Tubbataha Reef is an atoll coral reef located in the Sulu Sea of the Philippines. It is a marine sanctuary protected as Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park. It is nominated at the New 7 Wonders of Nature.Over 1000 species inhabit in the reef; many are already considered as endangered. Animal species found include manta rays, lionfish, sea turtles, clownfish, and sharks. Vivid corals cover more than two-thirds of the area and the waters around the reef are places of refuge for numerous marine lives. The seemingly diverse ecosystem of this sanctuary rivals the Great Barrier Reef – having 350 coral species and 500 fish species. (Knipp 22, 24) In June 2009 an outbreak of the crown-of-thorns starfish was observed, possibly affecting the ecological functioning of this relatively pristine coral reef.
Aside from being a marine sanctuary, Tubbataha is also renowned for being a bird sanctuary. A lighthouse islet, at the southern tip of the South Atoll, supports a large number of seabirds which nest there. Around the Tubbataha, there are tens of thousands of masked red-foot boobies, terns, and frigate birds resting during their annual migrations. The Tubbataha National Marine Park, located at the Central Sulu Sea, is a marine sanctuary containing a reef of enormous size. It was established on August 11, 1988 with an area of 332 km² (82,000 acres). In 2006, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, through an Executive Order, increased the boundaries of the park by 200%. It is now 968.24 km² (239,000 acres) in size and is guarded by armed rangers 24 hours/ 7 days a week. Declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in December 1993, it is under protective management by the Philippines Department of National Defense (DND). The Tubbataha National Marine Park is open to live-aboard diving excursions between the months of April to June. It is in this period where the waves are most calm. It is also nominated in the New 7 Wonders of Nature.