Thresher sharks at Malapascua, Filippines

Voshaai-0.jpgThe tresher shark (alopias pelagicus) you can find in the most oceans. As they normally appear at great depth, they are seldom seen by divers. You have several kinds of tresher sharks, the Alopias pelagicus however, is the largest one. Next to Malapascua, is a sunken island, Monad shoal, at about 20m depth. Here you can find some cleaning stations for the tresher sharks and were they are spotted frequently. For us the reason to travel the Filipines.
The tresher shark is 4 to 6m, including its tail (almost the half of its length). He can weight up to 500 kg. The tresher shark is from above dark blue/grey, from its side often stained grey and his belly is white. He mainly hunts at smaller fish, like herring, mackerel and squid. Tresher sharks swim into a shoal of fish in circles that become smaller and smaller, swinging their tails (its long tail-fin is used to push its prey up and to usurp it). Than they enter the circle and snap around.
With the cleaning fishes they have a symbiotic relation, the cleaning fishes eat the dead skin and bacteria of their body, gill and even mouth. Both benefit the cleaning, so the tresher sharks will never eat them for a snack.
The tresher shark is just as the whale shark egg-viviparous, each time they bring forth 2 to 4 young ones, about 1,5m in length.
The tresher shark is not hunted, he does not taste well and there is no use for its fins, dried up they are that thin, that they don’t have any value.
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The best opportunity to see tresher sharks (at Malapascua) is at sunrise. We got up at 4.30 AM, preparing our gear at 4.45 AM and 5.00 AM the boat was leaving. At that time it is still dark. About 5.30 AM you reach Monad shoal and by than the sun started to rise. Really relaxed diving, you dive to the top of the shoal and you swim just above the bottom to a cleaning station. You sit down and wait, wait until hopefully a tresher shark shows up. If you haven’t seen a tresher shark after 15 minutes you swim to the next cleaning station and you wait again. At the most dives we made here, we saw 1 to 5 tresher sharks. A few times we were lucky to see them circling for quite some time around us, but mostly they slowly passed by and disappeared into the depth.
Tresher sharks are real beauties, their head differs much from other sharks, big dark eyes and they look less aggressive. Their long and strong tail-fins make them very elegant swimmers. We even saw one jumping out of the water, we were just aboard. He came straight out of the water, tail up to the sky and in the same position he felt back in the water. Under water you also saw them several times making the same turn, but mostly they passed by horizontal. Unfortunately we had a bad visibility, just 10-15m.
The last tresher shark we saw, wasn’t that happy to see us that close to his cleaning station. He tried to boast us, by swimming straight towards us, front-fins down, mouth open, as if he was aggressive. Han had to put his camera aside to avoid a collision, but at that moment he turned around and swam away just over my head.

But Malapascua has to offer much more than just tresher sharks. At Monad shoal you find during daytime many big manta rays. We could admire them many times. We have seen manta rays at many dive destinations, but every time it’s great to see them circling above you, making somersaults etc. At another sunken island, Kemod shoal we saw a few times hammerheads, not in great numbers as last year in Layang Layang, but also a single one or a small group hammerheads is very impressive. We were lucky to see them, we swum further away from the reef as the others, just by that we saw them several times.
Also very impressive were the mating mandarin fishes. At sunset you see tens of male busy courting the females. The females could make their choice and than you see them close together, sometimes turning around one other and than slowly coming up out of the coral and spawning their eggs. The males were much bigger as we had seen before at Palau, apparently we saw there just females, the males here at Malapascua are twice as big as the females.
We also saw several seahorses, just as before in Sabang were we had been diving the first week, as well larger variants as the pygmy seahorse of just 1cm big. Also the black/white banded sea snake was great to see. And of course beautiful corals, many coloured fishes, frog fishes, gostpipe fishes and cabia’s.

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