We had originally planned to spend a matter of days in Malapascua before moving on to explore elsewhere in Cebu and neighbouring Bohol, but as we mentioned in our most recent Journey Update, we found it very difficult to leave. Why did we love Malapascua so much? Well let’s see…
1.Thresher Shark Divers
While there are many great dive shops on the Island, we ended up diving with Thresher Shark Divers, or TSD as it’s known locally. The shop first caught our attention a couple of months prior when they set up a call for donations after Typhoon Yolanda. Their relief effort and the fact that it is the first shop you see when disembarking the boat made it an easy choice.
And lucky enough, it was the perfect choice. Although I have little experience with such things, Oli says it was, without exception, the best dive shop he’s ever visited. The safety and equipment was top notch, the local guides were incredibly knowledgeable, the bar was well stocked, everyone we met there was awesome and the food they served was delicious. To be honest, we not only didn’t leave Malapascua, but we barely left TSD!
What’s more, we’d slightly misjudged our budget for an Island without an ATM, so with the shop making everything available on VISA, our solution was quite simple. Whether, like Oli, you’ve dived before, or are a first timer like me, diving with TSD won’t leave you disappointed.
2. The beauty
For the locals, Malapascua’s landscape will be forever changed following Typhoon Yolanda, as 80% of the Island’s palm trees are no longer standing. Despite this, the Island’s natural beauty beyond it’s palmed fringes is enough to maintain it’s place in paradise. For us as visitors, we were still blown away by the white sand beaches and azure waters of this tiny little eden.
Apart from the sadly unkempt white sands beach, the locals and expats of Malapascua have worked hard to get the Island clean, safe and beautiful once again. Strolling along Bounty Beach, at dawn, midday, dusk or under a starry sky, was an absolute pleasure.
3. The simplicity
Wake up, eat, dive. Eat, dive, read. Take a beach walk, eat and then go for sunset cocktails. It’s safe to say that I took to the life of a fun diver extremely well. With little else to do other than wander or go diving, the simplicity of Island life will relax you to your core. If you don’t like diving or being a beach bum, this is not the place for you.
For four of our eleven nights on the Island we stayed in the totally stunning and luxurious Tepanee resort.
For a mere $30 per night we had our own private bungalow, perched on a mini cliff, with a balcony view over the reef speckled ocean. The rooms were beautifully constructed in wood and bamboo, with comfy beds, powerful showers and daily house keeping. We had access to a picture-perfect private beach, where for a mere $6 we could get a massage or a delicious breakfast. The owners are Italian so we delighted in real coffee, and sorely missed, imported goods like cheese and cured meats, while sipping on more locally sourced fresh fruit juices.
It is by far the best place we’ve ever stayed and we’d go back in a heart beat.
Sadly this was preceded by a 5 night stay at White Sands Bungalows, which I’m sure pre-Yolanda was a great place to stay. For the same price as Tepanee, the water pressure was non-existent, our room was cleaned only when we insisted and the beach was horribly dirty. Although I do feel bad about complaining, given the circumstances, we were confused why there was no difference in price considering the vast difference in quality between these two places.
5. The sharks
While I’m told the reefs around Malapascua are certainly not award winning, and the visibility wasn’t perfect because of the weather, Malapscua is a must-visit destination for divers for one very important reason, the Thresher sharks. Malapascua is one of the few places in the world where you are guaranteed to see these beautiful creatures.
It’s hard to describe the feeling you get as you settle down on a ledge 30 meters below the surface and out of the corner of your eye catch the gliding movement of one of their distinctive tails. When, 20 minutes later, you have seen as many as 20 of these majestic beauties swim past and around you, you’re mind will have been blown 20 times over.
This is Oli’s sneak-peak GoPro video of our final dive there, and should give you an idea of the sheer size of these sharks’ tails…
7. The food.
Despite being small and relatively remote, the food scene on Malapascua was great. They had everything from excellently delivered Philippino classics like Sisig at TSD, to cheap and cheerful street side BBQ, to Italian style stone baked pizzas! Every meal we ate was delicious and never more than a few dollars. We recommend trying TSD for their Sisig, Nasi Goreng and daily specials, Angelinas for their pizza, Ging Gings for their cheap breakfasts and Tepanee for Panini and pasta.
And of course, there were the mangoes for which Cebu and the Philippines are famous. We had mango pancakes, mango smoothies, mango daiquiris, dried mangos, fresh mangos – the list goes on…
8. The people
With the risk of sounding like a broken record, the people we met was a major reason we stayed on the Island and generally had such a fantastic holiday. Maybe it was something about the fact this Island is still a little under the radar, but it seemed to draw in the most awesome of travellers and expats.
Staying in one place meant we barely even put a smudge on the surface of the Philippines, but for us, Malapascua was enough to make us fall in love and want to return to this wonderful country.
Have you ever got stuck in paradise? What made it so fabulous?