Shark Trip with Lamave
The Philippine Siren welcomed on board a brand new group of divers 9 different nationalities for a special #Shark trip. We were honored to welcome Gonzo Araujo, the Executive Director of LAMAVE (Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines) and everybody was very excited about this trip as of the first minute.
Our first dive was Malayan Wreck at the North Atoll of Tubbataha Reefs National Park. Just before the dive briefing, a whole bunch of dolphins were showing off their spinning skills, including some baby dolphins, so the mood was already set. Our check dive was an easy one with not too much current but plenty fish and beautiful corals to see. White tip reef sharks, different sorts of barracuda’s, blue fin trevallies, big-eye trevallies, a huge marbled stingray and a school of baby grey reef sharks were to be seen. The healthy and colorful reef with its big gorgonians and barrel sponges amazed the guests.
After lunch almost all the guests paid a visit at the ranger station. Pictures were taken and there were many questions about the life of the 10 rangers at the ranger stations.
The first afternoon dive was at South Park. This was an interesting dive because Gonzo needed to retrieve one of his acoustic receivers which had been there for 10 months. The job was done within a couple of minutes and he couldn’t wait to see the results. The dive site itself is very pretty with its white sandy patches and the big boulders everywhere. While white tip reef sharks were resting on the sand and a peacock flounder was shifting along the white bottom, a lot of life and colorful anthias and damsel fish were breathing in and out the staghorn corals.
The last dive of the first day was at Amos Rock. The beautiful and dramatic wall with big seafans, barrel sponges and small overhangs is the habitat of a lot of macro life such as a cute denise pygmy seahorse and the funny elegant crinoid squat lobsters.
After a calm night of sleeping, the day started with sunrise at Delsan Wreck. This exciting dive site with its 3 big schools of big-eye trevallies, black tail barracudas, yellow tail barracudas, red tooth triggerfish, black and midnight snappers, Bannerfish made all divers dazzling in amazement. Add the at least 20 grey reef sharks including babies, a dozen white tip reef sharks, the dogtooth tuna’s, black jacks, giant trevallies, the silvertip shark and the hawksbill turtles to it and that’s enough reason to dive this dive site one more time in the afternoon. While everybody was busy looking left and right all the time, Gonzo retrieved and deployed another acoustic receiver.
The second dive of the day was at Staghorn Point. This pretty shallow dive skimming the reef top and reef top edge gave our guests the most stunning experience of healthy reef, with coral fields as far as the eyes can reach. While the sunlight was hitting all this beauty and colorful life going in and out the corals, a huge school of big-eye trevallies was hanging out in the very shallow and allowed all our guests to come really close to even mingle with for some great pictures.
The afternoon dive was again at Delsan Wreck and it was certainly not a punishment at all; some of our guests encountered the first scalloped hammerhead of this trip. It was cruising around at the reef top, so everyone was very excited about it.
We ended the day with a gorgeous dive at Southwest Wall. The incredibly huge gorgonians and the barrel sponges left an unforgettable impression to our guests and the sighting of a blacktip reef shark was just a nice bonus.
Another beautiful diving day was waiting when we woke up the next morning. Normally we would do the dive site Ko-ok on this day but the fact that not everyone had seen the scalloped hammerhead yesterday, made us chose to jump in at Delsan Wreck once more. Well, we didn’t see the scalloped hammerhead… but we all did see a whale shark! After first having spent some shark, tuna and trevally action time on the busy corner we drifted in the current and bumped into a whale shark cruising by. With an approximate size of 4 meters this juvenile male we considered a cute one. Gonzo immediately took our fantastic sighting of this sweet and gracious friend as an opportunity to present Lamave’s whale shark research after the lunch. This made us realize even more how lucky we were to see a whale shark.
For the remaining three dives of the day we drove over to the Black Rock area. Starting off in the center of the area we drifted through numerous huge schools of reef fish, with true highlight being a massive school or rainbow runners. Besides the obvious grey and whitetip reef sharks, we spotted reef manta rays and a chubby tawny nurse shark. The second dive in the south part of the area is one of our favorite reef top scenery dives. Unbelievably beautiful coral formations and loads of darting fish make for the pictures and video footage that would stand tall in any underwater documentary. The last dive of the day we dove the north side towards the corner of the reef. A gentle current picked up and turned into an interesting one. Flying through the schools of fish we ended up past the corner in shallow water
The dive sites for the day? With names Shark Airport, Washing Machine and Wall Street everybody was eager to get in and see for themselves. Gorgeous reef tops and easy drifting along walls dotted with corals and sea fans made for another perfect day under water. Some of the highlights of the day where: massive schools of black and midnight snappers, diagonal-banded sweetlips, pickhandle barracudas, the funny looking oceanic triggerfish and big-eye trevallies. A huge marbled stingray flew by and left everyone in awe at Shark Airport and the grey reef and whitetip sharks once again couldn’t be counted as they were just all over the place. On our way to the last dive of the day at Wall Street, Gonzo and Ed jumped in at South Park to replace an acoustic receiver at the base station on a corner in the reef. The receiver will gather information on the tagged sharks that roam the area. We’re curious to learn about the data and findings that will be collected. I guess we have to wait and keep an eye out on the www.lamave.org website!
Early in the morning we left for Jessie Beazley Reef for the last two dives of the trip. Rough conditions along the reef made it a bit challenging to get in the water, but once under the swell carried us back and forward over the reef. The abundance of fish and the presence of many baby grey reef sharks made the two dives well worth the effort. Add to that beautiful coral gardens in the shallows, with an absolute stunning sight of fields and fields of lettuce corals being an absolute highlight. While the guest where doing their fun dives, Shu and Ed where assisting Simon Pierce and Gonzo with identifying a proper spot for a new base station for an acoustic receiver and installing it in the second dive. With combined team effort we got the job done and now Lamave has another great spot on a very hectic and lively corner of the Jessie Beazley reef as one of their shark information gathering locations. It was great to lend a hand and get things in place for science in action!
After the dives we immediately set course for Puerto Princesa. What a great trip it was and how thankful we are to be given to see up close the shark science in action. Lamave does a great job. Make sure to visit their website and see if you can contribute in some way or another, you’ve got our sincerest recommendations!