Malapascua Island – Diving with Magnificent Thresher Sharks
If you follow us on Instagram you know that we absolutely fell in love with this little island and the islands surrounding it.
Malapascua Island wasn’t on our initial Philippines Itinerary.
By coincidence, we stumbled upon a guide about this hidden gem in the Philippines.
Mostly popular for the chance to see Thresher Sharks.
So if you have a diver certification or want to get it head to Malapascua island to get the opportunity to be eye to eye with these impressive animals.
At a glance:
How to get to Malapascua Island
From Cebu city to Malapascua you can take a bus, van or private car to Maya, the most northern City on Cebu island, from where the ferries are heading to Malapascua island.
If you already have a hotel on the island you can ask them to arrange a private transportation for you, but keep in mind this is one of the most expensive ways to get to Malapascua and might cost between 4.000-6.000 Pesos.
The much cheaper possibility is to organize the transportation yourself, which is not that tricky especially when following our tips below. ;)
The cheapest way to get to Malapascua island is by public bus from the North Bus Terminal in Cebu City.
The terminal is a 20-35 minutes taxi ride from the airport (depending on the traffic).
There are plenty of bus companies like Ceres or Rough Riders and they leave every 30 minutes to Maya.
Prices vary between 150 – 200 Pesos according to whether the bus has an aircon or not.
Some buses even advertise that they have Wifi but that Wifi sticker on the front window does not automatically mean it is actually working (you are still in the Philippines). ;)
The ride takes approximately 4-5 hours to Maya port and you will make 1 or 2 stops along the way where you can use the public toilet or buy some snacks.
We were told that the busses with aircon don’t make as many stops like the ones without but we used one of each and they stopped at the same destinations along the way.
One of the highlights on the way are the salesman and women who enter the bus every now and then to sell their goods.
They stay for a few kilometers on the bus before they leave and wait for the next one in the hope of paying customers.
By Private Car
If you book a private car or taxi the ride to Maya will usually only take about 3 hours but will cost you PHP 5.000.
So you can save up to 2 hours paying 25 times the bus price – think again. ;)
Ferry to the Island
After arriving in Maya at the Northern tip of Cebu island you can either take a private boat (1.000-1.500 Pesos) or the public ferry (100 Pesos) to get to Malapascua.
The ride takes 30 to 40 minutes and you should make sure to arrive before 5 PM to assure that you’ll catch the last public boat for that day.
How to get around on Malapascua
Contrary to other islands in the Philippines you can not rent a motor scooter on Malapascua island.
Well, actually there is no need for it.
The island is so tiny you can walk from the South to the North in about 40 minutes. ;)
Anyhow, the locals, of course, do own motor scooters and they gladly give you a ride for a small fee.
Malapascua Island Diving
Malapascua Island is one of the few places on earth where you can dive with Thresher sharks.
They get up to 5 – 6 meters tall and are known for their huge tail, which makes up most of their body length.
Threshers are nocturnal animals and live in deep water.
The Monad Shoal close to Malapascua island is the only known place where the sharks come up to 28 meters, which makes it one of the few places where you can see them in their natural habitat.
Characteristics of the Monad Shoal dive site:
- Depth: 12-30 meters
- Conditions: seamount over 1.5km long located about 20 minutes boat ride from Malapascua, world famous dive site
- Appropriate for: Thresher shark dives, enriched air Nitrox
- Marine life: Thresher sharks, swarms of cleaner wrasse, occasionally mantas & mobular rays
If heading for a Thresher Shark dive you will start in the early morning, before sunrise, because the sharks are best seen between 6 and 8 AM.
After an approx. 20 minutes boat ride you are diving down to the cleaning station where the Thresher Sharks benefit the symbioses with the cleaning wrasse, which eat dead skin and bacteria from the shark’s body.
If you are lucky you will be able to see one or a few of the sharks during their cleaning routine where they stay for only a few minutes after sunrise before it gets too bright for the nocturnal animals.
Since you will go down to 28 meters you can only do this dive with an instructor or as an Advanced Open Water diver.
As we told you in our post about the Best Bohol Tourist Spots, Julia did her PADI Open Water license in Panglao.
On Malapascua island, it was time to do the PADI Advanced Open Water, which enables a diver to go as deep as 30 meters.
We can absolutely recommend the diving school Devocean Divers, where we had one of the best diving instructors in Johanna and the most adventurous dives.
Special Dive Sites (besides Monad Shoal)
Besides the most famous dive site Monad Shoal there are plenty other spectacular sites close by.
For example 5 options for students and Open Water Divers:
- Depth: 5-10 meters
- Conditions: shallow dive site in the most protected bay
- Appropriate for: great for night dives, underwater photography
- Marine life: mandarinfish, seahorse, shrimp, crabs, squids
- Depth: 6-15 meters
- Conditions: sloping reef leading to a sandy bottom
- Appropriate for: another great night dive site, underwater photography
- Marine life: ghost pipefish, frogfish, dragonets, mantis shrimp, pygmy seahorses
- Depth: 8-15 meters
- Conditions: 20 minutes boat ride from Malapascua island and close to Maya Cebu
- Appropriate for: underwater photography
- Marine life: nudibranch, flatworms, large sea hares, spanish dancers, octopus
- Depth: 15-22 meters
- Conditions: extending out from the northwestern tip of Malapascua island
- Appropriate for: underwater photography
- Marine life: plenty of colorful reef fish, frogfish, pygmy seahorses
- Depth: 6-12 meters
- Conditions: relaxing and colorful site
- Appropriate for: perfect for night dives
- Marine life: rare species of nocturnal marine life
Advanced Open Water Divers can choose of the following dive sites:
Deep Rock (Bogtong Bato)
- Depth: 14-28 meters
- Conditions: a pinnacle rising out of the seabed at 28 meters with 14 meter at the top
- Appropriate for: enriched air Nitrox, night dives
- Marine life: frogfish, ornate ghost pipefish, variety of nudibranch, occasionally trevally & barracuda
North Point / Deep Slope
- Depth: 11-23 meters
- Conditions: sloping reef on the northeast side of Malapascua island, one of the most popular dive sites
- Appropriate for: enriched air Nitrox, night dives
- Marine life: Pygmy seahorse, ornate ghost pipefish, frogfish, flamboyant cuttlefish, blue ringed octopus, occasionally green sea turtle
- Depth: 15-40 meters
- Conditions: seamount rising up from the ocean floor in between Cebu and Leyte
- Appropriate for: open water with no reference, for thrill-seeking divers, shark encounters
- Marine life: from February to March there is a chance to see schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks
Exploring Malapascua Island
If you have a spare day make sure to explore the island Malapascua itself.
Malapascua can be separated in two parts, the South with numerous diving schools, restaurants and hotels and the North offering plenty of beaches for a perfect day to relax apart from all the boats and day tourists.
You can as well explore the towns in the North and watch the locals during their daily routines.
You will immediately understand the importance of basketball once you spend a day among the locals. ;)
Day Trip to Kalanggaman Island
Kalanggaman Island is one of the most beautiful islands we’ve ever seen in the Philippines!
It’s a small island with a huge sandbank a few hundred meters long.
Well, a picture is worth a thousand words:
Kalanggaman Island is not part of the Cebu region, it does actually belong to Leyte but there are daily boat trips to Kalanggaman from Malapascua island.
The trip takes between 1,5 and 2 hours for one direction.
It starts at 9 AM and you will be back around 3 to 4 PM.
The ticket costs 800 Pesos plus 500 Pesos island fee and includes a delicious grilled lunch on the boat but be prepared to share the boat with about 20 other tourists.
You can also rent snorkel gear for about 100 Pesos at Malapascua island before leaving to Kalanggaman island. ;)
As you see this is our only drone shot from our time staying on Malapascua island.
Unfortunately, our drone ended up in the waves on Kalanggaman island after taking this shot, which is why we weren’t able to capture more aerial pictures like this one. :(
There are plenty stunning destinations to shoot incredible footage – so if you have a drone make sure not to drown it!
Where to eat on Malapascua
One of the surprisingly good restaurants on the beach was right next to our diving school the Hippocampus Beach Resort. We had breakfast twice or even three times which was the easiest before heading out on a dive and the food is really delicious.
For amazing Italian pizza head to Angelina Beach Pizzeria Ristorante Italiano. We loved the service and always ate great pizza.
Another good choice is to try Filipino barbecue at one of the grills in the town center next to the market.
Where to stay at Malapascua
Most of the hotels are not far from the beach where the ferry lands.
The locals will gladly help you find the way to your hotel and carry your luggage.
In exchange for a small tip of course. ;)