My eyes flutter open with crusty residue stained in the corners – barely cognitive after a sleepless night bathed in the sweet aroma of my own sweat. I notice that the tranquil, yet disturbing, sound of my alarm going off has beckoned me to awake to this new day and proceed to extricate myself from my damp bed through the web of mosquito netting surrounding me. First stop is the cold water shower with a bucket and scoop to awaken me before leaving my ‘humble abode’ on this quiet and secluded island. Having no power, and hence no fan or lights, I grab my lighter and groggily stumble my way past the line of ants and dead cockroach into the dark foreboding bathroom. Holding my light at arm’s length from the freezing cold water slowly trickling from the haphazard tap, referred to as a ‘shower’, i proceed to try and awaken my body and rejuvenate my spirits after a troublesome night of sleep. The time is 4:00am; the only other living things alive are the dogs and roosters that filled my night with dreams of wonder and horror.
Bathing complete I don my day pack and walk warily into the maze like dirt paths lazily winding their way through the sleepy village of Malapascua to greet my diving buddy with the enthusiasm due to such an early morning beginning. As the loose gravel and sand crunches underfoot I ponder the sanity of such an early morning venture. Quietness stills the air, broken only by the now consistent sound of roosters beckoning everyone awake.
As I near the dive shop I am greeted by the first sign of light besides my torch and sleepily acknowledge my diving buddy Joe. Gathering our diving gear we proceed cautiously down the sandy stretch of beach toward the waiting transport to our dive boat for the day. Orion and the seven sisters protectively gazing down on us as meteors streak through the dawning sky with the premise of great things to come - granting wishes to those who notice their marking passage through the inky black skies. Mars and Venus simply laughing at the insignificance of our task at hand and our short time to live what they have experienced for millennia from their godlike pedestal of existence.
Climbing aboard the bamboo banka boat Jo and I slowly sip our coffee in hopes that its warm fluid will awaken our dull senses. As the sun rises in its brilliant purple and golden showers of light we prepare for our decent into the blue depths in anticipation for our much talked about encounter with the oldest and most perfect creatures of the earth – sharks… Thresher sharks to be exact.
Descending into the great unknown I look upward at Jo while adding small bursts of air to my buoyancy compensator and give her the closed thumb and forefinger signal that signifies ‘are you ok’ as we drop down to 75ft depth. Aware of our insignificance in this foreign world we cautiously proceed along the shelf edge in slow motion so as not to scare away any of the deep water inhabitants that call this ‘world’ home.
After a patient 20 minutes wait hovering in near silence Joe and I, separated from the rest of the group by 100 odd feet, notice a large form emerge slowly from the dark abyss. Penetrating eyes focused solely on our still bodies, the massive form of a glistening silver Thresher, a 300 million year form of evolutionary predatory perfection, and locks eyes with us. Our hearts racing we are trapped in a trance like state of fear and awe. Do we bolt or do we stay still? Fear and panic take precedent over the seemingly rational thought of leaving the site. Awestruck and entranced by the hypnotic gaze of the shark we hold steadfast. We have become stone, anchored in the depths.
10ft and closing! awe is replaced by controlled terror. Breathing erratically and stunned into immobility we await whatever fate brings. To die underwater is a privilege – to die at the hands of creations finest creature is an honor.
3 times over 3 days we were taken aback by such magnifigance. Each time stunned into stupefaction. The only moment that prolonged such a dumbstruck sence of enlightenment was the closing ascent of our second dive when a 6ft Manta Ray decided to grace us with our presence in all its majestic form. Flying slowly, it circled around us in its graceful form and played inquisitive to our benign presence.
Having exceeded our No Decompression Limit I tried to re-assure Jo, aware of our precarious situation, that I knew the procedures required to ascend from our overstay. Jo’s lovely wisdom and trust in me followed my Commercial Diving routines and we safely broke the surface into our world of belonging in one piece as if coming alive from a dream. Noises flooding our senses again and light from the now risen sun blinding our eyes.
It was time for two more dives – dives that showed us even more wonders like giant cuttlefish, seahorses and mating mandarin fish… but nothing that came close to the thrill of the Threshers.