Tubbataha Reef

Tubbataha Reef, Puerto Princesa: Address, Phone Number, Tubbataha Reef Reviews: 5/5

Tubbataha Reef
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Isabella Lopez
Venezuela1 contribution
Amazing
Oct 2020
if you like diving. this is your place. Top Corals, fishes and staff. Highly recommend for level advance Padi.
Written March 30, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Dianne A
Brisbane, Australia156 contributions
TUBBATAHA - REEF OF DREAMS
Mar 2020
My husband and I had booked a live aboard dive trip to Tubbataha to go to sea aboard Expedition Fleet's M/V Oceanic lll Explorer on 26th March 2020. I'd been dealing directly with Janet and Lars Chua who run the fleet. I'd read many reviews for this wonderful location, travelling with Expedition Fleet and in nearly every one Janet's name appeared as a great person to deal with. For the months leading up to our sailing date there was so much helpful friendly advice and super prompt replies from Janet. Very sadly on 16th March we were told everything in the Philippines was shutting down due to Corona. Airports, and all other transport, hotels, restaurants and all dive stores were to close. All tourists including us were given 48 hours to leave or we could be stranded there for months. I reached out to Janet by e-mail asking her advice and she located a private charter to take us from Coron where we were to Clark airport. It was only because of Janet's help we managed to flee. The airport near Coron Town had already closed, with the exception of the few charter flights ferrying tourists north. Tubbataha was the star of our 5 week holiday which was cut down to 2 weeks with the panic to evacuate. I am so grateful to Janet for all her help and Pete and I are determined to get to Tubbataha as soon as the world's restrictions are lifted. Dianne.
Written April 3, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Must Do Travels
World449 contributions
Truly one of a Kind!
Feb 2019
Interested in observing one of the most diverse and well-preserved coral reefs on the face of the earth? Well, Tubbatatha Reefs Natural Park is the place to be!
Written November 24, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

jodylynn007
New Westminster, Canada82 contributions
BAIT AND SWITCH: Oceanic III (All Star Liveaboards), two week trip
May 2019 • Couples
BAIT AND SWITCH: Oceanic III, Tubbatatha, Philippines - to be fair, the reef itself and the diving was lovely. If you choose to visit this area, you will not be disappointed. Just DO NOT book your holiday through All Star Liveaboards or onboard either boat owned by Mr. Lars Chua: the Oceanic III or Stella Maris (as they are dishonest and untrustworthy).

MY REVIEW of a completely misrepresented vacation sold to us by All Star Liveaboards aboard the Oceanic III vessel (boat owned by Mr. Lars Chua) to Tubbataha, Philippines, May 9 to 22, 2019.

There were so many issues and I know this review is going to be terribly long, but I wrestle with what to cut out in order to shorten it and what needs to be left in so that others can learn from our experience.

BACKGROUND

We contacted All Star Liveaboards attempting to book two one week back to back trips aboard the Stella Maris. As it turned out, that boat apparently booked up during the dates we wished to visit and it was suggested that we book on their other boat, the Oceanic III. We held off on making a reservation as there was not much information about that boat available at the time but several months later after still seeing availability for the Stella Maris online, we contacted All Star again and were told it was an error and they could put us on the Oceanic III.

To this day, I do feel as though it was intentional that no information for the Oceanic III was available and they just funneled guests calling for the Stella Maris onto the other less desirable boat. We were assured though by All Star that the “All Star Oceanic Explorer is a sister ship with a very similar design” … and is “almost identical to All Star Stella Maris and will be coming out of dry dock with a full refit this Fall.” However over the months approaching our travel dates and despite repeated requests for photos of the boat, none were ever provided, only many excuses as to why they weren’t available yet.

We booked cabin C2 as it was the least expensive and specifically asked why that was the case, we were advised that “the primary reason for the lower price is the low ceiling height and that it is a seated shower”. We were fine with that but did clarify that we would have a private en-suite bathroom and air conditioning.

When we arrived at the boat, we found out that our private bathroom was actually located one deck higher than our cabin, up a rickety metal staircase! I don’t know about you, but even the suggestion of leaving my room in the middle of the night on a boat to use the bathroom just wasn’t going to happen.

BOAT

- Drinking water coolers only offered warm water and during the 1st week, I had to constantly ask for ice to be provided so that water could be cooled. Ice then provided was not sanitary, had no scooper and everyone just reached their hands into it. During the 2nd week, ice buckets were provided with tongs, however I still observed guests and staff still continually reaching into the ice bucket to retrieve ice without using the tongs.
- Floorboards in dining area are loose (pinch your feet when walking on them)
- Two rungs for the ladder at the back of the boat stick out randomly from the deck, are the same colour as the deck itself, and are not marked differently to be noticed easily. I ran into them with my shin.
- Stairways throughout are narrow, with extremely short treads, very dangerous with smooth slippery metal lips, and ceilings everywhere are lower than standard ceilings so an average height male (and myself a female at 5’10”) needs to walk stooped constantly.
- Pathways and deck – there was seepage through the walkways from the deck above to the one below, all the deck surfaces throughout the entire boat were constantly very slippery.
- Sliding door to eating area was impossible to open, the rollers were broken.
- Electricity cut out in the middle of the nightly and this would shut off Aaron’s CPAP machine. There were also countless power interruptions throughout the week during the daytime as well.
- We were woken in the middle of the night due to loud banging and shouting on several occasions – it seemed there was some sort of problem. Aaron left our cabin to check out the commotion on one of the occasions and said that the noise seemed to be coming from the off-limits crew area.
- Water (showers) ran out on numerous occasions, I was left in the shower under a tap sputtering chilly water and air until it shuts off completely without enough notice to rinse out my shampoo or conditioner too many times to count.
- Several cockroaches were spotted in the bathroom of B3 (one inch in size).
- Hatches were propped open and/or unable to close.
- Air conditioner can’t keep up with the size of the B3 room, there were overwhelming periods of heat in the middle of the night, and the only way to assist was to keep the bathroom door closed which caused it to be like a sauna when it needed to be used.
- Numerous times, my partner and I went to join the meal (before the posted meal time on the sheet) and even though the meal/dive bell had not been rung (it has been rung rarely during the 2nd week), all of the food being served was gone and the crew and DMs had helped themselves before all the guests. The kitchen crew did make eggs for me on those occasions, but it was very frustrating to not be able to eat the same meal selections that were made for everyone else. They did not following the posted schedule at all. One time even, they actually rang the bell for us to come out of our cabin and even though our cabin is immediately beside the kitchen and we came immediately, the food was gone and everyone had already eaten.
- Weather was clear for most of our journey, I would be very concerned to be onboard this vessel should the weather have turned into rough seas.

ROOMS – A4 and B3

- 1st room was A4, the AC unit dripped water onto our electronics for the camera equipment set up on the table below it (as no proper area outside of our room for camera charging, etc.). This caused a power adapter for my Sola underwater light to melt/short, this easily could have caused a fire in the cabin due to the melted plastic. In our 2nd room, B3, the AC unit dripped water even worse onto the floor. As learned in the 1st room, we wrapped one of our bath towels around it to lessen the water leakage, but wet patches in the path between one of the beds and the bathroom was a constant slipping hazard.
- Rooms B2 and B3, two of the supposedly nicest rooms on the boat had bathrooms that constantly smelled of sewage, especially bad all morning long in the case of our room, B3. There was no escaping the incredibly bad smell. We tried many solutions on our own to handle this matter (plugging the drains, opening the port hole, closing the port hole, opening the bathroom door, closing the bathroom door), however nothing we did had any effect on improving the horrible smell that drifted in from our bathroom into our room on a constant basis for the 2nd week.
- After diving during the first week, our skiff pulled up to Oceanic III to offload and the sewage line dumped a large amount of raw sewage across Aaron’s shoulders and down his back. Aaron asked the DM Ryan if it was sewage, and he said “yeah, probably” although clearly it was as we could see a film on the water surface and the smell was strong. Aaron had an evil stomach ache for the rest of the day and all night long. Many guests had periods of illness over the two one-week trips that we were guests, including the both of us for several days.
- Room A4 step into the bathroom of room has trim peeling off and is sharp on the feet as well as you constantly stub or cut your toes.
- In the first week, the white three drawer cabinet our rooms collapsed with all our items inside, dumping them everywhere, sometime when we were away from the cabin and blocked re-entry. When discussing this with other guests, we were told that the week prior all of the cabinets had been falling apart and repaired prior to us boarding, however unfortunately not very well. We had to repair it ourselves sufficiently so that it wouldn’t block our door again and discontinue use of it. During the 2nd week we did not use the cabinet (therefore it took up space unnecessarily), and again it fell apart and was a hazard of pieces of chipboard wood all over the room floor at the foot of one of our beds.
- I slipped and fell badly in the bathroom during the 2nd week, injuring my left wrist (sprained and bruised), left shoulder, and right knee in the fall (both badly bruised). We placed down towels continually after that on the floor, which were continually removed, and finally had to ask for two bath matts to be placed on the floor. This solved the problem of the slippery floor, however made for a constantly wet and soggy bathroom floor area which then tracked water out into the room area, causing it to be slippery out there as well.

DIVING

- When discussing our dive plans we were told that nitrox would not be available as no one had planned to dive it. This was strongly argued back by guests when many of us had insisted that we had filled out our forms advising we had intended to dive nitrox, had provided our nitrox certification numbers, as well as our intention to dive it. We later found out that the true fact was the boat’s membrane was actually broken and were unable or did not want to supply our nitrox. Guests were outraged and an accommodation was made to get tanks from the Stella Maris whom we had to stay and dive near for both of the weeks. This resulted in all the divers from both the Stella Maris and the Oceanic III constantly being dropped on the same dive sites at the same time which caused a great many difficulties for the divers when groups would get confusingly mixed up with each other during the dives. Also, timing for dives could have been staggered with the Stella Maris so that we didn’t have to constantly be running into them. Better planning and organization on the part of the dive crew could have made
- Once nitrox tanks were provided for us, we were advised that an analyzer would not be available. There were many exchanges and arguments that took place in order for our boat to obtain one (not sure from where) finally, however one analyzer for 14 divers to share diving 4x per day was not sufficient in any event.
- Many members of the boat crew seemed to be unfamiliar with basic scuba equipment assembly: they set up my yoke regs on a DIN tank and didn’t notice, installed Aaron’s regulator backwards once, took about 5 minutes to replace the o-ring on my tank (using my own dive knife as they didn’t have any tools on the boat to accomplish it themselves), and installed the regs over masking tape that had been covering the valve.
- I advised how I liked my BCD set up on the tank however it constantly had to be adjusted by myself or Aaron.
- Aaron seemed to be the one to assist me with my tank before diving, rather than anyone else from the boat crew on several occasions.
- Dive deck is not adequately sized for the amount of divers on the boat, there is nowhere to safely sit down and put on wetsuits, sort gear, etc. No camera table/area, and oftentimes I found diver’s masks and even booties in the rinse tanks that should have only been used for cameras.
- Dive and eating schedule posted daily, although posted times never followed and changed constantly.
- Tank fills were often short, at 2700 psi – this is not adequate when cylinders are rated for 3000 psi. More on this below.
- Regarding Monette, after we made some of our complaints listed herein to the crew, she became openly hostile towards us in every interaction we had with her. She made it a point to show her contempt and made several passive aggressive and condescending remarks while we were onboard, in and out of our presence (which were reported back to us by other guests and crew). She definitely went out of her way to make us feel unwelcome on the ship.

Specifically, after our first dive onboard (when she was our DM), during the dive she constantly made angry hand signals to speed up and made snide comments about needing to swim fast in order to see things. She complained to both the crew and the other guests that we were too slow (not a great enjoyable first dive, nor impression of what was to come).
Later during the trip when a hammerhead shark passed the dive group, she swam after it herself and drove it deeper than the depth limits of the guests’ tanks and diving level/abilities (newer divers being certified on nitrox) to get her own pictures of it. I have never even been on a dive tour where DMs were ever permitted to carry their own personal cameras (and this is a clear example of why they shouldn’t be permitted), leaving her group at 100 ft and diving down well past 150 ft. herself. Afterwards she gloated to Aaron about the picture she had taken and said, “See, if you want to see things, you need to SWIM!!”

After a week and a half of short fills (we use digitally calibrated gauges), a request was made by Aaron to have our tanks topped up to 3000 psi (by the air compressor onboard our boat). Monette inserted herself into the situation and first said that the nitrox mix would be affected, we replied that we were aware and that this wasn’t an issue. She then argued that our gauges were incorrect and that the tanks were full (we use digitally calibrated gauges and had verified the low pressure with three separate computers). Aaron then assured her that they were not full and she then became very aggressive telling him that he didn’t know what he was talking about. She hooked up her own regulator to the tank and shoved the gauge into his face. It clearly showed 185 bar which he pointed out was far less than the full pressure for the tanks. She then screamed, “Fine, I don’t care!”, turned her back on him and the situation and left. This should have been a non-issue and our request complied with.

Everyone on the boat was helpful and friendly with the extraordinary exception of her. We believe as a result of our few initial requests for accommodation and amenity considerations we were singled out by her and deliberately made to feel unwelcome. As the onboard representative of the ship and its owner, her outward hostility towards us left us no recourse to request help on any of the other discomforts we experienced in the time we spent onboard.

Finally, we enjoyed our diving with Chie (our DM for the second week), the food onboard for the first week wasn’t bad, it was plentiful, and when there wasn’t something that suited my tastes, I asked the cook for some eggs and he provided me with a lovely tofu dish. I wish I could say the same thing for the second week onboard, as I am not sure what happened. It seems that less time and effort went into the preparation and perhaps the kitchen was attempting to use up leftovers and miscellaneous items from the kitchen.

IN SUMMARY

Unfortunately there is very little that I can say WAS provided as it was advertised and sold to us. The only reason that we ultimately decided to continue with our booking for the 2nd week was that we already had our costly return airfare purchased for a date still another week away and there was some earnest assurances from the owner after our appalling first week at sea that several of the issues would be immediately addressed. Although some of our concerns were handled before our second weeks trip the vessel (sliding door to eating area was fixed and we were provided with an “upgrade” of our room, however I doubt that had anything to do with our discomfort rather more to do with the fact that there were only 7 guests onboard), the accommodations remained shockingly sub par to what was advertised and sold to us at the time of our booking.

We acted in good faith and accepted what we were told by All Star Liveaboards about the condition of the vessel and the accommodations we could expect while we were guests on board. As a result of those representations, we spent our hard earned money and vacation time on what resulted in the most miserable two weeks we have ever experienced while on holiday. Needless to say, had we been truthfully informed on the conditions we would be faced with on this trip, we would certainly not have booked this this holiday. We felt completely misled and we were told we were booking onto a ship equal to the Stella Maris, when clearly the Oceanic III is nowhere near that level. Since we couldn’t get our vacation back and the horrible experiences we endured due to the condition of the ship and the scathing treatment by the owners representative Monette left us seeking recourse. After a week-long back and forth between All Star Liveaboards and Mr. Lars Chua, the owner of the Oceanic III and the Stella Maris, where they both attempted to point fingers and blame at each other, eventually All Star Liveaboards refunded Aaron and myself $500 each, per week, for our holiday, which in our opinion isn’t enough to make up for the misrepresented vacation.

The owner of the boats, Mr. Lars Chua, in fact offered nothing in response other than to point out things that he thought were of value to us, after the fact, that in his mind made up for the untruths of our holiday booking. Sorry, Mr. Chua, a “free room upgrade” on your boat and having a “private DM” for one of the two weeks we were there when there are only 7 other guests onboard just doesn’t make it worth it. We still wouldn’t have come, and I don’t recommend to any of you that you book with these people/companies either.
Written June 24, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Scott C
Wenatchee, WA79 contributions
Ultimate Diving
May 2019
Tubbataha was everything we expected, whale sharks, manta rays, schools of barracuda and jacks. Huge numbers of fish life and many micro subjects. Just tremendous.
Written June 12, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

BrianCIsaac
Brisbane, Australia42 contributions
Best dive experience ever
Apr 2019 • Couples
Tubbataha instantly became my favourite dive experience ever, made better by the fantastic crew and accommodation of our Infiniti Liveaboard. We saw whale sharks, silver tip sharks, heaps of other reef sharks, and millions of fish. It's a healthy, thriving reef! Definitely visit if you're able to.
Written June 2, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

maskiano
Greater London, UK191 contributions
Tubbataha Remains One of the Best Dive Sites in the World
May 2019 • Family
It is easy to be amazed by the incredible beauty and unbelievable biodiversity of the underwater world of the Philippines. But Tubbataha Reef remains a class above the rest!

After diving in various dive sites around the world (Red Sea, Silfra, Great Barrier Reef, Maldives, Palau, Yap, Hawaii, and a number of times in Tubbataha), it is without exaggeration when we rank Tubbataha as one of the very best the world has to offer.

In this most recent dive, we encountered at least 4 whale sharks, a bull shark, a tiger shark, 17 hammerhead sharks, 2 nurse sharks, manta rays, turtles of various sizes and shapes, and many more! With 5 days of diving and having 4 dives a day, every dive is filled with surprises for all of us!

Every single diver onboard could not stop comparing notes and footages of the encounters underwater. There is a need to tighten the protection of these reefs because it is indeed a treasure of the world!
Written May 29, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

curliepig
Pueblo, CO3 contributions
Oceanic 3 Explorer liveaboard - Tubbataha reef
May 2019 • Couples
Since I found it hard to find the information for booking Tubbataha liveaboard I would like to post a review of our liveaboard to help others to make a decision when booking.
First off all, a little info on us: travelled as a couple from US, we are in our upper 30s, brand new advanced PADI certified with about 50 dives under our belt; stayed on Oceanic 3 Explorer May 16-22 2019.

BOOKING: looked at TripAdvisor reviews and considered multiple boats. Ruled out the Siren as unnecessarily expensive and did not see a value in Atlantis Azores. Sakura has terrible safety concerns (confirmed by a dive master on our boat who worked there last year). Not much info on other boats. Stella Maris has reasonable reviews and therefore I contacted Expedition Fleet to book Stella via email. They informed me Stella was booked for the dates I wanted and offered for us to go on their other boat Oceanic Explorer 3. We agreed and booked. I communicated with Janet via email - she was outstanding in communication and responded very prompt to all my emails. I have no clue when she sleeps because I would always get an email back within couple hours.

Expedition Fleet is owned by a Philipino owner Lars. They try to book the boats according to people’s interests/origin. Ex, they will book some dates for only Chinese market, some weeks for Philippino, some others for westerners. Janet was very up front with me about what composition of the boat guests would be.

OTHER GUESTS: we ended up having only 7 guests on the boat (full capacity 21) which was great! 4 Americans, 1 Canadian, 2 Israeli. Everyone was very nice and courteous to each other. We got along pretty good and shared many travel stories.

CABIN AND BOAT: boat is older (maybe from 80s?), it was on the dry dock for several years and got fully refurbished. This season is a first season for OE3 as a liveaboard.
The cabin B1 on lower deck above water is quite spacious, has en suite bathroom, memory foam mattress and pillows and nespresso maker with capsules, TV with DVD player. Bathroom is small but everything worked well.

Dining area is very spacious and nicely done. Nice coffee maker, many options for soft drinks, tea, post dive beer, etc. that are available at any point. Sodas and beer and wine have an additional charge. No single use plastics used on the boat.
There is a patio on top of the boat where we mostly hung out outside the diving and sleeping. It has nice bean bags and tables and lounge chairs. And beautiful sunrise and sunset views too.
Common areas were very pleasant and nice to spend time in. Everything was kept super clean at all times!!! Our beds were made every morning.
The style of decor on the boat is very comparable to that of Stella Maris (you can check out pictures - kind of IKEA meets Philippines:) it has a lot of bright green everywhere! Some people found it too much crazy lime green but we had no issues.

DIVING was purely outstanding! Dive masters were super attentive and attuned diving experience to individual divers. We, as less experienced divers, had a lot more support and supervision. They will let you dive at your experience and comfort level. We had to take a chase boat to dive sites that were usually 5-10 min away. Our chase boat had some minor motor glitches that were eventually resolved.
Dive masters were always on the lookout for interesting marine animals for us. We saw whale sharks, hammer heads, white and black top sharks, grey sharks, sting ray and many many other amazing water creatures. Reef is in excellent condition, healthy coral with lots of colorful fish.
Nitrox is included in boat price and we took nitrox class for $200 on the boat.

BOAT STAFF were the best ever!!!! All of boat guests were commenting on the outstanding service we received on the boat. Everyone was super friendly and we never felt like any of our needs were not attended to.
Special thanks to our awesome dive masters: Monette, Ryan, Aldrin and Chi!

FOOD was plentiful and they fed us non-stop. Quality of food was excellent, some philipino and some western dishes, excellent soups and salads. If someone had any allergies or specific preferences it was easy to communicate with the chef and he would cook something for just that one person. The food was always left over after a meal, unless it was everyone’s absolute favorite thing to eat. Many great fish dishes! Everyone ate together - guests and dive masters.

DOWNSIDE - nothing really for me. Some guests mentioned that they did not like the fact that boat did not offer any night dives. Also on last day you only dive 3 dives ( not regular 4) since they start heading back to Puerto Princesa early. That brings total number of possible dives to 19.

BOTTOMLINE overall an awesome experience. I would highly recommend this boat if you want a good diving experience at mid-price range and are not super fussy at the little glitches that are part of any boat trip.

Happy travels to all! Thank you Oceanic Explorer team for a wonderful diving vacation!
Written May 21, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Klaudia K
Sablayan, Philippines61 contributions
Amazing diving, great visibility, whalesharks and big fish
May 2019 • Friends
Like in description plus strong currents, tornados of jacks and great barracudas. Purely amazing dive experience.
Written May 20, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Likestotravel0920
Grosse Ile, MI16 contributions
very beautiful pristine reef
Apr 2019 • Friends
This is one of the most beautiful reefs you will visit. THe corals are very healthy, there are huge schools of fish and reef sharks. We did not see as many pelagics as we thought we would but the sea was very calm.
Written May 12, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

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