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Dive Review of S/Y Philippine Siren in

S/Y Philippine Siren: "Tubbataha Reef: far away for just 18 dives!", Mar, 2016,

by Raymond Haddad, QC, CA (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 10 reports with 9 Helpful votes). Report 8933 has 3 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments After reading so much about the Philippines Tubbataha Reef, I finally decided to go even though it will be a very long trip from Montreal. I flew to LAX and had a ten hour layover, since flights from Montreal arrive in the late morning and flights to the Philippines depart late at night. To pass the time, I booked a day room at the Hilton LAX. The check in at LAX Philippines Airlines to Manila took forever. Mostly everybody had boxes and boxes along with their luggage … crazy! Once I arrived at Terminal 1 in Manila, I had to go through customs and retrieve my bags to transfer them to terminal 3 to catch my flight to Puerto Princess. This is where the ship departs for the Tubbataha Reef. I had a long lay over prior to my flight to Puerto Princess at terminal 3. Exhausted and hungry, I was able to catch some sleep at a place called Wings Transit Lounge. At the Puerto Princess airport, I was picked up by the hotel where I stayed for two nights prior to boarding the ship. Not much to see but this gave me a chance to rest before the fourteen hour boat ride to the reef. Around noon of the departure day, I was picked up at my hotel and driven to the boat. Aboard the ship, the standard procedures as any liveaboard: room assignments, safety briefing, schedule … you get the picture. The rooms are nice and big, the food is fine, and the staff was very nice and helpful, camera/video tables and charging stations … perfect. Putting on your gear is a bit tricky, since you get dressed near the front of the boat on the outer sides. There is very little room to pass between your knees and the boat railing. On deck, you had separate large rinse buckets for cameras, wetsuits, gear …
The days start with a 5:45AM wake up call, a quick breakfast and then in the water by 6:30AM for the first dive. I found it to be a bit dark for diving especially since I video my dives with a Go Pro. Then a full breakfast followed by a 9:45AM dive. After lunch two other dives were offered, but no night dives where permitted. Towards the end of our last dive of the day, it was also a bit dark. Honestly, I would have preferred doing three dives starting later in the morning and finishing earlier in the afternoon, plus a night dive. They say no night dives are permitted because of the strong currents. 80% of our dives had almost no current and we had a full moon!
You are split into three groups and assigned a dive guide (I should not say guide … I will explain later). There are three dive guides who rotate with each group as the week goes by. They only have two skiffs for three groups. It worked out OK, since getting to the sites did not take long. The skiffs drivers are efficient and help out a lot. You back role of the skiffs on the count of 3 - 2 - 1 Go! To get back on, the skiffs have a ladder which leaves to be desired. It does not go deep enough into the water, meaning that your first step is a tuff one. Because of this and other issues with the ladder, most divers removed their BC prior to getting out. I kept my BC on, but the end of the week, my shoulders were killing me!
Nitrox is offered free of charge, but it was only at 29%. We were not allowed to go deeper than 100 feet. So why not offer the standard nitrox of 32-33%. Many of us asked but never got a good explanation.
The dive guides are not real guides like I had at Wakatobi, where they would ask you what do you want to see and would point out critters one by one. They would even write the names on a slate. Our guides aboard Sirens would just swim in one direction and once in a while point out a things like white tip reef sharks (we saw at least hundreds of them … you don’t need a guide for that they are all over!). They would be obsessed to go out in the blue and wait for 15 minutes with average visibility just in case a different type of shark would appear. .. How boring! While they were doing that I would be exploring the reef to find critters on my own.
They had a very specific schedule that they wanted to follow. One day on two consecutives dives in the same general area we saw: hammerhead sharks, a manta ray, a whale shark, and many large schools of jacks… We asked them if we could dive there again. They said no and moved on to others sites. Not very accommodating! In all, we did 18 dives spread over four and a half days.
During my week, it was very hot with very little wind. The only place where you could get relief was in your room with some A/C. The lounge which is quite large but with a very low ceiling (watch out) had three large A/C units but they did not want to turn them on. If you wanted a cold drink with ice, you might be disappointed. They have a very small ice machine which would make about 10 ices cubes per hour! Everybody would hang out at the back of the boat where we would eat all our meals, since it was the only shaded area. The sun deck had practically no shade and it was very hot. They offer massages on the boat. Don’t bother a waste of money!
Now about what it was like underwater. Some areas were wonderful and some areas I would say to myself, why are we diving here! If you want to see frog fish, leaf fish, crocodile fish, shrimp, slugs, nudibranchs, crabs, pipefish … you have come to the wrong place. We mostly saw: white tip reef sharks, a few turtles, eels, lobsters, some tuna, a few schools of jacks and barracudas, your typical reef fish, some soft coral, only one string ray, one manta ray (for about ten minutes until a group of 20 Chinese divers arrived and chased after it), one sick looking whale shark, one scorpion fish, many queen angel fish, a few clown fish etc…
What is worth it to travel so far, along with two fourteen hour boat rides to do 18 dives spread over 4 and a half days at a cost of approximately a little over $6,000.00 (airfare, hotel, boat, tips …) not really! But, I will still manage to spend hundreds of hours to produce my famous ScubaRay videos to show to my friends!
Websites S/Y Philippine Siren   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Bahamas, Belize, Honduras, Australia, Palau, Fiji, Indonesia, Turks & Caicos, Maldives, Philippines
Closest Airport Puerto Princess Getting There LAX to Manila then Puerto Princess

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, no currents
Water Temp 77-81°F / 25-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50-100 Ft/ 15-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Diving is done with a guide. Max depth 100 feet for 60 minutes
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Dedicated rinse buckets, many charging stations, individual storage areas ... no complaints!
Was this report helpful to you?
Report currently has 3 Helpful votes

Subscriber's Comments

By Joanne Parker in BC, CA at May 25, 2016 23:14 EST  
One sick looking whale shark??? Maybe you should give up diving. I've been to Tubbataha on the Siren and would go back tomorrow. A very comfortable vessel to visit a very special place. But that's just my opinion and your entitled to yours.
By report author: Raymond Haddad in QC, CA at May 26, 2016 08:00 EST  
If I were to show you the video of the whale shark you would understand. All on board said the same thing. When you say that I should give up diving, reflects your odd personality. I sincerely wish never to see you on a dive boat.
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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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