Tubbataha Reef is located in the middle of the Central Sulu Sea, 98 nautical miles southeast of Puerto Princesa City. It is composed of two large shallow reef platforms enclosing a sandy lagoon. On the seaward portions of the reef platform are steep, often perpendicular reef walls extending to 50 feet. Most of the park area is submereged, with only a few permanent emergent sandy islands.
The two atolls are named the North and South Reefs or Islets. The former is a large, oblong-shaped continous reef platform about 4-5 km wide and compeletely encloses a sandy lagoon. The reef is shallow and emergent in some places at extreme low tide. The South Reef likewise is a small triangular-sahped reef about 1-2 km wide . Like the North Reef it consists of a shallow platform enclosing a sandy lagoon. On the souther tip of this reef is a 2-3 ha. Coral line-sand island, the South Islet where the lighthouse stands. This islet is a rookery site for birds and turtles.
There are no permanent inhabitants except during fishing seasons, when fisherment from other parts of the Philippines establish temporary shelters in the area. Activities include traditional hook and line, commercial trawling for tuna, spear fishing, offshore long lines and aquarium fish collection.
Despite its remote location from Puerto Princesa City and an overnight voyage by ship, Tubbataha has become a popular site for seasoned sport divers. Underwater visibility can often exceed 30-meter seascape with underwater caves and leges teem with marine life. Tubbataha’s trademark among the world divers is its coral walls with extensive colonies of fish.
Unfortunately, Tubbataha’s pristine and unspoiled nature also attracted not just well wishers but problems as well. As the huge reefs fame has spread worldwide, the number of sports divers visiting it is increasing yearly, adding pressure to the fragile nature of the reefs.
To manage tourism, the Protected Area Management Board was formulated where the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff acts as Secretary, a Master Plan which was approved that includes zoning and charging of entrance fee for dive boats and making the area a no-fishing zone. The money that will be collected will directly be used to cover various conservation programs. For the year 2000, the PAMB has collected P 1.6 million. Part of this amount went to the construction of new ranger station to strengthen monitoring activities in Tubbataha.