Scuba diving in Malapascua with the thresher sharks is a great experience. Every year thousands of scuba divers visit this little island in the Philippines. The reason for the popularity of Malapascua is the thresher sharks. Nowhere in the world is it so easy to dive with these impressive sharks.
Would you like to know more about scuba diving in Malapascua with the thresher sharks, how you get to Malapascua and what to look out for?
The small island of Malapascua is part of the central archipelago of the Visayasin the Philippines. It’s situated a few kilometers away from the northernmost tip of the elongated island of Cebu.
How to get to Malapascua
From Cebu City it is a four to five hour bus ride up to Maya where you can catch a boat to Malapascua. You can shorten the trip if you share a minibus with other travellers or take taxi. Of course that will increase the cost of the trip.
We have travelled directly from Panglao on Bohol to Malapascua in one day. It is possible but you have to start your trip early in the morning. We caught the SuperCat ferry at 6:30 in the morning from Tagbilaran on Bohol to Cebu (PHP 500 /USD 10). Ocean Jet leaves at 7:05 in the morning and costs PHP 800 / USD17.
From the harbour in Cebu you have to catch a taxi to the northern bus terminal. If you walk a bit away from the harbour, the taxi will be cheaper. There are a lot of taxi drivers at the harbour who want to sell you the whole trip up to Maya.
The Ceres Liner buses are leaving the northern bus terminal for Maya / Bagay every half hour. The bus ride is about four to five hours with the Non AC bus and costs PHP 163 / USD 3.50. There is a toilet stop in the middle of the trip where you can buy drinks and snacks. The AC buses leave Cebu about every two hours and are more expensive.
The bus will stop directly at the harbour in Maya where you can catch a boat to Malapascua. Here you will need a little patience and some negotiating skills. The official price for the boat ride to Malapascua is PHP 80 / USD 1.70. If there are not enough guests around to fill the boat, they will ask for a higher price or even try to sell you a private transfer for PHP 1000-1500 / USD 20-30. Just be patient and wait for another bus with more guests. Later in the afternoon, the pressure will increase but there is always a last boat leaving at 17:30.
On arrival at Malapascua the boat crew will probably tell you that it is low tide and they cannot drop you at the beach. You will need to climb onto a small dinghy and they will charge again PHP 20 / USD 0.50 per person and luggage to bring you ashore.
Malapascua is a small island and most accommodations can be reached by foot. If you carry heavy diving gear and don’t want to carry it too far, you can catch a motorbike taxi.
Many visitors to Malapascua have pre-booked their accommodation. Very often the transfer from Maya to the resort is included in the booking and you don’t have to care about the transfer.
Scuba diving in Malapascua with the thresher sharks
Nowhere in the world is it so easy to see and dive with the impressive thresher sharks. The thresher sharks are found in all oceans but they spend most of their time in the open sea up to a depth of 500 meters. There are other places where you can dive with thresher sharks but in Malapascua the chances to see them are much higher than in all the other places.
Monad Shoal is the famous dive site to see the thresher sharks. It’s located only a few kilometers away from Malapascua and you can reach it within 30 minutes by boat. Monad shoal is a sunken island with a diameter of about 1.5 kilometers. The top starts at around 18 meters and then drops dramatically into depths of several hundred meters.
If you like to dive with the thresher sharks you need to get up early. Very early. The best chance to see the sharks is at and shortly after sunrise. Every morning at around 5 AM you can witness the same procedure. Numerous dive boats fill up with sleepy divers and head out to the sunken island.
All these scuba divers have one goal. They want to get a glimpse of the famous thresher sharks. The 3.5 to 7.5m long sharks with their extraordinarily long tail fin can be spotted regularly at the cleaning stations around Monad Shoal. It’s a great spectacle when these impressive sharks emerge from the infinite depth and swim only a few meters away from you.
The first day we arrive at Monad Shoal, we are a bit shocked about the huge number of dive boats. Upon arrival at the mooring line we count already 20 other dive boats. During the dive we see a great number of other divers and a wall of air bubbles but no thresher sharks.
The next morning we start a little earlier and this time we have more luck. It’s a breathtaking moment to see one of these beautiful sharks with their incredible long tail fin.
Personally, we don’t like the whole hype about the thresher sharks too much. For our liking it’s just a bit too busy. Between Christmas and New Year it is peak season and Malapascua is full of visitors. We are curious if the thresher sharks will still be around in the future. Are the sharks comfortable with the ever increasing number of divers or will they eventually start to disappear?
What else can you do on Malapascua
The main attraction of Malapascua is clearly the thresher sharks.For most of the visitors that is the main reason why they visit. However, Malapascua also offers other beautiful dive sites with fascinating marine life and beautiful sandy beaches dotted with fishing boats.
Gato Island is another highlight you should visit when you are in Malapascua. It’s a bit further away from Malapascua and therefore visited during a daytrip. Around the island a marine protection zone has been established and fishing within this zone is prohibited.
There are several dive sites around the island with interesting rock formations, caves, soft corals and many different sea creatures. Gato cave is a fascinating swim through with resident white tip reef sharks. While we dive through the cave suddenly we see a shadow and a big white tip reef shark swims directly towards us. This moment makes every divers heart beat faster.
Another attraction, although a tragic one, is the ship wreck of Dona Marilyn. The 90 meter long cargo ship sank in a typhoon in 1982 and rests now on the seabed. The wreck starts in a depth of about 18 meters and ends at the sea bed at 32 meters. Lionfish, scorpion fish and nudibranchs are regularly encountered.
The three days in Malapascua fly by and we already have to move on again. The long trip to the small island was worth it and it was the perfect end of our trip through the Philippines. Diving with the amazing thresher sharks is definitely a highlight that we will never forget.
Where to stay on Malapascua
There is a wide range in accommodation options on Malapasua. You can choose from the Budget option to more luxurious accommodation. We stayed at the Evolution Dive and Beach Resort and we liked it a lot. Great value for the price.
Evolution Dive and Beach Resort – Perfect location at the beach, modern rooms, comfortable lounge with seaview and great atmosphere, great food in the restaurant and perfect for a sundowner, own dive center with professional staff. We enjoyed our stay and the diving with Evolution.
Travel tips for Malapascua
USD 1 = PHP 48 (February 2016)
- There are no banks or ATMs on Malapascua. Be sure to bring enough cash
- Some resorts and dive centers accept credit cards, but you’ll have to pay an extra fee
- In high season it can be very busy and the well-known resorts are then often fully booked. But there are plenty of smaller resorts which always have a room available.
- There is accommodation in different price ranges from PHP 500to PHP 7000.
- There is an ever increasing number of diving centers on Malapascua. We can recommend Evolution. They are very well organized, professional and have good equipmentbut certainly not the cheapest option.
- One dive with Evolution costs PHP 1750 including equipment. If you bring your own equipment one dive costs PHP 1475.
- You have to add PHP 150 for the marine fee and other additional costs, depending on the dive site.
- A day trip to Gato Island will cost an additional PHP 650. The marine fee is PHP 150 and the rental for a lamp (recommended) costs PHP 300.
- Be cautious when choosing a dive center. The dive center with the lowest price is not always the best option. There are dive centers that do not care about the protection of the underwater world. We saw groups of divers who severely damaged the corals. Even the guide did not at all take care of his buoyancy.
- Most resorts on Malapascua have their own restaurant. Along the beach there are plenty of choices. We liked the food at Ocean Vida and Exotic.
- Ocean Vida has the most beautiful beach bar with bean bags in the sand and Happy Hour every evening.
- Watch out on the return trip to Maya. There are two ports and the buses are waiting at the new harbour. Some boats head for the old harbour where you need a small dinghy to get ashore. This will cost an extra PHP 20 per person and luggage.
- You can walk from the old harbour to the new harbour but it is quite a distance and with heavy diving gear quite tiring. Make sure you get on the right boat that brings you to the new port where the buses are waiting.
Have you ever seen a thresher shark while diving? Do you have recommendations for visiting Malapascua? Share your experience of scuba diving in Malapasca with the thresher sharks in the comments.
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