Sometimes… words get in the way.
I remembered seeing this “Immigration” table, and feeling the urge to whip out my camera at the Palawan Airport
Where we flew in to get on this dive yacht to go to one of the most beautiful dive sites in the world, as well as a UNESCO Heritage Site and finalist of the 7 Wonders of the World.
My group got lucky because the M/V Stella Maris is meant for groups of 20-30, but we were a mere odd set of 9 divers.
The sides were outfitted with Nitrox and O2 tanks, Nitrox is a certification you can get to utilize this customized mix air which allows you to stay at deeper levels longer, and leaves you less lethargic than normal air. At that time I just used regular air and felt fine. Probably from the adrenaline running through my veins.
on the Aft (back) side of the boat was our Diving area, where we set up, store and wear our dive gear when we would go under.
I was the lone vest in a sea of back plates. Very soon did I trade in my Mares Alikai BCD for a Halcyon back plate. Best decision ever.
The sky in Palawan was dramatic, with every minute creating a visual diaspora from the sunset.
We had top deck to enjoy the view, or whatever landscape we had before we sailed for 8 hours to our main destination.
Our main destination had no mountains or plains of land, but simply water and sky 360 degrees all around. Not that I was complaining. We were in the middle of Sulu Sea
We came to dive the iconic Tubbataha Reef..
Tubbataha, which is Samal for “a long reef”, is 2 coral atolls totaling 22 kilometers long.
ToT in yellow fins, staring in awe.
One of Tubbatahas trademarks are the coral walls, which extend down to over a hundred feet and are called home by over 1000 species of aquatic life, many of which are on the endangered list. You can easily recognize me by my flashy yellow fins.
Divers, if you think Twin Rocks in Anilao has a big school of jacks, THIS beats that anytime.
Solace in the wreckage
There are Tuna fish bigger than sharks (look closely to see tiny shark)
Lots and lots of sharks
ToT being a ham and ‘napping’
Exotic discoveries that you can only find in this preserved piece of paradise, which makes Tubbataha a possible rival to the Great Barrier Reef in terms of diversity.
The water was so warm and comfortable, I was able to shed my wetsuit and don a rashguard/boardshorts combo. Forgive the loud patterns, I try to make a statement where I go.
For me, it is underwater that I can completely let go and relax. The expanse of the ocean is so sublime that it reminds me how small I am in this big big world of ours.

And that some of the wonders need not be ostentatious or flashy,

Sometimes, it’s merely being in the presence of nature, or in a completely different world.
And, if I’m lucky, the destination is all about making the connection (albeit semi-illegally).
 And in the middle of the reef is the Ranger Station, basically a shallow stretch of white sand where  concrete poles are established for rangers to watch over the reef.

Built in 2000.
After 4 days underwater, over water, and just in water, it felt nice to step on (semi) dry land, even if it’s just to pay for the Reef Conservation Fee.
Lap of Luxury on the sand before we head back to the boat.
When we weren’t diving, we were “hanging”.
Plus, with a private chef aboard, we never actually felt hungry, as we enjoyed 5 meals a day… all buffet.
My favorite place to dine was on the top deck, where I could enjoy the sunset and enjoy some  moments of introspection…
Evenings of unequivocal inebriety…
And afternoons tanning. lol. Give me a break, I’m only human. *my boat is bigger than your boat, b!+$#&$.*
How can anyone not get captivated by that?
When we were to say our fond farewells, it was clear we were a renewed and revitalized bunch.
Props to my Fistbump Crew for keeping it fun and exciting, underwater, and under the stars.
I can’t wait to go back.
Til the next time, fishies.
*Special thanks to the talented Chris Ng for the fantastic underwater pictures.*