When I went shark diving in the Philippines…..
My conversations with friends and family and even random acquaintances in the past few weeks have mostly started like this. A somewhat deliberate act on my part, I must admit 😉 Scuba diving in Philippines, doing my Advanced Open Water Certification with Thresher Shark Divers, experiencing the beauty of some of the Philippines dive sites has given me a high that is unparalleled.
I got my Open Water Diver (OWD) certification at Andamans, India a couple of years back. Other popular places in South East Asia for Open Water Certification are Thailand and Indonesia.
Malapascua offers some of the best dive sites in Philippines
This small island with a laid-back feel, off the northern tip of Cebu, is a gem. It’s far for sure. 2 flights from India to reach Cebu, a 4-hour road trip from Cebu airport and a 45-minute ferry ride got me to Malapascua with a group organised by Dive India Outbound. But both the Philippines dive sites that the island offers and the local authentic vibes made for a fabulous scuba diving vacation. Diving in Malapascua is one of the best dive experiences in the Philippines.
Thresher sharks, white tip reef sharks, rays and eels, cuttlefish, seahorses, a variety of nudibranchs, beautiful coral gardens housing countless colourful fish – the one week of scuba diving in the Philippines made me experience all this and more. This was a solo trip, different from my usual family travel.
Thresher Sharks at Monad Shoal
These nocturnal creatures, not often seen by divers elsewhere, can be regularly seen at Monad Shoal dive site in Malapascua. I sighted them on both the early morning dives I went for. The 4 am wake up alarm was so worth it!
Check out this video from Thresher Shark Divers.
During the first dive at Monad Shoal, my group had already started ascending when the dive instructor spotted 3 Thresher Sharks right below us. I halted the ascent and started descending a bit to get a clearer view. My first view of these magnificent creatures circling around down under was fabulous.
But the memory that will remain locked forever in my mind came the next day. We went to the same dive site and this time around, were even luckier. My group had descended to more than 24 metres depth when we spotted a couple of Thresher Sharks far in the ocean. Knowing that these sharks like to circle, we moved very slowly. And then one of them – about 2 m in length – came closer. I stopped as it circled past my left side at a distance of about 5/6 m and went back to the deep end. What a thrill!
It’s interesting to note why the Thresher Sharks come regularly to Monad Shoal. These sharks have a symbiotic relationship with the small fish called cleaning wrasse which eat dead skin and bacteria from the shark’s body. So the Thresher Sharks come each morning to the Shoal to get cleaned. Shark Spa, anyone?
Pretty Coral Gardens and other marine life
There is a large variety of pretty corals and fish to be seen in Malapascua – Gato island, Lapus Lapus, North Wall, Quiliano are some of the diving spots in Malapascua where I saw the best of marine life.
While the epic sighting at Gato island was one of white-tip reef sharks resting in a cave, the sheer colours and variety of corals and other marine life at these dive sites was dazzling.
Night diving in Malapascua
This was my first experience of doing a night dive. The first dive at dusk time, while clearing my head of any residual fears about night diving, left me quite underwhelmed. I couldn’t fathom what the excitement was about night dives.
Looking for marine life in tiny nooks and corners using a torchlight didn’t seem to be my cup of tea. I did get to see varieties of crabs, slugs, shrimps, nudiebranchs and cuttlefish, not easy to spot during the day. The other divers in my group – who were experienced in night diving – enjoyed the Bantigue dive site thoroughly.
The second night dive at Lighthouse site felt much better. I was more comfortable with getting closer to the ocean bed without bumping into anything. But overall, I rather do more day diving.
Exit at a high: Diving spots in the Philippines
The last day of diving got us to North Wall and Quiliano, these have to count as fabulous diving spots in the Philippines. When the dive master pointed to a brownish-red seahorse on the ocean bed, I couldn’t contain my excitement. If it would have been possible to jump in delight, I would have done so! And then we got to sight 2 more in that dive.
Spending a week with daily diving really gets you to improve your bouyancy and improve other skills. All of us were quite happy that we were managing ourselves better, getting closer to the fascinating marine life without touching anything, keeping calm and spotting beauties.
Malapascua! What a fabulous taste of scuba diving adventure and fun in Philippines.
Note from Joydeep Sarkar, the insanely talented diver who took all the underwater photos showcased in this Photo Log, on equipment used –
Camera: Sony RX 100 Mk V
Underwater case: Sony MPK-URX100A
Lights: Archon Underwater Dive Light 120 Degree beam 5200 lumens
Generic Video dive light: 120 degree beam, 1800 lumens
Aluminium tray and dual grips with dive light attachments.
Most common setting used: Aperture priority between f5. 6 – f8 ISO 400
Follow Joydeep on Instagram.