Tubbataha Reef is a coral reef atoll located in the Sulu Sea at about 180 kilometers from the city of Puerto Princesa, in the province of Palawan, Philippines. It is a protected marine sanctuary called the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, established on 11 August 1988. Originally measuring 332 km2, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo increased the protected area by 200% in 2006 to 968.24 km2.
Added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in December 1993, the Park is under the protection of the Philippine Department of National Defence and the technical supervision of the Palawan Sustainable Development Board and the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources. It is administered as part of the municipality of Cagayancillo, Palawan. Philippine coast guards are present on one of the sandbanks at all times to monitor the area and protect the park from poachers.
The name Tubbataha means 'a long and exposed reef at low tide' in the Sama language.
The reef consists of two atolls, southern and northern. Each reef has an islet in the center. A deep strait measuring 8 km wide separates the atolls. The southern is the smaller of the two, measuring 5 km long and 3 km wide; the northern is 16 km long and 5 km wide.
More than a thousand fish species can be found here, some of which are in danger of extinction. For example, among the most numerous species are manta rays, lionfish, clownfish, hawksbill turtles...
Tubbataha is also a bird sanctuary. An islet in the south of the atoll is home to a large number of bird species. There are tens of thousands of red-footed boobies, terns and frigate birds.
Tubbataha is one of the most popular diving spots in the Philippines. It is very popular with tourists, who visit most often between mid-March and mid-June. Fishers occasionally set up temporary huts here, but apart from the coast guard, no one lives here for long periods.