Heart & Brain Underwater

Malapascua, Philippines (12 Aug 2007)

Details of 12 Aug 2007 
05:30 We are all ready on Exotic 2. The engine refused to work. The boatcrew spent 30mins fixing it… I got abit worried, the thresher would have gone by the time we reached Monad Shoal…
06:35 Dive 6 Monad Shoal
Max Depth 22.2m, Dive Time 44mins
Could feel that the sea was a little colder than the previous day. There were more small fishes around… The feeling was very different, right from the start… I just let Ervin – our DM for that dive,  look out for the thresher & continued looking for the small stuff to photograph. Saw a pretty shrimp, a few puffers, Angus spotted a nudi we had never seen before… Then we spotted a huge porcupine puffer getting cleaned by the cleaner wrasse, at the moment my hopes soared! I knew that we had a good chance of meeting the thresher. We continued over a slope, Ervin signaled us to stay still, I noticed that the other group was very near us! Moments later, a greyish shadow approached. I held my breath… The THRESHER Shark swam right in front of us! OMG! Open-mouthed It was HUGE! Definately more than 2m, tail longer than the body… I was stunned & fumbled for the camera, managed to take a photo when it was going past… Unexpectedly, it came back another 2x! It was a magnificient shark, large yet so graceful & fast. Its huge eyes were like a puppy dog, its flanks were silvery shimmering smooth… After a few minutes, Ervin signaled for us to ascent, I was so so reluctant… We were not yet low on air… Thinking What if the thresher decided to turn back… 
08:00 Back to Exotic… The place became abuzzed with the news of the Thresher sightings. Apparently, there hasn’t been a sighting in the past few days… Ah, those who had opted to sleep in that morning…

Awesome… I still get the adrenalin rush just reminiscing the encounter… That few moments etched in my mind… Red heart We are so privileged & blessed to come face to face with majestic shark. Open-mouthed On a closer examination of the photos, the thresher is a male…
Shared a cheese pancake with Angus. Need to prepare for the 9:30am dive at Gato Island…
09:30 Left for Gato Island, 1hr away…
10:50 Dive 7 Gato Island "Corner Cave"
Max Depth 20.9m, Dive Time 48mins
Being a marine reserve, there were definately more fishes around – parrotfishes, moorish idol & even some trevallies. A pretty site, caves & crevices, mini walls with gorgorians & soft corals… Wilmar spotted a pretty nudibranch, almost as soon as we descended to the bottom… Next to the pretty one, Angus spotted another bigger nudibranch… Nice!
No action for the next 10mins or so, then the exciting "tink tink" sounds came again… Richard checked out the crevice 1st, could see that both of them were quite excited… & of course it was exciting… 3 sharks inside the crevice & suddenly 1 of the shark moved & started to jostle space with the other 2 & I saw a huge ray rising up – for a few brief seconds… Too bad I wasn’t quick enough to take a photo of the ray. Anyway, the viz was quite bad, especially inside the dark crevice, we wouldn’t be able to a thing w/o Will’s torch… The one I rented was quite rubbish… Luckily they decided not to charge me for it…
Soon Richard was low on air, so Will ascended with him. Angus & I were left to explore the place on our own… I became acutely aware that the surf were breaking on the rocks above us & there were currents pushing us against the sides of the island… In a little danger of being crushed onto the rocks & we couldn’t locate the boat. Anyway, we did our safety stop trying to get as far away fr the rocks as possible & then ascended. Heehee, the boat was abt just abt 100m away! The distance seemed short but the surf was so strong, pushing us away fr the boat, towards the wall! Man, it was an exhausting swim! The big mouth me announched to Will that I didn’t like to fin & fight currents, when he mentioned that there would be currents during the briefing for this dive, aiyo, jinxed… Disappointed Then I felt Angus pulling my BCD & towing me, ah, luckily… But the last bit of swim to the boat was still a huge struggle… Eye-rolling Later, I found out that the hero was Will, he was the one towing the 2 of us!
12:15 Ate the packed lunch of pineapple fried rice, Angus had sambal chicken sandwich (again)… Then we rested a bit… Think Will fell asleep…
13:00 Dive 8 Gato Island "Guard House"
Max Depth 14.9m, Dive Time 62mins
Will said he chose this site because the other sites would have strong currents. Bless him! I didn’t feel like I had strength to fight currents…
We didn’t see anything unusual or terribly exciting & the viz was only slightly better… However, it was a pretty place, a soft coral garden… Anthias & anemone fishes… Soft pastels colours splashed across every inch of the walls! We just took it slow & took in the beautiful sights… Took a few good shots of the mantis shrimp. Also saw a moray eel & another baby sweetlips… Very strange that this trip, had several encounters with baby sweetlips but no adults sightings! In other places the opposite happened, baby sweetlips were rarely encountered… Thinking
15:30 Back to Exotic, had a nap… Sleepy
17:30 Yumiko didn’t have a torch, To To (DM) had to search for one. Finally we were ready to go. Tide was too low, we had to take the smaller boat to get to Exotic 1. The engine couldn’t start. To To had to row us… When we reached Exotic 1, To To found out that he forgot his wetsuit! Aiyo, no wonder there is a Chinese saying "hao3 shi4 dou1 mo2"… I was sure we would have a great dive, just like the morning’s.
18:12 Dive 9 Light-House (Night Dive)
Max Depth 7.3m, Dive Time 65mins

Indeed, we had a fantastic dive! The 1st half of the dive was spent watching the mandarin fishes. A school of mandarin fishes were hiding among the rumbles, just a few meters away from the anchor line! Cool! An action packed dive! First 1 couple mated. Then 1 started to bite another viciously! I thought it was some sort of violent mating ritual! It when on for a couple of minutes! Surprisingly, the bitten one didn’t die, it swam away in a daze… We were ready to move out & Angus pushed my left arm away & pointed at something on the ground. Scorpionfish! Surprised Scary! Hee, luckily buddy was there to watch over me. Red rose Immediately after this, ToTo spotted a small cuttlefish, which changed from pure white to brown, as it was moving to attack its prey!

We left the rumble areas & proceeded to explore the hard coral areas, there were happenings every few meters! In the next 30 minutes, Toto spotted 3 pairs of seahorses, several different types of crabs, a baby sweetlips, Angus spotted nudibranches, I managed a few shrimps & a school of baby catfish! Busy busy… Open-mouthed
Had a nice chat with Jan & Yumiko on the way back to resort. Yumiko was impressed that Angus learned many Japanese words, from eating Jap food… Haha… Later on, we had sat down for dinner together! It was like the UN! Yumiko fr Japan, Jan from Netherlands, Angus from UK & me from S’pore! Cheers! Open-mouthed

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