Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park plays as an underwater haven and an ecological laboratory.
Declared in 1993 by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site, it acts host to over 300 species of corals and 1,000 species of animals. Its very diverse ecosystem rivals that of the Great Barrier Reefs of Queensland, Australia. The wide range of its environment is said to be evidenced by the presence of predators in the surroundings. Composed of two coral atolls, separated by an eight kilometer-wide channel and measuring 130,028 hectares including the North and South reefs, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park is considered one of the most ideal diving spot in the Philippines. Its popularity among divers is comes not only from its profusion of flora and fauna but also because of its perpendicular walls where shallows abruptly give way to great depths measuring up to 100 meters in height. More experienced divers prefer the deep region beside the steep wall where the more uncommon ocean lives exist.
The park serves as a nursery of fish and coral larvae that populates the Sulu-Sulawesi Triangle. This area is said to be the most important and productive fishing grounds covering Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines. The abundance of nutrients and clean water that are needed by a healthy reef and its inhabitants is constantly provided by the union of currents in this vicinity. The colonies of fish found here include giant jacks, tiger and hammerhead sharks, Napoleon Wrasse, trevallies, and moray eels. There are also manta rays and the endangered hawksbill sea turtles. Aside from its being an aquatic sanctuary, its North Islet also functions as nesting grounds for birds and sea turtles. Among those who regularly visit the breeding site are thousands of masked red-foot boobies, terns and frigates, including the Christmas Island Frigate which is threatened by extinction.
The location is almost a hundred nautical miles away from the nearest available harbor of Puerto Princesa, Palawan. It can be reached using live-aboard vessels and only accessible from around late March until early June where there would be clear skies, smooth seas and thirty to forty-five meters visibility underwater. Rough waves and strong winds prohibit approach to the place for the rest of the year. These conditions which forbid diving expeditions enable the reef to drop back to its natural state of rejuvenation.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park also offers opportunities for studying the effects of climate variations to a natural reef system and how it responds to them. The almost virgin status of the locale presents researchers the desired perspective that would give them a guide to resolving problems brought by nature alone.
For more information:
- Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park