MALAPASCUA ISLAND: Of White Sand Beach and Thresher Sharks

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I was browsing through list of beach destinations in Cebu and when I got a taste of the island’s beach life, I immediately scheduled a weekend trip to Malapascua Island. After my Camotes Islands getaway, I asked my workmates what Malapascua was like and the most common feedback I got was “It’s in open water” or “Are you sure?! It’s scary and dangerous going there!” That, or they haven’t been there, but I wanted to find out for myself despite the comments. One weekend, there I was alone, on my way to Malapascua.

Malapascua MapAccording to legends, the island got its name when Spaniards landed on the island on a stormy Christmas day. The name combined Spanish word ‘mala’ and “pascua” meaning bad Easter or Christmas, hence Malapascua.

Malapascua Island is situated in the northernmost tip of the island province of Cebu. Formerly known as Logon, and is part of municipality of Daanbantayan, Cebu, it is popular these days as one of the best diving spots in the country where sightings of Thresher Sharks and Manta Rays are common. Non-divers will love the blinding white sand beach that is Bounty Beach.

After Typhoon Yolanda hit the island last November 2013, it was left in its current state. Palm trees beaten down and houses are roofless but rehabilitation is still on-going and the community is starting to get back on its feet.

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VERDICT

The image and pleasant memories of Malapascua linger and make one depart slowly and unwillingly.

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HOW TO GET THERE AND AROUND

a. Going to Cebu: From Manila and key cities of the Philippines like Zamboanga, Bacolod, Davao or Ilo-ilo, there are flights going to Cebu via Cebu-Mactan International Airport. From other parts of Visayas or Mindanao such as Negros, Bohol, Samar and Leyte, you can take RORO (Roll-On Roll-Off) or ferry boat going to Cebu pier. Direct flights are also available to Cebu from major cities around Asia such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Tokyo and Bangkok.

b. Cebu Airport to North Bus Terminal: From the airport or pier, you can take a cab going to North Bus Terminal. From the airport, it can take about an hour and approximately 15 minutes from the pier depending on the flow of traffic. During weekends, the roads are better while weekdays can have very slow traffic movement (but not as much as Manila) during rush hours.

c. South Bus Terminal to Maya Pier: Catch the bus bound for Maya Bagay. There are destination labels in front of the bus, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find them. Buses leave every 30 minutes or so with travel time of approximately 4 to 5 hours to the drop-off point. The bus drops off passengers directly at the Maya pier where boats are waiting.

d. Maya Pier to Malapascua Island: From Maya pier, there are several local boats (banca) that go across with trips starting as early as 6:30 AM. The last schedule of island transfer is 3PM so make sure to catch early bus schedule. Waterproof your bags and wear slippers as if it happens the water is rough, you might get wet before you even reach the island. Travel time is approximately an hour.
e. Should you miss the last trip, you have 2 options. You can hire a private boat for P800 to P1,200 (you can hire them too anytime, if you’re not prepared to wait) or rent a room in Maya, few meters away from the pier worth P300-400 overnight such as Abba Family Lodge.
d. If you get to the island during low tide, you will need to transfer to a small paddle boat for P20. On an ordinary day, you’ll have to walk down a rickety wooden plank or jump into the shallow water.
e. Once you get to Malapascua Island, there are motorbikes available for hire if you are carrying heavy baggage but you can walk if you can manage. Most resorts are walking distance anyway.
f. You will not need any of the boat transfers outlined above if your resort have island transfer included in their accommodation.
g. Use your common sense when paying. There are reports of boatmen tricking tourists to pay for higher boat fare.

h. Malapascua Island back to Cebu City: Going home, just take the same route, only backwards. Take note of the last scheduled trip from Malapascua to Maya. Once you reach Maya pier, buses are waiting for passengers for trip to Cebu City.

WHAT TO DO – WHERE TO GO – WHAT TO SEE

DSC_458701|Get Tanned!
Malapascua boasts a long stretch of unexploited white sand beach locally called the Bounty Beach. The water is an immaculate reflection of the sky, azure and enchanting. This is the beach second to El Nido where I sat all day just reading a book under a tree. Even with its beautiful beach and diving spots, there’s hardly anyone (tourist) in the island so you are sure to have a relaxing vacation. The beaches are bordered by coconut trees and some areas have fine sands good for beach bumming and sunbathing to get that tan, the summer look you’ll be dying to flaunt when you go back to the city.

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Thresher Shark photo taken by Jason Isley courtesy of www.scubazoo.com

Thresher Shark photo taken by Jason Isley courtesy of http://www.scubazoo.com

02|Thresher Shark Encounters, Go Scuba Diving
Have you seen a shark up-close? More so swim with them? Malapascua waters offer some of most exciting diving spots in the country and foreign and local tourists often visit the island for this reason. I don’t have diving certification yet and I envy those divers whenever I see them on the move for a dive. The water off the island offers excellent diving spots such as Monad Shoal Marine Park, the most popular, where Malapascua promises a one of a kind encounter with the Thresher Shark. Depending on season, you may also encounter hammerhead sharks, devil rays, manta rays and other big fishes. Other diving spots worth seeing are Gato Island, Kemod Shoal, Lighthouse Wreck, Lighthouse West, Dona Marilyn Wreck, Tapilon Wreck, MV Asia Wreck and Pioneer Wreck.

DSC_465203|Snorkeling and Cliff Diving
For those who still want to explore the water but do not have diving certification like me, snorkeling is the next best thing for you. Enjoy the rich marine sanctuary that Malapascua offers. Best spot is shipwreck near the light house. Take extra care because the current is strong. After snorkeling, you can ask to be taken to the cliff diving site. Adrenaline junkies will be ecstatic with the 10-20 feet cliff. Make sure the water is high. Cliff diving will be dangerous if the tide is low.

DSC_4684DSC_430804|Walk or Bike Around the Island
A complete walk around the island will take you about 2-3 hours from end to end depending on your pace and shorter when you tour by bike. The roads are narrow and mostly well beaten by villagers who walk. The best part for sunset watching is near the light house. The light house is closed though, but the elevation will give you a magnificent view. The end most part of the island near the village is a small island rock that also offers a good sunset view. In addition, you’ll get to see the local village life and, if lucky, watch kids make hooks and baits used for fishing.

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05|Disco Nights
It was past 9PM and I had nothing to do after a glass of White Russian at Craic House. On the way to my room, I heard loud party music coming from somewhere near. I walked towards where the music was coming from and discovered a local disco. It was set up in the town plaza complete with disco lights, big loud speakers and a local DJ. Foreigners and locals flocked the party. With an entrance of P20, you can join the dancing mob. Someone said they set it up from time to time on Saturday nights. I was lucky to be there at the right time.

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OTHER TRAVELLER TIPS

Travel Itinerary: Staying overnight surely won’t be enough once you get to the island, schedule at least 3 days 2 nights’ stay, but if you’re the type who easily get bored or will not dive, there’s nothing much to do in Malapascua.
Transportation: Motorized bike rule the streets when in the island.
Accommodation: There are a number of resorts and tourist inns in Malapascua, book ahead for a hassle free arrival. BB’s Guesthouse, Mike Camp and Dioses Beach Cottage are best for backpackers. If you have extra bucks to spare, you can book at Blue Water, Ocean Vida Beach or Dive and Exotic Diving Beach Resort.
Food and Water: You will not go hungry when you get there. Restaurants and local convenience stores are available. There are barbeque stalls too by the beach in the afternoon offering different choices from pork to hotdogs and chorizos. Ging-ging’s offer the cheapest meals although the service takes too long. I tried Exotic Diving Resort’s restaurant and had a good quality meal but pricier than others. The Craic House offers good drinks.
Electricity: 24 hours supply is available
Communication: The Island has strong local cellular phone network signal. You can take pictures and instantly post it on social media sites.
Medical Needs: There is a newly built small clinic that can assist your minor medical needs. All other medical assistance beyond their capacity will need to be transferred to Daanbantayan which is an hour’s boat travel. Doctor’s may not be available during weekend.
Souvenirs: There are local shops selling souvenir items such as shirts, bracelets and necklaces.

MY TRAVEL EXPENSE

P70 – Taxi from my apartment to North Bus Terminal. It depends on where you’re coming from.
P20 – Pack of 3 boiled eggs
P120 – One way bus fare to Maya pier drop-off point
P60 – 3 pieces apples
P80 – One way boat fare to Malapascua Island
P25 – Bottled water
P120 – Lunch at Ging-ging’s
P20 – Motorbike to Tourist Inn
P18 – Pork Barbeque
P120 – Dinner at Ging-ging’s
P130 – Breakfast
P15 – Bottled water
P110 – Mango shake
P450 – Lunch (at Exotic Beach Resort – Medallion pork with mashed potato and ratatouille and chocolate shake)
P65 – Pork barbeque dinner
P120 – White Russian cocktail drink
P20 – Disco Entrance
P600 – 3 days 2 nights room rent at BB’s Inn
P20 – Small paddle boat needed to bring you to main boat (since it was low tide)
P80 – One way boat fare to Maya pier
P10 – Bread
P150 – Bus fare from Maya to Cebu City
P65 – Taxi from terminal to my apartment
P2,488 – Total Expenses
You can still cut it down if you take the jeepney ride going to South Bus Terminal and if you bring food with you or go for less expensive food.

COLLECTED INFORMATION

My Tour Date: March 2014
Destination: Malapascua Island Cebu, Philippines
Location: Region VII Central Visayas
Name Origin: From root word “mala” and “pascua” or Unfortunate Christmas, as the first arrival of Spaniards was during a stormy Christmas
Locales: Cebuano
Language: Cebuano, English and Tagalog (but tell them you’re Tagalog)
Shops: Restaurants, Sari-sari (local small convenience stores)
Museum: None
Banks: None
Festivals: None
Website:

Do you want to see the Thresher Sharks up-close?

Thank you for reading. To help other travelers, please do not hesitate to leave comments for additional inputs, advice and feedback about the travel guide. Don’t forget to click like or share if you find this travel guide helpful. I hope you enjoy your adventure to Malapascua Island as much as I did.

Published: August 25, 2015
Updated: August 25, 2015

Additional Photos

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