The Seadoors an operator of choice:
Precursor in the Philippines, often copied but never equaled, the Seadoors offers the opportunity to combine cruising and scuba diving. Regarding Tubbataha, the Seadoors, was the first French liveaboard to have proposed this mythical destination, one of the most beautiful in the world. With nearly 8 years of experience on Tubbataha, Pierlo Pablo and his team Seadoors know every corner of these reefs as well as their own pockets. Only sixteen boats are currently allowed to navigate this area. Among them, the Seadoors. It crosses over these waters during the only three-month period allowed for tourism in the Marine Park.
Some interesting history and facts on these atolls:
Tubbataha is an atoll where diving takes on the appearance of magical performances. Named by the nomadic tribes that once inhabited these waters, these unique reefs in the world were home to small fishing boats "pangkos" that came to make miraculous catch. In Samal, the local dialect, Tubbataha means "long reef exposed at low tide". For scuba diving specialists, this atoll nestled in the heart of the Philippines, is simply outstanding. When we already know the quality of dives in this part of the world, such a remote place is dreamy.
Darwin explained the formation of these atypical islands. It is a process that spans thousands of years. Initially, there are volcanoes surrounded by corals, and over time, the volcano eventually dies out and collapses on itself. All that remains is the coral reef that surrounds it and continues to grow, erasing the remains of the volcano and eventually leave only the coral ring that is called an atoll.
During the 80 years the fishermen were motorized and, at the same time, many places became victims of overfishing. New destructive methods appeared, such as dynamite and cyanide fishing. But thanks to the actions of various groups of divers and environmental associations, Corazon Aquino, President of the Philippines at the time, declared the area "protected marine park", the first in the Philippines.
It is only in 1993 that the site was classified world heritage by theUnesco and recognized by this organism as one of the oldest ecosystems in the world, with preserved reefs and rich biodiversity. Unesco recognizes the conservation efforts made in Tubbataha and the site regularly as an example, both in its management and its specificity. It is true that in Tubbataha, there are six hundred different species of fish, thirteen of which are sharks, and three hundred and sixty different species of coral, representing, alone, nearly 75% of the total existing. With such flora and fauna it is hard to get bored. Covering an area of 97 030 hectares, this marine park is also listed by Ramsar, an organization that recognizes this atoll as the one with the most complete bio-diversity in corals. We strongly recommend that you visit their website to learn more.
The marine park is also Rangers:
The Tubbataha Park would not have become what it is today without the conservation efforts of its rangers who oversee and protect the area. They are supervised by Superintendent Angelique Songco. Nicknamed Mama Rangers by her friends and loved ones, with the air of Sandra Bessudo in Malepello, she is one of the few women in the world to manage a marine park. When Mama Rangers made her first dive in Tubbataha, in 1981, it was love at first sight. She took up her duties as superintendent of the park in 2001. For the last eighteen years, she has fulfilled the heavy missions of planning, protection, research, education, tourism and community relations. In short it is not easy, she does not hesitate to indicate that this responsibility requires him to spend nearly nine months behind a computer screen to be entitled to a few minutes of fun underwater . It must be admitted that the work is titanic to cover an area of this size. But the fruit of his work is his best reward, Tubbataha is a jewel.
These precious atolls, divided into three islets, offer many dive sites. Before the arrival of the boat, the rangers make, a video support in support, a presentation of the places. You can find a video with mama rangers that explains, among other things, that this area is a zone of "No Take". The term "No Take" means a zone prohibited to fishing but which also prohibits any levy whatsoever.
Is Tubbataha really that incredible?
For this assignment Greg Lecoeur went on site to make beautiful shots. He was guided by Pierlo Pablo who frequented the place since 2011.
Stays on Tubbataha usually begin with a dive on Jessy Beazley Reef. This small reef is not an atoll as such, but has been added as protection to the marine park a few years after the creation of this one. This site serves as check dive. The first day, you can discover many different species. On the program, the observation of the very present and fierce silky shark, the coral shark, the barracuda, and, more rarely, a possible encounter with a large school of hammerhead sharks.
Jessy Beazley is a haven of life. When you dip your palms, you can not imagine that the best is yet to come. Indeed the next stop is on the north atoll of Tubbataha. This Atoll, the largest of the two, has many sites.
Some site on the North Atoll:
Malayan wreck, southwest of the North Atoll, is the wreck of a cargo plane stranded at the water's edge, where you can see the gray shark and sometimes the hammerhead shark. But the main interest of this site remains, undoubtedly, the night diving. In the evening the site is stormed by a squad of parrotfish looking for shelter for the night, this is a real opportunity to approach and observe them.
Seafan Alley is a garden filled with seafans with denise seahorses. This site has the particularity of sheltering very large schools of silky sharks and sweet lips who come to swim near the atoll.
Shark airport is described by Pierlo Pablo as one of the most beautiful sites in the world. You can expect to find every specie you can imangine here (doesn't that sound good ?). This site is usually the last spot to be visited and concludes the cruise in magnificence. You can see eagle rays, tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, giant groupers, big shoals of trevallies and porcupine rays. This site has a large concentration of coral sharks resting on the bottom and surrounded by coral potatoes covered with soft corals, a real fireworks of colors and abundant with life.
Some dive sites on the south atoll:
Delsan wreck is an amazing experience. You can see up to four or five whale sharks at the same time as a tiger shark, which is always a pleasure. Delsan rock is a dive a bit special, there is a wall with a small flaw and a small cave that enters 25-30m. On the tip of the reef we can see trevallies everywhere, as well as gray sharks coming for their daily toilet. On last season this spot was the one on which life was present in its most complete form. This place was so beautiful this year that they had to go back three or four times in the same day. Interestingly, several schools of juvenile black tip sharks have been observed, their presence in large numbers is a true witness of the exceptional and unique character of Tubbataha, but also a proof of the excellent health of the atoll.
Staghorn Point, as its name suggests, is a site with many acropora corals, branched corals and many green turtles. You can also find nurse sharks, jacks and whale sharks.
Ko Ok has the characteristic of being full of alcyonnaires and beautiful schools of tails in ball with water. This site has a mystical side with incredible visibility and a particular light. On the plateau, at low depth, we find humpback parrot fish, large groupers, napoleons and many ballistae.
At the end of the stay, the Seadoors arrives on one of the beaches and organizes a barbecue with an outdoor film projection. A very nice set-up, it feels a little like being alone in the world, and it is easy to imagine immersed in the film of the same title, comfort bonus, of course.
We asked Greg Lecoeur, who had traveled to Tubbataha, a few questions:
Why is Tubbataha, for you,a unique place?
This place is isolated and difficult to access during a very short period of the year. As a result, when compared to other sites, the number of boats is limited. This feature allows to keep this place in its original state. It's a bit like a time machine, you can see the Philippines as they were 50 years ago. To my knowledge it is also the destination where I was given to observe the most varieties of coral per square meter. In any case one thing is sure you can see everything in Tubbataha.
What do you think of Tubbataha as a protected area?
This is an excellent example of park management. It is also regularly cited as an example by many organizations. There are still some things that can be improved. It seems to me that it would be a good thing not only to regulate the number of boats that frequent the site, but also the number of divers that evolve there. This would drastically reduce the impact of human activity on the fauna and flora. For the future, the protection of the oceans will necessarily go through the establishment of protected areas, I hope to see more develop in the Philippines.
Can you describe your experience aboard the Seadoors?
The Seadoors is a ship offering excellent value for money on its outings. Pierlo and his team are attentive to the customers. If customers agree, they do not hesitate to change the schedule to revisit some sites. The logistics is very well organized everything is square and the boat is very well equipped and very comfortable. Special mention to the cook! The guides are very knowledgeable about the sites and the wildlife in particular. A must if you visit the Philippines.
Photos of Greg Lecoeur and Pierlo Pablo
Article by Christophe Chellapermal