Malapascua is a tiny beach ringed tropical island off the north tip of Cebu. It's low lying interior with small coconut groves, little mechanical transport and easy going population (there is just one main village) have led to a laid back, 'no news, no shoes' feel that is very different from livelier and busier destinations elsewhere in the Country.
The island can be walked around in less than two hours and it is fringed by sandy beaches lined by tall green palms. People come here to relax and unwind and spend time on the beach, swimming, snorkeling and meeting new friends. And of course they come here to dive which is the main attraction. It's one of the few places in the world where there are near daily sightings of Thresher Sharks and the dawn dives at Monad Shoals are part of Malapascua's rise to fame.
It's not just about the Threshers though as there is also a good chance to see Hammerheads and Mantas (at different times of the year), there is great reef and wall diving and some mighty impressive wrecks to dive on as well.
As a result of its pull for tourists and repeat visitors a number of low key Resorts and Restaurants have developed around the island - mainly on and around the brilliant white sands of Bounty Beach - which has retained its reputation as an unhurried travelers stop whilst at the same time offering increasingly sophisticated and comfortable accommodation for both those on a budget and those looking for a more premier experience.
The end of the day is when the island becomes a little more alive when visitors stop for sundown drinks, to share their dive experiences and wander along the beach trying new dining stops. From there it's usually an early night for many as they prepare for an early start and the next day's diving.
Malapascua is reached by a 4-5 hour land and sea journey from Cebu. A car will pick you up directly from Cebu Airport or your Hotel and will follow the coastal and lush interior road due north to the tip of the Island. From there a short boat ride takes you directly on to Malapascua. The journey itself is a great part of the holiday and is a wonderful opportunity to see aspects of rural island life.
If travelling from Manila then there are approximately 15 - 20 daily flights into Cebu from Manila.
Malapascua is a year round diving destination. With no high peaks and with low lying neighboring islands Malapscua tends to have less rainfall than other parts of the regions. January through to May are generally the driest months and also peak season) and March to May sees the warmest temperatures. We like July - October most, it can sometimes rain but there is always somewhere to dive and water temperatures and visibility are often at their best.
With over 30 dive sites in the immediate area and with something for everyone from large pelagics to rare critters and large wrecks this is a perfect tropical dive destination.
Most dives are made as single trips though there are a number of outer lying sites which are combined into day trips with lunch or refreshments on board the boat.
Monad Shoal is the best known of all the Malapascua divesites and simply because this is where to see the Thresher Sharks. In essence these are non-descript flat areas of the seabed sitting at around 26m - but it's here that a series of natural cleaning stations have evolved and these elusive Sharks come in near daily for a visit. Best time to dive seems to be early just as dawn breaks. Its not only the Threshers that call in either; at nearby Kimud Shoal, a small sunken island, you can often see Manta Rays, Eagle Rays or even schooling Hammerheads!
Marine Santuary Gato island is just 40 minutes from Malapascua and is a divers delights with small caves and swim-throughs populated by large numbers of white tip reef sharks. There are actually at least 4 individual sites here so the island justifies repeat visits. As well as the sharks this is a fine place for critters and enthusiasts will find cuttle fish, boxer and mantis shrimps, frog fish, pygmy sea horses and so on. Also in the area are rays, lion fish, sea snakes, etc.
A popular day trip is the tiny strip of sand at Calanggaman Island. The beach is perfect for the surface interval and a barbecue is often the most popular choice. Below water are some quite stunning wall and drift dives look for large passing pelagics in the deep blue waters.
Closer to Malapascua are a series of shallow dives like Chocolate Island and Bantigi which are great for Macro-life and photography. Lapus Lapus has stunning coral formations and it is real pleasure so spend time slowly investigating the hard and soft coral gardens here. Lighthouse is an excellent dusk or nightdive. At dusk you will see the beautiful Mandarin-fish looking for mating partners - a gift for photographers. At night this whole area becomes one of the best night dives imaginable with completely different species seen as they come out to explore the nocturnal world.
Malapascua is also a fine destination for Wreck diving. There are the remains of two Japanese WW2 wrecks in the area that are at depths accessible for recreational divers and a further one (Pioneer Wreck) that can only be dived by Tech Divers. The best known and most impressive of the wrecks is the tragic Dona Marilyn that sunk in a storm in 1988 with a large loss of life. Incredibly the wreck is still intact and lying on its starboard side in 18-32m depth and covered in marine life. At 100m long this is one of the largest wrecks in the Philippines and an amazing diving experience – the back story to the tragedy adds to the general sense of respect and silence as you pass by.