Waking at 4am, it’s pitch black. The room is basic. A bed, pedestal fan & cold shower. Everything I need and not a single luxury more.
To make full use of the time in Malapascua, I took to the streets (sandy paths/ patches of concrete) last night in search of a dive centre (no shortage of those here!). Within 45 minutes, I’d booked 12 dives and a Nitrox Course. Got a bit on.
Local dogs accompany me, as I walk along the beach to get a glimpse of my first Malapascua sunrise. A bounty of wooden boats in various states of construction populate the sand and sea. Unlike the main land, there’s a certain peace about Malapascua. Partially attributed to by the absence of cars, trucks and tuk tuks.
The only modes of transport on the island are bike, boat or foot. It’s incredibly cloudy, humid and the weather forecast for the week isn’t favourable. My first 2 dives confirm the conditions below the water, aren’t much better than above. Visibility is poor for the wreck dive, yet the gardens of soft coral are abundant and vibrant. The deep purple corals are a standout. Grandmas favourite colour… cut to, I’m crying underwater.
The afternoon is spent in a classroom, completing an EAN (Enriched Air Nitrox) Course. It’s an opportune time to obtain Nitrox certification, as it will substantially extend my dive/ bottom time for tomorrow morning’s Thresher Shark dive (and all future dives on Nitrox). Thresher Sharks are nocturnal and typically found at depth, in the early hours of the morning.
Continuing on with my evening explorations of Malapascua, a sprinkle of rain and sound of music lead me to Villa Sandra. Villa Sandra is a hostel/ vegan, vego restaurant/ reggae bar, hidden away a few streets back from the beach. Sitting alone, I recognise one of the guys from yesterdays boat ride and strike up a conversation. This guy has recently travelled to Pakistan and shares his experiences, insights and pictures from his trip. He’s even planning to return there shortly on a bit of an aid mission, assisting in the coordination/donation of old ski equipment and volunteering to teach local Pakistani children how to ski. It’s a pretty cool story and if the photos are any indication of to what to expect, he’s practically heading back to, “the Switzerland” of Pakistan (the poor version). A couple of drinks down and it’s time to call it a night.
5am, I’m up before the sun, again, on a boat, suiting up and en route to Monad Shoal. Monad Shoal is a well known dive site, almost guaranteeing Thresher Shark sightings.
Anchoring up, day breaks. The sun, a bright yellow yolk, the clouds, egg whites, wispy, pouring out over the horizon, giving birth to what I’d later refer to, as one of the best days diving I’d ever experienced.
Here we are, a group of underwater, Darth Vader sounding mother f*ckers, perched on a sandy slope, at the bottom rock ledge, patiently waiting to witness the big black eyed, silver skinned minx. Out of the blackness, into the blue (and our line of sight), shadows become Thresher Sharks! Gliding through the water, effortlessly whipping their long tails and disappearing back to the depths. Wow… just, wow.
Exit water, hellooooo sunshine, boat baking and bro downs with some of my new dive buddies. A couple of guys, Adam, (Canadian) and Øystein (Norwegian) mention they are classical musicians. Adam asks what I do for a living. “I’m a stripper and my names KiKi”, I reply… thinking we’re naming made up/ unlikely professions… Turns out classical musicians are a thing…. And the A Team was born.
Our next dive is at Gato Island, a marine reserve and sea snake sanctuary. Gato in Spanish, means cat. Personally, I’m not a cat person but I’m all about Gato Island. To get from one side of Gato to the other, you could go around… but we’re going under it. Diving through a 30 meter cave/ cavern, with sea snakes (and half a sea snake), giant lobster, crabs, nudibranchs, frog fish, brain coral, seahorses, lion fish, eels and Whitetip Reef Sharks (from what I saw). The the rock/ coral formations around the island make for exceptional too. Overwhelmed, with so much to take in visually, I lose focus and end up in a slight altercation with a sea urchin. Getting jabbed by a sea urchin feels similar to getting a vaccination, with a lingering burning sensation… it’s nice to feel something.
Domo arigato, Gato Island.
Adam, Øystein, Marc and I are keen to go cliff jumping but opt to get a couple of drinks instead. Laying in the sun chairs, thunder rumbles. Ominous clouds begin to produce rain. Not deterred, we carry on talking about our experiences and what kind of YouTube channels our current lives would make. The majority of the rain has spared us. After explaining to the A Team recent life events and predicaments, Adam and Øystein share the stories of how they met their wives, diving and what their families are doing back home. Øystein’s wife (Anna I think?) is back home, fishing and hunting deer with the kind of gun you’d expect to see in the military! She’s one badass woman.
The guys kindly gift to me, what Adam refers to as, “dry sand cookies”. Sounds delicious.. even moist… Individually wrapped shortbread biscuits courtesy of a Singapore airline. A perfectly pitched pre dive snack. Thanks guys lol.
Today is ending the same way it started. Wet. Making my way to the night dive, I’m silenced once more, by the sheer beauty of the sky in transition.