There are a number of unique opportunities while scuba diving Malapascua, and here is all the information you will need to experience it for yourself. The diving is amazing, from Gato Island, thresher sharks, mandarine spawning and much more, to beautiful beaches, sunsets and sunrises, Malapascua should be on every diver’s bucket list.
Guide to Scuba Diving Malapascua
In the northernmost tip of Cebu, one of the largest provinces in the Philippines is a small island revered for its amazing diving spot. Malapascua, situated in Logon village, Daanbantayan Cebu started gaining popularity in the 1990s due its beautiful coral gardens, coral walls and reefs, wrecks, and diverse marine life. But the thing that makes this island unique and world famous can be found in one of its number one dive spot, Monad Shoal. Malapascua is the only place in the world where divers can regularly see, thresher sharks. For this alone, scuba diving Malapascua is one of the best experiences a diver could ever have.
How to get to Malapascua
If you are planning to go scuba diving in Malapascua, the first thing you need to do is to go to Cebu City. There are several international direct flights to the province from Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific, Cebu Pacific, Philippines Airlines), Singapore (Cebu Pacific, Silkair), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Malaysian Airlines), Tokyo, Japan (Philippine Airlines), Taiwan (Mandarin Airlines)
Qatar/Singapore/Europe (Qatar Airlines), and South Korea (Asiana, Philippine Airlines, Korean Airlines, Jeju Air).
If there is no direct flight to Cebu from your country of origin, then fly to Manila and from there, you can book another flight that goes to Cebu. There are a few airlines that offer daily Manila-Cebu trips, such as Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, and Philippine Airlines.
If you are looking for a cheaper option and have a lot of time to spare, then you may take a ferry to Cebu. You may check the schedule and book your trip in any of the three local ferries; Superferry, Supercat, and Oceanjet.
From Cebu, you need to get to Maya Malapascua Ferry Terminal. The most efficient way to get from Cebu city to Malapascua is by requesting a transfer from the resort in which you are staying. The one-way transfer may cost you somewhere between US$100 to $120, but this will save you the trouble of reaching the island on your own. Should you want to do it yourself, then take either a van (US$2.93) or the Ceres bus (US$3.71) that goes to Maya port. Travel time takes 4 hours so make sure to do it early to reach the port before 3 in the afternoon.
At Maya port, take a boat to Malapascua island; boat fare rate is only US$1.56 and travel time only takes 30 minutes. Note that the schedule of boat transfer from Maya to Malapascua is from 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. You can arrange a private boat transfer if you came in too late but this will set you back from US$15 to $23. Another option is to spend the night in one of the guesthouses in the area then take the morning boat the next day.
Best dive sites around Malapascua
Scuba diving Malapascua is anything but a bore. With over 20 excellent dive sites to visit, the island has something to offer to amateur and professional divers alike.
• Monad Shoal – a.k.a. Shark Point is an underwater plateau is where you should go if you want to go diving with thresher sharks sighting. In 2015 alone, there’s been a thresher shark sighting record of 80-90%. Thresher sharks are known for their long upper caudal fins. They can grow to 5.7 meters (19 ft) in length and unlike other shark species, they are not considered a threat to humans. Monad Shoal is about 1.5 kilometers in diameter and about 20-28 meters deep. Morning dive usually begins at 5:00 to 6:00 a.m. Manta rays and mobulas can also be seen in this shoal in the afternoon dives.
• Gato Island – Another famous diving spot, Gato Island, can be reached by boat in 45 minutes, about 15 kilometers from Malapascua. This island is where you can find sea snakes and whitetip reef sharks, usually hiding in the crevices of some rocks and small caves. Underneath the island is a dive tunnel, which divers rave about for its magnificent underwater view, often likened to a glass-stained window. Divers usually start their dive from the northeast side of the island and end the exploration to the west side. Guests are advised to take extra precaution when visiting this island as it is teeming with yellow-lipped sea krait, a venomous sea snake called locally as “balingkasaw”.
• Kemod Shoal – For the high chance of seeing hammerhead sharks, visit Kemod Shoal, located east of Malapascua, close to the island of Leyte. Just like Monad Shoal, Kemod is a favorite playground of thresher sharks and manta rays, as well as devilfish. The site is smaller compared with Monad, which in estimate is probably only about a few hundred square meters. The top of the shoal is about 10 meters (32ft) depth and descends to 29 meters (95ft). Among the marine species that can be seen regularly here are yellowfin tuna, mackerel, barracudas, and unicorn fish.
• Lapus Lapus – This island has a depth of 18 meters (60ft) and is known for having the most spectacular soft and hard corals. Marine life to be found on this island includes giant frogfish, painted frogfish, smashing mantis shrimp, sweetlips, lionfish, etc.
• Lighthouse – This is another unique dive that you have to try out while in Malapascua, where you can see lots of the rare mandarine fish, and if you are lucky, see them spawning. It takes place at sunset, making it a beautiful boat ride as well.
• Doña Marilyn – There is a shipwreck site in Malapascua where the sunken ferry named MV Doña Marilyn can be found. In October 1988, over 389 people dead in the tragedy when it got caught with typhoon “Ruby” or Unsang as it is named locally. The ship now lies on the bottom of the sea, at a depth of 32 meters. You may dive around the site, but as a sign of respect to the victims, divers are not allowed to enter the wreck. The shipwreck is now home to a dense number of marine life, such as frogfish, nudibranch, whitetip reef sharks, marble ray, eagle ray, etc.
Other things to see and do in Malapascua
The beauty of Malapascua doesn’t end with what you can see underwater. There are other activities that you can do and enjoy on this island, one of which is the next best thing after diving, island hopping. Among the places that you can see on this tour are the picturesque Kalanggaman island, Logon beach, Bounty beach, Lighthouse beach, Guimbitayan beach, and Lapus Lapus beach.
At night, you can go to a bar and chill with newfound friends. Head out to the most popular bar in Malapascua, Kocoy’s where you can drink, play games like table football, as well as enjoy delectable dishes.
Sunset watching is also one of the simple albeit best things you can do on this island. An ideal spot is on the seashore, outside the Tepanee resort.
You may also arrange a land tour with your resort or rent a motorbike to see nearby villages.
Best times to visit Malapascua
The high season in Malapascua is between February to May. This is when the island is most busy with the throng of tourists coming to visit the island. This is also the summer season in the Philippines and therefore, an ideal time to go scuba diving. If you do not want to deal with a crowd, then June to September is your best bet. Do take note though that the rainy season in the Philippines begins in mid-July and lasts up until September.