The Philippine Archipelago consists of 7107 remarkable islands, many of which are home to the best dive spots in the world. Malapascua island is one of them and is considered a must visit for dive enthusiasts, mainly for its unique attraction; the Thresher sharks!
These long tailed sharks (almost half of their body size) are loners and normally live in deep water. But just off the coast of Malapascua you’ll find an underwater plateau named Monad Shoal, which is widely famous for being the only place in the world where you can witness these magnificent creatures on a daily basis. Early morning, they rise from the depths up to about 25-30 meters to get cleaned by the reef fishes.
After hearing so much about Malapascua island and the Thresher sharks from fellow divers during our dive adventures in El Nido and Apo island, we decided to add it to our must see list. After all, we had just extended our visa for another month in the Philippines.
How to get to Malapascua island?
- Fly to Cebu city (or take a bus or ferry to Cebu depending on where you are)
- Catch a taxi to the North Bus Terminal in Cebu (about 200 pesos)
- Public bus to Maya port (Ceres bus company, comfy and with AC, 180 pesos)
- Ride a public boat from Maya port to Malapascua island (last boat leaves at 5-5:30 pm, 100 pesos + 20 pesos for a small porter boat during low tide)
Where to Stay?
Once on the island there are a variety of dive resorts to choose from. We had been tipped on a place called Thresher Cove Resort (www.threshercove.com), a secluded dive resort on the northeastern part of the island. After a 5 minute motorbike ride we found ourselves on top of a hill overlooking the cove and the beautiful resort, which is sheltered by three hills on each side and has a crescent shaped private beach at the front. It was a true paradise! We couldn’t have been happier with our choice!
One of the best part was the massive swimming pool, right by the beach. It was spotlessly clean and our safe haven during the hottest part of the day. It creates a nice easy vibe and makes for an ideal spot to meet other travellers and exchange some great tips about things to do in the Philippines.
The pool is also used by first time divers during the Discover Scuba and the Open Water Course, which not many dive centers are able to offer. It’s a great place to practice all the skills that are required to become certified and gives you time to get familiar with your equipment before heading to open water.
Even though the resort is secluded, it isn’t as isolated as you think; the island is small and it will only take you about 15-20 minutes to walk to the village. Also, Thresher Cove offers free motorbike transfer to and from the resort, making the seclusive part a non-issue.
Great Selection of Rooms
We loved how this resort has decided to cater not only to luxury travelers but also to budget backpackers, making for a broader crowd. They offer everything from air-conditioned dorms (400 pesos per night) to the luxurious Captain’s and Owner’s villas (7500 pesos incl. breakfast).
The Captain’s Villa is stunning!
The Lookout Villa
We stayed at the Lookout (6000 pesos incl. breakfast), a private villa on one of the hills, properly named for its balcony view overlooking the bay…it’s simply gorgeous!
Our air-conditioned villa was spacious with big bright windows on every side, including an en suite bathroom w. hot shower, flatscreen TV, refrigerator and a super soft king-size bed. Our room was tidied up every day along with fresh sheets and towels. Our favorite part was the spacious balcony with a built-in sofa, where we enjoyed the sunset with some freshly cut fruits from the local market.
The Lookout – Our private villa!
Big bright windows and a comfy kingsize bed!
A view from our balcony at sunset!
The restaurant offers all the best from Filipino cuisine. Don’t miss out on the savory adobo chicken, it’s simply addictive! If you’re not willing to experiment the menu has a lot of international options as well. For those on a budget, grab the specific backpacker’s menu for a variety of low priced courses.
After a nice meal you can move into the lounge area where most of the guests seem to gather during the evenings. Here you can enjoy an ice cold San Miguel and mingle with the other guests, or just enjoy a good movie from the staggering DVD collection behind the bar. This is also where the wifi works properly. Just a couple of steps from the lounge you’ll find a full size pool table if you fancy a few matches.
This small island is the perfect getaway for relaxing and scuba diving. Despite a number of dive centers, the island is far from being overrun with tourism. It’s chilled, relaxed and full of local atmosphere. You don’t come here for late night parties or clubbing (thats Boracay), instead you’ll be greeted by welcoming locals in a laid-back atmosphere where live seems to move on its own pace. But sure you can have a drink or two, the filipino rum is both tasty and ridiculously cheap! You can easily circumvent the island by foot in one day to get an overview of the area. In the local villages you’ll find a couple of shops for snacks and other essentials. During sunsets we used to stroll the beautiful Logon beach to see the sun set behind Chocolate island. We always met with smiling kids, playing cheerfully in the sand. Despite the typhoon Yolanda hitting hard in 2013, everyone seemed happy with life, a certain spirit of joy that we rarely encountered in the big cities.
Tip: There is no ATM on the island, so bring enough cash for your stay!
Sun setting behind Chocolate island Logon beach Filipino kids are just adorable!
Although the island has enough white sand to satisfy any beach bum, diving was our main draw for visiting the island. After talking to a few of the dive instructors at our resort we quickly realised that they were all extremely knowledgable on the different dive sites and the marine life in the area. We were convinced; our plan was to dive with the Threshers at Monad Shoal, dive under a tunnel at Gato island and do a wall dive at Kalanggaman island. We were so excited!
No matter the skill level, Thresher Cove Dive Center has it all; it’s PADI certified and offers all the main courses from Discover Scuba (2500 pesos) and Open Water (18.000 pesos) for first time divers to Advanced Open Water (14.500 pesos) and Dive Master!
It was a nice to surprise to find out that the their dive boats take off straight from the cove, so no need to wake up early!
Setting off from our private beach to our bankga boat (in the back)!
First time divers in the pool at Thresher Cove Resort
We couldn’t wait to see the Thresher sharks so our first dive was planned at Monad Shoal early next morning. We took off straight from the private beach on a traditional Bangka offering free coffee and tea onboard. Our dive instructor Balt was professional from the very start, briefing us on the security on the boat and underwater, as well as what we would expect to see. After a cup of coffee and a buddy check we jumped into the clear blue water.
To get to the thresher you have to go down to 25-30 meters, so an Advanced certification is a must. Luckily we had just finished our AOW at Apo island. On our way down we spotted our first eagle ray! It seemed quite curious and swam by us elegantly circle after circle. Their eyes are freakishly humane!
Baby eagle ray!
When we reached down you could really feel the temperature drop. There are a couple of ropes to hold onto while waiting for a shark to appear, which also works as a protecting fence for their cleaning habitat. After about ten minutes we finally spotted this majestic shark swimming by us, as close as 6-7 meters. He lingered around us for 5-6 minutes before disappearing back into the deep blue. We were so happy to spot the shark, we made endless “ok” signs and finger-pointing to each other with wide open eyes as a way to express “Wow, did you see him? did you see the shark?”
photo courtesy @ostermanmalin
Following the rope up from Monad Shoal
If you plan on diving with the Thresher’s you will be charged for a 50 peso Monad Protection fee. This was implemented last year to patrol the area since illegal fishing had increased after the typhoon, endangering the Thresher sharks. Thresher Cove Resort made a significant step in stopping this development by paying a retired patrol skipper for nightly patrols. The illegal fishing was eliminated and with the help of the mayor the Monad Protection fee was implemented to keep the patrols going. Sadly the fee is voluntary so many dive centers do not impose the fee to their customers to keep their prices as low as possible. So be sure to pick a responsible dive company!
Malin, our fellow diver from Sweden!
After an awesome morning dive with the Threshers in Monad Shoal we enjoyed a nice breakfast and relaxed by the pool before getting ready for our next two dives at Gato island, 40 minutes off shore.
Andri ready for today’s dive at Gato Island
This was without a question our absolute best dive of our life so far (out of 30 dives). This small island is a sea snake sanctuary and a true paradise for macro life and big pelagic fish. We started our dive by swimming through a 32 meter tunnel/cave under the island, guiding our way with torches. It was a bit scary to set off into a pitch black tunnel, but we felt safe with our instructor that had gone into every aspect of dive in detail before going underwater.
We saw a lot of amazing macro life in the tunnel like lobsters and crabs, that you usually see during a night dive. Finally at the end of the tunnel was a sight the we will never forget; three graceful whitetip reef sharks circling around the exit, just a few meters from us. It was truly a stunning sight! We tried to stay still and watch in awe as they swam around the exit.
Sea snake! The magnificent sight of a whitetip sharks at the end of the tunnel!
After escaping through the tunnel we were in for some more fun. We have never seen so many different types of nudibranches in one place. And the list kept on going; we saw cuttlefish mating, frogfish, large pufferfish, blue spotted stingray, and even two more whitetip reef sharks sleeping under a rock. We couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day! This was the definition of a perfect dive!
Two days later we signed up for two dives at Kalanggaman island, which is a bit far away (about 1,5 hours) but the trip is totally worth it. We just relaxed on the boat and soaked up the sun with our awesome crew and fellow divers. It was early morning and we saw a group of dolphins swimming by the boat. As we got closer to this uninhabitated island everyone on the boat moved to the front. This island was something a else; a perfect stretch of white sand with crystal clear waters on each side. Words cannot describe the sight!
The picture perfect Kalanggaman island!
We did two dives at Kalanggaman, both wall dives with abundance of soft and hard corals and a variety of fish, including a large shoal of Moorish Idols. We had the best visibility here of all our dives, since there are no small fishing boats to disturbing the water. Although you won’t see a lot big stuff here, the macro is great. What really attracts here is the island itself!
A shoal of big mouth mackerel!
During our 2 months in the Philippines, visiting countless islands while kayaking, diving or island hopping, this island was the undisputed winner! If you’re not a diver, plan for a day trip here, relax, snorkel in the pristine waters and get those picture perfect holiday photos on the white sand bar.
Why you should dive with Thresher Cove Dive Center?
- Experienced instructors
- Big spacious bangkas
- A gigantic swimming pool for first time divers
- Top notch gear
- Reasonable rates
If you want to find out more check out their website www.threshercove.com
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