By Eugene Cheow.
Dive Professional’s Rating:
Resort: 4/5 (Clean and well-furnished. Resort staff was super friendly with the best bar on the island!)
Diving: 5/5 (Wreck, wall, macro, pelagic, she’s got it all~!)
Value-for-money: 4.5/5 (12 dives in 5D4N with accom was less than SGD1000. Super worth it!)
How it all started..
The flight touches down at the airport at about 4am in the morning after the midnight flight. A short ride after and we found our groggy selves at the port, where we board the boat and head to Malapascua Island.
Tip: Keep some Phillippines Pesos on-hand for tipping at the port. There are porters who help with your luggage, and they usually do not really care if you need help with it or not. Haha.
The adventure began the moment I set foot onto the soft, white sand, disembarking from the Bangka (a traditional Philippines pump boat with outriggers).
Upon reaching the island, the resort staff at Evolution Dive Resort welcomed us ashore with a huge smile and we proceeded to the bar where we sank our teeth into our hearty breakfast. Yum! Thereafter, we settled into our rooms. The room was a lot more spacious than I thought with TWO queen-sized beds! It has a private bathroom AND balcony attached.
As I stepped onto the balcony and gaze outwards into the endless horizon of aquamarine blue dotted with tiny dive boats, I knew that a fantastic week awaits.
The reason why we are here!
Did you know that the renowned Monad Shoal is the world’s only dive spot where thresher sharks can be reliably spotted on a daily basis? This is because thirty metres down the middle of the ocean, these pelagic creatures surface to shallower depths to ‘get cleaned’ by wrasses.
Tip: it’s best to get Nitrox certified before heading down, for an added 20+ minutes of bottom time is definitely worth your while. And for my fellow shark lovers out there, Malapascua is your utopia! Dive in the right seasons and you might just find the hammerheads waiting for you.
Another great pull of Malapascua is the chance to see mating mandarin fish!
However, it can be crowded at times (Yes, I am serious!) and I vividly recall an entire army of divers crowding around a metre sized rock formation just to catch a shot of a pair of mandarin fishes get intimate. And I swear, with all the cameras the divers were brandishing, it was like a professional camera crew shooting an R-rated sex tape underwater!
And pygmy seahorses too!
Tip: Make sure you are familiar with the settings of your camera because it would be a terrible waste not to get the perfect shot of this tiny spectacle. Another thing you will need is P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E!
My dive guide usually spends a solid ten minutes or so at a sea fern, fanning away for the inconspicuous seahorses while the rest of the gang explores the vicinity. And do not be surprised if you spend some time figuring out what exactly your dive guide is pointing at – yes, it is that tiny and well-camouflaged. Apart from these specialties, Malapascua boasts numerous pristine coral reefs, teeming with life. Lionfishes, octopuses, ghost pipefishes and nudibranchs are amongst the many spotted species!
Here is my personal favourite; the wall diving off Kalanggaman Island, where you spend your surface interval having lunch on a pearl white beach right smack in the middle of the ocean. Nothing shouts ‘Postcard’ more than Kalanggaman!
Another unique dive site we visited was the 200-metre long Doña Marilyn wreck. Although penetrating the wreck is not allowed for non-certified divers, it is an eye-opening experience for most of us who have never laid eyes on such a gargantuan wreck!
So how did we top an already awesome day of diving? Good food, of course! Nothing beats filling our famished tummies with restaurant quality creamy seafood linguine or lip-smacking gourmet pepperoni pizza. What’s more is they are so affordable! A hearty three-course meal is around USD10 and not to mention the alfresco dining with the picturesque view of the sea as the backdrop to end the perfect day. We find ourselves spoilt for choices with the sheer number of restaurants on the island.
Tip: I suggest pre-ordering the food in advance if you are too used to the usual pace of the city where food is served promptly all the time!
But that’s alright, it’s part of the beauty of island life eh? We had fun while waiting, busy showing off our underwater shots of the day and debating the exact species of nudibranch we saw!
The Island Life
Malapascua might appear minute on a map, but explore the island on foot and you will soon realize there is actually a lot more than simply plunging the seas. From seeing the natives’ humble abodes to mini arcades, this sunny little island is more than meets the eye.