If you want a truly remote yet spectacular diving experience, then Tubbataha in the Philippines should be at the top of your bucket list. Choosing the best Tubbataha liveaboard for your diving style will help you make the most out of this incredible dive spot which has thriving biodiversity and dramatic underwater landscapes.
The area was only discovered in the late 1970s but its coral reefs have quickly become a favorite among divers. The Tubbataha Reefs Natural park is a protected marine area spanning over 97,000 hectares. With over 600 species of fish and 360 species of corals, Tubbataha is a diver’s dream.
The marine park is made up of two large coral atolls, which can only be visited on a liveaboard boat. To help protect the reserve, all divers need to pay conservation fees to help prevent the park from being exploited illegally.
QUICK ANSWER: THE BEST TUBBATAHA LIVEABOARD TRIPS
THE 5 BEST TUBBATAHA LIVEABOARD BOATS – A COMPARISON
8 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN DIVING WITH A LIVEABOARD IN TUBBATAHA
1. TIME OF YEAR
The only time of year you can visit Tubbataha for diving is from mid-March until mid-June. It’s a short diving season, but the conditions are great with excellent visibility up to 150 ft (45 metres) as well as clear skies and calm seas. Water temperatures rarely drop below 80F (27℃).
2. GROUP SIZE
Tubbataha liveaboards can range from an intimate group with just over a dozen divers to larger groups of over 30 divers. If you prefer a quieter, smaller boat and more of a diving-family feel, then choose a liveaboard with around 16 maximum guests.
Some liveaboards cater for non-divers too, so in a larger group you may have a few more ‘add-ons’ such as other family members doing other activities such as kayaking or snorkeling. This is a better option if you want to bring along a spouse, friend, family member or children who don’t want to dive the whole time.
3. MARINE LIFE
Because the diving season is so short in Tubbataha there isn’t too much variation in marine life over those three months. But expect to see sharks, turtles, dolphins, whales and manta rays as well as lots of coral species among the 600 species of fish life.
4. UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY
Are you an underwater photographer who plans on shooting during your liveaboard trip? You’ll want to make sure your chosen boat has somewhere to clean your camera equipment after each dive and rinse housing off with fresh water to avoid saltwater corrosion. You may also want an area to edit photos and do work on your laptop so consider what facilities each liveaboard has that will suit you when you aren’t in the water.
5. DIVER TRAINING
You don’t have to be an advanced diver for most liveaboard options, but some sites may be for more experienced divers. Most liveaboards also offer diver training courses with either PADI or SSI if you choose to advance your diving or focus on a particular specialty, such as Nitrox diving.
You’ll also need to consider what your budget is for your trip and whether you want a luxury adventure or something more affordable. While the cost of the liveaboard may seem like a lot initially, keep in mind that it includes all your diving, accommodation and meals for the duration of your trip. Be prepared to pay at least $220 per day for the cheapest option.
7. WIFI & CHARGING STATIONS
If you plan on working remotely during your liveaboard trip, look for a boat that has internet access. Most liveaboards have some kind of charging station for cameras, phones and laptops but not all of them have internet onboard.
8. LENGTH OF TRIP
Because the diving season in Tubbataha is so short, most liveaboards which travel to this area have set durations for their trips. Some may be as short as 5 nights while others extend to 10 nights. Consider how much diving you would like to do and factor in your budget when deciding the duration of your trip.
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Photo Credit: Solitude One Liveaboard
The Solitude One is a spacious 170 ft (52 m) ship catering for up to 22 guests. Cabin layouts range from bunk bed options to family cabins, all with flat screen TVs with USB media support. There are two camera rinse tanks for underwater photographers. This liveaboard has extra headroom and longer mattresses, making it ideal for taller divers.
Photo Credit: Philippine Siren Liveaboard
The 131 ft (40 m) Philippine Siren has a more intimate feel with a maximum of 16 guests and 12 crew. All cabins are air conditioned, there are massage services available and non-diving activities such as snorkelling and kayaking.
Diver training options include Advanced Open Water and Nitrox training and free Nitrox, making it ideal for divers who want to specialize in nitrox diving. Between the crew, three languages are spoken: English, Dutch and Filipino.
Photo Credit: Seadoors Liveaboard
Seadoors is an 82 ft (25m) custom-built liveaboard for divers. There are just eight cabins catering for up to 16 guests, all air conditioned with ensuite bathroom and towels are provided. A luxury cabin upgrade option is also available. The Seadoors has a workstation for charging electronics as well as a camera station. A marine library will help you identify any fish species you haven’t seen before. Crew speak English and French, meaning you’ll enjoy a mix of local and French cuisine served throughout your trip.
Photo Credit: Atlantis Azores Liveaboard
Built in 1989, the 108 ft (33 m) Atlantis Azores is the ultimate luxury liveaboard in Tubbataha. It’s the most expensive of all the liveaboards in this area on our review. Catering for up to 16 guests, there are just 8 crew on board, keeping the numbers on board small.
There’s free wifi on board, a hot tub and whirlpool, a shaded dive deck and plenty of space for photographers to clean up and wash their gear.
Photo Credit: Discovery Palawan Liveaboard
The Discovery Palawan is one of the oldest vessels, built in 1972 but renovated in 2006 into a more modern and spacious design. If you want a vibrant atmosphere with more people around then the Discovery Palawan may be the best option for you, catering for up to 32 guests and 20 crew. Each of the 20 cabins is air conditioned with ensuite bathrooms, with 4 of them located on the upper deck. The Discovery Palawan has an air conditioned salon and dining area, camera room, sun deck and outdoor dining area and bar, making it ideal for those who want to socialize lots during their trip.