Malapascua in Cebu is known as one of the best shark diving locations in the world. One reason is because Malapascua is one of the least spoilt tourist spots in the Philippines. It is located only 8 km off the north coast of Cebu. It has a blindingly white bounty beach, which is one of the best in the Philippines. Tourism is still relatively new in Malapascua and the island has a handful of resorts and a couple of dive operators.
Some of the sharks seen here include White Tips, Black Tips, Bamboo, Nurse, Cat, Hammerheads and the magnificent Thresher Shark. Malapascua’s Monad Shoal is known as the only place in the world where thresher sharks can be closely observed on a daily basis.
When to dive.
Malapascua can go for months in rainy season with very little rain. As Malapascua is away from the mountains, they experience much less rainfall than Cebu City and are rarely affected by typhoons, which tend to pass near to Luzon in the north of the Philippines. They lose very few days diving out of every year. There is almost always a protected area on the island that you can dive.
However, it is very difficult for us to say how the weather will be at a certain time of year and of course the weather is hard to predict far in advance. The few storms we have are spread out fairly evenly through the year with a few more in November and December. This can change from year to year.
So when should you come?
This very much depends on the kind of holiday you want and the marine life you want to see. Our personal favorite time to dive here is September. There is a good chance of mantas, and there are usually many thresher sharks. The weather is generally good, and there are not many tourists. This means fewer divers in the water, fewer people on the beach, and faster service in the restaurants.
A few points to think about:
High season (December to April) means less chance of rain, but also more people and higher prices. Hottest time is from March – May. If you want to meet lots of people and have a livelier social life this is the best time.
We get mild typhoons year round, but more so in low season (Jul-Dec). However, they do not usually hit us hard and we can almost always dive. It is hard to predict year to year. It can go 1-2 months with barely a day of rain.
Water temperature varies from 27-30 degrees for most of the year. From December – February it is 24-26 degrees.
While thresher sharks are seen all year round, sightings are more frequent from March-December. Manta rays used to be seasonal (July-November), but now are seen year round. Hammerheads are seen December-March. However, these are only tendencies and can change from year to year
North Point: The rock formation and small canyons on the northern part of Malapascua are covered with beautiful hard and soft corals. At this site a wide variety of reef fish, different kinds of rays, nudibranchs, cuttlefish and some huge crabs can be found. This place is also known for its beautiful night dive possibilities (max depth 69ft/23m).
Gato Island: The name of the Island was derived from the Spanish term “Gato” meaning cat. This is because the Island is shaped like a sitting cat. The Island is a protected marine sanctuary. It has become famous as a breeding place for the “black & white banded” sea snakes. The Island has spectacular caves & rock formations, and steep walls and rocks are covered by beautifully coloured gorgonian sea fans. On the different dive spots around the Island you can find lots of nudibranchs as well as sea horses, shells, shrimps, sea snakes, scorpion fish, frogfish, big cuttlefish, stingrays, whitetip sharks, reef sharks, bamboo sharks, schools of squids, tuna and snappers. It is an underwater haven for macro photographers. Besides 3 underwater caves there is a tunnel system, which runs under the northern part of the Island starting at 15ft/5m with a large exit at 42ft/14m. It contains all kinds of interesting sea life like lobsters, crabs and even sleeping whitetips.
Monad Shoal: This dive spot is big sunken Island rising up from the ocean floor. The flat reef top is around 45ft/15m and the steep drop off is going down to approximately 600ft/200m. It has spectacular overhangs and walls, disappearing into the endless deep blue ocean. Big schools of tuna, jacks and barracudas can be seen here. But one of the special events in this area is the close encounter with the breathtaking thresher sharks that circle in front of you acting like cats with their long tails waving around. Other highlights are the Manta Rays you can see from May until January. Another comparable shoal South of Monad although much smaller is Kimot.
Calanggaman Island: On your way to this island the boat is often escorted by shoals of dolphins. It is a little paradise Island with only few inhabitants, which makes a perfect stop between two dives. It is also a perfect place for non-divers who can just stroll around, explore or sunbathe. Apart from this Island there are two nearby shoals with similar profiles: Ormoc and Nunez Shoal. All sites have shallow reef tops at 30ft/10m leading to drop-off, descending to more than 600ft/200m, caves and overhangs with nice sponges, corals and gorgonians all varieties of reef fish, eagle rays, sharks and occasional turtle. Visibility can reach 100ft/30m.
Dona Marilyn Wreck: This is a big Manila/Cebu ferry that went down 1984 in a typhoon and is known as the most beautiful wreck in the Visayas. It is a 300ft/100m long ferry, lying on its portside and it can be entered safe in some areas. The wreck is partly overgrown with hard and beautiful colored soft corals. Scorpionfish, Lionfish and other tropical fish call this home with black spotted stingrays to be found.
Don Macario Wreck: This 90ft/30m long cargo vessel was sunk by a typhoon and is now resting upside down with corals growing on and around it. It is a good wreck for novices. Point of interest angel and butterfly fish, nudibranchs, scorpionfish, sea snakes etc. (max depth 57ft/19m)
Chocolate Island: A little rocky island between Malapascua and the north point of Cebu mainland. Along its gently sloping sides you can find coral heads and beautiful soft corals. There are many small reef fish and occasionally eagle rays (max depth 54ft/18m).
Tapilon Japanese Wreck: This is a heavily torpedoed World War II Cargo vessel broken into 3 major pieces and is resting in a depth between 60ft/20m to 90ft/30m with lots of wreck debris scattered all around. It is possible to see tiles on the wreck wall, steel cable, ladders and more, also lot of moray eels, scorpion fish, flatworms and occasional huge frogfish.
Pioneer Japanese Wreck: This is a surprisingly intact Japanese World War II vessel about 180ft/60m long is standing up right with the bow bottoming at 162ft/54m and the stern bottoming at around 120ft/40m. The wreck is overgrown with beautiful corals and even the propeller and anchors are still there. The wreck has an excellent fish life including massive scorpion fish, eagle rays, large groupers and shoals of barracuda, tuna and snappers. This is a very spooky but excellent wreck dive and strictly limited to experienced and qualified divers only.
Marapipi: A real frontiers dive destination to the reefs around this beautiful volcanic island. This dive trip is offered as a little overnight safari, Very good corals and all kinds of reef fish. On the coral rubble sloping, blacktip, reef sharks are common. An occasional manta and eagle rays are present. Dolphins are also around this island.
Capitancillo Islet: This is a six-hectare, low, flat coralline islet, which is located between Cebu and Leyte. The Islet offers excellent opportunities especially at the deeper portions for it exhibits a dense population of pelagic such as jacks and tuna. A rare black coral formation is also present.
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