I emailed Threshers Shark Divers to handle all the arrangements for my trip to Malapascua. They booked the transfer for me from the overnight accommodation I'd stayed in near Cebu airport. A minibus turned up 5 minutes early and we drove up to the north. It took about 4 hours before we got to Maya where the boat left from where we were met by Threshers staff and transferred onto one of their boats for the short trip across.
There are various places to stay all along the south beach of the island and also a selection of bars and restaurants. There's the local village a couple of blocks behind which has some small shops and restaurants. Above the dive centre was Oscar's, a bar and restaurant and you could have food and drinks put onto your final bill. I went there for breakfast most days as they were open at 7am, giving plenty of time before the 8am meet.
The first dive trip was to Kalangaman. This is an uninhabited island run as a national park surrounded by marine park. It's quite a long way taking over an hour. The dive site itself was a wall dropping down to over 50m. We did two dives on two sections. The visibility was patchy with some dark plankton in the water in places. The coral looked healthy though there wasn't that much fish life. There was smaller stuff like anemone fish on the reef but certainly no shoals of fish that day. We did see a large turtle.
In between the dives we went onto the island and had a BBQ lunch which was pretty good. This is the most expensive trip offered as, in addition to lunch and fuel surcharge, there's a marine park fee of ₱500 for the island.
The next day, I did the trip to Gato island. This is more of a large rock than an island, so there's no going ashore. Lunch was a prepacked sandwich and some fruit.
|Ornate ghost pipefish|
Gato is known for its sea snakes and we saw several, all of the black and white banded krait variety. There were also some small though not pygmy, seahorses living in some of the weedy patches on the rocks. Visibility again wasn't fantastic, though 15m is reasonable.
The signature dive of Malapascua is to Monad shoal to see the thresher sharks. The shoal rises up to about 15m from the seabed. It's mostly sandy but it's a cleaning station for the sharks which inconveniently turn up there at dawn.
I leapt out of bed at 4.30 and the boat left at 5am. It was still dark when we left. I'd recommend putting insect repellent on as I'm sure that's when I got most of my bites. The dive plan is to go down to 30m or so and wait for the sharks to turn up, which they duly did. I saw about 5 and they come within a few metres of you. Their tails are their distinctive feature and what gives them their name and they really are big. Visibility and the light that early meant I didn't get any decent photos unlike my friends the previous morning, but it was still a good encounter. It's rare that they don't see them.
The other dives I did were local dives. I was supposed to dive the wrecks of the Dona Marilyn (33m) and Pioneer (55m) , but the weather blew , so they had to be cancelled.
The local dives weren't bad. The soft corals were particularly good and I saw some interesting stuff like a sea horse and ornate ghost pipefish and as well loads and loads of normal pipefish. However, there just weren't the usual clouds of things like anthias and trigger fish that you expect on reefs. I'm not sure why.
|Ornate ghost pipefish|
My bill at the end was a bit more than I had anticipated and not because of what I'd had in the bar. All those marine fees, lunches on the boat and fuel surcharges start to add up.