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Dive Review of Explorer fleet/Apo Explorer in
Philippines/Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea

April, 2009, an Instant Reader Report by Kay, CA, USA
Reviewer   (3 reports)
Report Number 4953
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Seychelles, Africa, Caribbean, Solomons, Sipadan, Indonesia, Maldives
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

calm, currents  
Water Temp
80   to 83    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
60   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Very remote area, with intermittently strong current, crew safety
conscious, Group dive 6-8/divemaster, max depth 90', four-five dives/day.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
Large Pelagics
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Many of the divers were photographers and they seemed happy. Cameras and
equipment is much simpler now.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
5 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
1 stars   
5 stars    
Tubbataha is a remote uninhabited area, a world heritage site, and an 11
hour boat overnight boat ride from Puerta Princess on the Palawan Islands
of the Philippines. It is accessible for diving 3 months of the year due to
weather.  We were blessed with calm weather and dove all the sites, but the
previous week's group could only dive two sites due to rough weather. 
Water temp. was lovely and viz. mostly very good.
Current and drift diving were the norm, divemaster deployed a surface
sausage on the safety stop and the tender picked us up.  Since I use less
air than the divemaster, he and I sometimes stayed down long longer.
Walls and sloping reefs. Reefs fairly healthy with good regeneration of
staghorn coral.  Marine life would put this in the world class league,
white tips resting or swimming on most dives, also grey sharks, tuna,
schools of baracuda and swirling Jacks, lobsters, turtles, eals, lionfish,
four species of anemone fish, marble rays, unicorn fish, guineafowl
puffers, pipefish.  Safety stops on top of the reef were magical with tons
of colorful small and large varieties.  Saw very few nudibranch and night
dives were not very productive given the profusion during the day.
The crew were very nice and helful but the ship is probably due for a
retrofit and had ongoing problems with the airconditioners in the cabins,
lounge/diningarea is snug.  Food was good and plentyful, lots of seafood,
fresh vegetables and delicious fruits including sublime mangos.  No tipping
pressure, just smiles.

Back on Palawan for 24 hours before flying back to Manila, we visited a
subterranean river, the longest navigable one in the world and another
UNESCO site, and incompetition for inclusion in the seven natural wonders
of the world.  Well worth a vist but go early and it is a three hour drive.

On this trip I also went to Donsol Bay where the whalesharks come to feed
from March to May every year.  Snorkeling with this fish, the largest in
the ocean is truly breathtaking.  On the second day we had twelve
encounters a few lasting 5-20 minutes.  Unfortunately, the word is out and
the pressure of boats and poor compliance with the rules is spoiling the
experience and harrasing the fish.
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