Liveaboard Diving in Monad Shoal
What to Expect on a Monad Shoal Liveaboard
Liveaboards to Monad Shoal visit the premier thresher shark hotspot in Malapascua, a tiny island 6.8 km from the northern tip of Cebu in the Philippines. This laid-back island is hugely famous for daily sightings of the elusive, graceful thresher with its long tail and big eyes. Threshers rarely venture up from deep-water habitat; however, they can't seem to resist the good scrub offered at the cleaning stations of Monad Shoal. Divers lucky enough to get on a Monad Shoal liveaboard will see a rarely encountered, incredible deep-sea creature.
Monad Shoal Underwater
Monad Shoal is essentially a submerged island perched on the lip of a steep drop-off that descends 200 meters down into the abyss. This location brings not only threshers, but other denizens of the deep like manta rays and devil rays, up from their usual haunts to shallower cleaning stations, especially in the early morning. Shark Point and Shark Wall are the two main thresher dive sites at Monad, and for both, divers should have an advanced certification. For longer bottom time, a nitrox certification makes the experience even more worthwhile.
For your best chance to see these large pelagics you should expect an early start. While long-running dive shops in the area state that there's a good chance of shark sightings anytime between six and nine in the morning, most boats aim to get divers in the water at dawn. A set of common rules and procedures between local dive operators has also helped ensure good sightings in the past couple years; threshers are shy, so hubbub and extraneous movement in the water lowers everyone's chances.
Once you reach Monad Shoal, expect to descend to about 25 meters. The shoal, on top of which you'll be stationed, is a 1.5 kilometer rock with a flat top and sheer sides dropping into watery darkness. Various species of cleaner wrasse are the main spa service providers for the threshers, which even allow wrasses into their mouths to eat the ectoparasites between their teeth! While the wrasses are reliably present, you may have to sit and wait for the sharks. When they appear, it remains important to stay quiet and still; thresher sharks like to circle, so it's likely that they'll come back toward you two or three times before departing.
Thresher Sharks' big eyes help them see in the dark when hunting squid and fish. Their long tails (half their body length) are used to corral schools of small fish into tight groups, easier to take a bite of. However, they are not the only strange and wonderful creatures at Monad Shoal. Some say that Monad offers good enough macro diving to make it a premier destination even without the threshers! Pygmy seahorses can be regularly seen, as well as nudibranchs, mantis shrimps, pipefish, and octopus. Resident reef fish also take advantage of the cleaner wrasses to the benefit of divers who can get closer than normal for great photos. In the blue, it's common for manta rays, devil rays, eagle rays, and even hammerheads (from January through April) to join the threshers.
The most exciting recent development on a Monad Shoal liveaboard is the discovery of Shark Wall, a dive site that locals are saying promises even more threshers than the long-standing site Shark Point! Here, some of the sharks are said to come close and hang around for a long time.
Liveaboards diving Monad Shoal usually visit the Malapascua area for one to three days on Visayas itineraries of 6, 10 or 12 nights. On liveaboard.com, the S/Y Philippines Siren and M/V Seadoors both offer Monad Shoal as a destination; Siren makes 10-night trips, and Seadoors does 6-night itineraries, with an occasional 12-night journey. At least one, and sometimes more, of their dives will be at Monad. These liveaboards usually require a budget of around 250 to 350 euros per night.
S/Y Siren is a luxury sailing yacht from the world-traveling Siren fleet. It combines Malapascua with dive areas in Cebu, Bohol, and Negros. Seadoors offers slightly different itineraries, like the Camotes islands and Southern Leyte on its 6-night trip, and Camiguin, Siquijor, Negros, and Southern Leyte on its long trip. The long trip additionally includes three days of land tours to see waterfalls, markets, and tarsiers. Seadoors is a custom-build dive boat with a length of 25 meters, accommodating up to 16 divers with great diving amenities and comfort.
The experience level required by liveaboards diving Monad Shoal is Open Water, with either ten or twenty dives, depending on the itinerary. However, remember that the current and depth at Monad Shoal make it more suitable for advanced divers, and nitrox is recommended for longer dives and more chance of thresher encounters.
Cebu City and Malapascua are the liveaboard departure locations for boats diving Monad Shoal. Cebu City is a booming metropolis and the regional capital of the Visayas, with a port that sends ferries, cargo ships, and liveaboards out in every direction. Getting to Cebu City is easy with a 1.5 hour flight from Manila or direct flights from select Southeast Asian countries nearby. International flights can get to Cebu City via a transfer in Asia. Malapascua, on the other hand, has no airport, but it can be reached by taxi, van, or bus (and small boat). From Cebu City, getting to Malapascua requires a five hour bus journey; taxis take about half that time.
Best time to travel
Liveaboard diving to Monad Shoal can be done all year round. While the Malapascua area does experience slightly wetter weather during the regional rainy season of July through December, rain is infrequent compared to Cebu. Thresher sharks and whitetip sharks are present year-round, as well as manta rays. Hammerheads, however, peak in March or April, at the end of their January through April season. The water temperature in Malapascua can range from 24 to 30 C, with the lower temperatures corresponding to winter in the northern hemisphere.
Monad Shoal Diving Reviews
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thresher sharks on both dives really beautiful!! top of reef with a dive in itself lots of shrimp reef fish and soft coral lionfisddid
Diving Monad Shoal in October on the Philippine Siren