Tubbataha Reefs Marine Park
This U.N. World Heritage Site protects 128 sea square miles (332 km2) and two atolls separated by a five-mile (8-km) channel in the Sulu Sea 100 miles (160 km) east of Palawan, with marine life as rich and diverse as any on earth. Each atoll surrounds a deep blue lagoon bordered by shallow (knee- to waist-high) emerald-green waters and a spectacular drop-off filled with colorful and unusual sea creatures, attracting great numbers of seabirds and renowned for snorkeling and scuba diving. Most tourists use live-in dive boats mid-March–mid-June (other times subject to rough monsoon seas). Tubbataha became a reserve after dynamite, cyanide, and overfishing had taken such a toll that divers and farsighted fishermen reported to the Philippines government that only quick protective measures could prevent complete destruction of this valued nursery for marine species as well as seabirds. Both reefs and species have recovered remarkably, though vigilance and further curtailment of fishing is necessary. Hawksbill and green sea turtles nest, as do sooty, crested, and noddy terns, and brown and red-footed boobies, among 46 bird species. At least 379 fish species of at least 40 families live in and around the brilliant coral in a glorious multispecies nursery for the surrounding sea. Like St. Paul’s, adebt-for-nature swap made possible its set-aside, and diving and snorkeling fees now almost support its maintenance and protection. Trips can be arranged in Manila and Cebu City.