This is the sixteenth in a series of reviews of the best dive resort locations around the world. In this post, the focus is Malapascua, Cebu, Philippines.
In addition to this series on dive resort locations, the best worldwide liveaboard dive locations and services are reviewed in their own series. To check them out, or others in this series, click on Liveaboards / Resorts on the menu at the top and choose a a title from the list.
Malapascua Island is situated off the far northern tip of Cebu Island in the central Philippines. On Christmas Day in 1520, Spanish sailors encountered bad weather and found themselves broken down on this particular island. It was a pretty bad Christmas day for them there. Roughly, in Cebuano, bad Christmas translates as Malapascua. A little bit later, on April 27, 1521 Magellan had a bad day, too, down on Mactan Island (near Cebu City, today) when Chief Lapu Lapu and his men killed him.
Today lots of divers come to Malapascua in search of a good time scuba diving, primarily by watching the usually very shy thresher sharks in as shallow a depth as 20 meters (68 feet). In the early morning they frequently come up from the deep for small reef fish to relieve them of irritating parasites. The site at nearby Monad Shoal is perhaps the most reliable place in the world to see them, sometimes at a distance of 5-10 meters (15-35 feet). At the same time, manta rays may also appear. Kimud Shoal is also nearby where hammerheads are often spotted. Other highlight areas are Chocolate and Calangaman Islands and Gato Island where you can see nurse, whitetip reef and bamboo sharks. Other sites can boast devil and eagle rays, turtles and rich hard and soft coral areas that host sea horses, frogfish, mandarinfish, flamboyant cuttlefish, blue-ringed octopus, ghost pipefish and other great smaller critters that macro photographers crave. In addition you can visit awesome cave and four wreck sites, including the MV Dona Marilyn, where 389 people died in the 1988 tragedy. In all there are more than 30 dive sites.
Season – Diving is good year round. The best time to spot hammerhead sharks at Kimud Shoal is from December to April. Mantas appear more often during the plankton bloom in December and January. Heavy rain, winds and typhoons, that are prevalent in much of the Philippines, usually by-pass Malapascua, however they did suffer significant typhoon damage in November, 2013 and the typhoons have been more prevalent in recent years. It rains a bit in most months of the year.
Air and Water Temperature – Water temperature is 27-30°C (80-86°F) most of the time. From December to February it can drop to 25°C (77°F). Average air temperatures are warm year round in a range of 27-30°C (80-86°F).
Visibility – The best visibility is from June to September at 15-30 meters (50-100 feet). It can dip to the 5-10 meter (16-35 foot) range during the plankton bloom in December and January.
Selected Popular Malapascua Dive Sites
Monad Shoal – 20 meter (68 foot) sunken shoal, thresher shark cleaning station, manta rays, mobulas, barracuda, snappers, lionfish, macro critters including nudibranchs, mantis shrimp and pygmy seahorses, , occasional strong drift on the full moon, 10-15 meter (35-50 foot) visibility usually, experienced level
Dona Marilyn Wreck – 98 meter (325 foot) ferry sunk in 1998, lying on starboard side, 18-33 meters (60-115 feet) deep, port side covered in soft corals, bluespotted stingrays, eagle rays and whitetip reef sharks possible, sweetlips, batfish, scorpion fish, nudibranchs, urchin crabs, colemani shrimp, possible strong currents, visibility 10-20 meters, experienced level
Gato Island – 3-27 meters (10-90 feet), big rocks with soft corals, tunnel and swim throughs, bamboo and whitetip reef sharks, banded sea snakes, nudibranchs, harlequin ghost pipefish, pygmy seahorses and other macro critters, usually mild current, open water level
Mogami Maru – WWII Japanese wreck in 50 meters (170 feet), upright, ammunition still inside, tech dive
Lighthouse – 8-10 meters (25-35 feet), chance of spawning mandarinfish, seahorses, big crabs, many varieties of shrimp, bobtail squid, banded pipefish, blue-ringed octopus, common octopus, juvenile sweetlips, banded sea snakes, frogfish, no current, great night dive, open water level
Calangaman Island – 5-40 meters (16-135 feet), wall, lots of hard and soft corals, black coral, fan corals with pygmy seahorses, long nose hawk fish, sea moths, nudibranchs, frogfish, lionfish, scorpion fish, orangutan crab, spotted garden eel, possible thresher sharks, no current, open water level, unless deep
Bantigue – 5-15 meters (16-50 feet), coral garden washed away by Typhoon Yolanda, now a sandy bottom with coral sections, muck area, sea moths, nudibranchs, ghost pipefish, flying gurnards, dragonets, lionfish, blackpitted snake eel, banded snake eel, helmet crab, porcelain crab, devil fish, blue-ringed octopus, no current, 10-20 meters (35-68 feet), open water level
Kimud Shoal – to 40 meters (135 feet), smaller plateau than Monad Shoal, possible schooling hammerhead sharks and threshers from February to April in cooler water, 15-30 meters (50-100 feet) visibility, no current, advanced level
Lapus Lapus – 8-25 meters (16-83 feet), best coral garden in the area, overhang, rock formation to 20 meters (68 feet), rich soft corals, lots of reef fish, frogfish, lionfish, scorpionfish and nudibranchs, 10-20 meter (35-68 feet) visibility, possible strong current, open water to advanced level
Deep Rock – 16-26 meters (52-87 feet), 20 meter wide (68 feet) rock rich with soft and hard corals, pygmy seahorses, frogfish, nudibranchs, batfish, cuttlefish, zebra crabs, dragonets, pipefish, juvenile sweetlips, various shrimp, lionfish, 10-25 (35-83 feet) meter visibility, possible strong current, open water level
- For liveaboard diving to Malapascua: check it at Liveaboard.com
- For my review of Malapascua liveaboard diving, click this title: Best Liveaboard Scuba Diving Philippines (Malapascua and the Visayas)
For my reviews of other liveaboards and resort diving in the Philippines, please check these titles:
- Best Diving Bohol Philippines – Panglao Island Resorts
- Best Liveaboard Diving – Tubbataha Reefs National Park
- Best Coron Wrecks & Apo Reef Liveaboards
- Best Scuba Diving Philippines Subic Bay Wrecks
- Best Scuba Diving Puerto Galera Philippines
- Best Scuba Diving Holidays Boracay Philippines
- Best Scuba Diving Philippines Sogod Bay
- Philippines Best Diving Mactan Island
- Best Philippines Diving Bacuit Bay El Nido
- Best Diving Philippines Anilao Batangas
- Best Diving Reviews Anda Bohol
Currently three of the major liveaboard yachts cruising the Philippines make trips to Malapascua. There are also a number of resorts and hotels there in the 2-3 star range. Many of them are equipped with dive shops. Otherwise, there are a several quality diving operations nearby. This website is a good source for the available options and can arrange booking: Malapascua Island Resorts
It is suggested to ask your hotel to advise you on arrangements from the airport on Mactan Island to Malapascua. They can help organize the most comfortable means.
Malapascua Photo Opportunities
With the macro life, beautiful, diverse coral reef and lots of fish, there are many excellent photo opportunities. For information and reviews of diving cameras, click here: Best Underwater Cameras Compared and Reviewed
A cushion for emergencies provides peace of mind when on vacation. I recommend this diving insurance as they have worldwide coverage and provide scuba divers a quality insurance and medical assistance service.
I hope you found this post on Malapascua diving interesting and useful. If you have any questions or ideas, please feel free to share them in the comments section. If there is no comments section directly below, click here: >>comments<<