Malapascua is an accessible underwater paradise, whether for snorkeling or scuba diving, swimming from the beach or a boat, among wreck, coral reefs and abundant marine life.
From Cebu, I took the Ceres bus from the North Bus Terminal to Maya, a journey of about 4 hours. I embarked shortly afterwards on a boat to Malapascua Island. Since there were few passengers, as the boats depart every half hour whether full or not, the total paid per person was 220 Filipino pesos (~3.7 euros).
As the distance is 8 km, the transfer is not so long lasting. And apparently it is safe, since the watercraft have stabilizers at both sides (at least in those that I embarked).
The shore of Logon Beach, where the boats dock, is not so pretty compared to the others. I had lunch inside the island, paying 210 pesos for fried rice noodles with vegetables and shrimp plus a lemon juice.
Fortunately, one of the employees of the hotel I had booked was in the same place, offering me a motorcycle ride to the Thresher Cove Dive Resort. There I stayed in a tiny and simple single cottage, with just a bed with mosquito netting, fan and nightstand. But it was right on the sand of a private paradise beach, for less than 1400 pesos for 3 nights, less than 8 euros for each! The hotel/dive center is quite nice – the only problem I had was with the water from the sink and shower, which was brackish.
Snorkeling at Coral Garden
I fell immediately into the water for some snorkeling in the coral garden off the beach. In the beginning there is only aquatic grass, but from about 50 m onwards several scattered coral reefs show up, although some of them bleached.
Yet I have seen many different, colorful and very interesting living beings. It was the debut of my GoPro 5 Black – by the way, much better than my old GoPro 3 Silver. I was already satisfied, when out of nowhere a monster appeared in front of me. Nothing less than a banded-sea-krait (Laticauda colubrina) of almost 1,5 m! I was scared at first, since it is quite poisonous, but as I realized that it did not care about my presence, I kept following her as it searched for food and came back to the surface to breathe.
Before returning to earth, I saw two more, but they were smaller ones. This is definitely a great place to see this spectacular sea snake.
After that, I stayed at the lodge for the rest of the time. It would have been a good night if the alarm in the neighboring hut had not ringed at 4:30 AM, time of the first dive of the day.
Snorkeling at Evo Reef
I really woke up at 7 am to get ready to take a boat (150 pesos) for snorkeling at Evo Reef. It is partially a reef, where I even saw a lionfish, added to the corals, sponges, sea urchin, clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) and anemone of the following photo. Its quite interesting the relationship of mutualism between the fish and the invertebrate, as the clownfish protects itself inside the poisonous tentacles of which it is immune, in exchange for the ingestion of parasites and the attack on predators of the anemone.
In the part with sand in the bottom, I saw many small and transparent beings in the column of water, among jellyfishes, comb jellies and tunicates. To complete the list of bizarre stuff, here is the uncommon diamondback squid (Thysanoteuthis rhombus) egg sac. An outsider could easily think that this obscene thing of about 1 m is simply rubbish.
Back in the ground, I had adobo for lunch, which is a good typical Filipino dish with seasoned meat.
Digestion done, then I decided to do a scuba dive, the first since I took my certification half a year before. The site was Chocolate Island, an islet southwest of Malapascua Island.
We went in a large group, including my duo, the Dutchman Jasper. About half an hour later we arrived. The maximum depth reached was 18 m. There was a bit of drift and the visibility was poor, plus my air only lasted 33 min. We saw soft corals, seahorses, and colorful little nudibranchs, but I could not take any images.
Snorkeling at Coral Garden #2
Upon returning, I went back to the coral garden. I saw some new species of echinoderms (sea urchins, starfishes, sea cucumbers, brittle stars and sea lilies). This last one is represented in the photo, where it is fixed in a coral, filtering the particles of the water.
This time I was wearing a neoprene suit, cheaply rented at the lodge, I stayed until sunset on the sea. Then I had pizza with Jasper and took San Miguel Pale Pilsen beers. I’m not much of a pilsen fan, but it was OK.
A group of Brazilians that I met in Cebu (Ingrid, Agatha, Thalita, Camila and Rafael) decided to see Malapascua Island for a day. After my breakfast they were already entering my hotel. With Agatha and Ingrid I fell into the water to show them the snorkeling beach. I saw another egg mass of squid and a moray eel, as well as other types of coral and the curious razorfish (Aeoliscus strigatus).
Always in group, these slim fishes related to seahorses adopt an unusual stance. They stand upright for both camouflage and protection inside sea urchin spines!
In sequence, we all had lunch at the hotel’s restaurant, where I ordered the kinilaw (literally: eaten raw), which is the Philippines’ ceviche. That’s not bad, but I still prefer the Peruvian one.
Snorkeling at Lighthouse Wreck
In the afternoon they returned to the island of Bantayan, while I went by motorbike to the beach of the Lighthouse, where I snorkelled in a shipwreck.
The wreck is divided into several pieces, from about 3 m deep. Night diving is common there. In addition to what was attached to the carcass, I saw a lot of comb jellies, transparent and gelatinous beings that look like jellyfishes but do not sting. But the sea was not the clearest.
I saw the sun go down when I left the water and came back paying 50 pesos to the bike driver, the maximum rate of the island, for being night and a little distant.
Next morning I had my last meal in the hotel’s varied restaurant and left the island back to Cebu, this time for only 120 pesos. Along the way, lots of trash floating. In fact, Filipinos do not seem to care much about cleanliness, as the boatmen themselves throwed their cigarette butts into the sea.
Of the main attractions of Malapascua Island, the only one I did not do was diving at the Monad Shoal spot, the best place in the world to see the thresher shark, which gives the name of the lodge I stayed in. As you need advanced dive certification, due to the depth, it was beyond my capacity.