diving with Thresher Sharks in the Philippines

Malapascua, an island in the Philippines so little you can barely see it on the map of the country,  is known by divers worldwide. Besides being a tropical paradise with an idyllic scenery visitors all over the world come to this island to dive with the famous Thresher Sharks. Enough reasons for me to pay a visit.

Thresher Sharks

The “Indiana Jones” of the ocean is known for its long whip-like tail which makes them able to hunt and jump out of the water. Unfortunately like many other sharks and animals for that matter, Thresher Sharks make up one of the world’s most vulnerable and threatened shark species. There’s been a decline of 70-80% across their ranges with local declines of more than 90%.  This is because of their slow rate of population growth and their economic value to many Asian countries. Their meat is considered as more highly than other sharks. Then there’s also the shark fin industry which is a main contributor to this decline. It is believed that over one million Thresher Sharks are being killed every year.

Exotic Island Dive Resort

Exotic Island Dive Resort

Are the Thresher sharks being protected?

Last year October the Thresher Sharks were put on Appendix II at Cites. Being listed on Appendix II means that trade is still allowed but it has to be shown to be sustainable.

Malapasqua is a great example of how sharks alive are worth more money than dead. A dead shark in a local market is worth about 20$ while the same shark alive could generate up to two millions through tourism. Also, there are protection programs that work through donation. Divers are asked to pay a Monad donation to pay for a mini sea police who stay overnight to ensure the safety of the sharks.

Let’s hope the decisions made at Cites will make a real difference in the survival of these species.

Diving with Thresher Sharks

At 5.30 AM a boat will take you out to Monad Shoal where the Thresher Sharks congregate in the shallow waters. A rope will indicate where divers have to wait patiently to see them. I like this a lot because you let the sharks decide how close they want to come. When I encountered them the water was rather rough and the visibility was blurry. That being said, I did still see a few Thresher Sharks from quite close and the blurry view gave a mystical touch to it.

Although sharks have always fascinated me, I’ve gained so much more respect for them by seeing them for the first time. They’re such calm, elegant and peaceful creatures. I felt privileged being in their presence. It’s heartbreaking to know what’s happening to them.

Exotic Island Dive Resort

Exotic Island Dive Resort

What you can do to help the Thresher Sharks

  • Don’t support restaurants that sell shark fin soup
  • Tell your friends and family about the shark fin industry
  • Limit your plastic use (say NO to plastic bags, cups, straws etc.)
  • Reduce (or stop) your fish consumption. If you still want to eat fish, buy fish that has been clearly labelled as
  • Support action groups such as Sea Shepherd
  • Visit the Thresher Shark Research & Conservation Project for more information. If you’re a diver with a big interest in sharks their volunteer program might be interesting for you. Click here for more information

Visiting Malapasqua

Malapasqua can be reached from Cebu city by bus, van or taxi. A bus (P200) will take you about 4,5-5 hours from the North bus station to Maya. From there you can get a ferry for P100 to the island. I advice you to leave as early as you can to avoid taking a ferry when it’s getting dark. Also, less people will go in the evening and the captain might ask you to pay more money. I recommend staying at the exotic Island Dive Resort. They have a five star PADI dive center, offer great accommodation with also great budget options. A double budget room is P1000 per night, but if you do at least one dive with them you’ll have a double room for P600. The exotic special cocktail is definitely recommended during happy hour. Go to Ging-Ging’s garden restaurant for very cheap and good food. They also have vegetarian and vegan food. Villa Sandra also offers vegetarian and vegan food. Be aware, no stress is allowed in this place!

References:
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37547103
http://www.sharks.org/blogs/ocean-log/sharks-rays-receive-cites-appendix-ii-protection
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