Located in north Cebu it is a charming, tiny, isolated beach paradise which makes you feel like you have really left the western world behind. It is a diving hot spot with daily opportunities to dive in close proximity to Thresher sharks. If you are not a diver but you look for a quiet and laid-back holidays you should consider visiting this island also. I personally can’t forgive myself that I only booked 5 nights in this idyllic place. The island retained its serenity and even during busy season it feels like there is hardly anyone else there. The pace of life is unhurried, simple but so happy and beautiful. There are many good resorts which are nestled among the palm trees on the main beach – stunning Bounty Beach.
Malapascua Island is developing quite fast but don’t expect there any shopping centers, banks or even ATM machines. You need to bring cash with you! Most hotels except credit cards but you should check it with your hotel before arriving. There are no cars on the island, not even proper roads but you can walk around it within 2-3 hours or you can hire a motor bike (also with a driver if you are not comfortable to drive it yourself) to see local villages.
The island is all about beaches – go for snorkeling or scuba diving, get a massage on the beach or book a banca boat for island hopping. The most popular trip is one day trip to Kalanggaman – a little island with long white shoreline, crystal-clear water and a picturesque sandbars extending on both sides. There is no electricity and you should lower your expectations before entering a restroom. It is called a virgin island so as you can expect there is not much to do on this tiny paradise, just chill out, unwind, go snorkeling, go for a walk (take a flip flops, some parts of sandbar are covered in tiny broken mussels and corals), take some pictures and then return to reality with peaceful and relaxed mind. There are some plastic chairs and tables available and also barbeque area but there are no shops so you have to bring water and food or buy fresh caught fish from locals. We went to Kalanggaman for scuba diving trip with lunch served on the island during our two hours long surface interval in-between dives.
How to get to Malapascua Island?
From Cebu Airport you can take a public bus to Maya Port. It is the cheapest type of transport and takes about 4 hours so plan it well in advance and be sure you get to Maya Port before 5 pm. When gets dark only private boats travel to Malapascua and are a lot more expensive. If you are going to Malapascua for scuba diving, check with your diving company before arriving because many of them organize transport. At the port, you will be approached by helpers who will load your luggage on the boat so make sure you have some small change for tipping.
We got to Maya Port by comfortable car with a private driver organized for us by Sea Explorers diving company. When we reached Maya Port the team from Sea Explorers awaited us on their banca boat. Even though it was after 6 pm, very wavy and pitch dark our banca boat safely docked at our hotel’s beach. We booked scuba diving trips and hotel – the Ocean Vida Beach & Dive Resort – with SE also. We could not have picked better. It is a lovely, small resort located right at the Bounty Beach. I would highly recommend this hotel for its location, cleanness, friendly staff, amazing atmosphere, on-site dive shop and happy hours at the beach bar (every day from 4 to 6 pm two cocktails in a price of one). We spent our first day wondering around the island, watching local kids playing around and we also had a dinner in Amihan Italian restaurant located on top of a hill overlooking the sea. That restaurant has fantastic views but you better arrive there before gets dark. It is a great spot for watching sunset and the food is decent.
We complemented every diving day sipping cocktails on the beach, filling up dive log books, watching sunset and petting dogs. If you are a dog lover you will be in heaven – there are so many friendly dogs lying next to your beach chair or pouf.
Sea Explorers diving company in Malapascua is one of the best we have ever dived with. Equipment for rent is well maintained and very clean. I saw one crew member cleaning regulators with soapy water every single day. If you have your own equipment they provide you with a box with your name and hangers. You can keep your stuff in equipment storage room and staff packs it on the boat before every trip.
Malapascua offers numerous spots for a tour to the underwater world and diving is what attracts most of the visitors. Island is famous for its daily, before sunrise trips to Monad Shoal to see Thresher sharks. Threshers are deep water and nocturnal sharks and are usually very rarely seen by divers. Monad Shoal is a sunken island with max dive depth of 32 meters but with drop wall to 230 meters and it is only place in the whole world where that sharks can be seen every day – unless you are very unlucky. Thresher sharks live and hunt in the deep water but in early morning hours before it gets too bright they come up to the Monad Shoal attracted by small fishes called cleaning wrasse which eat dead skin and bacteria from sharks body. It is an advanced deep dive and you should consider Nitrox to double your bottom time. We were mesmerized by these distinguished sharks so much that we dived with them twice. Although variety of dive sites filled with beautiful marine life attracts many divers, diving boats were never overcrowded and we usually dived in a group of four divers. We dived also around one of shipwrecks – Dona Marilyn – Cebu-Manila passenger ferry that sank during typhoon over 20 years ago. The wreck is covered by soft coral and it is a home for blue spotted rays. We dived around Gato Island, a dive site know as the sea snake sanctuary and filled also with many whitetip, bamboo and cat sharks. “The Tunnel” dive site in Gato Island is a 30 meters tunnel underneath the island. You start diving from one side and before you exit the tunnel, usually whitetip sharks circle near it – they look amazing. Another dive site we visited was the Chocolate Hill Island – a shallow dive and macro photographer’s hotspot with many nudibranches, shrimps, flatworms and also sea snakes and cuttlefishes.
Kalangaman Island offers dive sites with plentiful fish life, hard coral, gorgonian fans and lots of macro photography opportunities. An interesting aspect of the location is a surface interval in-between dives that takes place on the picturesque and deserted island.
Visibility on most of our dives was quite good with water temperature about 25⁰C (end of March). Even though we wore 5mm thick long wetsuits, I got cold at the end of second dive. But in general, I get cold quite often.
We had an absolutely fantastic time in Malapascua Island thanks to Sea Explorers and Ocean Vida crew. I can highly recommend them to everyone based on my personal experience.
For more descriptive overview of scuba diving check out my GoPro video from Philippines (my previous post).
Few more photos