Diving With Thresher Sharks in Malapascua, Philippines
Diving With Thresher Sharks in Malapascua
There’s no getting around it, the Philippine Islands offer some spectacular diving experiences. Not only are there opportunities to dive shipwrecks and see beautiful and rare underwater species, the waterways are well protected and free from a lot of the garbage you see in other Southeast Asian countries, AND the prices are truly stellar. Let me just say that once you dive the Philippines, the bar for diving value will be set high!
The Beautiful Thresher Shark
Apart from the tiny island of Malapascua’s white sandy beaches, one of the primary reasons we made the 5 hour bus and boat ride from Cebu City was to dive with the famous Thresher Sharks. Pelagic Threshers (the species native to this region) reach up to 6 metres with nearly half of this length attributed to their distinctive scythe shaped tail fin. Malapascua is a particularly special and convenient place to see them in the wild because they primarily inhabit deep ocean waters and are principally nocturnal.
The journey to the island is a bit of a jaunt but we enjoyed the opportunity to see Cebu’s coastline. The island itself was described to us as Boracay light, but after experiencing Boracay for ourselves, I would hasten to call it “Boracay Extra Light”. While the beach is lovely and there’s no shortage of accommodation to choose from, there is quite literally no nightlife to speak of. In fact should you decide to take a post dinner stroll like us, be damn sure to bring a headlamp as making your way back to your bed can be a bit of a challenge after downing a $2 mickey of Tanduay Rum and power being virtually non-existent after dark.
The island was hit hard by the late 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda and you can see slow clean-up progress throughout the island. Although as cheerfully explained to us by a local while we were in line for barbecue it was “ok, because nobody died from this typhoon and I needed a new house anyway!”. Gotta love ’em for that resiliency!
Also worthwhile noting here is that nowhere else in the Philippines did we find the seeming obsession with cockfighting more apparent. And while it’s not really our thing, it is virtually impossible to get away from the hyper aggressive birds. They are everywhere and the crowing is incessant. We also weren’t crazy about being consistently hassled on the beaches by dudes selling pearls and even more troublingly by the endless line of kids hawking jewellery. We got to know a few of them and the stories about relatives making the bracelets and then them getting 20% of the profit which supposedly went to paying for school and buying rice, but we had some serious doubts on this. In any case, I always prefer to spend some time with the little guys and offer them school supplies or buy them a drink.
We visited virtually all of the dive shops and settled with Dan’s Divers upon a friend’s recommendation. His equipment is not the newest and the shop ain’t fancy but I have absolutely no regrets going with these guys. Dan was the first open up shop on the island and his laid back attitude and unbeatable pricing was refreshing compared to some of the fancier shops. To put it in perspective, the dives were about $40USD a tank including equipment and transport, yup, pretty stellar.
To see the sharks you need to get up at the crack of fuck and jump on for a half hour boat ride out to the Monad Shoal. Thankfully the beautiful sunrise helped me forget that despite a year in Asia, I am still so not a morning person. You’re in the water by 6:00AM and thankfully it’s a blissful 27C. The crew was excellent, I had the Divemaster, Felimar an 18 year veteran all to myself. We saw four gorgeous Threshers almost immediately and at well lit depth of about 20 metres with an alright visibility of about 15 metres. They gracefully glide along the top of the sunken island in search of squid, herring and mackerel while the cleaning wrasse swim intently at their sides. The wrasse have a symbiotic relationship with the Threshers, dutifully cleaning them as they make their way across the shoal. There’s a steep drop off from the shoal reaching depths of 230 metres; making for some very dramatic views of the sharks.
I did two more dives with the crew and was glad of it. We visited Gato Island for the North Wall & Cave and saw White Tip Sharks, a pregnant Sea Snake and a gorgeous Orange Frogfish. Felimar casually pointed out two Pygmy Seahorses like it ain’t no thang. All said, one of my favourite things about the trip may have been my diving companions, the most adorable Chinese family wearing matching red jewel embellished swimsuits!! I am such a dork.
Diving with the Thresher Sharks in Malapascua was a wonderful experience. The more time I spend with these gorgeous creatures the greater respect I have for their sacred place within the food chain.
Dive deep my friends!
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