Tiger sharks are around…
A group of Spanish divers came on board the S/Y Philippine Siren for a trip in the Tubbataha Reefs National Park. It was a chartered trip of Ultima Frontera who wanted to explore some waters beyond its borders. We as a crew were up for it because the minute they came on board it was clear that this was going to be a fun and great week, with all the laughter that was heard and all the happy faces that could be seen.
The check dive was at the dive site Malayan Wreck. Straight from the start we spotted our first whitetip reef sharks and some nice big schools of reef fish. Everybody got comfortable in the water again and came up looking even more forward to the coming dives in the trip. The second dive at Malayan Wreck brought us many whitetip reef sharks and grey reef sharks. Drifting through some thermoclines and up currents we saw quite some fish action on the reef. We surfaced and got ready for a nice lunch. The conditions of the sea were amazing; a totally mirror-like flat sea. Between dives two and three we went to the ranger station. We checked out their crib and chatted with them about their tasks and daily doings. Dive three at Gorgonian Channel was a very pretty and calm one. Checking out the reef to edge we were amazed by the colors and health of the corals. We finished the diving day off at Amos Rock. It was another tranquil dive with lots of scenic photo opportunities: massive barrel sponges and gorgeous gorgonians.
What a way to wake up: diving the site Delsan Wreck and feeling like you’ve just jumped in a giant bowl of fish soup. We literally saw hundreds of thousands of fish, including the biggest of them all, a whale shark. The schools of bigeye trevally, bigeye barracuda, blackfin barracuda, and pyramid butterflyfish kept circling us in the medium current. It was an incredible sight; as was the scenery in the next dive at Staghorn point where we saw a massive school of bigeye trevallies being hunted by a huge dogtooth tuna. Once he swam into the school of trevallies however, he was quickly being chased away by the hunted. Lots of fish action and smacking around of fish made for a great dive. After lunch and a bit of a siesta, we went back to Delsan Wreck for the second dive at this all-time favorite. And the dive site delivered. We saw a nice typhoon of blackfin barracudas, a school of bigeye barracudas, the resident school of bigeye trevally and a big whale shark. It was a different one than we encountered in the morning, because it was much bigger! We ended a great diving day with a gentle drift dive along the gorgeous Southwest Wall. Nearing a corner in the atoll, we saw some nice fish action with a school of bigeye trevally being hunted by a pack of giant trevally together with some whitetip reef sharks. During the safety stop we encountered a small school of the rare sailfin snappers. What a whale of a diving day this was!
Ko-ok is the local name of a white bird that roams the sky in the northeast of the South Atoll. It also has given its name to a very fine dive site in that same area. It was up for our first dive of the day. We back-rolled into a completely flat sea to find a nurse shark, a scalloped hammerhead, big schools of bigeye trevallies and bumphead parrotfish – obviously amongst other really cool things! We drove the boat around the northern tip of the atoll to send the rest of the day’s diving in the Black Rock area. We encountered two mantas, two scalloped hammerheads, and two tiger sharks! One of the tigers must have been as big as they get. The huge predator slit through the current with ease and left us very impressed. One of the two came back for the next dive at Black Rock South. The divers were thrilled; if not by this encounter, than surely by the sight of the absolutely gorgeous reef top and the large schools of midnight and black snappers. We ended the dive day with going back to Black Rock because everybody had loved the dive over there. And we weren’t disappointed! We saw the tiger shark again, as well as at least 30-40 whitetip and grey reef sharks towards the corner of the atoll. It was an unbelievable day, which left us looking forward to the next day!
While the guests were waking up to a lovely new day we went back to the North Atoll to dive four dives in its fifty shades of blue waters. We started off with the dive site Shark Airport where we encountered large schools of the usual Tubbataha reef fish: surgeonfish, bannerfish, redtooth triggerfish, blacktail barracuda, bigeye trevally, midnight snapper, pyramid butterflyfish and a zillion damsels and anthias. We also got a bit of a muscle show off when we stumbled upon a hunting pack of giant trevallies, whitetip reef sharks and dogtooth tunas. Tag-teaming they were one after another chasing after a lone small bluefin trevally. Our next dive was at the famous Washing Machine. We spotted an eagle ray and nearing the end of the dive we saw a school of grey reef sharks looking hungrily at a big school of snappers. Moving on to our third dive of the day; a bit of an exercise dive because of a gentle current we had to overcome. But we did and it was another very pretty wall and plateau dive at Northeast Wall. Dramatic overhangs and a wall dotted with gorgonians and massive barrel sponges and big schools of fish swimming up and down in the ever changing current. Before heading over to Jessie Beazley Reef for the night we stopped over at Wall Street for the last dive of the day. We spotted loads of reef sharks, including four cute baby grey reef sharks swimming together. Another highlight was a big school of Randall’s fusiliers that was being chased all over the reef by all the hunters of the reef, an underwater ballet of colors and fish was our treat for the afternoon!
We’ve never seen the waters around Jessie Beazley Reef this flat. Makes you wonder what’s going on down below! Everybody was eager to find out and get in for the last two dives of the trip. On the first dive we saw a silvertip shark, as well as tens of grey reef sharks and whitetip sharks. The unbelievable number of fish on the reef astonished the guests like it had so many guests before them already. The second dive was more of the same. Not that that was bad though, because with it being a bit later in the day, the sunlight really hit the reef top full force. Swinging back and forward in the current on the reef’s corner we encountered countless schools of fish. You could see a whole food chain right there on the corner. Small fish being hunted by bigger fish that were being hunted by even bigger fish that were being hunted by sharks. Ending the dive and the trip in midwater blue we said goodbye to the National Park.
Now this was a hard goodbye. What a lovely group of people we’ve had as our guests the last week. Animated stories and the lovely Spanish smiles made for a fantastic trip! The laughter had rolled far across the flat seas over the last week. That is why we surely hope to see this group back on board the S/Y Philippine Siren one day! Gracias y Hasta Pronto!