Philippines – Malapascua

Malapascua Island, Philippines – one of the only places in the world where SCUBA divers can come face to face with pelagic thresher sharks (also known as “fox sharks”). Thresher sharks are famous for their unusually long tails, which can sometimes measure as long as their torpedo shaped muscular bodies! The thresher shark uses its tail as a weapon, whipping, stunning and immobilizing its prey. Definitely a sight to behold but few divers encounter the thresher as they typically hang out between 30 to 150 meters in the open ocean. However, lucky for us, Monad Shoal at Malapascua Island is one of the most notable (and reliable) hot spots in the world to see pelagic threshers on a regular basis. Sign us up!

Taking the public boat to Bario Logon; Malapascua Island Our home for the week at Aabana Resort One main "road" on Malapascua Island Let the good times roll - walking to Evolution Dive Center to start our week of diving Getting a dive briefing from Anne, a dive master at Evolution Evolution Diving Resort Sleepy cat Eating a cheap lunch near Malapascua's main market area Fish drying in the sun Epic sunrise at Monad Shoal Spotting our first Thresher Shark; Monad Shoal Footpath adjacent to Bounty Beach Bounty Beach Who wants a coconut? Beach shack; Malapascua Island Fresh fish sold to a local restaurant Bangkas (Philippine outrigger boats); Bounty Beach Posing next to a Thresher shark mural; Bounty Beach Dining beach side! Malapascua is a macro diver's delight with numerous unique nudibranchs. Here, two variable neon slugs (nembrotha kubaryana) can be seen side by side Narrow-lined Manila pufferfish Banded pipefish Black saddled toby (Valentino Puffer) Flatworm Scribbled puffer fish Green polka dotted nudibranch Brain coral A perfect day for diving; Malapascua Island Fish drying on a rack; Bounty Beach Blue ringed octopus, a pint sized octopus with a fatal sting Giant sea slug seen on a night dive Map pufferfish Robby posing with a statue at Gato Island Banded Coral Cleaner Shrimp Impossible to take a photo of a juvenile harlequin sweetlips as it is constantly wriggling from side to side (mimicking the movement of flatworms) Yellow seahorse; Gato Island Juvenile white spotted bamboo shark; Gato Island Moray eel Pregnant seahorse; Gato Island Soft coral Blue with yellow spots nudibranch Evolution dive support staff playing a game to pass the time while we dive Thresher sharks are a sight to behold...we felt so lucky to get circled by one multiple times on our last dive! Thresher sharks use their long, scythe like tails to whip or stun prey as they hunt. Believe it or not but their tails are as long as their bodies! Josh giving us the dive briefing for "Deep Slope", one of our favorite local dive spots Josh, Marco and Robby getting ready for our dive at Deep Slope Commerson's frogfish (giant frogfish) with an open mouth Spot the giant frogfish in this picture! Straight nose pipefish Dotted nudibranch (Jorunna funebris) Dive master Jo giving us the Giliano dive briefing Profile of a seahorse; Giliano Feather duster worms Bubble coral which increases its surface area depending on how much sunlight is available A symbiotic relationship between a crab and an anemone Beautiful coral gardens make diving Malapascua a joy to behold! Leather mushroom coral Robby on the swing set; Evolution Dive Center Getting spoiled as the hard working Evolution dive staff offloads our SCUBA gear from the dive boat Orange flowers; Aabana Resort Becky chilling on our hammock; Aabana Resort Enjoying 2 for 1 happy hour with Shi, Marco and Eemin; Craic House Panorama of Bounty Beach - another great dive day Blue flowers in our garden; Aabana Resort Following dive master Josh on the MV Doña Marilyn ferry wreck Resident eel; MV Doña Marilyn Jellyfish with fish hitchhikers; MV Doña Marilyn Maria's Point - a fabulous soft coral garden awaits! Feather star Bubble Tip Anemone Bubble Honeycomb Coral (Euphyllia Ancora) Lionfish Soft coral Soft coral detail Fern coral Peacock mantis shrimp Resting fish Flower soft coral Worm infestation on coral Strapweed filefish Blue Dragon (Pteraeolidia Ianthina) nudibranch tucked away in soft coral Fan coral The very rare sargassum frogfish, which lives among sargassum seaweed. This frogfish was released at Malapascua Island Craic House bar - excellent 2 for 1 happy hour specials daily Enjoying a beer at Exotica Restaurant Evolution dive crew Flat worm Purple and yellow nudibranch Seahorse searching for food School of catfish Baby fish hide from predators under the protective   dome of this jellyfish! Spearing mantis shrimp Nudibranchs come in all shapes, sizes and colors. This is one of 2000 unique species of nudibranchs Nudibranchs are easy to spot if you go slow and pay attention to every nook and cranny Feather star Uniformed school kids walking to school; Malapascua Island Happy dog Giant frogfish Cuttlefish doing a great job camouflaging itself Tube worms Spotted moray eel Porcupine puffer fish Giant moray eel Dorid nudibranch (Halgerda batangas) Frogfish Dive master humor! Dog chilling at Aabana Resort Coconut tree; Aabana Resort Posing with Josh, our favorite Evolution dive master; Malapascua Island Our last sunset on Malapascua Island foto gallery lightboxby v6.1

To reach Malapascua Island, we had to fly into Cebu, take a taxi to the north bus terminal, hop on a Ceres bus to Maya Port, and flag down a public boat to Malapascua Island…whew! We were definitely happy to reach the island late that afternoon. Our home for the week was the lovely Aabana Beach & Watersport Resort, right next door to Evolution Diving Resort. Our plan was to dive with the threshers every morning at the crack of dawn, and depending on how the rest of the diving was, log up to 15 dives during the week. Little did we know that diving with the threshers meant getting up at 4 am, so we quickly modified our original plan! 4 am wake up every morning on vacation…no thanks, ha ha.

The threshers did not disappoint. We were very lucky to see them on all 3 dives we did with them, unlike the previous week where they struck out 4 mornings in a row. The best dive was the last, with at least 10 thresher shark sightings, including one that leisurely circled us several times. Magical! Big kudos to dive master Josh who took us to his favorite cleaning station. Diving Nitrox is a must, or we would have had to cut our bottom time short. Well worth it…being that intimate with the threshers was an unforgettable natural high.

As for the rest of the diving at Malapascua, we weren’t expecting too much, but damn, were we shocked when we realized it is a macro divers’ delight! From seahorses, nudibranchs, pipefish, shrimps, frogfishes, pygmy squid (about the size of a grain of rice)…the underwater world never fails to amaze us. Before we knew it, we had logged 16 dives, including a dusk dive to see the mandarin fish courtship dance, a night dive where we spotted the elusive blue-ringed octopus, a day trip to the unmissable Gato Island, and a day trip to see the Dona Marilyn ship wreck and Maria’s Point (best coral garden of the trip). Diving in the Philippines is very impressive, but keep your expectations in check. While we love the big exciting stuff, we absolutely do appreciate the small stuff too. Aaaah, so many more places to add to our Philippines SCUBA bucket list (Moalboal Sardine Run, Dumaguete’s macro diving at Dauin, Coron Bay’s wreck diving, Cathedral Rock Diving at Anilao and Batangas, and Siquijor Island). Needless to say, we’ll definitely be back. This is the start of a new love affair with the Philippines, which had catapulted itself to the top of our favorite Southeast Asian countries!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *