THRESHER SHARKS ON MALAPASCUA ISLAND


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Asia » Philippines » Malapascua Island
June 9th 2011
Published: October 28th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

We were unable to make it to Malapascua in one day so we caught the bus to Escalante where we found a quiet hotel to spend the night. There wasn’t much around and the thunder was pretty loud. Everywhere we went we were met by people saying “big rain, big rain” and we took this as a sign to retreat to our room - we made it back just in time before the BIG rain!

In the morning we headed to the port. Looking at the ferry it didn’t fill me with much confidence, but unless we fancied a dip we didn’t have much choice. We found some free seats with a good view from the ferry. There weren’t many empty seats and we wondered why the best seats on the ferry were still available; we soon found out why. Next to us a man with his earphones in kept breaking into song at the top of his voice. Lets just say he shouldn’t give up his day job!

Once the ferry arrived we had two buses to catch and were hoping to make it to the port in time to catch a boat to Malapascua island. Time was getting tight and the bus journeys seemed to be taking forever. We knew that we had missed the public boat and we were also concerned that there were no other tourists on the bus. If we arrived at the port and no one else wanted transport to the island we would either have to charter our own boat or stay in the port town for the night.

When we arrived at the port we were the only people there. We enquired with one of the skippers who quoted us an extortionate price and he wasn’t prepared to barter. We weren’t prepared to be ripped off so we got out the guide book and started looking for a hotel. All of a sudden the skipper changed his mind. It was still a little over the odds, but it was within the limit we had set and it was a price we were prepared to pay not to spend the night in the port town.

When we reached the island we discovered that there were only two choices for transport - motorbike or legs. Our accommodation was the furthest away so we had to break our no motorbike rule. There are no roads on the island, just sandy walkways and paths. The sand on the beach is so fine that it crunches under your feet like snow - at least it would have made a soft landing.

That evening we met up with James. It was his last night so we had a few to many beers while catching up on what we had been up to and chatting about the diving. A big draw to Malapascua island is the chance to see Thresher sharks. This means a 4.30am start and there are no guarantees you will see any. Sadly James had been up early every morning and not seen one - we hoped we would have better luck. We decided that James must have left his luck at home when he told us of the antics he had got up to skinny dipping with some girls the night before. The fun came to a rather abrupt stop after he stepped on a sea urchin…ouch

We had a couple of days in rather basic accommodation, but since we were going to be on the island a while we decided to upgrade a little. There wasn’t a lot wrong with where we were staying, it was just a little too basic. We don’t want much, but a flushing toilet is better when possible and if there is a chance of staying somewhere not surrounded by cockerels it’s always a good bet. For just a couple of pounds more our new accommodation was like another world. Flushing toilet, mosquito net and a veranda. We could also be in the sea from our room in just over a minute. The snorkelling was pretty good and the current was fairly strong. All you had to do was swim out and let the current take you round the island - no effort required. We were lucky enough one day to see a turtle while snorkelling.

There was a large group of people staying at the place where we were diving. They were normally up for a beer and a laugh, but one evening all was quiet. Apparently the night before it had been one of their birthdays. On their way home after a few too many, a couple of the guys thought it would be fun to take some cockerels in the neighbouring resorts swimming pool. After this they put them in their friends rooms so they had quite a surprise when they woke up. The locals were not happy and the large group made a hasty retreat.

We had been there a few days when Vin and Karen arrived. They found us snorkelling in the shallows looking for shells to add to our collection. We had a few afternoon beers and arranged to do the early morning Thresher Shark dive the next day - we hoped it would be worth the very early morning.

When the alarm went off at 4.30 it was raining very hard, the wind was pretty strong and we wondered if the dive would be cancelled. There was only one way to find out and unfortunately that meant walking to the dive shop. I’m sure you can imagine that at 4.30am with the wind whipping rain in our faces we were not in a happy place. It was a relief when we found that the dive was still going ahead although the boat journey wasn’t that pleasant. It was fairly choppy, but at least we had our wetsuits to keep us warm.

We arrived at the dive site, crossed our fingers and jumped in. The site is where sharks and rays come to be cleaned by other fish. There is nothing but blue water to look at if nothing turns up. I have to say after James’ experience I was a little doubtful. We waited on the bottom and after a short while a shape started to appear in the murky water. The thresher shark has an unmistakable shape, with a tail almost as long as its body. We watched as it came in to be cleaned, then it circled and came in again and again- it was a such a privilege to see.

We were planning on coming back to the same site in the afternoon as the sharks come in the morning and the Rays in the afternoon, but just before we came up we saw a massive devil ray coming into the cleaning station. Two for the price of one. What an amazing dive.

For our second dive we went to the local reef. Karen had always wanted to see a frog fish and on this dive we saw three of the very strange looking creatures - it must have been our lucky day!

The next day we went out to some further away dive sites. We were hoping to dive a wreck, but although it was a lovely sunny day the water was too choppy. First we went to Gato Island. The dive site was great with so many things to look at. There was a cave to swim through where bats lived above the water and some white tip sharks below.

Since we couldn’t go to the wreck we were more than happy to do another dive on Gato island. We were asked to vote, but unfortunately we were out numbered. The other people on the boat chose another wreck, which we had read wasn’t very good. After a very bouncy and wet journey we arrived at the site and put down the anchor. We had to jump in and make our way quickly to the mooring line, where we then had to get down as soon as possible. If we were on the surface too long we risked the boat hitting us on the head as it was rocking in the waves. I jumped in and managed to make it to the mooring line, but it was impossible for me to get down. Every time I got a few feet under the waves would bring me back up. I decided that it was not worth the effort and risk so abandoned the dive. Other members of the group were jumping in and getting swept to the back of the boat in the current. The only way back to the mooring line was for them to be dragged round with a safety rope. The rest of the group did manage to get down and do the dive and at this point I wondered if I had made a mistake and given up too soon.

It didn’t seem that much time passed before everyone was coming back up. Apparently the current was strong all the way down and some people were unable to leave the line. For others they had spent so long waiting for the rest of the group on the line that their air was getting low and those that had left the line came up to the surface so far away it was hard to see them. I pleased that I trusted my instincts and didn’t dive, but I was more sad that the guys that did dive were disappointed.

We took the next day off diving. Three days in a row can get tiring and why cram it in if you’re in no rush? It was a baking hot day so perfect for topping up our tans, reading our books on the beach and a few cocktails in the evening.

We almost didn’t dive anymore on Malapascua, but we decided not to leave it on a bad note. We are so glad we changed our minds. Our first dive at the Pinnacle was great. Vin had bought himself a metal stick which was great for poking about in hiding places. This became known as the pointy sticky thing and we all wanted one.

We broke for lunch which everyone enjoyed - although Andy was a little sulky that he didn’t get mustard on his sausage, but we all know how Andy is about his food.

Our last dive was a night dive. Once again we were a little dubious as the waves were getting high and the wind was blowing, but we were assured that it would pass so we jumped in anyway. We got to see the very colourful Mandarin fish doing their mating dance, and loads of critters that we wouldn’t have seen during the day. But the star of the show was most definitely the Blue Ringed Octopus - very small, but very deadly. Andy always said that he wasn’t interested in night diving, but afterwards he admitted that it was one of his favourite dives ever.

It was our final night on Malapascua so it only seemed right to have a few cocktails. Well the boys had cocktails and the girls drank beer - is there something wrong with this picture!

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