After a 5 hour bus ride that involved being the small town taxi for all of the little barangays in Northern Cebu and the girl in the row across from me puking on my case for my travelers pillow; I arrived at Maya. Maya is the port town where you catch the boat to Malapascua and it’s supposed to be 100 pesos or $2.50 to make the 8 km trip across to the island. But, everyone is a bunch of rookie travelers out here and agreed to 200.. so I had no choice.

Fast forward to the next morning: I didn’t wake up for 5 am for Monad Shoal to see the thresher sharks, but instead woke up for the 9 am dive of “house reef” which is an artificial reef exclusive to Exotic Dive Resort, who I’m doing my divemaster program with. It was pretty damn cool, we saw 3 ghost pipefish,

Ghost pipefish come in different colours, but this is the main idea.

a moray eel, a bunch of nudibranches, a bunch of other reef fish I’ve never seen and we finished the dive after 63 minutes. A couple hours later we went out and dived North Point which is mainly a macro site and it was pretty low viz. It definitely provided macro though, I saw a very bizarre purple nudibranch with a crown of orange/yellow projections in the middle of its back that were about a centimeter long each!

Found the same Nudi I saw today on Google images!

At the end of the dive we also came across two extravagant nudibranches with a black body and luminescent purple projections on their backs. That was really cool, 54 minutes later and we were out!

Picture this in purple/black

Finally we topped the day off with a night dive on the lighthouse reef which was very impressive. The exquisite mandarin fish happened to be everywhere!

Beautiful little things

I thought it was a rarity that you could see them on this island, but we must have seen 20-30! Furthermore, we saw a cuttlefish which changed colours as it swamover the ground camouflaging itself, a bunch of large crabs, one holding a fish skeleton in it’s pincer, 8 seahorses (so many firsts on all of these dives) which I hadn’t seen one of before, and a few exotic nudibranches as well as a ton of other stuff, but those were the stand outs; good dive.

This morning, 5 am, Monad Shoal. Damn. Upon arrival to the site the thresher sharks gave me a warm welcome for my first dive at Monad. As we were getting anchored they started breaching about 40 meters from the boat! By breaching I mean jumping a meter or more out of the water! It was absolutely incredible, and nearly everybody on the boat had never seen them breach before including the other dive master trainees that have been here for over a month! Then, we got down to it. The resting point for this dive is around 23 meters where you hover above the corals and wait for the sharks to come up over the ridge right next to you (or from above) where they come to get cleaned by fish! It’s a pretty cool symbiotic relationship, especially to see happening in real time! Anyway within five minutes of reaching depth a shark came in to the area where all the divers were. I positioned myself in between the two groups slightly assuming that’s where the shark would go. Low and behold within the next 20 seconds I was face to face with a thresher shark, no more than a meter away staring at each other!

I was face to face with one of these!

That was absolutely magnificent. Beautiful beyond belief, it’s indescribable being eye to eye with one of the top predators of the ocean (although thresher sharks have small jaws) and just sitting there stunned. To be honest I didn’t really have any anxiety about the situation luckily, just based off the fact that a thresher has never attacked a human to my knowledge, at least not on Malapascua! That’s what counts right? All around us there would be one meandering along the edge of our visibility (about 8 meters) sometimes dipping back in to come hang out. Finally, I had another close encounter just over a meter away from another one of these 4 meter sharks, amazing. I loved it, and apparently that was one of the best mornings Monad has had in a while! I got lucky I guess. Damn do I ever appreciate it though.

We got back at around 7:30 am at which point I ran to go grab a 6 liter bottle of water and headed to what is known around here as “pots and flies.” Simply because there are pots of cooked food with a couple tables in the fishing village. This is not a rarity in the Philippines or Asia FYI. Anyway though, you just get a serving of rice and grab some meat or whatever and eat! So I did so with some of the instructors and DM’s from the shop, until it was time to head back out for the boat to Gato Island at 9 am. Gato Island was great. People told me it was really good, but it was really good. We started by diving into a tunnel underneath the island (we brought dive torches of course), bam: First thing we see, a little bamboo shark hiding underneath the rock, then a cuttlefish on the other side of the hole he’s in. Continuing on a white tip shark came out of the darkness to greet us kindly. He did his rounds dipping back into his little cavern and coming back about three times until we decided to head through to the other side of the island. Two more white tip sharks later and we made it out. Immediately there was an astonishingly beautiful pink nudibranch, some big prawns, another nudibranch, a stone fish, and then the grand finale. Three pygmy seahorses on a gorgonian sea fan!

So amazing. Those things are so well hidden, I have no idea how the DM was spotting them, locals divers man, they’re nuts. They’re about a centimeter or less in length and look exactly like the sea fan itself! Soon after I did my first bit of guiding as a divemaster trainee! The other DM was diving Nitrox, as were his divers, so I had to take the other two up for a safety stop and then surface. All went well, we made it back to the boat alive. Next dive was a bit less epic although we did see a mantis prawn,

Mantis prawns are flamboyant creatures

a two meter white tip shark, a bunch of cool nudibranches again along with a couple hermit crabs, and I did another ascent with my two divers on air who I had to take care of while the DM dove nitrox with the others.

All went well, but by the end of it all my sinuses were killing me. But, diving wasn’t at fault here, well not primarily anyway. Previously in Cebu I was staying in a hostel that had the aircon cranked up SO COLD. Over the three days I was stuck there, I got a stuffed up nose and a dried out respiratory system, it sucks. So now as I’m typing this my sinuses are actually quite clear (thanks to crushed chilis I added to breakfast) but my throat is super dry. It hurts and I’ve got a dry cough from breathing so much dry air diving. Lame. I’m going to wake up for Monad tomorrow morning again and then see how I feel, I may end up only doing one or two dives. Speaking of that, I have to go throw some fins in my bin, and get my visa extension sorted.