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Sulu Sea

Dive Map Sulu Sea Jessie Beazley ReefTubbataha Northern AtollTubbataha Southern AtollBasterra Reef
The Sulu Sea is a small sea bordered by Palawan & Sabah to the east and the Visayas & Mindanao to the east.

The depth of the sea brings cold, nutrient rich waters to the surface - meaning not only huge numbers of fish, but a huge diversity too.

In the centre of the Sulu Sea, a few atolls rise from unimaginable depths to within a few metres of the surface. These remote atolls, which can only be reached by Liveaboard, are home to some truly world class diving.
Dive Map Sulu Sea
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The most famous of the area's atolls are known as the Tubbataha Reefs. Tubbataha Reefs National Park has two atolls, which plunge down to 650 fathoms. The shallows of the southern atoll have beautiful coral gardens and a kaleidoscope of colourful reef-life, before dropping off at about 24m into the abyss.

On the east side, there is a wreck that ran aground and is now perched on the edge of the precipitous drop-off. The west wall is known for its Shark encounters. The atoll runs for 12km north to south. Barracuda, Whitetip & Blacktip Reef Sharks, large numbers of Green & Hawksbill Turtles, Tuna, Trevally & occasionally Manta Rays visit the atoll.

The larger northern atoll is famous above water for its bird-life. Thousands of Terns & Boobies jostle for space on a tiny islet at the atoll's northern-most point. Underwater, Tubbataha's northern atoll is equally rich in life.

Amos Rock, at the southern tip, is a superb site. Shallow sandy areas are good for finding smaller species, while the wall has huge Gorgonians & Whip Corals. If the current is running, numerous sharks, including Grey Reef Sharks can sometimes be seen here, along with large Groupers. Turtles are commonly encountered close-by at South Rock.

The western wall has excellent reefs and a small wreck, while the north wall has several crevices and overhangs hiding Nurse Sharks. Other smaller Sharks rest on the sandy reef-top, along with Blue Spotted Stingrays & occasionally larger Rays. Some lucky divers have seen Guitar Sharks here.

Around 20km north-west is Jessie Beazley Reef. The small, oddly named reef is almost perfectly circular. Here you will find numerous Turtles, plus plenty of Reef and Nurse Sharks. The huge sponges here are an impressive sight, while occasionally Hammerhead, Mako & Thresher Sharks cruise the blue.

Basterra Reef lies to the south of Tubbataha. This small reef plunges to the deepest depths of all the sites around here - over 1000 fathoms. At Barracuda Slope, a sandy slope turns into a wall at 16m, where corals are teeming with a kaleidoscope of smaller reef-fish. In the blue, an enormous school of Barracuda can normally be seen hovering in the current.

At the northern end of the reef, Expressway is a current-washed, adrenaline filled dive where you can encounter Manta Rays, Grey Reef Sharks & curious Whitetips. The Oceanic II is a wreck that ran aground on the reef, providing shelter to a huge variety of marine life.

These sites are not for everyone. Seas can be rough and currents can be strong, but the diving here is truly world-class and will not fail to impress even the most jaded diver.

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The remote sites of the Philippines' Sulu Sea can only be reached by Liveaboard and only between March & June each year.

The usual start point for Liveaboard trips is Puerta Princessa to the west. It may also be possible to arrange a trip here from Sipalay on Negros Island to the east.
  • Puerto Princessa
  • Sipalay

Dive Map Puerto PrincessaDirectory Find Dive Centres & Resorts in Puerto Princessa

Puerto Princessa is the regional capital of Palawan, a 400km long island in the west of the Philippines. It has been voted the Philippines' cleanest city and is a gateway to Palawan - the Philipppines' most pristine & untouched island.

Dive Phuket  Dive
There are just a few dive centres around the area. Liveaboards & Safaris to Tubbataha out in the Sulu Sea are the most popular trip among divers, but there are also nice local dive sites to visit. Some operators can also arrange Safaris to northern Palawan.

Travel Phuket  Travel
To reach Puerto Princessa, simply take a flight from the international airports in Manila or Cebu. If you have time & patience, there are ferry services once a week from Manila, 22 hours away.

Stay Phuket  Stay
There is a wide range of accommodation around Puerto Princessa, with more choice than anywhere else in Palawan. There are high end hotels, budget hotels, guesthouses & beachside bungalows to choose from, depending on your budget.

Do Phuket  Do
Puerto Princessa is known as the eco-tourism capital of the Philippines and most activities are centred around enjoying the area's beautiful landscapes & nature, including plenty of wildlife-based trips. Tours to the local islands and beaches are also very popular. Shopping, & golf are possible and there are plenty of nice restaurants to enjoy.

Dive Map SipalayDirectory Find Dive Centres & Resorts in Sipalay

Sipalay City is located on the west coast of Negros in the Visayas, facing the Sulu Sea. It is one of the Philippines newest and most unspoilt destinations with a superb white sand beach and excellent diving nearby.

Dive Phuket  Dive
There are now around 5 dive centres in the area which make daily trips to the many dive sites around Sipalay. Some can arrange Safaris to destinations further afield.

Travel Phuket  Travel
There is talk of an airport being built in Sipalay, but at present, the only way to reach the area is to travel by land from Dumaguete or Bacolod. Both Dumaguete & Bacolod have airports that connect with Manila. Dumaguete can be reached from Cebu.

Stay Phuket  Stay
There are now quite a few budget & mid-range options to choose from and also a few more upmarket places to stay. Many of the dive centres have or are connected to resorts and can organise your accommodation.

Do Phuket  Do
Sipalay is a peaceful place and an idyllic holiday base. Aside from diving, swimming & snorkelling are popular and stunning sunsets can be enjoyed most evenings. Life is generally based around the sea, with plenty of beach activities.

Northern Palawan         
Palawan Island separates the Sulu Sea from the South China Sea in remote western Philippines. It is an area famous for its wildlife and nature. At its northern tip, it has some excellent dive spots, including some the world's best wreck diving around Coron Bay...

Classic Liveaboards

We give you the lowdown on some of South-east Asia's finest Liveaboard trips, taking you to some of the most spectacular & remote diving destinations on the planet...


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