There’s a big map of the Philippines glued to our bedroom’s door. One year ago my husband circled Tubbataha reef with a hart on that map. We were so excited to go diving there, and not only that, Hans Christian Andersen was our first liveaboard. To go diving from the boat. OMG I was overexcited. The feeling is similar to butterflies in a stomach before a first serious date.
From Manila we took hour and a half flight to Puerto Princesa with Cebu Pacific airlines. HCA organized airport pick up so after 15 minutes we were in the port. My husband has public crash for boats. And HCA won him over immediately. Him and a friend of ours went on and on about how she has beautiful shape, and beautiful this and beautiful that. And it has, it really is a nice boat. Plus, we were so lucky to have only nine (yes, only nine) of us on the boat that usually accommodate up to 40 divers. That must be crowded and uncomfortable. But maybe the crew works better under pressure.
I did have some nagging and complaining about the cleanness and everything else, but basically that was a worse version of me. Tired and exhausted as never before. We did 4 dives per day and all of them included heavy kicking with the fins.
For both of us the most exciting part of this trip was to see sharks in the Philippines waters. We were diving all over the country, and except Malapascua Island sharks are nowhere to bee seen. Reasons are various: overfishing, dynamite, cyanide, pollution, all combined together.
The Tubbataha reefs consist of two atoll-like reefs each with an inner lagoon and are separated by a 7 km wide channel. On the larger, north atoll there is a small island, more like a sandbank. Bird island is the name of that place and it was nice to see some birds and green color on the horizon. This sand cay is also used as a nesting ground by marine turtles. So they say. Bottom topography of the reef itself consist mostly of vertical walls or very steep slopes which are rising from great depths. Dive guides warned us about the currents but we did not experience strong current except on Jessie Beazeley Reef and on Densel Wall. Despite no current – no big fish philosophy we did saw fantastic nurse shark, grey reef shark, whitetip sharks, marble sting ray, devil ray, mantas, school of blacktip sharks, fantastic school of my favorite blue and yellow fusilier and huge schools of jackfish.
Day one – diving North Atoll
We arrived on North Atoll around 9 am and started our diving there, Malayan wreck dive site. The story is that during early morning dive of the wall in the blue on some 35 to 40 m you can see the school of Hammerheads. On the day one we were 3 hours late but we did two more morning dives there in following days and haven’t been lucky to spot them either. Rest of the dive is wall diving. At the end of the dive we saw remains of Malayan ship and nice school of many-spotted sweetlips. During the dives Humphead wrasses were swimming around us and we saw Whitetip reef sharks, resting on sandy slopes of the wall. Turtles and nudibranch Notodoris Minor, what a fancy guy!
We continued with Wall Street and Amos rock. Before night dive we did quick stop at The Ranger Station. Like the good soldiers, we bought some T-shirts, left some money to the guys for the beer. The sunset was spectacular and romantic. Every sunset on Tubbataha was spectacular, fantastic, breathtaking, romantic…. Some of the divers from other liveaboards had barbecue picnic on the beach, drinking beer and having fun, our team decided to go on night dive. Not me, I was too tired, so I decided to skip the night dive, my husband came back with nice pics of lobsters and parrot fishes.
Day two – diving South Atoll
Delsan Wreck was great dive, school of sharks, some very nice current. Napoleon Wrasse, up, close and personal, turtles, barracudas, fusiliers, nice big lobster, groupers, and gobi. Black Rock and T Wreck, I wouldn’t know, my new Tusa mask was foggy throughout both dives. Afterwards, our dive guide was burning the film on the glass with a lighter before every dive. That helped, but I didn’t like dishwashing detergent scent throughout the dives (which he kept putting on like his little secret).
Day three – diving South Atoll
Malayan Wreck x2, no Hammerheads but we like to dive in the blue. Both of us had a same emotion of happiness and freedom on this dives.
Terraces dive site introduced us with Nurse shark. Nice fat guy, sleeping at the bottom of the wall. After a long time both of us dove without camera, and I loved it. Carrying camera changes perspective. On Seafan Alley during descend I didn’t expect great dive cause visibility was 5 m, and the sea around us was murky and full of particles. Surprise, surprise! Fantastic huge sea fans, big nurse shark, swimming toward us, looking at us. Had a feeling like he’s measuring us:-) In a small cave Marbled ray, also first encounter for us. Fantastic dive. The beer after was also great. Especially the moment when our dive buddy, non-alcohol drinking German guy asked the waiter on the boat to bring him something non-alcoholic. The waiter looked at him and asked: San Miguel Light?
Day four – diving North Atoll
Shark Airport toward Washing machine dive site, medium to strong current, nice long drift dive with marble ray and devil ray, sharks, school of Jackfish.
Manta cleaning station, two dives, Mantas on both dives!!!! I could stay on this dive site for a month. We dove all together, nine of us, and of course we had two idiots who did not listen during the briefing. No, I’m wrong they are just stupid, and selfish. So the guys were hovering right above cleaning station and the rest of us knelling at the sandy bottom and looking at them. Finally, dive guide went and move them. Today, looking backwards, I’m sure that we would have prolonged experience with this fantastic creatures if only this two guys stayed at home. Hope never to see them again. Jessie Beazeley Reef was a hard core dive. Last dive, 15th dive, very strong current and washing machine. Uf! Sometimes I feel so small and fragile.
Day five – goodbye day
Fantastic experience. Time to move on.