Sand, Sea & Sharks on Malapascua Island

by Poi on May 24, 2012

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On the morning we got up to leave Malapascua Island I updated my facebook status – “It’s been a while since I didn’t want to leave a place this much.”

We had 6 nights on the island and I loved every minute of it, when I look back over the last few months it’s often the first place that pops into my head but what was so good about it?

Perhaps it was the fact we had just come from Boracay? Don’t get me wrong the beaches were incredible and the scenery amazing.  The only problem with Boracay was the amount of people, I’ve never been on a beach before that felt like I was walking down a high street.

Diving in the Philippines The rather gorgeous Amy (Dive Boat)

And then there was Malapascua, deemed by our cut up, not so trusty guidebook to be ‘the next Boracay’ or ‘Boracay of 5,456.8 years ago.’  I can tell you now it’s got some way to go before it’s anything like, for starters it’s not much of a tourist destination with a painful 5 hour journey from Cebu airport.  Then you have the boat crossing, which can be a bit of a pain unless you arrange a private boat with your hotel (expensive).

However, once on the island it’s entirely worth the effort.  It’s similarity to Boracay is perhaps the beautiful white sand beaches and the fact it has a walkway running along the beach but that’s about it.  Resorts and bars are widely spread out and much of the land is still undeveloped, nor has half the beach been invaded by restaurants and you won’t get stuck in a walkers traffic jam just trying to get in the water.

Let’s be honest though,the reason we loved the island so much was it’s pristine dive spots.

Malapascua IslandThe view from our hotel room

I’d imagine it’s why 90% of the people on the island are there and for good reason.  Monad Shoal is definitely the most popular dive spot off Malapascua and it’s no surprise. It’s the only place in the world where you can see thresher sharks regularly and it’s quite the experience.

Despite Kirsty only just completing her open water course we decided to sign up for the monad shoal dive. As we were at a dive school that actually cared about our certification level, unlike before, this dive would also have to be with an instructor as a deep adventure dive.

Diving with sharks

A Thresher Shark, in case you were wondering… (CC Credit: Raven_Denmark)

Of course, after being told for days how common it was to see Thresher sharks on every dive; we saw nothing. It was obviously a little disappointing especially when you have to be up before the sun rises.

Luckily the next morning was a completely different experience. Within a minute of being in the water a shark appeared above us.  As the first one moved slowly and effortlessly over the top of us we spotted more in the distance and spent the entire dive spotting them from all directions.

Thanks to the efforts of the dive staff, divers remain respectful to the sharks and as such they have become accepting of people watching as they make their morning visits to the cleaning stations. It’s not uncommon for the sharks to come up close and it wouldn’t be unusual to find yourself surrounded by a few of them on a particularly good dive.

It was the first time both of us had encountered any large marine life and an incredible way for Kirsty to start her life of diving, getting up early has never been so much fun.

The rest of our days were spent enjoying the many other dive sites around the island and generally enjoying the amazingly clear water.  A paradise island with great diving, what more could you want?


{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) May 24, 2012 at 4:59 am

Amazing! Because it looks like we’ll no longer be able to get our China visas before we head to Asia, we are thinking that instead of heading to Shanghai from Japan, we will instead pop over to Taiwan or the Philippines before making it to the “mainland”. You are making a heck of a case for the Philippines! Malapascua sounds (and looks!) amazing!


Poi May 25, 2012 at 1:54 am

Shame you’re going to miss China this time but the Philippines were one of our favourite places so it might just work out great. I can’t speak for Taiwan but I’m sure that’s great too 😉


Tawny- Captain and Clark May 24, 2012 at 6:14 am

Malapascua looks incredible! Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to spend a lot of time in the Philippines, but we’re looking to go back soon. We were able to see Manila, Dumaguete, and the small, enchanting island of Siquijor.

We’re so glad you and Kirsty were able to see sharks. Isn’t it an eery feeling? We swam with hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos, and even though I know they couldn’t hurt me, my heart was racing.


Poi May 25, 2012 at 1:55 am

That’s exactly how I gelt with these, I was calm getting in the water and going down but the moment I started spotting them I got very excited. Such a great experience.

We only had two weeks in the Philippines so just like you guys we’ve got much we want to head back and see!


Andi of My Beautiful Adventures May 24, 2012 at 8:30 pm

These pictures are absolutely amaaaazing!!!! Wow!


Poi May 25, 2012 at 1:56 am

Thanks Andi!


Ali May 24, 2012 at 9:16 pm

This looks like such a gorgeous place! I’d really like to get to the Philippines one of these days. Great photos!


Poi May 25, 2012 at 1:56 am

Thanks Ali, I’m sure one day you’ll make it there, as you can tell we recommend it highly!


paul | May 26, 2012 at 9:58 pm

first read about these majestic thresher sharks being regulars in Malapascua on Lonely Planet Philippines magazine. glad you got to experience them!


Poi June 2, 2012 at 1:19 am

It was amazing – I’m already planning to go there again!


Brock - Backpack With Brock May 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm

What an amazing place to dive!


Kirsty June 12, 2012 at 1:32 am

It really was! 🙂


Audrey | That Backpacker June 7, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Looks and sounds amazing, but I think I would start hyperventilating if I saw a shark in the water – even though I know they don’t go after divers!


Kirsty June 12, 2012 at 1:33 am

There are so many different types of sharks – I reckon if I knew there was even a tiniest chance of them eating me I would be in the same boat… I was told that these were totally harmless and absolutely breath taking to watch!


Antoinette B. | love.antoinette July 12, 2012 at 10:48 am

Diving in the Philippines is one of my top priorities the next time I go back home to my country! Glad you guys found a perfect spot for this and enjoyed it very well. As for the sharks? hhmmm hhmmmm Just the thought of a shark, any shark, would probably send me swimming up and out!


Bobbi Lee Hitchon August 7, 2012 at 4:59 am

Great write up! I fell in love with Malapascua the second I stepped off my awful bangka, which I had to seriously haggle a ride over on, and onto the island’s white sandy beaches. I was suppose to stay 3 days, but ended up staying 6 weeks! Amazing place.


Ivy @ Pathway to Asia September 17, 2012 at 8:59 am

Awesome post!

Its true, Malapascua Island is not that popular as Boracay but its environment is more likely the same, but with fewer people I guess. And you’re diving experience was very awesome too! You get to see the sharks a whole lot closer than you could get to. Weren’t you all afraid that the thresher shark would attack some of you? Are they dangerous?


Sab August 7, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Oh i loved Malapascua… Such an amazing Island! Did you eat at Ging Ging Garden?


Aaron Schubert November 3, 2014 at 11:46 am

Absolutely magic. Nothing beats a good dive. Those sharks are incredible too
Aaron Schubert´s last blog post ..Peaceful Bay Coastline


Todd @ Visit50 March 5, 2015 at 6:03 am

I had a similar experience for most of my dive. I was at Monad Shoal near Malapascua, and saw nothing but blurriness with little activity for most of the dive, and then suddenly the thresher zoomed past us so quickly. I’ve also never had a dive with so few fish (or swimming, since we were on our knees on the ocean floor). With that said, it was so cool seeing thresher sharks!
If interested, here’s my post about our experience and about thresher sharks below. I’ve also curated some of the best videos that I’ve seen at this link as well.
Todd @ Visit50´s last blog post ..Bayon Temples Cambodia – 216 smiling faces


Todd @ Visit50 March 5, 2015 at 6:05 am

oh, and regarding Malapascua – we loved it there!
Todd @ Visit50´s last blog post ..Bayon Temples Cambodia – 216 smiling faces


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