Tubbataha Reef

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Tubbataha Reef is an atoll coral reef located in the Sulu Sea, 98 nautical miles southeast of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines. Declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on December 1993, it is under protective management by the Department of National Defense (DND). It is supervised by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The Tubbataha Reef is administered as part of Cagayancillo town in Palawan.

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Description

The word tubbataha is a combination of two Samal words which means "a long reef exposed at low tide". This reef is made up of two coral atolls divided by an eight-kilometer wide channel. The smaller of the two, the South Atoll, is five kilometers long and three kilometers wide, while the North Atoll, the larger one, is 16 kilometers long and five kilometers wide. The atolls are separated by a deep channel eight kilometers wide.

Vivid corals cover more than two-thirds of the area and the waters around the reef are places of refuge for many forms of marine life. The diverse ecosystem of this sanctuary rivals the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, having 300 coral species and 400 fish species.

In 1993, the United Nations designated Tubbataha as one of the five World Heritage Sites found in the Philippines. Another famous site is the Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao.

Inhabitants and visitors

There are no permanent inhabitants of the islets. Fisherman visit the area seasonally, establishing shelters on the islets. The park is visited by tourists, particularly divers. Trips to Tubbattaha from mid-March to mid-June are all vessel-based; the park is about twelve hours by boat from Puerto Princesa City. Tubbataha is considered one of the best dive sites in the Philippines. Most ships servicing divers operate during the "Tubbataha Season". These ships are usually booked years in advance, especially during the summer break from March to May.

The Marine Park

A marine sanctuary having a reef of enormous size is the Tubbataha National Marine Park located at the Central Sulu Sea. It was established in August 11, 1988 with an area of 33,200 hectares. In 2006, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, through an Executive Order, increased the boundaries of the park 200%. It is now 96,824 hectares in size and is guarded by armed rangers 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

A sanctuary

Tubbataha has become a popular site for seasoned sports divers because of its coral walls. These walls are not only splendid diving spots but also wonderful habitats for many colonies of fish. Over one thousand species can be found in the reef, many of which are now classified as endangered species. Animals found include manta rays, lionfish, pawikan or sea turtles (including the endangered hawksbill turtle), clownfish, giant jacks, hammerhead sharks, barracudas, palm-sized moorish idols, parrot fish and moray eels.

Aside from being a marine sanctuary, Tubbataha is also renowned for being a bird sanctuary. A lighthouse islet at the southern tip of the South Atoll supports a large number of seabirds which nest there. Around Tubbataha, there are tens of thousands of masked red-foot boobies, terns, and frigate birds resting during their annual migrations. To minimize any external intrusions, the Philippine Coast Guard maintains a small monitoring station on one of the many permanent sand bars.

New 7 Wonders of Nature

Tubbataha Reef is a nominee in the New 7 Wonders of Nature contest. As of 20 October 29 2008, it ranked 5th out of 77 nominees. The Philippines has four nominees in the contest; the other three are Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, the Chocolate Hills and Mayon Volcano.

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Reference

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