How do you give a gift to someone who doesn’t like things? Someone who travels and measures life in experiences rather than shoes or a new phone. Well, imagine you could give someone the gift of arctic whale watching in Iceland, exploring a volcano in Hawaii, or SCUBA DIVING WITH SHARKS without breaking the bank.
The Gift of Experiences
When I was first approached by Tinggly a few months back I couldn’t help but marvel at what a great idea it is. The self-described “perfect gift for travelers”, Tinggly lets you give the gift of experiences.
How does it work? You buy a gift box of $119 for your loved one. That person then has two years to use their voucher on an amazing experience anywhere in the world.
When Tinggly asked me to test out one of their experiences to share with all of you, I was like a kid in a candy store. I clicked around their experiences map until I found the coolest adventure I could imagine: scuba diving with thresher sharks in the Philippines.
THRESHER SHARKS HERE I COME!!!
Getting to Malapascua
Tinggly’s thresher shark experience is located on the tiny island of Malapascua, north of Cebu. After a few days in Manila, I took a flight to Cebu City and embarked on what was supposed to be a 3-4 hour bus ride to the port of Maya. Unfortunately, the bus lasted 6 hours due to traffic, construction and the fact that the bus stops every two seconds to let locals on and off. After the long bus ride, I hopped on a local boat to the island of Malapascua!
Malapascua is definitely a divers island, with dive resort after dive resort located along the main beach. The Tinggly thresher shark dives are through Evolution Dive Resort, where you get to stay for one night as part of the package!
As a little preview, here’s a video Evolution gave me to show you all what your experience will be like…
Aren’t thresher sharks the most beautiful sharks you’ve ever seen in your life?
My fancy suite
On arriving in Malapascua I was set up in a room at the luxurious Evolution resort. After weeks of staying in backpacker hostels, I couldn’t believe how beautiful and clean it was! Don’t even get me started on the shower. My shower in China is absolutely disgusting (read mold and bugs). This shower may have been the nicest one I’ve had in years!
The best part is that because there are two beds, they let my friend stay with me for free!
Since the rooms didn’t have wifi and we were itching to explore, my friend and I headed down to the Craic House, Evolution’s award-winning restaurant. They were having a happy hour so I treated myself to margaritas and pretended to get work done.
The Craic house was also a great place to hang out, with hammocks, beanbag chairs and actual tables for eating. I almost didn’t mind that the rooms didn’t have wifi… almost.
DIVING WITH THE THRESHER SHARKS!!!
Now for what you’ve all been waiting for: diving with sharks!
Every morning the thresher sharks ascend from the deep to have bacteria cleaned of their bodies by “cleaner fish”. It’s here at the Monad Shoal in Malapascua that you can watch this phenomenon. Spoiler alert: it was AMAZING!
The only thing that’s not so amazing about the experience: meeting at 4:30am. The one time I have a fancy hotel room I can’t even sleep in to enjoy it? That’s okay. Sharks are better.
At 4:30 we headed out on the dive boat to the Monad Shoal. I was nervous and exhausted, but also really excited. While they don’t guarantee you’ll see thresher sharks, it’s pretty much assured you’ll see at least one or two.
Descending into the Deep
The thresher sharks spend the morning at a depth of 30 meters (98 feet), which is really deep. You start out above a reef at a normal depth, then slowly edge out over the reef’s cliff. I couldn’t see the bottom! I felt like finding Nemo swimming out in the open ocean to touch the “butt”… except there were actually sharks here this time!!
I descended slowly on my stomach like a super spy being lowered off the roof of a high-rise building. Pressure was building in my ears, and I kept squeezing my nose and blowing hard, hoping to equalize and adapt to the pressure. Unfortunately, one ear just wasn’t cooperating.
No! No no no!
I’ve completed enough dives to know that if your ears don’t pop you have to ascend until they do. If you keep descending you risk rupturing an eardrum or worse.
I started to panic as I blew and blew and blew. “Please let me see the sharks, PLEASE let me see the sharks”, I silently prayed to myself.
FINALLY the ear popped. Oh, thank god! Can you imagine missing out on DIVING WITH SHARKS because your ear won’t pop? I would’ve cried.
Watching and Waiting
The thresher shark dive is different than any I’ve ever experienced. Rather than swimming around a reef, or exploring the ocean floor, divers kneel behind a rope. In order to protect the sharks (yeah, the sharks, not you), they keep divers away from their cleaning station. However, if they decide to come to you that’s another story!
My group watched and waited with excitement, hoping to see a shark. After a few minutes, I caught something large out of the corner of my eye. A huge shark came looming towards us, about 15 feet away. I was in such awe that I didn’t even think to take a video with my GoPro. I just watched and stared. It was beautiful!
While I’d seen sharks diving on Koh Lanta before, it was nothing like this. The leopard sharks I saw in Thailand laid unmoving on the ocean floor, while these sharks swam around us, giving the divers a personal show. Also, thresher sharks look a lot more “shark-y” than leopard sharks, making it a bit more exciting.
I managed to get a few quick snippets of shark video on my GoPro, however, GoPro’s don’t zoom so the sharks look really far away. Thankfully, Evolution has a much better video they let me use. While the sharks didn’t come quite as close as they show in the video, I still had an amazing time and I’d love to go again someday!
All in all, I would say I saw at least four distinct sharks, but it could’ve been up to eight! It’s a little hard to tell because you can only see so far when you’re that deep down. In diving we call this “visibility”. When there’s good visibility the water appears crystal clear and you can see everything, but when there’s poor visibility you can barely see the divers in front of you. What causes poor visibility? Waves, sediment, fish goop, sand… lots of stuff.
The interesting thing about the thresher shark dive is that the sharks swim in and out of visibility. This makes it much more exciting because you never know when a shark is going to suddenly POP OUT at you. You wait with bated breath until BAM! Shark in your face.
After the dive we headed back to Evolution where I got a free breakfast at the Craic house. I chose an omelet and coffee. Yum yum!
The Diving Logistics
Firstly, in order to do this dive you must have either an open water or advanced certification. If you already have your advanced certification (either PADI or SSI), you can go down in a group with a dive master like a normal fun dive. However, if you only have your Open Water certification you’ll have to go down one-on-one with an instructor. Why? Because the threshers are at a depth of 30 meters, and open water divers are only certified up to 18 meters.
Wait, if I’m only certified to 18 meters how can I go on a deep dive??
Great question. You can go on a deep dive as long as it’s one-on-one with an instructor. Rather than it being a normal “fun dive” they call this an “adventure dive”. Because Evolution needs to hire out an instructor to take you one-on-one, this costs more for them. What do they do to even out the costs? Instead of the Deluxe aircon room at the resort, you get to stay in the fan room… which is also super fancy!
So… If I only have my Open Water certification should I go?
YES! Absolutely! If you don’t have time to get your advanced certification on Malapascua beforehand I like I did, you can definitely still go and complete an adventure dive. The only difference is that you won’t have aircon, which is honestly no big deal, since the island isn’t that hot at night.
Book Your Own Adventure!
Want to gift an incredible experience to a loved one? (or yourself… I don’t judge)
I would really appreciate it if you use this link here. I’m a proud affiliate of Tinggly, meaning I make a small commission off every sale at no cost to you. Every dollar I make goes straight back into this site to make it the best resource I can for you guys. As always, I only promote products and services I actually use and enjoy. DIVING WITH SHARKS PEOPLE! How could I not enjoy that?
Thanks again to Tinggly for gifting me such an incredible experience. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with them!