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Malapascua is a beautiful small island just off the northern tip of Cebu. Small enough to walk around in just a few hours and dotted with tiny fishing villages it is very much the classic Pacific island hideaway.
The white sands of Bounty beach are the main business stretch of the island and it has a sprinkling of dive shops and resorts but the island largely remains quiet and free from large numbers of visitors.
Divers come here for the chances to see thresher sharks, manta rays and to dive at Gato Island and the Donna Marilyn wreck. For non divers there is a sense of peace and tranquility on the island that is hard to beat. The interior of the island has small cottages with pretty flowered filled gardens and a maze of pathways that run from cove to cove. There are beautiful clear skies in the evenings allowing you to watch shooting stars. The overall calm is helped by the absence of any four wheel motor vehicles!
It is a small island and this can mean that electrical supply is on occasion sporadic and the water can be a little salty but this is a small price to pay as most of us would like to see Malapascua retain its natural feel. The island is an idyllic getaway for divers and non-divers alike.
Getting to Malapascua is easy. From Cebu City you travel north by road to Maya, the journey will take 3 to 4 hours. From Maya it is a short hop on a banca across to Malapascua.
The Hippocampus Beach Resort has been recently built and is adjacent to the dive centre. The deluxe rooms are furnished in a colonial style and all have air-conditioning and large balconies with views of the gardens and the sea.
The restaurant on the beach and Paniki bar are just the place to wind down the day. The restaurant serves both international and Filipino dishes and the bar has wide selections of wines and spirits.
The Dive Centre:
The recently renovated Sea Explorers facility is situated on the beach and is a PADI 5 star Gold Palm Dive Centre. It has full equipment rental, fully furnished classrooms and constant Nitrox availability. There are banca boats and a speed boat for the trips to the dive spots.
Thresher Sharks! One of the few places in the world that you have a good chance of regularly seeing thresher sharks is a place called Monad shoals and it is just 20 minutes by boat from Malapascua. On a stretch of reef top about a depth of 23m the sharks appear at the start of the day, sometimes just one and if you are lucky four or more. Their early appearance means an early start for the divers – often leaving at 5.00am! Occasionally manta rays and hammerheads are seen here as well.
The dive sites at nearby Calangaman Island combine steep walls along which you may see passing pelagics with beautiful corals surrounding big boulders. The dives here are often part of a day trip with snorkeling in the shallows.
Tiny Gato Island is a sea snake sanctuary and is the home of several resting white tip reef sharks. A cave runs through the island and divers can make their way from one side of the island to the other via the cave.
The Donna Marilyn is a 90m long cargo boat that sank in 1982. At 32m deep it is easily accessible and perfect for dives on Nitrox. There is good coral growth on the wreck and it is home to both macro and micro species.
Surrounding Malapascua and just minutes from the dive centre are a number of reefs that are perfect for novices and photographers.
Photographs courtesy of Hippocampus Beach Resort & Sea Explorers