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Philippines :: Tubbataha Reef : Basterra Reef

90 km to the south-west of South Tubbataha, lies Basterra Reef. Again, it is small in size (but larger then Jessie Beazley Reef) and has some fantastic diving and marine life. Surrounded by seas that descend to some 1,800m, the reef rises to the surface as a pinnacle with a sand bar on top. Two wrecks, of The Oceanic and a Tristar B, lie to the east and north. Many consider this reef to be the best diving site in The Sulu Sea.

On the northern face, it is normal to start your dive over the Tristar B and allow the currents to take you east or south. There is a gentle slope to 10m and then a drop-off that descends to depths even sports divers cannot reach. Despite heavy dynamite fishing around the wreck, many species of fish have made it their home, including snappers, surgeonfish, parrotfish, trevallies and wrasse. Whitetip reef sharks occasionally make an appearance as well. Further away from the wreck the coral is in good condition and fish life is prolific.

Around the wreck of The Oceanic on the eastern side of the reef is a rich coral slope to 8m. You will encounter all the usual reef fish and larger pelagics including manta rays, turtles and reef sharks.

On the south face, there is a sandy slope with good coral that drops to 18m and then a drop-off to the depths. Here again, fish life is teeming and you can expect to see moray eels, flounders, reef sharks and Blue Spotted Lagoon Rays. Along the wall there are masses of hydroids, gorgonians and barrel sponges. Further out, regular pelagic visitors include reef sharks, hammerheads, tuna, mackerel, manta rays and turtles, to name but a few.

Another site worth visiting is Bancoran Island, 70 km southwest of Basterra. Unfortunately, it is now inhabited which has meant that the standard of diving has declined, but it is still a good spot to discover Giant Clams, lobsters, barracuda, tuna and reef sharks.


Depth: 5-70m+

Viz: up to 40m

Currents: normally mild, but can be strong

Getting there : live-aboard

Best months: Mar-June


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