, located in the Coral Sea just south of Queensland, Australia. Both of these important reef formations are in danger of environmental disasters that have happened to each over the last several decades. The Tubbataha Reef is noted for being the spot where the notorious U.S.S. Guardian Navy Ship that ran aground and had to be dismantled to remove it from the reef.



The Tubbataha Reef National Park is the pride of the Philippines and its people. The park is patrolled 24/7 by officially appointed rangers chosen by the Philippines government. The area is home to over 300 different species of coral and rangers are there to protect not only the reef but the inhabitants under the sea that call Tubbataha their home.


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This historic National Park is home to over 1,000 types of marine animals including the barracuda, moray eels, sharks, turtles and numerous fish and aquatic life. Just on the specific subject of fish alone, the park has over 400 different species living amongst the beauty of the deep blue sea. The diverse ecosystem of Tubbataha allows for numerous and often rare sea life, including Georgian sea fans and massive barrel sponges, along with a hoard of other creatures of the sea.




Tubbataha is a unique resting place for migratory birds that nest within the boundaries of the massive park. The lighthouse islet, located at the southern tip of the barrier reef, is a perfect spot for birdwatchers. This area is home to nesting and migrating birds like the masked red-foot boobies, frigates and terns, often numbering in the tens of thousands. Those who love to see this natural wonder within the park only need to stop by the park ranger’s station. At the station the rangers can easily inform you of the migration periods and locations of specific birds throughout the entire 130,000 hectare park.




Scuba diving in Tubbataha is one of the best in the world. The diving spots are endless and the trips, tours and planned outings to the park are continual throughout the year. Booking a tour to the area ahead of time is important; often this region is booked up months ahead of time. Some who do not wait; often hire private charters from Palawan.


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Islands or islets to be more exact exist throughout the national park but there are no true settlements on them. Sandbars and the like are strictly ‘off limits’ to humans. A ranger’s station and facilities exist within the park and anyone can visit them for information, make reservations and buy supplies or souvenirs.



Tubbataha Reef National Park is a paradise for scuba divers as well as those that just like to look over the boat at the beauty under the sea. Many parts of the park are shallow enough to enjoy an outing from the safety of their boats.


The Philippines and the entire world understand the ultimate idea of safeguarding an undersea sanctuary such as Tubbataha. Entire communities around the globe assist in knowing, understanding and protecting the natural beauty of the park for future generations. Not only are the communities protecting the existence of what man-kind sees, but also are protecting those that live in the depths of the waters below.


Timothy Walker is a writer and photographer living in Davao City, Philippines
Timothy Walker is a writer and photographer living in Davao City, Philippines
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One thought on “The Tubbataha Reef National Park: A Masterpiece in the Depths of the Sulu Sea”

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