Under the Sea – Diving in Malapascua

5.35am, at 28m under water. Two dark shadows are circling overhead. Sharks! Thresher Sharks. They drift by gracefully with their long tail fin (also they have a slightly retarded look in their face). The water temperature is 27°C, even at this depth. For 8 days already, we have abandoned long pants and shoes at the paradise island of Malapascua in the Philippines.  We are there go get our divers certification. Malapascua is known as a superb diving location and for tge Thresher Sharks at Monad School. We booked resort and dive courses in advance (booking on the island is possible but may be more difficult during the busy season from January to April). We played it save, also getting a private transfer and boat,  which was rediculously expensive but worked like a charm. We had no previous diving experience,  rather Michi was a bit anxious, but we came back transformed passionate drivers.

Things to cross off the bucket list

  • Become a certified diver (we did PADI open Water, Advanced Open Water and Nitrox)
  • Diving with the Thresher Sharks and see all kinds of aquatic live- Walk the beautiful Kalanggaman Island sandbank
  • Totally relax on white, sandy beaches in an island paradise

Things I would have changed in hindsight

  • Plan more relax time as well as buffer for unplanned no-diving days
  • Get an underwater strobe for the camera (canon g7x with underwater case worked well)

Here is the full story

Day 1 (24.12.)
We board our flight from Shanghai at 1am to arrive at Cebu (via Manila) at ca. 9.30. Cebu greets us with 28°C. We booked a private transfer – very expensive but very convenient. Our driver takes us ca. 4h north. Beautiful jungles, beaches and small villages zip by, while we rest after the long flight. At Maya, we get on our pump boat (we should have worn sandals and roll-up pants to walk through the water to and from the boat). A 45min boat ride later, we land on the south side of Malapascua. Immediate feeling of holidays set in on this beautiful island. Its a short walk to our resort (Malditos). We are warmly greeted (coming from China the  of the Phillipine people almost brings tears ro our eyes). The resort is beautiful, our room is 6m from the beach. We visit our diving school to organize our pre-booked dive classes and than take a good rest). Its Christmas Eve. Our resort staff invites us to join their Christmas Party. Its an evening of singing dancing and eating (including a whole.roasted pig, which seems to be a typical Christmas dish).

Day 2 (25.12.)
Our first full day at the island. We have time to sleep in. The super Typhoon Nock-Ten passes to the north; luckily Malapascua remains unaffected. We dived with Thresher Shark Divers. We picked them by chance because if their informative website and were extremely happy. Its a well run (british) organization. Dive  are very friendly and would calm any annexity with the blink of an eye or catch us if we went on one of our ARA (accidental rapid ascends). We met our dive instructor Jason and went through some more paperwork and dive preparation (we had done the PADI elearning and now needed to do a knowledge review). Then we went of to our first dive.

Day 3 (26.12.)
Maldito makes a great breakfast with bacon and eggs, waffles and fruits. After breakfast we head out a small way from Logon beach to dive in shallow water. Michi struggles with her regular and – after swallowing a good amount of salt water – feeds the fishes. We decide to take it slow in the afternoon.  We pack our fins and go snorkeling at the same spot in the afternoon. There is beautiful sealife even in shallow water. We take time relax and enjoy it.

Day 4 (27.12.)
In the morning,  we go for a shallow dive at Logon Beach. Michis diving is much better, now. We redo yesterdays exercises plus a bit more. In the afternoon, we dive at Lap Light. Some challenges to buoyancy control but we manage to see some nice sealife, including a banded coral krait.

Day 5 (28.12.)
In the morning, we do another shallow water dive off bounty beach. Schools of small fish accompany us. Unfortunately, I develop a small cold. Therefore, I cannot descend to 18m at Deep Rock in the afternoon. Ears clear, but the sinuses hurt like hell at 9m (some minor bleeding). I abort the dive and we decide not to go diving tomorrow. I spend the evening with a self made nose rinse to get myself fit asap.

Day 6 (29.12.)
We use the break day to complete our Nitrox training. We had done the elearning but needed to complete the knowledge review and some dry practices, such as tank analysis and dive planning. In the afternoon we walked to the north side of the island. There are no cars, just motorbikes on the island. A few villages are spread over the island. Living conditions are very simple (small concrete houses, sometimes just the raw structures). The sun is burning hot. Small white sand beaches allow us to cool down a little bit. We do not find the road to the lighthouse,  so we relax on north beach before taking a bike taxi back to town (20php per person).

Day 7 (30.12.)
Today, its Michis turn, again. she has an ear infection and cannot equalize. We decide that I go diving, anyway. As Jason has a new group, I dive with Max, who takes me to Chocolate Island and Ka Osting dive sites. I have just a few exercises left for Open Water, so we can enjoy the dives. We see some beautiful sealife, water snakes, lion fish, a scorpion fish, sea moth and many more.

Day 8 (31.12.)
Today is the day to go diving with the Thresher Sharks. Its the last chance to go, as there will be no dives tomorrow. Unfortunately, Michi cannot join as her open water is not complete so I dive with Max ans well as Tom and Emma from New Zealand. We head out at dawn (ca. 5am). The sharks live in greater depth and come up to the shallow to get rid of  parasites through cleaner fish. Their eyes are extremely light sensitivity so they come up at dawn, just as the cleaner fish wake up. We drive ca. 30min to Monad Shoal.  Monad is an underwater island. The top is 14m but the edges drop deep. TSD has its own mooring, so we escape the large crowd of other divers. One giant stride off the boat and we descend to the sandy to of Monad Shoal. As soon as we hit the bottom, the first shadow emerges. The first shark circles overhead, slowly waving its distinct long tail fin. We swim over the edge and follow a wall along the underwater island. While we swim, two sharks pass close by us. Its very peaceful and we almost hold our breath, not to scare the sharks. Max directs us to a cleaner station where we sit and watch the sharks circling; sometimes two at a time. It is a truly amazing sight. We arrive back in time for breakfast. Michi feels better and is ready to dive. We head out to Lap Light both on morning and afternoon dive. Michi finishes her open water dive, while I do my advanced dives for boat diver and navigation at the same time (our instructor Max does a fantastic job in coordination the exercises so we can continue to dive together). Michi returns a certified Open Water Diver. We kick off New Year’s Night with a Chinese Fondue at Maldito. They have live reggae music and a good crowd. At 10pm we head over to Oscars Bar to celebrate with our dive instructors. We are the first guests but Michi kicks of the party with some karaoke. We drink the infamous shark drink on our diving success. At midnight, we watch the fireworks from the roof. Fireworks reflect on the water. Its beautiful. We head to back to the hotel at 0.30, I fall asleep, immediately.

Day 9 (01.01.)
Our last day in paradise. We sign up for a daytrip to Kalanggaman Island, supposedly one of the most beautiful Islands in the Philippines. This preconception becomes conceivable,  once the island comes in sight. Turquoise water, white sand banks, palm trees. The beauty extends underwater. We dive along a wall, which is incredibly rich in life. Fish, coral arranged in an underwater garden. After the first dive, we anchor at the island and set over. We walk along the sand bank to uts very tip. Our group are the only visitors and we have the island to ourselves.  TSD prepared a BBQ for us to fill our stomachs befor the second dive. Once we are back on the boat, heaven opens the flood gates and rain pores down. we cant wait to get back in the water for dive number 2. Again we dive along the edge of the wall, observing trumpet fish, shooling bannerfish, clownfish, corals and much more. Back on the boat, the rain ceased and we ride home into the sunset. A lit of paperwork, good bye to our dive  and a final pizza dinner.at Malditos. After 8 days barefoot, we are very sad to leave.

Day 10 (02.01.)
At 6am, we get on the pump boat one last time (we have a private boat to be sure to catch our plane). The drive to Cebu takes about 4h. At the airport,  we change back into long pants and shoes. Back to real life but with a new born passion for diving.

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