A Second Trip to Monad Shoal

Waking up at 4 AM again after a number of beach beverages was an absolutely horrendous experience. The wind was still fairly strong and to our dismay the local crew couldn’t get the boat started. It was the company’s only remaining boat. They had successfully sheltered them during Haiyan and remarkably none were damaged. Unfortunately though, they lost their other 3 boats during a second, weaker typhoon less than a year ago. We waited on the beach with a small group of other divers for about 45 minutes. The sun came up and Dan was about 5 minutes away from calling off the dive. The thresher sharks usually inhabit deeper, darker waters and only come up to shallower depths to “cleaning stations” during the night, one of which is at Monad Shoal. At these cleaning stations smaller fish eat parasites off their skin, benefitting both species, but when it gets bright the sharks retreat back down to the deep. Just in the nick of time the engine roared to life and we set out again. The ocean was probably as rough as the previous morning but I was a lot more relaxed after experiencing the much rougher water during the second dive. The entry also went much more smoothly and I think Emily and I both felt a lot more confident in the water and were able to do what we needed to do more efficiently.

Unbelievably, the dive was even better than the previous morning. As soon as we were on the bottom we started seeing sharks swimming past. We brought the GoPro on this dive so I was able to get some decent pictures. Just after arriving at the viewing plateau I noticed something big just on the edge of visibility. I tried to decipher what I was seeing and realized it was a huge ray of some sort. Dan had told us it wasn’t the season for manta rays but that there are several devil rays hanging out in the area so I assumed that’s what it was. I looked at Emily and Dan but they were both watching a shark and hadn’t seen it. We moved to a second viewing area and had another incredible encounter with a thresher shark circling directly in front of us, just as amazing as the previous day. Right after that the devil ray appeared again, this time closer and we all got to see it. Dan was just as excited as us because it was the first time he had been at the right place at the right time. Up until then he kept arriving on the scene just after it had disappeared. The wings seemed to ripple effortlessly up and down through the water but propelled it at quite a fast rate and it was soon out of view. As we moved toward another viewing area with a group of other divers a shark appeared out of the blue above our heads. It seemed to get spooked by the bubbles and with a single flick of its tail it turned and shot out of view like a rocket.

As we got low on air we moved toward the mooring line and started ascending. We were amazed to see the devil ray emerge again from the blue and swim above us. It was close enough this time to make out the very strange looking face, although that level of detail didn’t show up in the photos at all. Although as new divers we probably shouldn’t have been out in conditions that rough we learned a lot during the course and saw some amazing wildlife.

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