Another day and another crazy early wake-up for shark diving, however, this morning we got 15 extra minutes in bed! 4.15a.m is so much better than 4. Even just an extra 15 minutes made a huge difference to the light levels and we walked to the dive centre in the dusky light levels of dawn. It was the final dive of our thresher shark specialty course and so we were diving with Angus again to spot, sex and witness the behaviours of any threshers. We decided as we descended to check out the wall today given that we had done the sandy slope the day before and so swam along watching for any silvery flickers off in the distance. Given that we had had such amazing cleaning behaviour the day before it wasn’t surprising that today we weren’t as lucky, you never know what you will find in the vast ocean. We did still spot some sharks though (one I spotted before anyone else as it swam past me) but they were all fleeting encounters which was a tiny bit disappointing. We also spotted the usual suspects; huge batfish, an eagle-ray and a lot of garden eels and some very defensive trigger fish. One of them came right at my face after attacking Carolyn’s fins. Even when you don’t see any sharks the dives at Monad Shoal are still interesting.
We headed back to shore and enjoyed another lovely breakfast at Oscar’s – I went for the chicken noodle soup with a side of mushrooms which was delicious and a nice lighter option compared to the rice dishes. We had our next dive at 10 so rather than walking back to the resort we opted for a sleep in the sun. We were diving with Emilia a divemaster from the US and as soon as I saw how big the group was I knew there would be issues. One DM to 6 divers as well as a training DM is too big a group, particularly when the DM hasn’t dived with the divers before. It was a local site and so only a 10 minute boat ride to Secret Wall before we jumped in. Immediately it was chaotic with divers all descending at different rates and then as Emilia spotted something 7 people trying to crowd round to see something that will have hidden as soon as it seen us coming. Carolyn and I hung back and sort of did our own thing. We swam along the wall and spotted a lot of lionfish, a cave full of eel catfish, some nibbling goatfish and pretty moon wrasse before the training DM was sent to fetch us. While being guided does make for a more chilled out dive in circumstances like these it can be difficult. It was disappointing that Thresher Shark Divers seemed to prioritise the larger groups for site and DM choice leaving us with very little say in whom we dived with or where we went.
Given the chaos of the morning and that the afternoon dive was more muck diving we opted for an afternoon of no diving instead. In general the diving at Malapascua itself in my view is pretty average. If it wasn’t for Monad Shoal and the sharks it definitely wouldn’t have the reputation with divers that it does as most of the local sites are just ok. If you are headed there I would definitely recommend doing a trip to some of the further away spots for really great diving. After purchasing some lovely wooden thresher sharks, we headed for lunch with Tarah to Amihan where they had a great drink and pasta/pizza deal on. It was a gorgeous view over the bay and I had the seafood spaghetti which was very tasty. Carolyn and I then wandered back to Tepanee to relax on the resorts private beach. We actually saw the afternoon divers speed past us as we lay there but were sleeping when they passed back going the other way. The water was beautiful and crystal clear so we interchanged between swimming and napping for a lovely relaxing afternoon.
We made our way back over to the dive centre around 5p.m for our final dive of the day with one of the local divemasters (local is always best in my view when it comes to spotting stuff). This was a dusk dive rather than a night dive to provide optimal conditions to witness the mandarin fish mating dance. The group was only 4 but one of the guys had a HUGE camera which made life tricky for everyone else’s camera shots. We basically headed down to a section of coral at around 6/7m and lay in wait for the dancing to begin. It took almost 30 minutes for any action to occur which seemed a lot longer! It began with the chasing; males chasing the females into submission as well as chasing off other potential suitors. Willing females finally submitted to the chase and mated for around 3 seconds where they attached and danced upwards away from the surrounding coral. It was a pretty awesome thing to be able to see live if you like (kind of like being in a David Attenborough documentary). As the sun finally set we finished the rest of the dive as a night dive spotting the tiny blue-ringed octopus, some more eel catfish and a huge sea snake..
We had originally bought a 5 dive package on top of our thresher shark specialty course and so we had one final thresher shark dive the next day. As we arrived back Angus, our instructor was there to meet us with congratulatory shots for completing the course. I am really not a fan of shots and so was slightly sceptical but he gave a lovely speech so it was sort of obligatory. The shots had three layers; clear/silvery on top to represent the silver of the thresher shark, blue for our love of the ocean and red at the bottom to represent the shark/human blood that will hopefully not be spilled as a result of us learning about the sharks through the course. It was a lovely touch to end the course and we headed for dinner on a high. We chose Molditas again since it was close and Angus had recommended the BBQ platter which was absolutely delicious. We washed it all down with rum and coke and mojitos and sat chatting about Asian diving destinations a lot later than we should have given the early rise. Another awesome day in paradise but tomorrow we were leaving for our last stop of the trip!