Diving with…Andrea Agarwal, Thresher Shark Divers, Malapascua, Philippines

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In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…


What is your name?

Andrea Agarwal

What is the name of your business?

Thresher Shark Divers

What is your role within the business?

Owner/Managing Director/Marketing and Reservations

How long has the business operated for?

15 years

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

20 years, PADI Master Instructor

What is your favorite type of diving?

Muck diving. And of course, sharks!

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?

Thresher sharks!  Malapascua is the only place in the world where you can have up-close and personal sightings of this magnificent creature every day!

What is your favorite dive in your location and why?

My favourite dive site is Gato Island.  Whilst I adore the sharks, I love my macro more and I originally settled in Malapascua because there is so much macro at every dive site.  But Gato outshines them all and has a superb variety. When I arrived on Malapascua in 2003,  I coined the phrase, “You come for the sharks, but leave remembering Gato,” and we still use that today.

You can see assorted seahorse including pygmies, so many species of nudis, crustaceans of all sorts, several frogfish species, and so much more.  And it’s not just macro.  There are beautiful soft corals, as well as bigger stuff like the mesmerising mating cuttlefish that I could spend all dive watching, and Gato’s famous tunnel under the island, often with whitetip sharks inside! If not, you will definitely see whitetips hiding under rocks and you can get very close up as they open and close their mouths ominously! (Don’t worry, they’re only breathing!)

What types of diving are available in your location?

Sharks and large rays; wrecks and reefs; wall dives and muck dives; beautiful coral gardens, mating mandarin fish, and amazing macro.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

I adore working in an industry where you exist to make people happy and make their dreams come true.  There is nothing I love more than hearing that someone has had the most amazing holiday of their life! And when diving, there is nothing better than finding some new weird and wonderful creature I’ve never seen before.  For example, I’m still on the search for that elusive Bobbitt Worm, and I’m hopeful I will find it one day! They simply have to be in Malapscuan waters!

What is your favorite underwater creature?

Oooh, so difficult to choose!!!

I think I’d have to go for the aforementioned cuttlefish (although you might get a different answer tomorrow!). They are so intelligent, so beautiful to watch, especially when they are flashing  full colours when mating, and with enough patience, once they get used to you, you can even play with them (no touching of course!)

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

We saw a tiger shark this week for the first time ever at Monad Shoal, the thresher shark site! Hoping it will be the first of many sightings!!!

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

That’s a toughie as there are many! The main issues have been ongoing for forever, and include things like waste management and marine protection. Although I’ve tried, it’s impossible to do anything meaningful without government help.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

Yes, we always have been. We were one of the first dive shops on Malapscua, and since I first arrived, I’ve pioneered marine protection initiatives. Off the top of my head, among other things, I wrote and implemented the rules for diving with the sharks, have organised removal of hundreds of thousands of crown of thorns during two separate infestations (not a problem now thankfully), and tried to implement a program, funded by business donations, to install litter bins and employ locals to keep the island clean.

For these larger scale issues, it’s an uphill struggle, especially with increasing tourism, and it requires governmental help to succeed… Some things are easier to control – of course we do regular clean-ups, we always insist on proper dive practices to protect the environment, we have a very strict no gloves/no touching policy etc. etc.

How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?

I wish there was a way to weed out the cowboys. I hate hearing stories of bad experiences with bad dive shops who cut corners to save a buck, or lazy Instructors and DMs who just can’t be bothered and end up giving divers frightening experiences. I’ve always run Thresher Shark Divers with a strong motto of “Safety and quality first”, and in that order. Our reputation reflects that and I’m very proud of my team for always supporting me in this, and upholding my values.

What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

“Safety and quality first”!!!

Joking aside, this is our other tag line-

“You want big fish? We got big fish!

You want macro? We got macro!

You want wrecks? We got wrecks?

You want it all? We got it all!

Malapascua Island – your one-stop dive spot!”

I wrote that not long after we opened, because I did and still do believe it with a passion.  I settled on Malapascua because of the tremendous variety of diving – the dive sites are spread out in all directions, with all kinds of oceanic influence, and it means they mostly have very different kinds of diving.

Where can our visitors find out more about your business?

www.thresherdivers.com

dive@thresherdivers.com

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