Liveaboard Scuba Trip to the Tubbataha UNESCO World Heritage Site

Tubbataha’s Island Atolls: Exploring Palawan’s UNESCO Reef



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Exploring Palawan’s most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site with park manager Angelique Songco and the Tubbataha Park Rangers.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Our last view of land before we set out for a ten-hour overnight boat trip from the Puerto Princesa harbor to the Tubbataha UNESCO World Heritage reef with Park Manager Angelique Songco and her amazing team of Park Rangers.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Not a bad sight to wake up to. Every time I've woken up in the early morning light at Tubbataha I'm struck by the beautiful blue of the open sea and the unbroken horizon stretching panoramically in every direction.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The health of relatively pristine reefs like Tubbataha are very analogous to the health of the planet. I shot this photo with a fisheye lens from the upper deck of the Lavorca research vessel to make the horizon look like it was shot in outer space. I know this photo doesn't do anything for some people but to me it captures a bit of the magic of this place--it's all about what lives in that beautiful blue water.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The WWF research vessel Lavorca was our aquatic home for the week we spent at Tubbataha. Aside from the Park Ranger station, there's no inhabited (or inhabitable) land within the park so anyone who visits here must live on a boat.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Aside from the main ship (the Lavorca) we had this little speedboat to get out and about the park. I think the boat looks almost like it's floating on air in this photo because the water is so clear.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    I can stare at the electric blue water of Tubbataha for hours, there's so much life and activity going on under there. The tiny speck in the upper quarter of the shot on the horizon is the Tubbataha Park Ranger station. I've always thought it looks a little like a space station.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Here's the heroes of Tubbataha. These Park Rangers spend three months at a time living out here with very little access to the outside world. They protect the park from the constant threat of poachers and other threats to the health of the reefs (like badly navigated U.S. Navy minesweepers).

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    These tiny atoll islands are in the middle of the Sulu Sea, ten hours from the nearest inhabited land. No doubt one of the main reasons the reefs at Tubbataha are so healthy is because they're so difficult to get to.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Here's Angelique and her team of hard-working Park Rangers. In 2013 the park had a tough year when a U.S. Navy minesweeper rammed into the fragile reef and had to be cut up and removed. A few months later a Chinese vessel was caught poaching in the park. I can't imagine how fast this beautiful place would be destroyed if it weren't for the work of the dedicated team in this photo.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Every day we were out and about the park in the little outboard motorboat. There's few places in the world I'd rather be than this beautiful reef.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Fancy liveaboard dive boat trips are becoming increasingly popular as more and more people hear how amazing the diving is in Tubbataha.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The Tubbataha Park Ranger station is completely surrounded by a white sand bar at low tide and sapphire blue water at high tide. Not a bad view, eh?

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Enroute to visit the Tubbataha Park Ranger Station...

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Almost there... Can you see why I'm saying it looks a little like a space ship?

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Stopping in for a visit at the Park Ranger Station means tethering to the front steps (instead of parking). You're looking at one of the only specks of shade from the equatorial sun for hundreds of miles.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    A resident nurse shark swims by the Tubbataha Park Ranger Station. The last time I visited (2006), there was a friendly green sea turtle named 'Buknoy' who lived near the Ranger Station and apparently developed a very un-turtle-like taste for pork chops. Go figure.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    After getting in a visit with the rangers, i swam out to try to get a photo of the nurse shark. While I was waiting for it to swim by I was messing around with some over / under shots with my surf housing.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The seasonal elements are pretty punishing during the typhoon season out here. You can imagine what huge waves, strong current, and the blazing sun would do a wooden boat. Actually I guess this shot pretty much sums that up.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Still waiting for that nurse shark to swim by... Try to imagine it in the bottom third of the frame...

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Aaargh! Shipwreck maties...

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    I'm not exactly sure what the story behind this shipwreck is , but you can see where the constant push and pull from the tide has stripped away the transom and exposed the spars like the sunbleached bones of a whale.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Over / under view of the shipwreck at Tubbataha.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Yes, I thought this scene was pretty photogenic.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Guess that volleyball game will have to wait until the tide drops a little more?

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Still no nurse shark but the water around the shipwreck sure does look beautiful.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Won't be long before you can't read the 'Tubbataha' stenciled on the transom.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    I've always loved the outrigger boats that you find all over the Philippines. They might not always be comfortable (or fuel efficient), but they always look so cool.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Thinking Jimmy Buffett might want to use this one for a new album cover?

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    After we finished visiting the Park Ranger station we motored over to a nearby reef to do some snorkeling.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Totally deserted, absolutely beautiful. Few places to snorkel in the world are this amazing.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Angelique and Ed took the first plunge to see what we might find around this section of reef.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Before I joined them I stopped to take a quick self-portrait.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    We weren't exactly trying to shoot a Philippine tourism poster, but that seems to be what happens when you combine a camera with Tubbataha.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The only shallow water for miles and miles and miles...

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    I think the only way to get water to look like this is if it's very very clean.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Heading back to the Lavorca after a very full day of exploring Tubbataha.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Another view of our sturdy ship--the Lavorca.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Not a bad view from the port side windows!

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    I used a circular polarizer to remove the reflections from the water and bring out that endless Tubbataha blue. Still looks to me a little like they're floating on air, not water.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Mother Earth, big blue marble.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    You can see fish of all sizes from just the surface in Tubbataha--no need to even put on the scuba mask.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    I remember spotting this scene when I was having lunch on the deck and grabbing my camera before the cloud dissipated. It's always good to have some sort of visual element in the frame when you're shooting a photo with a lot of sky in it. Clouds can definitely work for that.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    I don't think the United Nations needed to deliberate too long when they were deciding whether to include Tubbataha as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    I think this must have been what all the reefs in the Philippines must have looked like 150 years ago.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Manning the outboard motorboat while the rangers were diving below to fix another mooring buoy in the limestone.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Imagine working in a place like this?

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    We were there at the very beginning of the busy season for dive trips to Tubbataha. Heavy surf during most of the year makes visiting the reef very dangerous except for a brief window from late March to early June.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The friendly dive masters aboard the Explorer sent over a few beers for our crew to have at the end of a hard day's work.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    This view hasn't changed much for hundreds of years.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The lone lighthouse of Tubbataha tries to keep passing ships from hitting the reef during the night.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The Philippine Siren is one of the fancier liveaboard dive boats running the Tubbataha trip.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Another view of Tubbataha's lighthouse, the blue water surrounding it drops to mostly exposed reef at low tide.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    For anyone getting bored of beautiful Sulu Sea views, you probably need to go to another photo gallery.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The Philippine Siren was anchored at the edge of this beautiful blue water stretch of the atoll.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The blue water plunges hundreds of feet just a short distance from the reef's edge at Tubbataha.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Park Manager Angelique was our amazing host on this visit to Tubbataha.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Longtime Tubbataha Captain 'Cap' taking a break from his duties at the helm of the Lavorca.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The panoramic view from 'Cap's' navigation deck.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The Lavorca's galley where we had most of our meals and got in a bit of rest in between dives.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Everyone climbed up to the upper deck of the Lavorca to catch the sunset on most of the afternoons we were at Tubbataha.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Great group we had for this trip!

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Great sunset from the Lavorca's upper deck.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The beauty of Tubbataha isn't only found beneath the waves.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Dinner time! Every night we got a new treat from the kitchen--most dishes were all-time Filipino favorites.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Got the fisheye lens out again to capture some unusual panoramas on the upper deck of the Lavorca.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    As long as everyone stayed close to the center of the fisheye lens, we didn't get too much distortion. The edges of the frame however, looked more like a funhouse mirror!

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The Lavorca's crew on deck with Angelique.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Ed and Angelique were able to walk across the dry sand bar to visit the Tubbataha Park Ranger Station on this morning.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Ed, Lino, and Angelique enroute to the ranger station.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Ed snapped a photo of Anglelique and I before we reached the Tubbataha Park Ranger Station.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The last line of defense between Tubbataha and a whole lot of poachers who would love to fish here.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    Angelique briefs the Tubbataha Park Rangers on the plan for the day: anchoring a new mooring buoy to the seafloor.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    The park ranger station even has a little area where the rangers can grow some plants.

  • Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site

    Exploring Tubbataha: Palawan's Most Beautiful UNESCO Site
    I'm still a little bummed we didn't get to catch a volleyball game at what has to be the most remote volleyball net in the entire Philippines.