8 Things You Should Know About Tubbataha Reef By Gregg Yan and Jayvee Fernandez
There's nothing like a bad man-made environmental disaster to make our blood boil. With the recent grounding of the USS Guardian in Tubbataha Reef (and destroying hundreds of years worth of coral life), the only immediate positive outcome to the incident is that your regular Juan de la Cruz is now aware that the Philippines owns one of the most glorious natural wonders of the world. Here are 8 things you may not know about Tubbataha and why this special place is very important to the Philippines.
It's a huge biodiversity hub. One of the biggest in the world.
That Tubbataha was formed from the eruption of undersea volcanoes nearly 15 million years ago, Tubbataha or "long reef" in the Samal tongue plays host to 600 kinds of fish that frolic amongst 360 types of coral. Other denizens inlude seabirds, sharks and cetaceans.
It's a park—but it's not easy getting there
Tubbataha was declared as a World Heritage Site in 1993. The Tubbataha Reefs are amongst the richest in the Coral Triangle, the world's centre of marine biodiversity. In 1998, fishing, collection and harvesting of any life form was banned throughout the park.
To actually venture to Tubbataha you will first need around PHP 45,000.00 to charter a boat with a lead time of about one year. You will also most probably be required to have an advanced SCUBA diver license as there really is nothing else to do there but dive. There are no resorts. There is no mobile phone signal. It's literally in the middle of the ocean and all you have is your boat.
Oh and it's only safe to go there between April to June because that's when the tides calm down.
The water is crystal clear
By crystal clear we mean CRYSTAL clear. Look down the boat and you can see over 100 feet down. You'll see sharks, turtles manta rays, schooling jacks, whale sharks, dolphins, barracudas and other pelagic life just by looking down from your boat.
Most of our fish and corals have origins in Tubbataha
Fact: Tubbataha's fertile reefs constantly seed adjoining regions such as eastern Palawan, western Visayas and western Mindanao with fish and invertebrate spawn, generating vast amounts of marine produce that feed millions of people each year.
Though a single square kilometre of healthy coral reef can annually generate up to 30-tonnes of fish biomass, Tubbataha produces up to 200-tonnes annually. Which is why there is a huge concern over the destruction of the reef. Fish that grow in Tubbataha make their way to other parts of the country to multiply.
Which is why ...
Think of Tubbataha like a huge bank. But instead of money, it's seafood. For decades we have been living off the interest of fish that make their way out of Tubbataha and into the respective fishing areas around the country. Now imagine someone stealing from that huge stockpile of savings. Destroy fish homes, the fish leave or die.
Tubbataha is a nursery. Wipe it out and your future as a pescetarian is doomed.
Not really into marine life? Tubbataha has a lot of epic birds.
Tubbataha North Islet is also called Bird Islet. The island is 12,435sq m large and hosts over 200 trees - the tallest shredded by a recent boom of Red-footed Boobies. At the centre lies the Plaza – a 3690sq m open area occupied by ground-breeding birds. The scrubby landscape rises no higher than two metres above the sea.
Six seabird species breed in Tubbataha, distinguished by where they nest: ground nesters include the Brown Booby, Brown Noddy, Great Crested Tern and Sooty Tern while tree nesters include the Red-footed Booby and the endemic Black Noddy. Each bird species has a distinct personality.
The islands are off limits...
Parola or South Islet is much smaller, at 3140sq m. A metre-high concrete wall, cracked and pitted by the elements, forms a protective ring against erosion, while a solar-powered lighthouse erected in 1980 by the Philippine Coast Guard stands sentinel over all. About 120 Argusia, Pisonia and coconut trees dot the grassy landscape.
East of the lighthouse lies the rusting hulk of the Del San, an old log carrier. Protected as a core zone, WWF and Cebu Pacific help TMO in keeping both of Tubbataha's islands completely off-limits to outsiders.
…Except the island where the park rangers live
The park rangers are some of the most courageous men in the service of Tubbataha Reef. They literally live in the middle of the ocean in 6 month stints. They are literally the last and only line of defense against pirates, poachers and hard-headed military vessels that carelessly run into the reef.
They also sell nice souvenir shirts.
Tubbataha is kinda like our last hope. And it just got f*cked.
Only 5% of the country's coral reefs are in pristine condition. Tubbataha is one of its last great reefs.
**Tubbataha NAVY wreck (Image courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines WESCOM)