The Marianas Trench is located just northeast of Indonesia.
The world’s deepest point in the oceans is the Challenger Deep which is found within the Marianas Trench. The Marianas Trench is a depression (deep cracks) in the floor of the western Pacific Ocean. Marianas Trench is formed (as other ocean trenches) as a result of the oceanic plate being pushed against a continental plate whereby causing the oceanic plate to pushed downward making deep fissure. Its location is east of the Mariana Islands and is 1,554 miles long and averages 44 miles wide (see diagrams below). The Marianas Trench depth is 36,200 feet (11,033 m or 11.03 km).
I went swimming in shark infested waters – and lived to tell about it!
Swimming in Shark Infested Waters – SCUBA Diving with sharks, no cage
We went SCUBA diving in the Semporna Archipelago, and sharks were everywhere! This was only my second time seeing whitetip reef sharks while SCUBA diving so I was still getting comfortable with the idea of it. Eventually I got really excited to see (and photograph sharks – we saw a dozens of sharks per dive!
I’ve received tons of questions about diving with sharks, so I’ll tell you about it here. I’ll also attempt to dispel some myths about sharks.
Are sharks dangerous??
This is the most common question I get when people hear my excitement about swimming with sharks. The short answer: No. Sharks are not inherently dangerous to people.
We’ve all seen the movie Jaws, but not all sharks are the same. The overwhelming majority of sharks are not dangerous (unless provoked). These were reef sharks – people commonly refer to them as “vegetarian”* sharks!
They’re just as scared of us, as we’re the same size as them.
Are reef sharks dangerous?
Whitetip Reef sharks are curious. They’ll swim right up to you, and fortunately aren’t typically aggressive unless provoked.
Are dangerous sharks in Borneo?
When you dive safely and don’t provoke sharks, it’s safe. The places where I went are safe when diving safely. Sipadan and the Semporna Archipelago also have a reputation for having Hammer Head Sharks, but the divers I met said they hadn’t seen them in a long time.
[Note – unlike what my dive master told me, whitetip reef sharks are not actually “vegetarians” – their diet is explained below]
Why are they called Whitetip Reef Sharks?
Whitetip Reef Sharks get their name from their fins, both of which are white tipped. Whitetip Reef Sharks can be found swimming alongside us and the other fish. They also like to hang out near the ocean floor and in caves.
“Wait, you went diving with sharks and weren’t even protected in a cage??”
Do you need a cage to dive in “shark infested waters” ?
Nope! I live dangerously. Seriously, with a few precautions, not all sharks are aggressive and a cage isn’t necessary for Borneo and in many other regions of the world, assuming you’re not deliberately doing stupid things (listed below). If you treat them with respect and are smart, they’re not the vicious predators you see in movies like “Jaws.”
“I would do anything … but I won’t do that” –
Are all shark species safe to go diving without a cage?
No! I wouldn’t seek out Bull Sharks or Tiger Sharks, or the Great White, the “most feared predator on earth,” to dive with. There are people that do (including some in the comments below), and SCUBA diving tourism is souring, but it’s all about comfort level and education.
Here’s what I do NOT recommend:
You don’t want to deliberately confuse a shark as to their food. I wouldn’t dive with a group that deliberately throws dead fish and blood in the water (called “chum” – more on “chumming” from wikipedia here), and I don’t recommend you do either.
I wouldn’t go spear fishing, as they’ll try to steal catches and maybe get curious. Some say they also hear the sound of a spear gun and respond in seconds.
I also wouldn’t recommend that you make physical contact with a shark, tease a shark, or otherwise mess with their environment.
All three of these are messing with the shark’s environment, and leads to accidents. Why increase your risk and make it dangerous?
Perhaps I’ll feel differently over time. I doubt it As of now this is where my comfort level is. I was just swimming and photographing in their world, and loving it!
How close did you get?
What do whitetip reef sharks eat?
If they don’t eat people…what do whitetip reef sharks eat?
Whitetip Sharks hunt at night, and like to eat octopus, crabs, and lobsters, and hang out on the ocean floor near potential meals. They have a blunt snout so when they’re getting into caves, they can still snatch some lunch. They also mix into their diet some bony fish, including eels, squirrelfishes, snappers, surgeonfishes, triggerfish, damselfishes, parrotfishes, and goatfishes. Yum!
Even after seeing dozens of reef sharks in the Semporna Archipelago, it was still exciting!
Reef Sharks come in 3 varieties –
Whitetip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus (sometimes written as White Tipped Reef Sharks or White Tip Reef Shark)
Baby Whitetip Reef Sharks are 20-24 inches, after a 5-month pregnancy.
Are Whitetip Reef Sharks an endangered species?
No, but their conservation status is “near threatened.” Fisherman hunt them for their fins, to make “shark fin soup.”
Where were these shark infested waters photos from?
Sipadan is easily my favorite SCUBA dive site yet! Sipadan is located in the Semporna Archipelago in Borneo. I was momentarily terrified when I found myself eye-to-eye with a shark during my SCUBA Diving open water test, in BaliIndonesia, but by the time I got to Malaysian Borneo I was seeking them out. I found plenty! The Semporna Archipelago is known for having tons of whitetip reef sharks and it didn’t disappoint.
Discovery Channel’s Shark Week typically premieres in August in the United States – check listings.
SCUBA Diving in Sipadan might be the best in the world! It’s teeming with colorful fish, sharks, and has great visibility.
SCUBA Diving in Sipadan
Sharks in every dive!
While it can’t be promised, some see sharks in nearly every dive. They’re everywhere, and don’t seem to care much about the divers swimming a few feet away.
I’ve included multiple Sipadan dive photos below, including sharks, Sea Turtles, and Harlequinn Sweetlips. It was also my first time seeing big eye emperors, school of jackfish, purple antihas, Unicornfish, and more. I’ve also included photos of surgeonfish, yellow mask angelfish, triggerfish, butterfly fish, parrotfish, and more!
How to take better diving photos
Taking (good) photos underwater is really challenging! You’re aiming at a moving target in less than optimal lighting conditions. At this point I’m still very much a beginner diving. I’m still getting comfortable equalizing and improving my buoyancy. I couldn’t really focus on the photography as much as I would have liked.
A graceful Sea Turtle swims next to us during our SCUBA dive
These dives were some of the best variety of fish I’ve ever experienced. You’ll see underwater photos of Yellowtail Barracudas, Lionfish, Jackfish, Parrotfish, Yellowmask Angelfish, Vlaming’s, Big Eyed Emperors, Triggerfish, and more. I loved diving in Sipadan so much!
I was surprised with the variety and colors!
Below is the slide show with captions on the fish:
I went diving with Thresher Sharks in Malapascua Island in the Philippines and loved it!
Imagine seeing a shark with a long tail that can be as long as the total body length. Threshers can only be consistently spotted in a few places in the world, and the Philippines might be in the best. When I was in the Philippines I had to see them up close.
What we’ll cover
In this post I’ll cover why thresher sharks have such long tails, what thresher sharks eat, how big thresher sharks typically are, and where to find thresher sharks, in addition to showing some videos of threshers in motion. I’ll also detail my specific experience SCUBA diving to see thresher sharks at the bottom of this page as well.
What’s a Thresher Shark?
Thresher sharks are mostly known for the size of their tail (“upper caudal fin lobe”), which is typically equal to the length of the rest of their body! Check out this below photo:
Why do Thresher Sharks have large tails?
Thresher sharks are active predators – they use their huge tails not only to swim, but also to swat and stun much smaller prey fish. Whack! When hunting schooling fish, thresher sharks are known to “slap” the water, herding and stunning prey.
Thresher diet – what do they eat?
Thresher sharks eat squid, octopuses, crustaceans and small schooling fish such as bluefish, mackerel, needlefish, lancetfish, lanternfish, and more.
How big are Thresher sharks?
Threshers range from 8 feet long on the small end, to as big as 20-25 feet long! That’s 2.5 meters to 7.5 meters. 1,100 lbs!
The scientific name of the three most common thresher sharks are Alopias vulpinus, Alopias superciliosus, andAlopias pelagicus. Below is a diagram from this site:
How are thresher sharks like the dolphins??
Threshers are one of the few shark species known to jump fully out of the water, making turns like dolphins, this behaviour is called breaching. Here’s a photo and example for a thresher shark that wandered towards Europe, jumping out of the water.
Videos: Diving with Thresher Sharks:
Where can you find Thresher Sharks?
They are generally not found deeper than 500 meters (1,640ft). You can find thresher sharks everywhere from off the coast of southern California to South Africa, but there’s not many dive sites that see them with such regularity.
The best place in the world to spot thresher sharks is in the Philippines off the coast of Malapascua Island in the Visayan Sea, located across a shallow strait from the northernmost tip of Cebu Island, at the sunken island sea mount of Monad Shoal at a dive site that’s now called Shark Wall.
Why is Monad Shoal the best place to spotThresher Sharks?
Why do thresher sharks go there? Monad Shoal is near the Filipino island of Malapascua – it’s a sunken island at 18-24m whose sides drop off to 230m.
The thresher sharks live and hunt in this deep water for most of the day. However, in the early morning before daylight light, they come up to the Shoal. They’re attracted by its “cleaning stations.”
Here they have a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with the small fish called cleaning wrasse. The wrasse eat dead skin and bacteria from the shark’s body, its gills, and even inside its mouth. Because the cleaning benefits them, so they’d never think of eating the wrasse as an early morning snack.
The cleaning stations are like a carwash for fish!
My experience SCUBA Diving with Thresher Sharks
Most boring dive ever! While I find thresher sharks to be fascinating, the actual dive was actually the least interesting SCUBA Diving experience I’ve ever had.
You depart around 430am, in order to arrive before sunrise. The top of the sea mount is about 80 feet down. There’s almost no fish or coral. Once you get to the optimal viewing spot, you just sit on the ocean floor. Yes really. Visibility is often poor.
We sat on the ocean floor doing nothing but waiting and watching for 24 minutes of the dive. Eventually we were rewarded with a thresher shark whizzing past us. Other divers said people often spot Manta rays and schools of devil rays, in addition to hammer head sharks and reef sharks. Also common near the cleaning station are batfish, flutemouths, barracuda, tuna, mantis shrimp, pipefish, scorpionfish, free-swimming lionfish, moorish idols, schooling bannerfish, unicornfish, squid, octopus and various moray eels.
This 1st video below is a 9minute chronicle of the experience that’s fairly similar to ours (except he saw a Manta Ray, aka Devil Ray):
Getting to the island to see Thresher Sharks isn’t easy. Fly into Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines. Then arrange a private taxi for 4 hours up to a tiny town of Maya. Note, there’s an unreliable bus but I don’t recommend it – it randomly doesn’t come on many days).
You’ll need one of the local fisherman to take you to the boat for a small fee, and then there’s a ferry that “leaves promptly at 8am” (more likely it’s whenever it’s full, which can be either on time or hours later). They operate on frustrating Philippine Time / Filipino Time, so schedules are never strictly adhered to. That’s quite a bit of effort, but once you get there, Malapascua Island is wonderful!