Tag Archives: SCUBA diving

The best posts about SCUBA Diving and underwater photography will be included in this section.

How Deep is the Ocean?

Ever wonder, how deep is the ocean?  This video answers that really well. Then we’ll provide some info about Mariana Trench.

How deep is the ocean?

Picture Mount Everest upside down…and that’ll get you partially the way there. The below video explains.

Click the below image:

40m is the maximum depth for recreational SCUBA Divers
maximum depth for recreational SCUBA Divers

The ocean is mind-numbingly deep – the ocean is 14,000 feet deep.

Here’s a great info-graphic, with some highlights below.Enjoy!

The average depth of the ocean is 4267 meters
The average depth of the ocean is 4267 meters
Blue Whales can dive down to 500 meters deep.
Blue Whales can dive down to 500 meters deep.

The Titanic is currently 12,500 feet down

Mount Everest is 8850 meters, and the ocean goes even deeper
Mount Everest is 8850 meters, and the ocean goes even deeper
How deep is the ocean? 11,034 meters deep. That's the bottom of the Mariana Trench
The ocean goes 11,034 meters deep. That’s the bottom of the Mariana Trench

 Mariana Trench

James Cameron visited the top of the Mariana Trench, an amazing 7 miles underwater that  broke a record! In the Bloomberg article they mentioned he risked implosion. wow.

He spent several million dollars on the sub, called Deepsea Challenger, which needed to withstand pressures of at least eight tons per square inch.

The feat equaled the 1960 record set by Don Walsh and the late Jacques Piccard, and the movie director became the first to solo to the earth’s deepest point.

Video of the experience can be found at Nat Geo.

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 certainly haven’t gone diving this far! However, I’ve had some awesome diving experiences. I’ve gone diving with sharks without a cage, thresher sharks, and swimming with whale sharks.

Swimming in Shark Infested Waters

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.

Whitetip Reef shark - notice the white on the tip of his fin. Swimming in shark infested waters
These majestic creatures get their name from the tips of their fin – see the dorsal fin in this photo. I was this close in Borneo!

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]

Reef Shark infested waters in Semporna Archipelago Borneo Diving

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.

holy sh*t! that's a shark! Up close with a whitetip reef shark in Borneo. shark infested waters were safe. I went swimming in shark infested waters, and lived to tell about it!
Up close with a white tip reef shark in Borneo

“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? 

This was my first shark sighting of the day. I'd see many more and much closer. I was swimming in "shark infested waters" and loving it!
This was my first shark sighting of the day. I’d see many more and much closer.

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!

Scuba diving swimming with sharks! white tip reef shark on the ocean floor
whitetip reef sharks often like to hang out near the ocean floor

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)
  • Gray Reef Shark, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos (also called Grey Reef Sharks)
  • Blackfin Reef Shark, Carcharhinus melanopterus (also called Blacktip Reef Sharks)
The Whitetip Reef Shark has a similar name as Oceanic Whitetip Sharks, but these are VERY different.

reef shark! these shark infested waters only had safe sharks

How big are baby sharks?

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.”

Visibility was poor, but I was still able to see this shark right in front of me
Visibility was poor, but I was still able to see this shark right in front of me

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 Bali Indonesia, 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.

when I finished clearing my mask, look what appeared
when I finished clearing my mask, look what appeared

Discovery Channel’s Shark Week typically premieres in August in the United States – check listings.

If you’re thinking about getting open water Padi certified for scuba diving, I’ve put together what you need to know here.

These weren’t largest sharks I was in the water with – I also went Snorkeling with Whale Sharks in the Philippines – awesome!

I also saw sharks in Bali, and sharks in Thailand and will post about those soon too.

What has your experience been? Have you ever gone swimming in shark infested waters, without a cage?

SCUBA Diving in Sipadan with Sharks, Sea Turtles, Barracudas, & more!

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!

Whitetip Reef Shark while SCUBA Diving in Sipadan
surprise visitors during our dive – sharks!

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.

See all of my Sipadan photos from my Semporna Archipelago diving experience in Borneo (Malaysia). This includes more photos of white tipped reef sharks and sea turtles.

school of Jackfish
school of Jackfish
1st underwater SCUBA Diving photo of me
1st underwater SCUBA Diving photo of me
colorful fish in in Sipadan Borneo
what kind of fish is this? Please add it into the comments if you know
Harlequinn Sweetlips
Harlequinn Sweetlips

A graceful Sea Turtle swims next to us during our SCUBA dive

A graceful Sea Turtle swims next to us during our SCUBA dive
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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Diving with Thresher Sharks

SCUBA Diving with Thresher Sharks – Philippines

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:

Thresher Shark shows off its impressive tail - Thresher Sharks Philippines
Thresher Sharks have tails equal to the rest of the size of their body. Photo credit: Rafn Ingi Finnsson

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!

Thresher Shark swimming by
we waited and waited to catch a glimpse of the Thresher Shark

The scientific name of the three most common thresher sharks are Alopias vulpinus, Alopias superciliosus, and Alopias pelagicusBelow is a diagram from this site:

Thresher Shark diagram of features
Diagram of Thresher Shark Features
A thresher shark showing off its impressive tail - thresher sharks Philippines
A thresher shark showing off its impressive tail.

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 spot Thresher 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.

Thresher Shark
Photo credit: Rafn Ingi Finnsson

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):

2 more videos of thresher shark videos:

How to get to Malapascua to see Thresher Sharks?

Getting to Malapascua Island

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!

Additional info at MarineBioWiki, and here.

My other shark experiences in Asia:

While I started my trip terrified of sharks, over just a few months I’d end up SCUBA diving with massive Whale SharksWhitetip Reef Sharks, Blackfin Reef Sharks, Grey Reef Sharks, and more.

Philippines map