Diving with the cutest shark on earth

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Diving with a cute shark? How can a shark be cute you might be thinking. Have you seen the animated movie Shark Tale? One of the main characters in Shark Tale is a vegetarian shark called Lenny. He is really cute. And yes, I love animation movies. I actually dragged my boyfriend to the cinema to see Minions a couple of years ago, something he wasn’t very impressed of, especially not when we had to walk out of there with 20 kids and none of them were ours.

Well, I am not going to talk about animated vegetarian sharks. I am going to talk about the Thresher shark. The cutest shark on earth, at least if you ask me. I had never heard about the Thresher shark until I was going to the Philippines last year. We had pretty much just looked for the cheapest flights outside Europe for our next trip, and the Philippines it was. The country was never on my bucket list, it was more like on the “I will go there after all the places on my bucket list” -list, so I didn´t really know much about what it had to offer, other than exotic islands and volcanoes.

So, what do you do when you plan to go to a country you know nothing about? You Google it! You read blog posts about the country. You check out lists of what to do there and search for information. On one of these searches is where I first saw the Thresher Shark. I was immediately captured by its long beautiful tail. So I did some more research.

Thresher shark Philippines

The Thresher shark’s unique hunting style has captured the interest of many, and Youtube is full of videos of these remarkable creatures flipping their long tails into fish steams. On average they hit about three fish that either faint or die in the attack before they eat their prey.

The Thresher shark is nocturnal and generally lives in extremely deep waters, up to 500 meters deep. As a result, divers rarely spot them except for one place close to the tiny island of Malapascua in the Philippines. Monad Shoal is an underwater island with deep walls. Early in the morning, before it gets too light, the sharks swim up to about 30 meters depth to clean themselves.

Back to the animated movie Shark Tale, for those of you that have seen it (if you haven’t, I totally recommend it!). Remember the whale wash station? It looks like what we know as a car wash. Well, Monad Shoal kind of works like that. The Thresher sharks are getting sparkled up by tiny fish called Cleaning Wrasse. They eat up both bacteria and dead skin of the shark’s body and mouth. As the benefits are so high, the Thresher sharks choose to wait with their morning snack and behave perfectly around their little helpers.

The good thing is that divers can spot the Thresher sharks daily while they are carrying out their morning ritual. Suddenly, one month before departure, I had The Philippines on the top of my bucket list. More specifically, I had the following on my bucket list for my trip to the Philippines: 1. Get my Advanced Open Water diving certificate, 2. Go to Malapascua island, 3. Dive with the Thresher sharks. And so I did.

Diving with Thresher sharks

The dive

That moment when I saw the first Thresher shark everything else disappeared. I was completely awestruck by the beauty of this creature in front of me, moving its long tail back and forth, slowly moving around. So calm. So beautiful. When the first shark moved away from us, we continued down the wall side, and as we saw a Thresher shark coming closer we all “sat down” as in a theatre, wall behind us, and sharks circling in front of us. This is by far the best theater I have ever been to. If I have to pick the most magical moment in my life so far, it has to be this.

The Thresher shark isn’t one of those typical sharks with evil eyes. Its eyes are quite big so that it can see in the deep dark waters where it normally hangs around. This makes it look somewhat curious more than scary. Cute and curious, as if it’s looking at you saying: “Hello, who are you?”

Diving Malapascua

The time went too quickly. Suddenly our instructor signaled that time was up and we had to return towards the surface. It felt like he just popped my bubble where I had been floating so serene and happy. I didn’t want to move back up again. I wanted this moment to last forever.

As we moved towards the top of the sunken island for our security stop, a manta ray caught my eye. As if to round off what had been the most magical moment in my life, it drifted above our heads, surrounded by blue sea, showing us the way. Just as peaceful as the Thresher sharks, it showed off the splendor of the ocean at its best.

Diving with Rays in the Philippines

Experiencing the Thresher sharks was nothing like how their aggressive hunting style is described on the internet. It was completely the opposite. Due to overfishing, the Thresher shark is decreasing in numbers. Illegal fishing for shark fins to be sold for the popular Shark fin soup is a major concern. Also fishing for other fish in the area where the Thresher shark circle, kills enormous amounts of sharks. As a result, the Monad Shoal has been made a marine park to protect the species in the area. It is no secret that the possibility to dive with these astonishing creatures is a massive contribution to the tourist economy in the Philippines.

My concern, though, is how mass diving affects the shark’s habits. Our group was small. We were two couples with two instructors. We were the only boat at the spot where we dived, but there were other boats further away. Our diving instructor said that the Thresher sharks were scared away by too many bubbles from divers, and that’s why he preferred to dive separated from the other boats. But will there be any restrictions to how many divers are allowed each day? If they make any restrictions to this in the future, will they be followed? How long will it take before the Thresher sharks move away from Monad Shoal?

As responsible travelers, we can make sure to ask up front how many divers will go to the same place before we book our dive. If there are many, we can postpone our dive to another day. But how many divers are ok on one dive? How many bubbles before the Thresher sharks don’t come to Monad Shoal as often as now?

Have you ever dived with Thresher sharks or have it on your bucket list? Do you have any thoughts or knowledge about the safety of the Thresher sharks in Monad Shoal? Please share your thoughts in the comments below, I would be pleased to know your thoughts and experiences.

Start planning your trip with the guidebook Lonely Planet Philippines. I used the guidebook and found tips to several amazing off the beaten track places in the Philippines.

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2 thoughts on “Diving with the cutest shark on earth

  1. Monica H says:

    En fantastisk fin historie – blir jo glad i dette dyret etter å ha lest dette 🙂 Også en morsom historie og kjempesøtt å henge det opp mot barnefilmer 🙂 Jeg lo høyt flere ganger!

    • Linn Haglund says:

      Hei! Tusen takk for en nydelig tilbakemelding! Fantastisk hyggelig at latteren satt loest mens du leste:)

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