3 Routes
Highlights of the Area

Philippines, Sulu Sea, 4/97

by: Peggy & Jose Miguel Duran, Corpus Christi, TX,USA

Visited Jessie Beazley reef, North & South Tubbataha atolls and Basterra reef aboard MY Tristar. Reefs in wonderful condition with 100% coral cover in most areas. Only very occasional mild dynamite damage. Visibility 50-100' and extremely prolific fish life, quite comparable or superior to Indonesia or PNG: 5-10 sharks on almost every dive, mostly white tips with an occasional gray reef or hammerhead, shovel-nosed sharks, mantas and marbled rays, large schools of banded and horse-eyed trevally jacks, unicorns and fussiliers, occasional tunas, big numbers of clown and other large triggers, many lobsters and morays, lots of emperor, six-banded, yellow-mask and semicircular angels, many puffers and clouds of anthias, dacylus and other small tropicals. Night dives were very good with big colorful pleurobranchs, some unusual morays and snake eels, huge basket stars and the occasional white tips attracted to the lights. One dive master for every 2-3 divers, always staying within visual contact range and ready to help, but treating divers as responsible adults and very patient with photographers. Always free to dive own profile with computers. Three scheduled boat dives and a night dive daily. You could squeeze in an extra 1-2 dives if desired. Gretchen Hutchinson and Edgard "Bong" Ventura, authors of Asian Diver's Philippines Diving Guide were on boat exploring some new sites and keeping a close watch on condition of reef. Boat owner David Choy truly commited to reef preservation. Coast Guard Watch Station in Tubbataha making a difference. Good boat in excellent condition. Cabins without portholes but fairly large, with lots of storage space (we thought 3 & 4 were the best). Excellent buffet meals at large dining room with white-jacketed stewards: great clear soups, at least three entrees with salads galore, usually 2 cakes with every dinner and fresh mangoes to die for. Large lounge on upper deckwith couches, large round table and TV/VCR/Stereo (No CD player). Good selections of movies on tapes but no fish identification library except good book on invertebrates; we shared our Allen & Steene's IndoPacific Reef Field Guide. Spacious upper deck for suiting up and bins for gear storage, with sun deck and wet bar. Crew took all gear, including fins, to chase boats and handled cameras/video equipment with care. Ladders for easy reentry. Many drift dives with sometimes stiff currents but never had to wait more than a couple of minutes to be picked up. Crew rinsed and dried gear last day. Great crew and not even a hint of pressure about tipping. Long trips there and back, but made easier and more interesting by stops at Manila and Puerto Princesa in Palawan. After 14 previous live-aboards, the Tristar and the Sulu Sea are definitely on our repeat list.

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