Malapascua Island is situated about 5 hours from Cebu, a favourite for divers and beach lovers that will leave you hungry… if not starving. This Island suffered heavily during Typhoon Ulanda and has very few trees remaining due to the ferocious winds that hit and decimated a lot of homes, boats and businesses on the island. They have recovered well but even at the time of writing the island was a again hit by a large storm causing damage again and our best wishes go out to those who are suffering at this time.
Heini and I were lucky to spend a few days on this sandy Island back in May this year whilst assessing if we were going to stay, live and work their long term. Would the living conditions on the island and its remoteness prove to be far too demanding for us? We headed out for a short stay and after a couple of days there would recommend a quick visit to this friendly tourist spot. Getting there.
We took one of many daily ferries from Tagbilaran to Cebu city in the morning, we then met up with Andrea from TSD, Thresher Shark Divers, and hitched a lift to Maya where we caught a boat for around 30 minutes before arriving on Malapascua. We took Andrea’s private car which if your planning, is more expensive, but can make the trip faster and 100% more comfortable than local transportation. Busses, mini vans, and even motorbike taxies are easy to arrange too from Cebu.
Accommodation on the island
There is quite a lot available for all levels of budget, though if your on a shoe-string budget your going to have to walk around the island for a while haggling prices,as this is a small and quite remote place you can expect prices to be higher than elsewhere. We stayed at “Hiltie’s” which is located 5 minute walk from TSD and provided rooms with fan or AC at different prices due to the islands expensive electric tariffs, this proved to be a problem as sleep without aircon was impossible due to the dry hot summer. The rooms are close together so lack privacy, and not designed for tall people – beware of stretching in the morning as the ceiling fan may remove a finger or two! We decided the room would do for the few days we stayed and saying that, they are some of the cheapest accommodation on the island.
Booking a package with a dive shop may in some cases be easier and more comfortable, but not so cheap as doing it alone where you can see the room before you commit, but after a long journey do you really want to drag your luggage around the island looking?
Food and eating out
We enjoyed the food at TSD “Oscar’s” restaurant above their diving operation, a great sea view restaurant with a huge menu for meat eaters and some fried/steamed vegetable and rice dishes for us to eat. The food was tasty, though prices seemed to be not well thought out, and of the time of our trip no tofu or bean dishes for non-meat eaters. The bar area is as huge as the menu and the beers are ice cold and though not “ninja speed” the service was great too and full of smiles.
Down the road we found a small local resort Buena Vida with great fresh food and juices too, it was as expected quite expensive but worth it in our opinion. We were treated out for dinner with TSD staff to Tepanee resort which made great vegan pizza, a little like normal pizza but without the cheese 🙂 and some side dishes which were OK but again could do with a little bit of imagination from the chef.
Wine was consumed and some cold beers which made this a great venue for groups of friends. As for night life, we easily found some great bars on the beach for sundowner beers and nuts, the local Tandua Ruhm being the cheapest way to cleansing your stomach! All in all the food was OK on the island, but not really as varied as I’d want if we planned on staying longer than a few days.
Diving with the threshers
The deal breaker for traveling to Malapasqua is undoubtably the thresher sharks, one of the few places where you can almost guarantee sightings early in the morning. We headed out on dive boat at 05:00, yep that early and so arriving at the dive centre at 04:30 we grabbed our gear and headed for the bangka boat. A short ride watching the sunrise was exceptional, the view with a morning coffee did the trick and we were ready to hit the water. The Thresher dives are dead, around 25meters plus, so your gonna need to have your advanced open water cert or higher to join.
Our group was of 4 persons so not too big and pretty well organised on the boat with briefings given and buddies assigned by the local divemaster. We dropped in and was happy that the dive enters all seemed to have their own mooring lines, this way we didn’t have every diver on the island gathered in the same spot, as it was we never say another diver from other groups until the end of the dive. We saw around ten individuals which is very lucky, visibility was around 20 meters and enriched air made our bottom time so much longer. We did two morning dives, though on the second morning we had only about four sharks around us, but hey IT’S STILL AWSOME!
Diving a mid morning dive was fun and not bad corals too, finding some critters but unfortunately no schools of fish on the reefs. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to sample a lot of the dive sites but were assured that the muck dives were exceptional, and before we knew it we were heading back to Cebu for some lunch and then a boat and bike back home to Alona.
Could we stay here long term?
All together a nice couple of days that introduced us to a great bunch of people at TSD, beautiful beaches, and of course the thresher sharks… but… unfortunately not a place we could live long term due to the remoteness. The local cock fighting (shown on some dive shops websites!?!? WHY??), loud festivals, lack of animal free food available on the island, and medical care made it a place to visit rather than to live for us. And as our good friend put it – “Sometimes happiness is having good a salad available”.