PHILIPPINES – TUBBATAHA REEF – DIVE GUIDE
In this guide to scuba diving in the Philippines we’ll cover:
- Why dive in the Philippines: what you can expect to see, and when to visit
- The best Philippines liveaboards: at a glance
- The best Philippines liveaboards: in depth
There are more stunning dive sites around the Philippines than you could explore on a single journey. The variety of sea life (both mega and macro), corals, white-sand islands, and tropical weather make it truly a paradise that’s worth visiting.
One of the only ways to dive the Tubbataha Reefs National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the Sulu Sea is via liveaboard. The park covers a whopping ~100k hectares of protected area.
When to dive: While you can shore-dive or stay at dive resorts in the Philippines all year round, the Tubbataha Reefs National Park is only accessible by liveaboard from March to June.
Average water temperature: 26°C – 29°C (80°F – 85°F).
Visibility: 5 to 40+ meters (15 to 130+ feet).
Dive ability: Beginner to advanced. Must have previous wreck diving experience to dive at wrecks. Strong currents at some sites.
What you can expect to see in the Philippines: This region is home to over 300 species of coral and 500 species of fish. Many shark lovers come to see sharks of all types like hammerheads, threshers, black tips, white tips, and grey reef sharks. If you’re lucky you might also spot a whale shark or manta ray. The region is also filled with turtles, Napoleon wrasse, box fish, dolphins, leaf fish, spiny lobsters, sea birds, and macro life. As this region is also in the coral triangle, you’ll witness more marine biodiversity here than anywhere else on earth.
|LIVEABOARD||ROOMS||NITROX||WIFI||RENTAL GEAR||LENGTH||COST||PADI TRAVEL||LIVEABOARD|
|SY PHILIPPINE SIREN||8||Yes (Free)||No||Yes||40m||$$$||Check||Check|
|PY ATLANTIS AZORES||8||Yes||No||Yes||33m||$$$||Check||Check|
|MV SOLITUDE ONE||10||Yes||Yes||Yes||52m||$$||Check||Check|
|STELLA MARIS EXPLORER||10||Yes (Free)||No||Yes||36m||$$||Check||N/A|
|MV DISCOVERY ADVENTURE||13||Yes||No||Yes||47m||$||Check||Check|
|RAGS II||4||Yes (Free)||No||Yes||27m||$||Check||N/A|
|MV DISCOVERY PALAWAN||20||Yes||No||Yes||49m||$||Check||Check|
The SY Philippine Siren is a stunning 40-meter sailing vessel built in 2013 and renovated in 2015. It offers liveaboard trips around the Visayas and Apo Islands as well as the world-renowned Tubbataha Reef. Nitrox is free and the SY Philippine Siren is equipped with a Nautilus Lifeline.
Its eight cabins can host up to 16 guests and come with air-conditioning, ensuite bathrooms with hot water showers, can come in twin or double bed configurations, a fan, towels, port hole, a safe, mirror, and power outlets.
During surface intervals, enjoy watching movies in the main saloon or buy souvenirs from the on-board shop. You can also lounge on the sun deck and get a massage.
Refuel on buffet-style meals served on the main deck. The chefs cook delicious Asian and Western style dishes with snacks available between meals. Beer is included, and other alcoholic beverages cost extra. The chefs are happy to accommodate dietary requests with advanced notice.
Check prices and trip dates for SY Philippine Siren: PADI Travel | Liveaboard
If you want a highly personalized and private liveaboard trip, venture to Apo Reef, Tubbataha Reef, Bohol, and the Wreck of Caron aboard the 33-meter long PY Atlantis Azores. It’s one of the best liveaboards for wreck divers as many of its trips venture to 12 shallow wreck sites.
There are multiple types of rooms to accommodate up to 16 guests. You can choose between twin and double beds, or opt for the deluxe room with one double bed and one single bed. All rooms come with air conditioning, hot water showers, ensuite bathrooms, and more. The deluxe room has extra storage space, windows, and a desk.
PY Atlantis Azores has a spacious sun deck with lounge chairs, a small bar area, and air-conditioned saloon with entertainment system and library. There are also plenty of land excursions available.
The chefs serve both Western and local meals buffet-style with a snack and drink bar open all day long. Beer, wine, and rum are included in your trip. Divers are welcome to bring their own alcohol onboard.
Check prices and trip dates for PY Atlantis Azores: PADI Travel | Liveaboard
At 52 meters long, MV Solitude One is a spacious luxury yacht that offers trips around Palau and the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines. It was built in 1979 and renovated in 2013.
Each of the 10 cabins has air conditioning, daily housekeeping, a flat-screen TV with access to movies and universal power outlets with USB charging ports. The comfortable mattresses are extra-long to accommodate taller guests – a rarity on liveaboards.
You won’t be bored on deck. MV Solitude One has a jacuzzi, bean bag chairs, a camera room with rinse tanks, sun deck, shaded areas, saloon, and more. Being so spacious, you’ll be able to have a quiet moment alone to recharge in between dives.
Meals are typically served buffet style on the outdoor dining area with snacks in between dives. The chefs offer a mix of delicious seafood, local fare, and Western dishes. Beer and wine is available for extra. Dietary restrictions can be met if requested in advance.
Check prices and trip dates for MV Solitude One: PADI Travel | Liveaboard
The MV Stella Maris Explorer dive cruiser was built in 1986 and renovated recently in 2016. At 36 meters long and 7 meters wide, the liveaboard is spacious, sturdy and perfect for divers wanting a truly adventurous experience around the Tubbataha and Apo Reefs.
Every one of the 10 cabins has air conditioning, an ensuite bathroom with hot water, and memory foam mattresses. There are twin, double, and queen bed configurations.
Onboard, you’ll be able to lounge in the air-conditioned saloon with entertainment system, browse the library, or play board games with fellow divers. The top deck has a shaded area, jacuzzi, bar, and lounge chairs.
Check prices and trip dates for MV Stella Maris Explorer: PADI Travel
MV Seadoors is a 25-meter long liveaboard built in 1999 and renovated in 2017. This liveaboard is a simple liveaboard for divers who want to fully immerse themselves underwater during their stay. It tends to attract more advanced divers, thanks to its nitrox and rebreather facilities. MV Seadoors frequents the Tubbataha Reef, the Visayas, Malapascua, and other sites in the Sulu Sea.
Each of the eight rooms is air-conditioned, has a window, and ensuite bathroom with hot water shower. You can choose between twin, double, and queen bed options.
You can spend time enjoying the sea breeze on the outdoor deck or read a book in the shaded dining area. The main saloon also has a charging station and flatscreen TV.
Meals are served buffet style and often feature French dishes alongside Western and Asian meals. All snacks and non-alcoholic beverages are included, and alcoholic drinks are available for extra.
Check prices and trip dates for Seadoors: PADI Travel | Liveaboard
MV Discovery Adventure is a 47-meter liveaboard that brings divers to the stunning areas of Tubbataha and Palau. It was built in 1987 and recently renovated in 2017.
MV Discovery Adventure can accommodate up to 26 to 30 guests in its 13 cabins. Each cabin has air conditioning and an ensuite bathroom. There are many variations of rooms with that can accommodate two to four guests, making it a great option for families or groups of friends looking to cut down on costs and stay together.
Between dives, there are plenty of opportunities for land excursions and snorkeling. The main deck has an air-conditioned saloon with camera area and charging station. You can relax on the upper deck that has a mix of sunny and shaded areas.
Food aboard the MV Discovery Adventure is plentiful and delicious. A mix of international and local fare is served three dimes a day buffet-style and you can eat either inside or outside – whatever you feel! On one of the nights, MV Discovery Adventure will host a beach island BBQ. Alcohol is available for extra purchase.
Check prices and trip dates for MV Discovery Adventure: PADI Travel | Liveaboard
7. RAGS II
Rags II liveaboard is unlike any other offered in the Philippines region. This charming 27-meter long wooden banku-style boat is unique and comfortable. Dive groups are kept small and intimate – and you’ll have a chance to really get to know the crew. It offers many of the features that larger liveaboards do without a high price point, making it one of the best value liveaboards in the Philippines.
There are four cabins onboard that can accommodate up to eight divers. Each cabin has air conditioning and two bathrooms with complimentary toiletries are shared between the rooms.
Enjoy dining in the lounge and dining area complete with an entertainment system and DVD library. You can lounge on the sun deck and tend to your electronics at the camera station.
You’ll never go hungry on Rags II. Meals are served three times a day and tend to be a mix of Filipino, Western, and seafood dishes.
Check prices and trip dates for Rags II: PADI Travel
The MV Discovery Palawan is a 49-meter yacht liveaboard that was built in 1972 and renovated in 2013. It services the famous Tabbataha Reef, wreck sites, and more. It’s also a great option for non-divers as there are plenty of snorkeling excursions available.
The 20 rooms can accommodate up to 32 guests with twin and double bed options. Each room has an ensuite bathroom with hot water shower. The top deck rooms come with air conditioning, while the lower deck rooms do not.
The air-conditioned main saloon has a large TV and DVD library. You can also relax at the bar or on the deck under the shaded lounge areas.
Meals are served three times a day buffet-style and typically consist of Southeast Asian and Western fare. All trips also have a beach island barbecue on one of the evenings. Snacks in between meals are also included on your trip. Alcohol is available for extra.
Check prices and trip dates for MV Discovery Palawan: PADI Travel | Liveaboard
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