Thursday, 10 January 2013

The Philippines - Malapascua (Monad Shoal, Bantigue and Chocolate Island dive sites)

We woke up very early to catch the boat leaving at 5.30. This place has already gotten used to the beady eyed divers getting up stupidly early just to see some sharks. We were told that the dive site consists of a sunken island the size of Malapascua. We will swim from one cleaning station to another and hope for some sharks who wanted to be cleaned. It sounded very similar to the Manta Bowl dives without the added thrill of the hook.

When we were dropped in the water we heard a big splash. I looked and saw a tail disappearing. Then another. This is the only type of shark that leaps out of the water. I was really keen to get in the water as they were evidently all around us.

There was not much on the floor apart from a few rocks. We were sitting on the sand waiting for the sharks to come. I thought ‘here we go again, another boring dive’ and started to think about what to have for breakfast. Just then a huge shape loomed in the water in the distance. The sun was just rising, you see, so it was still dark in the water. Great. Big looming shapes. I guess we can still log another dive in the logbook. When does our second dive starts?... Then Paul grabbed my hand, got his camera ready and we saw this giant shark swimming right in front of us. Wow. It has huge black eyes so it looks like it’s constantly surprised, a long sleek silver body and an amazingly long tail. I was stunned.

We moved again and got to a wall. We rose to the top and quickly hid behind it as we saw a silver tail. We slowly crawled up and our jaws dropped (well, not literally). A young thresher shark was circling on the top of the wall having a good clean. Every time it started a new circle it swam right in front of us. We stayed there for minutes to watch. The sun was coming up and it lit up its beautiful silver body. Paul took so many pics and videos, these are the best ones.

Wow. We were so lucky again! I don’t think we could’ve had a better dive. It was fantastic. We were so happy! Suddenly waking up crazy early was the best idea of the day.

After we got back we had a few hours to rest. We had two more dives that day, one at 10 and one at 2. They were both macro dives, it’s a type of dive when you closely inspect the ground to find small stuff. You have to stay really close to the seabed and hope to find some interesting things. We’ve never done this dive before so I was interested, however we prefer seeing big pelagic animals and pretty reef fish to tiny unidentifiable creatures.

I was pleasantly surprised on our first dive. The visibility was good and we so lots of interesting stuff. Paul took a lot of photos as well. I can’t wait to put my hands on a ‘marine life in the Philippines’ book and start to identify everything. I’m so happy that Paul takes lots of photos, I usually forget all I see by the time I get to fill in our logbook.

We love the expression on this eel's face!

We found a group of catfish. They are so funny, they always swim and react together. Here's a short video:

Our afternoon dive was much less exciting. The place we went to was called Chocolate Island as the whole site is covered in brown soft coral. It did not look pretty and the visibility was not great either. Only one pic:

At the end of the dive we heard a small bang. And then a big BOOM. I looked at Paul to check if he’s ok, then the other people in our group, finally our guide. I really thought it was some accident, a tank exploding or something horrible. Our guide signed that everything is ok so I moved closer to Paul and we continued our dive. Later we were told that it was dynamite fishing. They blow up the coral, all the fish get knocked out and they pick them up. It’s a horrible and unethical way of fishing. It not only empties the sea of fish but also destroys all the coral. Some people still don’t understand that in the long run the fish brings them more prosperity than in the short. Tourism is on the rise and lots of people from all around the world travel here, pay money to see the fish, swim in their sea, stay at their hotels and eat their food. It made us all very sad on the boat.

We were back on the shore by 4.30 and suddenly we had nothing else to do. This was our first free afternoon when we didn’t have any activities, suddenly we didn’t know what to do. After a little sleep we had a cocktail, then hunted for internet. I uploaded some posts on my blog then we had dinner. Tomorrow we can have a lie in! Well, until 7.

Special thanks to Russ and Rekha, Jason and Nicci and the Cable family for giving us a chance to meet these amazing sharks and to try lots of new types of dives we’ve never done before.

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