My 200th plunge into the deep blue. Wow! And not even a year yet as a certified diver…
This milestone took place last 3 March 2012 with my dive buddy and high school batch-mate, Rex Liao, and his son, Uno, at the Gato Island dive site. It’s about an hour away from Malapascua, Cebu.
This was actually the 2nd dive of the day, after we’d observed four thresher sharks at Monad Shoal. This time, we swam with whitetip reef sharks — inside a cave!
The first shark was in an alcove and surprised us as we turned the bend inside the tunnel. I was startled almost out of my BCD, but then I saw right away that the poor thing was probably more perturbed than we were.
In addition to the exhilarating novelty of interacting with these sleek, beautiful predators, I was able to finally free myself from claustrophobia on this dive. I successfully negotiated an underwater tunnel! It’s about 30 meters long (almost a hundred feet) and you can’t see the end of it because it curves to the left. (The last time I attempted to dive a cave, I almost lost it.)
I appreciate very much the skill and professionalism of our dive guide, Gino of the Fun & Sun dive shop in Malapascua. Aside from his amazing trim (I bet he’d make GUE instructors proud!), he responded rather effectively to my fear of enclosed spaces. He briefed us thoroughly about the tunnel, and what convinced me to go through it was when I learned from him that even three divers abreast would fit comfortably. And once inside, he set out to spot nudibranchs for me (I’d told him about how I loved them), and focusing on his finds kept my mind off those irrational fears.
Now I can’t wait to do it again!!
Speaking of nudibranchs, I’m very happy to say that I now have four new additions to my collection. Here they are:
On the 3rd dive of the day — my 201st — the boat, M/B Maarte, brought us around Gato Island to what Malapascuans call the “cathedral”. I think that’s because of the enormous and steep cavern that extends way above water at the culmination point of the dive.
There we saw six more whitetip sharks. One was inside a crevice through whose mouth I could barely fit my camera. I think the shark was getting himself cleaned while being “guarded” by cardinalfish.
Then up ahead, I noticed Rex and Uno gesticulating frantically at me. When I approached them, I nearly spat out my regulator as my eyes took in five more whitetips perched on the sandy bottom. One rose and left as we inched towards them, but I was able to catch the remaining four on video.
I’ve chalked up three species of shark in the span of a week. And then there are the yet-to-be-experienced hammerhead sharks that the dive shop folks say are best seen around April.
Here are some more underwater critters that we spotted at the Gato Island dive sites:
My 100th dive was at Maasim, Sarangani Province. I wonder where I’ll be on my 300th…?