Diving through the Sardine run, The Philippines

For the past few years the sardines that formally swam around Pescador Island have packed their suitcases and moved to the drop-off just 30m offshore from Panagsama Beach in Moalboal.


We found a friendly dive company that also happened to be the cheapest and headed out to House Reef where the sardine run takes place. The 30 meters leading out were pretty shallow, until the wall suddenly dropped down 40 meters. As soon as we reached the wall there were sardines all around us. They darted so quickly and all followed in huge shoals. As they twisted sideways and the sun shone off their scales the whole area twinkled silver. I hardly concentrated on anything else on the dive, the sardines were too mesmerising. We followed the wall and did see a couple frog fish which are ugly lumps and you can hardly tell where their face is. And a few turtles swam past too. But really I couldn’t take my eyes off the sardines. I was taking a photo of them swimming past me when they suddenly darted right for me at lightening speed and my regulator nearly popped out my mouth in shock.



We went back the same way along the wall but at a different height and seemed to be even closer to the sardines here. The whole area in front of us was black from the congestion and as we swam towards them the thick shoal made a hole for us to go through. It was so dark inside that it felt like we were swimming through a cave. When we came out the other end I looked up and the patterns they were making were insane, it looked like an underwater tornado! It was so incredible. I think it’s one of my favourite dives I’ve ever done.




As the sardines are known to swim just a meter from the surface we decided to see them from a different vantage point and the dive shop kindly lent us snorkel gear for free. We had lots of fun diving down and watching them all disperse around us. Separate tight rows of them would glide at different paces through the water. And huge walls of them would appear beside us and shape-shift. Looking back at my photos I can see scary faces and cartoon images within the crowd of sardines, it’s just like in Finding Nemo!

  

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