The minutes ticked by. Tick, tick, tick. It felt as if we had been waiting longer than we should have.
We had dragged ourselves out of bed at 4am for the best chance of seeing the thresher sharks. First thing in the morning is when they rise from the deep to visit the shallower cleaning stations.
That’s why Monad Shoal in the early hours is where divers can spot them, if they’re lucky. Miss the boat, and you might miss the sharks!
It was a cloudy morning and the stars, usually dazzling on remote Malapascua, were nowhere to be seen. I hoped this wasn’t an omen of similarly absent sharks – if we ever made it that far. Our pick-up still hadn’t arrived.
When it finally did (the contracted boat captain had overslept) we jumped aboard praying that we weren’t too late.
“Don’t worry,” said our instructor. “If we arrive as the other groups are finishing, we’ll have the sharks to ourselves!” I hoped she was right.
Reaching the reef, I glimpsed a dark shape. Above it, bubbles. Damn! Divers, not threshers.
The group were all staring intently into the reef and, following their gaze, my heart sank as I realised that the water in front of them was clear, blue and… empty.
They were looking for the threshers, rather than at them.
We swam past a meadow of garden eels, arching and flexing like dancing cobras, to find a quieter patch of reef where we wouldn’t be sharing any sharks we might find with too many other divers.
I snuck a look at my computer to check that my no-deco time wasn’t ticking away too fast. At around 26m, bottom-time was limited.
Then it materialised: a huge, wide-eyed cartoon of a shark. Whoever said sharks are scary had clearly never seen a thresher.
With its big eyes, small anxious mouth, rounded body and elegant trailing tail, the only word fit to describe it was friendly.
Despite its size, exaggerated by its ribbon tail – around the same length as its body – it had an endearing quality about it. I could watch its saucer eyes and gasp of a mouth all day.
But before my astonished bubbles had dwindled and burst, another shark flashed past in the background, vanishing almost before I’d seen it approach.
And they just kept on coming – shark after shark – as we hovered, rapt, above the sand. The next one was curious; inching closer and closer until I was concerned that it might bop us on the nose.