Sports Unlimited: Tubbataha: Marc's Best Dive Ever

By Jasmine Perez, Multimedia Producer, Sports Unlimited

Posted at May 16 2012 12:10 AM | Updated as of May 16 2012 08:10 AM

It was an absolute dream come true for Marc Nelson to return to his favorite dive spot in the whole world, the mecca of Philippine diving -- the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park.

Marc and his buddy Rovilson Fernandez have been WWF-Philippines' national ambassador since 2010. One of their roles is to experience WWF project sites around the country first hand. As luck would have it, Tubbataha is one of those sites. They got to sail with the WWF team, never mind that the trip entailed a ten-hour journey towards the middle of the Sulu Sea. Their home for the next four days was WWF's research vessel called Navorca.

Located at about 180 kilometers south east of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Tubbataha is considered as the crown jewel of the coral triangle, the world's richest center of marine life. Covering about 97 hectares,this marine sanctuary has been known all over the world for its fantastic biodiversity -- from corals and marine creatures to endangered migratory birds.

A huge company of friends welcomed Marc and Rovilson right on their beautiful underwater quarters. Turtles were the first to treat them with a swim-along. This adorable reptile has always been Marc’s favorite creature. They're not only graceful but they can also be playful, like this one who toured Marc around his section of the reef.

Marc and Rovilson were also lucky to see schools of jacks, sting rays and an amazing abundance of corals.Life in Tubbataha is pretty much dive-eat-sleep-dive-eat-sleep-dive. But there’s no complaining for Marc especially when there’s always something new and special in each dive.
One famous stop in Tubbataha is the Delsan Wreck, named after the sunken ship lying at the southeastern tip of south atoll. This sight is famous for its grey reef sharks but Marc and Rovilson found another kind of humongous creature near the wreck. Spanning at about thirteen feet, a friendly young butanding gave them a close encounter of its impressive grandeur, which made Marc and his buddy do crazy acts underwater.

This trip, of course, wasn't just about witnessing nature’s beauty.More than that, this journey for Marc was about doing his part as nature’s steward. Armed with his costume and carrot, he set out his best panda growl to accomplish his WWF’s “I Will If You Will” pledge in exchange for his 5,000 Twitter followers’ pledging to say no to plastic and use reusable shopping bags instead. As promised, he swam with sharks whilst wearing a panda suit and eating a carrot. Marc found out that munching a carrot stick could be this much fun in this beautiful dive spot called Shark Airport.

This dive, for Marc, was the best dive he’s ever had. Tubbataha is definitely worthy of being protected not only for its beauty but also for its role of giving  fish a safe haven in which they could grow into maturity before re-populating the coastal fishing areas of the surrounding Palawan and Visayas regions. Marc is so honored to have the opportunity to share its beauty and message with the rest of the country for WWF. This atoll is an area that the Philippines can be proud of on an international level.

Photos courtesy of Sophia Dedace, Steph Panganiban, Andy Cornish, and Marc Nelson of WWF Philippines

May 5, 2012