You know you are slowly but surely reconnecting with a love from a decade back when you smile even behind a breathing regulator and mask almost ALL the time you are underwater for a dive.
A recent getaway saw me Malapascua island bound with old CCF friends, Honwai and Yenn as well as Yenn’s sister, Gwen. Just off the coast of Philippines Cebu city, the 4 days worth of 10 dives proved the best dives I have had in life thus far (I guess that speaks volumes about my dive experience and dive locations traversed thus far but yes I am not ceasing the dive log count at 41 dives only anytime soon!)
We did a total of 10 dives of which most were memorable but particularly the Light House, Gato Island and Monad Shoal dives were exhilarating. Light House was a dusk dive we did on the first day we arrived, after an afternoon dive at Chocolate Island. The beauty of the dive came to light almost immediately upon descend when we found ourselves kneeling on the sandy bottom just to wait for the playful mandarin fishes to twirl around and mate before our very eyes. Save for the endless flashing of cameras and fear for the sight of the mandarins, Light House is a very popular daily dusk dive and I guess we did feel rather sorry for the lack of privacy of such an intimate affair.
The most eventful dives for me were the dawn dives at 5am to Monad Shoal cleaning station where the beautiful threshers prance and circle around at daily. Catching sight of the thresher sharks is almost always a guarantee, I believe, for we beheld them up close and personal for the 2 dawn dives at Monad we scheduled ourselves for. On first encounter with the graceful creatures, I was so enthralled I was just smiling away behind my mask while trying to take in as little breaths as possible in order to conserve air and stay down longer to watch them. Their signature long tail fins swishing away, it was as if they were putting up a performance for us, their captive audience kneeling on the sandy bottom behind the shark sanctuary boundaries. It was at those moments of being in the blue with them did it make a lot of sense to me why humans innovated and tried ways and means to put ourselves in the underwater realm , that which I commend the human race for. I am grateful for underwater diving and truly believe the best way for an education is out there in the wild, not keeping the wild creatures captive for our safe entertainment behind glass walls or metal cages. Your swishy tales and alluring big eyes took my breath away and we loved it best when you come really close and “violated” the rope boundaries to say hi. During shark conservation talks and presentations, people sometimes ask me if it is dangerous to dive or swim with sharks. There are about 500 species of sharks in the oceans and only a handful are known to be aggressive (bull sharks, Great White sharks, great hammerhead sharks, to name a few) but even these species are known to be safe to dive with if you are mindful of your dive techniques and breathing.
The Gato Island dives were beautiful for the fact that we got to see the white tip sharks hiding within the caves as we crouched low to catch glimpses of them resting and circling within the safe confines of their cave.
We had such wonderful time and wonderful dives with the local dive masters on land and within the oceans and we saw how much love for the water and the oceanic life around Malapascua they had, as they shared their experiences and stories. It is amazing how such a love translates into a daily affair for them and no matter how many divers they encounter each day from different countries, their care and concern for divers they lead and their excitement in showing us the wonders of the deep, remains an endearing constant. Thank you for having inspired us with your charming ways and protection of the marine ecosystems.
Seeing and hearing about how Malapascua island has been converted from a small fishing island to a dive haven and shark sanctuary over the last 13 years, I am hopeful that Indonesia and Lombok could go in the same direction as this pristine island as well, where once illegal and legal fishing fishermen are now converted boat crew with their extreme care for the divers they take out on the boats each day and the close bond they forge among one another in their playful ways.