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The name ‘Tubbataha‘ is the Samal word for “long reef exposed at low tide”. Samals are seafaring people of the Sulu Sea and are one of the few people who have accessed the Park in early1980’s. Cagayanen people who are more geographically associated with Tubbataha Reefs referred the Park as ‘gusong’.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is home to some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. Rising from the volcanic depths of the Sulu Sea in the western Philippines, these magnificent atolls encompass an astonishing diversity of marine life.
The park is an underwater sanctuary where nature can thrive. Tubbataha is the Philippines‘ only National Marine Park and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a place of global importance, being preserved for generations to come………………
From majestic whale sharks to elusive seahorses – Tubbataha supports an unparalleled variety of marine creatures. Colourful reef fish crowd corals growing in the shallows while sharks and manta rays haunt the steep drop offs to the open sea.
A team of rangers are stationed on the reef year-round and, from March until June, divers visit Tubbataha to experience the wonders of this unique underwater world.
Tubbataha Reef is an atoll coral reef in the Sulu Sea that belongs to the Philippines. It is a marine sanctuary protected as Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park. The reef is composed of two atolls, North and South Reefs. Each reef has a single small islet that protrudes from the water. The atolls are separated by a deep channel 8 kilometers wide. Over one thousand species, including many that are endangered, can be found at on the reef. These include manta rays, lionfish, tortoises, clownfish and sharks.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) lies in the middle of the Sulu Sea and falls under the political jurisdiction of Cagayancillo, an island municipality situated 130km to the north. The park is around 150km south-east of Puerto Princesa City – capital of the Province of Palawan – the usual jump-off point for visitors and dive boats going to Tubbataha.
The coral atolls of Tubbataha and Jessie Beazley began to form thousands of years ago as fringing reefs of volcanic islands along the Cagayan Ridge. Over millennia – as the volcanoes became extinct and the islands sunk into the ocean depths – only the corals remained, as they continued to grow upwards towards the sunlight.
Tubbataha is well known to fishermen of the southern Philippines but until the late 1970s, Cagayanons were the primary users of the reefs’ resources. During the summer, they would make fishing trips to Tubbataha in fleets of traditional wooden sailboats.
Tubbataha’s isolation and its susceptibility to harsh weather once protected it from over-exploitation. But by the 1980s, fishermen from other parts of the Philippines started visiting Tubbataha in motorized boats, many using destructive fishing techniques to maximize their catch.
In 1988 – in response to a vigorous campaign by Philippine scuba divers and environmentalists alike – President Corazon Aquino declared Tubbataha a National Marine Park.
After more than twenty years of conservation efforts, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is home to no less than:
- 483 species of fish
- 396 species of corals (about half of all coral species in the world)
- 44 species of birds
- 9 species of dolphins & whales
- Nesting Hawksbill & Green sea turtles
The park contains roughly 10,000 hectares of coral reef, lying at the heart of the coral triangle – the centre of global marine biodiversity.
It is now known that Jessie Beazley and Tubbataha Reefs are sources of coral and fish larvae, seeding the greater Sulu Sea. This is of huge significance, since the Philippines – the second largest archipelago in the world – relies heavily on its marine resources for livelihood and food.
The Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) is the multi-sector body that formulates policies for Tubbataha. Day-to-day park management is carried out by the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO), based in Puerto Princesa City.
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