Malapascua, Philippines

My hidden paradise on Earth, this secluded island takes a very special place in my heart. Not only because of the beauty of it’s white sandy beaches and atmosphere of tranquility but also because of diving. This place is famous all over Philippines for diving with one of my favorite underwater creatures – graceful thresher shark.

Malapascua is also known as a place where you can see whitetip reef sharks, fantastic macro in Gato island and sunset mandarin fish meeting.
Thresher shark lives in Monad shoal. It’s actually a deep sea creature but at the sunrise time it comes up to 25-30 meters to the so called cleaning station to be cleaned by cleaning fishes who eat parasites from shark’s body. So normally this dive is a dawn dive at 5:30-6 am. Yes, it’s not easy to wake up so early espessialy when you are on vacation but it definitely worth it! The boat ride takes about 45 minutes, depth of the dive is 25-30 meters, and actually all you need to do is just go down, kneel on the bottom and wait. You are basically staying at the edge of underwater drop off and the graceful long-tail beauty is circling in front of you! Don’t forget to watch you air and deco time 😉

Gato isl is just a tiny rocky uninhabitant island about an hour of boatride. The place is famous for the cavern-like swim through, and whitetip reef sharks normally sleeping under the rocks. As a bonus you might have seahorse, pigmy sea horse, fabulous frog fish, arlekin shrimp, sea snakes and if you are lucky enough even a blue ring octopus.

Thresher shark

Thresher shark

One of the famous thing is Malapascua is sunset dive for mandarine fish meeting. It’s a very special dive. The thing is mandarine fish meeting happens only at sunset time and lasts just for about 30 minutes. The dive site called Lighthouse is very near to the beach, like 10 minutes by boat. It’s a shallow place, about 6-8 meters. You kneeling or hovering at the coral pinacles where they live. And at sunset they begin to activate. Here and there you can see them inside the corals. And then mandarine couples come up for 10 seconds and quickly get back inside the coral. Basically, those 10-15 second is their meeting. Quickly, isn’t it? 🙂

From the nearest dive sites I also like the Deep Rock – underwater pinacle with strong currents, beautiful soft corals and good macro. Wreck lowers can make a trip to Donna Marlin – big ship all covered with soft corals in about 1 hour of boat ride.

White tip reef sharks, Gato isl

White tip reef sharks

Mantis shrimp

Mantis shrimp

Thresher shark

Thresher shark

Getting here: If you decide to come this place for diving or chilling, you should take a taxi (2500-3000 peso, takes 3-3,5 hours) or bus (aircon 200 peso / person, 5 hours) from Cebu North bus terminal to Maya – small village, located on the very North of Cebu island. From there you can take a boat ride to Malapascua. Public boat costs 100 pesos per person, but runs only at a day time. So if you arrive late afternoon (like we did, at 8 pm) most probably you will not have other options but to hire a private boat for 1500 pesos and share the cost with other passengers. But in our case there were just a few locals in the port, so boatman wanted to charge us 500 pesos per person. Think about it, may be it’s much more reasonable to stay overnight in the nearby lodge for 800-900 pesos per room and get to Malapascua the next morning. Public boats start running at 7 am and should be every hour but normally they don’t stick exactly to schedule, they always waiting for more people to come. So if you have your arrangement for diving for the morning, please be ready for this. D & A Lodge, 5 min walk from new port. Basic rooms, clean, just okay place to sleep. Very nice and friendly owner.