Swimming with sharks in Philippines is a big thing. First, you have the famous whale sharks in Donsol, where you can litterally snorkel amongst them – which is only possible in very few places in the world.
But then, you also have this tiny island called Malapascua, just north of Cebu, where you can dive at Monad Shoal with an even rarer species – the tresher sharks. These clever sharks, that use their unique long tail to stun and catch their prey, are vulnerable to extinction.
Malapascua is a very charming, tiny island – it has around 11.000 inhabitants and you can walk around the entire island in 3 hours. Unfortunately, the island has suffered great losses in the 2013 Haiyan typhoon – since the island is so tiny and lays barely above sea level, most of the buildings were just simply swept away. Upon my visit in 2016, most resorts and company-owned enterprises were rebuild, but many poorer local inhabitants who had lost their business were struggling.
Luckily, by visiting this paradisiac place we get the chance to help those people rebuild their hotels and businesses by choosing for family-ran accomodations and buying in small shops rather than big chains ( the latter won’t be a problem anyway, since the island is so tiny that there are no big shops at all … ). Call it hitting two birds with one stone!
The biggest attraction for the divers amongst us are the tresher sharks, but there are many other interesting diving sites around the island as well.
There seem to be more diving shops than palm trees on this island, and all of them do the morning dive at Monad Shoal. If you’re traveling on a budget, Sea Slug Divers is your diving school – they offer the absolute lowest price to go to Shark Point, are the only Filipino-owned diving school on the island ( talking about supporting the local businesses!) and have decent equipment. You will be paying 1200 pesos for your dive (around 25 Euro) – an absolute bargain for any dive!
Since thie Monad Shoal lays at about 25-30m depths and there is quite some current, you need an Advanced Open Water PADI certificate. Though, Sea Slug Divers is the only diving school that allows you to do the dive with a simple Open Water certoficate if you pay for an extra dive master that will stay only with you. This is often criticized by the other schools because of being risky, but you obviously sign a paper that you’re aware of the risk you’re taking, and I think this is an amazing opportunity once that you’re in Malapascua anyway to see these majestic creatures.
Prepare to wake up early, because the boat will leave around 5AM to go out in the sea for about 30 minutes to the cleaning platform where the tresher sharks gather every morning to get their morning manicure executed by cleaning wrasses. The dive itself will take around 30-35 minutes, because of the increased use of oxygen in such depths, but this was more than enough for me to get a glimpse of two different tresher sharks.
The second one stayed around for quite a bit, making rounds coming closer and closer to us, being curious about who these weird creatures in black suits were. He got pretty close, until he got scared off by our bubbles and left the scene. It was magical to admire their elegant movements and the swaying of their meterlong tail in absolute silence, at 28 meter under sea level. Take a look at their beauty…
Besides the diving, on Malapascua I saw the most pristine beach of the Philippines, or maybe even whole South-East – Bounty beach on the northern tip of the island. And apart from being pristine, it was also absolutely deserted – nobody there except me, a Canadian girl and an Italian couple I had met earlier during the dive.
For lunch or dinner head to Ging Ging’s place for cheap, local meals. No frills, freshly made dishes to choose from a broad menu – and for no money. Try their amazing curries or vegetables in coconut milk – you won’t be disappointed! Being vegetarian, these were the best meals I have had in my entire 1 month stay in the Philippines.
A last tip before you go: bring enough cash, since there are no ATM’s on the island!