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Thresher Shark Diving in Puerto Galera

Did you know that we see thresher sharks in Puerto Galera? How much do you know about threshers sharks and do you know why a sighting of a thresher shark is so special?

Of course, diving with thresher sharks is on most divers’ bucket lists but we guarantee you’ll have an even better underwater experience if you know a little bit about these amazing sharks before you dive with them – read on to find out more!

 

Thresher shark
Thresher shark: free swimming

 

How to Identify a Thresher Shark?

Thresher sharks are also known as fox sharks and they are easily recognizable by their long and highly distinctive thresher-like tails which can be just as long as the shark’s body. Thresher sharks also have unusually large eyes in order to help them to see in deep water where less light is available. When in shallow water however, their eyes become sensitive from too much light which is why they usually remain deep and are rarely seen by divers on a regular basis. The sightings we have of thresher sharks, at recreational diving depths, at Puerto Galera’s dive sites are very unusual and this is why a sighting is very special!

Thresher sharks can grow up to 6 meters long, including their tails and they feed on a diet of schooling fish and squid. Their long tails are not just for decoration – the sharks use them to stun their prey. Thresher sharks circle smaller fish and ‘herd’ them with their tails into a tight, ball formation, which they will then attack with a powerful swipe of their tail – stunning some of the fish which the shark will then feed on.

 

Thresher shark
Dive with thresher sharks in Puerto Galera

 

Thresher Sharks and Depth

Thresher sharks are generally a deeper dwelling species of shark that spend most of their time below 40 meters. So why then, do they come to the shallower water and dive sites around Puerto Galera? Because of the fish – and not to eat them! Thresher sharks carry parasites on their skin and around their eyes and gills. These parasites do not harm the thresher shark if they are kept in check, however, if they are not regularly cleaned away, the number of parasites will increase and the shark will become unhealthy. Thresher sharks rely on the small reef fish to help them out by ‘cleaning’ them. When the threshers come to the shallow water, the reef fish will feed on the parasites – a free meal for the reef fish in return for some personal grooming for the shark! Because the cleaning process is vital to the health of the sharks it is extremely important that divers do not interrupt this process (see below).

Diving with Thresher Sharks

We hope that we will be seeing thresher sharks in the waters around Puerto Galera for many years to come so it important that they are not scared away by divers. If you see a thresher shark during your dive, please observe the following guidelines!

  • Stay calm and control your buoyancy. Try to avoid sudden movements.
  • Please do not ‘chase’ the sharks.
  • Please do not try to touch the sharks.
  • Please do not direct camera flashes or strobes into the thresher sharks eyes – they are extremely sensitive!
  • Please always respect our reefs and do not touch, kick or break and corals.
  • Leave the dive site as you found it. Please leave behind only bubbles and take away only photos.
  • For your own safety, always be aware of your no-decompression time and do not exceed the planned depth or time of your dive.

 

Thresher shark
A small thresher shark swimming in Puerto Galera

 

Diving in Puerto Galera

While thresher sharks are a definite highlight of diving in Puerto Galera they are not our only highlight! Our reefs are packed with some of the rarest and most unusual critters in the Coral Triangle – if you are a macro underwater photographer, then diving Puerto Galera is for you!

For those who want to learn to dive in Puerto Galera or take an advanced, tech diving or professional level course, we offer the full range of PADI scuba diving courses from beginner to Instructor!

Are you excited to come and join us for scuba diving in the Philippines? Our friendly team are as passionate about diving as you are and there’s nothing we love more than sharing our reefs and marine life with like-minded divers from around the world!

For more information or to make a reservation, fill in our online contact form or email us at: [email protected] and we’ll get right back to you.

We look forward to scuba diving in the Philippines with you soon!

Why go scuba diving in Verde Island Passage in the Philippines

Have you heard about the amazing scuba diving in the Philippines? Have you read about Puerto Galera and the world-renowned Verde Island Passage? Read on to find out why diving in the Verde Island Passage needs to be on the bucket list of places to dive for every discerning and adventurous scuba diving. This impressive area, location, situated at the heart of the Coral Triangle (the epicenter of marine biodiversity on the planet), will take your breath away and keep you mesmerized for dive after dive!

Diving Verde Puerto Galera
Our beautiful base in Puerto Galera is ideally located for diving Verde

Where is the Verde Island Passage?

The Verde Passage is a Strait which separates the islands of Luzon and Mindoro in the Batangas province of the Philippines. The strait connects the South China Sea with Tayabas Bay and the Sibuan Sea beyond.

The passage is known as both the Verde Passage and the Verde Island Passage – with Verde Island positioned in the center of the Strait. The 1.14 million hectare passage is extremely rich in marine biodiversity, in fact, it’s among the richest areas in the entire Coral Triangle and one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. These waters continue to yield new species to science, further underscoring its global biological significance.

For scuba divers, the easiest access to the beautiful waters of the Verde Passage is from Puerto Galera – which is why we chose this beautiful town as our base!

Mantis shrimp
(Mantis shrimp) From schooling fish to macro critters, Puerto Galera and Verde have something for everyone

Why Dive Puerto Galera and Verde Passage?

Ask anyone who’s dived here! From beginners through to seasoned professionals, scuba diving Puerto Galera and Verde offers a range of dive sites for all levels, stunning coral reefs, diverse marine life and incredible visibility. Our warm tropical waters are simply bursting with a kaleidoscope of colors and teeming with life. From passing pelagics through to schooling fish and even macro critters, there is something for everyone. If you are an underwater photography enthusiast, both wide-angle and macro opportunities abound, and no matter what your experience level, with over 30 dives sites to choose from, you’re literally spoiled for choice.

For those who have an interest in maritime history, the wreckage of a Spanish galleon that sunk in 1620 was found in the southern part of the Verde Passage. Most of the ancient cargo was salvaged from the wreckage in the late seventies and again in the early 80s but some remnants of her bounty still show up on the beach. Whilst beachcombing it’s sometimes still possible to stumble across pieces of broken porcelain, which date back to the late 1500 and early 1600s!

Canyons
Vibrant, healthy corals and a kaleidoscope of colours in Puerto Galera

Conservation and the Verde Passage

In 2006, a team of marine conservationists declared the Philippines a “Center of Marine Biodiversity” in the world and Verde Island Passage as the “Center of the Center of Marine Shorefish Biodiversity”.

Many threatened species, which include sea turtles like hawksbills, olive ridleys, and green turtles; humphead wrasses, giant groupers, giant clams and the rare red fin wrasse (Cirrhilabrus rubripinnis) are present in the Verde Island Passage.

There is a complete moratorium of all types of fishing in the Batangas Bays and around Mindoro island. The fish sold in the markets of Puerto Galera come from distant places such as Romblon. This is a very healthy sign for the development of marine diversity – there is more work to be done but Verde Passage continues to thrive.

Dive in Puerto Galera at Asia Divers

Ready to go Scuba Diving in Puerto Galera?

At Asia Divers, we have over 30 years of experience and our friendly team of professional PADI Instructors and Divemasters are experts in our region. We operate flexible schedules so that you can make as many (or as few) dives as you like, including night dives and blackwater diving. We have a spacious camera room and dedicated rinse tanks for photography equipment for underwater photographers. And we keep our dive groups small so you get the personal service you deserve! Our comfortable, purpose-built speedboat makes day trips to Verde Island easy to arrange without unnecessary lengthy time on the boat.

For more information, or to make a confirmed booking, email us at [email protected], or fill in our online contact form and we will get right back to you.

We look forward to scuba diving Puerto Galera and the Verde Island Passage with you soon!

School donations from Australia

Special thanks go to Mr. Geoff Down, Past President and member of the Rotary Club of Subiaco, District 9455 in Western Australia. They again helped to cover some of the transportation and freight costs, and they also donated a fantastic quantity of used primary school reading books that were very well received by the schools and the teachers. Thanks to all the Subiaco Rotarians, we simply couldn’t have done it without your invaluable support.

Greg Barraclough and Craig Broderick from United Office Choice in Australia have again very generously donated a lot of assorted school supplies and consumables that are always very much appreciated by the lucky schools that receive them. This is the second year that United Office Choice have supported our efforts to help these very needy schools. Thanks again for your incredible generosity.

This past week El Galleon visited two schools in our area with the above donations along with rice and painting supplies which were funded by Larry and Kris Birds wedding gift donations from their guests.

If you, or anyone you know, would like to join in with us and help support our charity efforts with these Mangyan schools on our beautiful island here, just contact [email protected]. We will keep you fully informed of everything we do to help these desperately poor schools.

Australia Day Bush Fire Appeal

El Galleon/Asia Divers made a donation to the Australia Day Bush Fire Appeal. A great day was had by all they raised 172,005.00 pesos which will be sent to the NSW Fire Service.

Travel

 Truk Lagoon Liveaboard – MV Odyssey Sept 26th 2020

Tech Asia has another liveaboard trip organized aboard the Odyssey spanning the October 1st holiday this year. Truk offers beautiful diving, unmatched in the world of Wreck dives, and pretty hard to beat also for big fish and sharks swimming around as well. Add warm and clear water, not a lot of current, and a vessel Captained by one of our former guests and students who couldn’t be more helpful, and you have all the right boxes ticked for a fantastic trip!

What are we going to see? Over thirty Japanese shipwrecks lie here in a large sheltered Pacific lagoon, all sunk by an American Carrier strike in February 1944. The wrecks are almost unsalvaged, many hadn’t yet been unloaded when they sank, and therefore full of things to see from torpedoes to aircraft parts to crates and crates of Saki. And covered in tropical reef. Fantastic!

The dives will be kept mainly in the nitrox diving range, very suitable for comfortable recreational divers. Double tanks, sidemount and rebreather support are available for tech divers who want to spend longer on the bottom or go wriggling around in engine rooms. A few places are still free, you can lean more by emailing [email protected] or have a look at this link

They’re back……

The Thresher sharks in Puerto Galera are back and WOW are they ever!! There have been numerous up-close interactions and sightings over the past few weeks. It looks like there could be five different sharks around including one juvenile. Our divers have been super happy seeing these beautiful creatures up close. Scooter dives have been epic with the scooter team just cruising along with the threshers almost bumping into them on a few occasions. Best time of the year to see them is from now until April…the sooner the better!

It’s very good news that the Alert Level had been lowered to 3 and we’re hoping to see it drop even more soon. Puerto Galera has had no affect whatsoever from the Volcano and we hope that everyone can get back to a normal routine in Batangas. So…book your holiday in PG now!

Keep up to date on the latest Taal Volcano news on the PHIVOCS website:
https://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/…/volca…/volcano-bulletins3

Ocean Art 2019

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Congratulations to all the winners of the Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition 2019 and especially to the winner who won a trip to our resort. Francisco Sedano won 1st Place in the “Underwater Art” category of this stunningly creative photo “Psychedelic Seahorse”. We’ll be happy to see him here with us at some point in the near future.

You can find the full 2019 winners here: https://www.uwphotographyguide.com/ocean-art-contest-winners-2019

Whats been happening

Congratulations to Grant Mackenzie our newest certified PADI Divemaster. Grant has been here for the past few weeks checking off the boxes and working towards his goal. He had lots of great experience helping out with students/divers and of course enjoyed the great diving in Puerto Galera. Asia Divers is a PADI Career development center and offers top notch training in all PADI Courses. If you’re considering doing the DM course have a look here for details: https://asiadivers.com/padi-diving-courses-philippines/padi-recreational-scuba-diving-courses/

Ulrik was a busy man during his short stay with us. He completed Nitrox, Wreck and Night specialties….he is on his way to Master Scuba Diver!

 

Looks like we’ll be needing a new T-shirt for this evil shot roulette drinking game!

 

Reach the Deepest part of the Canyons in Puerto Galera

By Andy Xie

The “Canyons” is a dive site located in the northeast of Puerto Galera, a place dubbed as the Pearl of Mindoro in the Philippines. With spectacular underwater formations, large sea fans, schools of batfish, jackfish, large Groupers, and hair raising currents, Canyons became a preferred site for experienced divers.

In June 1981, Neil “Snake” Krumbeck, who was certified as an open water diver at that time, discovered the Canyons while exploring the dive sites. In 2012, CNN rated it as one of the “50 most beautiful dive sites in the world”.

In 1986, Snake Krumbeck, Willy Tobler, and Jim Wilson completed the first deep dive on air outside the Canyons to 76 meters. Then Allan Nash and Dave Penman achieved a record of 91 meters on air in the same area.

 

In 1997, John Bennett and Aaron Gillespie using Trimix 12/45 accomplished a 122-meter dive and set the record for deep dive in southeast Asia.

 

In June 1999, John Bennett and Chuck Driver dived with Trimix 6/79 to 200 meters, and set the world record for untethered open water diving at that time. In the same year, they again successfully updated the record to 225 meters.

 

In 1999, a deep air record attempt was made: Mark Andrews diving out of Capt’n Gregg’s reached 156 meters on air. However, the record was unrecognized, since when he reached the bottom, he was almost unconscious due to gas narcosis. His deep-water support divers Chuck Driver and John Bennett (on Trimix) found that he could hardly control himself, thus inflated his BCD helping him to get off the bottom. The support divers in the shallow waters caught him, but it was too difficult to help him deflate the BCD. The ascent was too fast and a series of decompression obligations were forfeited. However Mark, with incredible fitness and willpower, changed tanks at the surface and descended to 30 meters. After 3 hours of decompression he managed to surface without any signs of decompression.

Nowadays, deep air dives have gradually dropped out from mainstream practices due to the progress of diving science, philosophy and divers’ attitudes. It is not worthwhile anymore to challenge the proven theories and natural rules just for showing courage and willpower. But we appreciate the predecessors for their exploring spirit, expanding the boundaries where humans can reach.

On June 4, 2000, John Bennett again dived to 254 meters on Trimix. On November 6, 2001, he successfully set the world record of 308 meters dive on Trimix. It then took him more than a month to recover from the duration and consequences of the dive.

 

Plan for Deep Dive in Canyons

About 10 years ago, as a novice diver, I made my first trip to Canyons following a local dive guide. In the strong current, I struggled to hold on to a rock. My narcosis level was increased due to stress and overexertion. My mind was reeling, but at the same time I was struck by the beauty in front of me. Bubbles formations were torn apart in the current and sucked down into the depths… The dark abyss was close at hand.  I was filled with fear and excitement: “What kind of world would it be if I gave up struggling and fell into the darkness and flowed with the current all the way down, down to the bottom”. This question has stuck me all those years.

It has been eight years since I became a full-time diving instructor in Puerto Galera. The dive centers I work for, both Tech Asia and Asia Divers, have provided me with a world-class training condition, and plenty of opportunities to practice deep diving. The right time and the right place finally gave me the chance to fulfill a dream I had ten years ago——to explore the bottom of Canyons.

 

From September to November 2019, Aaron Gillespie and I conducted a series of exploratory dives in the deep areas around Canyons with rebreathers and DPV’s (scooters). Due to strong currents and complex topography, many cases of missing divers or casualties occurred in this area. Even technical divers and technical dive instructors residing in Puerto Galera rarely set foot here. In order to safely and successfully complete our exploring objective, we took advantage of the dive shops we work for, and practiced for about 30 to 40 hours to get prepared for the task at hand, including equipment maintenance and calibration to prevent potential hazards, buoyancy control fully equipped, multiple bailout cylinder rotation, scooter configuration with rebreathers and several cylinders, advanced tow with scooters , low visibility and night dives, strong currents, and various kinds emergency response to equipment failure.

 

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The ridge in the center of the image above, between 23 and 30 meters, is an area frequently visited by recreational divers. The current flows all the way down the ridge to the bottom. The red circle is the approximate area we explored during our five deep dives.

 

Dive logs

September 19, 80 meters, 121 minutes.

September 21, 104 meters, 154 minutes. We descended along the Josh’s Wall to explore the way to the basin of the Canyons, and to become more familiar with the surrounding terrain and current trends. We scanned Josh’s Wall and its surrounding area, and took it as a place for training in these two dives. Josh’s Wall is a deeper area outside Canyons and Fishbowl, discovered 1996 when John Bennett and Aaron were preparing for the 122 meters dive. They used to dive on air to around 100 meters in this area and also Deep Dave’s rock every the other day to improve their nitrogen tolerance. After months of training, John named this site after his first born Josh.

September 22, 81 meters, 129 minutes. Descending at Wreck Point, we scootered east, covering large distances towards our target destination looking for formations and other entry points to the pit.

October 29, 120 meters, 217 minutes. We again reached the edge of the pit, and explored a wider range of surrounding area with scooters.

On 19 November, it was sunny and the current was mild, providing ideal weather and water conditions for our deep dive. We dived to 155 meters (temperature 15℃), with 20 minutes bottom time, and 375 minutes total time.

We reached the bottom of the basin along the walls and steps.  The sea of great depth was filled with darkness, serenity, and desolation. Time seemed to stand still. This was the first time for humans to arrive here. We were sober and agile, thanks to the high percentage of helium and low temperature of the water. We had to remain alert every second to adhere to the dive plan, the route, water flow, our physiological and mental state, condition of the equipment, gas consumption and each other… Meanwhile, we could not help but imagine about what we may encounter at any coming moment. Will it be some strange fish, Giant sea fans, walls, large marine animals or perhaps traces of the missing divers that have yet to be recovered.

The area in the center of the cross showing above is the bottom of deep Canyons, measured at 155 meters, three meters deeper than the provided charts. The bottom is about the size of a football field, mostly sandy, with a few boulders and cascading cliffs, strong currents, large sea wolves, jack shoals, and crabs. As the first divers to reach the crater, we named this new dive site “Aaron’s Asshole.”

Main equipment

Closed circuit rebreather: JJ CCR, Megalodon CCR
Regulators: Scubapro MK25, Halcyon H75, Akuana F1, Apeks DS4, Apeks XTX200
Dry suit: Navyfel Explore
Primary lights: Akuana, Orca Torch D630
Back-up lights: 3QRS
Video lamp: Scubalamp V6K Pro
Diving computers: ISC 2.7 APECs, Shearwater Petral, Shearwater SA
Scooters: Suex VR, Suex XJ37, Suex XJ14

We applied some equipment from emerging brands and found them to be of really good quality, including Akuana’s primary light for tech dive, regulator, CCR wing, and titanium plate and D-ring; Navyfel’s drysuit, Orca Torch  D630 primary light, Scubalamp’s V6K Pro video lamp, 3QRS’ back-up light. All the products have functioned well and been reliable in deep and long decompression dives. Thanks for the support from those manufacturers. We believed that there will be more excellent manufactures in the future providing reliable and also economical products for exploratory diving activities.

Postscript

I was often been asked by some divers, “what can I see in a deep dive?”

For me, it not a matter of what to see, but enjoying the dive itself. To achieve a goal, a tech diver must go thought tons of repetitive practices, endure the loneliness that others cannot understand, calculate, plan and execute accurately each step. Any slightest fault of physical or mental evaluation, equipment, calculation or other aspects is not affordable in this type of diving. The price may be an injury or fatality. The process of pursuing extreme perfection is attractive enough for me.

Many years ago, limited by finds in decompression sickness, diving computer, and open circuit system, deep dives were mostly restricted to wall dives, or using ropes as reference, with short bottom times. Many people were aiming for a record depth. Today, with the advance of science and technology, the progress of equipment, diving medical science and decompression theories, divers no longer challenge the limit for showing strength and courage. We can easily use scooters and rebreathers to extend the bottom time, reach greater depth, and explore for longer distance. Of course, we also have to face the new potential risks those equipments bring about. In addition, latest cameras and waterproof shells for great depth allow us to record the dives with clearer images and videos. We can enjoy the pleasure of exploration, rather than just pursuing the number of depth.

For exploratory tech dive, some people think it is too dangerous, even life risking. It does not have to be so. In fact, divers must meet the requirement of knowledge acquisition, diving experience, and training hours to go through each level before conducting a seemingly “dangerous” dive. Risks are quite manageable if a diver keeps learning and practicing with patience. The 100 meter dive course is conducted as a fully-developed course in many diving organizations. If a diver develops his/her skills step by step down-to-earth, he/she can reach 100 meters with confidence just as an advanced open water diver reaches 30 meters. Except for a more complicated diving process and some new skills, there is no big difference. Diving to 100m without training, equipment or experience is totally unnecessary and inviting trouble.

Some take exploratory diving as pushing the envelope and conquering the ocean. To be honest, human beings are quite insignificant while facing the nature, as a grain of sand facing the desert. Those who talk about “conquering” can only show their ignorance.

There are some others saying that “deep, wrecks, and caves are my goals.” Having an objective, of course, is a good thing. But, first, one should have a rational understanding of his own ability and experience, and then keep training with patience, improve the skills, update the knowledges, to get fully prepared for the goal. We never encourage dives to a depth or a complex environment beyond what was taught in the courses. But if you feel ready, and aware of the risks and consequences, it is feasible to conduct an exploratory dive with a reliable team. Just keep in mind that do not be mislead by the fever that deep, cave, or wreck creates on social media, and set and pursue unreal objectives prematurely.

A fact easily overlooked is that a successful deep dive, or a wreck or cave exploration begins hundreds of hours in advance. It includes education of various stages, accumulation of diving and teamwork experience, acquisition of up-to-date knowledge, and even lessons from the failures. A diver who has not been through pressure, tears, or even injury will not go further with courage and luck alone. Regardless if it’s a recreational or technical dive, whether you come back safely may not matter to others, but only to your parents and the one who really love you. For those who truly care about you, it is worthwhile to pay more effort and time to improve your capacity.

The most important and valuable stage for all divers is the open water (OW) course. More than 95% of diving accidents can be avoided, prevented or solved if we take the OW course seriously. Many tragedies, in fact, begins since the first choice of a cheap and fast tracked OW course.

The most important and valuable course for a tech diver is the introductory course to tech dive (such as TDI Intro to Tech, GUE Fundamental, WUD Rec 1/2). Most tech diving accidents, in the end, are caused by lack of practicing of basic skills, up-to-date knowledge, right concepts, rigorous attitudes, or a calm state of mind, which a diver should have got from a basic course of tech dive.

It is easier to train the skills than the brains. As the times progress, we can draw valuable experience from predecessors, improve our skills through scientific trainings, access to countless information on the Internet, so that avoiding detours and saving plenty of time of learning theories and skills compared to the divers 20 years ago. But the efforts to grow into a qualified exploring diver, to keep evolving, to understand others, to develop mature mindsets, to recognize and control emotions, and to travel and open up minds, will not shrink regardless of the progress of science. Seeking for instant success will be absolutely fatal in this kind of diving. To be patient and plow ahead one step at a time in an impetuous society is the most valuable character of a tech diver.

To quote Edward Whymper, a famous mountaineer in the 1860s, “Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”

Slow down and enjoy your journey, young fella.