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

Explorer fleet/Apo Explorer, Apr, 2009,

by Kay, CA, USA (Reviewer Reviewer 3 reports). Report 4953.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Seychelles, Africa, Caribbean, Solomons, Sipadan, Indonesia, Maldives
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 80 to 83 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 60 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
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.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments 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):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments 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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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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