Diving Malapascua

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Malapascua, Philippines


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Country: Philippines  Area: Philippines

Water Temp: 25 - 31°C (77 - 88°F)

Visibility: 5 - 30m (16 - 98 ft)

Depth Range: 5 - 40m (16 - 131 ft)

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A small exotic island famed for being the only place in the World with daily Thresher Shark sightings! This along with the Pygmy Seahorses and other cute critters makes the waters around Malapascua a diver’s paradise.

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Malapascua is a small island in the Philippines which is part of a group of islands called the Visayas, situated just off the top point of Cebu which is a large island in this group. Reaching Malapascua usually involves a time consuming journey with a few different changes. The best way to do this is to fly into the International airport in Cebu City and then catch a bus or taxi up to Maya in the north tip of Cebu Island, which takes approx 4hrs. Maya has regular ferries throughout the day across to Malapascua Island until 4:30pm which take about 30mins to complete the crossing.

Malapascua is a beautiful small unspoilt island and is a great place to visit to get away from it all and do some memorable diving.

Another Anemonefish, Credit


The climate in Malapascua is a typical tropical climate with a dry and rainy season, although the rainy season isn’t anywhere near as bad as it can be in some other Asian countries and most days are very sunny with no rain or just a brief shower. The rainy season starts around July and runs through to Nov/Dec time. December to February just after the rainy season is when the water temperature is at its coolest, dropping to around 25C and then raising back up to 30C plus from April/May.

March to May is the hottest time of year and during this time and also the holidays in December the island can get very busy and prices get hiked up.

Thresher Shark at Monad Shoal, Credit

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The diving around Malapascua is very varied and offers a great diverse range of dive sites and marine life from large pelagic to critters, wrecks, walls and coral reefs.  So there is a dive here for divers of every level.

Anemone with Anemonefish, Credit

Thresher Sharks are the highlight of the diving around Malapascua and are what most divers visit the island to see. These magnificent sharks live in deep water and are nocturnal which is why sightings are usually very rare. They stand out from most other sharks due to their long whip like tail sometimes used to stun fish. Sightings of these sharks happen at a sunken island called Monad Shoal. This underwater island is at 18-24m and then drops off to depths greater than 200m.  These deep waters are where the Threshers live in during the day, but just before dawn they come up to the shallows to use the Monad Shoals cleaning stations. Therefore the diving here starts very early sometimes at 5am.

Pyjama Chromodoris Nudibranch, Credit

To control the amount of divers at the site at any one time the dive centres on Malapascua manage a rota system with allocated time slots to dive which rotate daily. This system has increased the shark sightings as there are less people at the site at one time so the sharks get less spooked and means you don’t have to share the site with hundreds of people.

Knobbly Sea Star, Credit

The cleaning stations at Monad Shoal aren’t just visited by Thresher Sharks; many other Rays and Sharks also like to use them. Manta Rays, Devil Rays, Eagle rays, and even Hammerheads can be seen here. Hammerheads tend to be seen from December to April and April is the best time for a chance to spot schools.

Malapascua may generally be visited due to its main attraction, the Thresher Sharks, but it has many other brilliant sites for divers to try. One such memorable site is Gato Island which is a marine reserve and Sea Snake Sanctuary. The marine life here is amazing, as well as the numerous sea snakes you can also see cuttlefish, squid, pygmy seahorses, frogfish, bamboo sharks and even an exciting encounter with a White tip sharks while swimming through Gatos underwater tunnel.

Coral macro, Credit

Another experience that is sometimes overlooked when planning a trip to Malapascua is the sighting of the beautiful rare Mandarinfish. These fish are only found a few places in the world and Malapascua is one of them. The best time to see them is at sunset when they take part in their entertaining mating rituals! A good site to witness this is Lighthouse Reef which a relaxed easy site and great for beginners as well as more advanced divers and photographers searching for the unique wildlife.

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Other activities

There are not many other activities on the island and the main focus is diving, so if you aren’t happy to spend all your time diving or relaxing on a peaceful empty beach and crave more activities to occupy your time then this island is not for you.  But if you love nature and the laid back pace of small island life then Malapascua is a location that shouldn’t be missed! 

Soft coral, Credit

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Rating 10/10

Thresher Cove, Malapascua Island, Philippines

Malapascua23 Apr 2015 - 30 Nov 2015

Scuba Diving in the Philippines is famous for having the widest variety of marine species in the world and Malapascua Island is no exception, it’s famous worldwide for being the only place in the world where you can go diving with Thresher Shark on a daily basis. This graceful shark usually lives in deep water and are very rarely spotted in shallower waters. In Malapascua they come up to around 20-30m first thing in the morning to get rid of parasites on their skin. Daily early morning Dives to Monad Shoal to see the Thresher Shark are offered. As the cleaning stations are at 30m Nitrox really is a must to maximise your chances of seeing the Sharks. It is also a good spot to encounter Manta Rays!

Apart from the diving with Thresher Shark and Manta Rays, Malapascua Island has over 20 dive sites only a short boat ride away where there’s awesome Macro diving such as the colourful Mandarin fish, Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Frogfish, Blue Ringed Octopus, Seahorses and many amazing Nudibranchs.If you fancy a bit of Wreck Diving there’s the “Dona Marilyn Wreck” a 1 & 1/2 hour boat ride from the island. It is a former 100m long passenger ferry which sank in 1988 during a Typhoon. Day Trips to Calanggaman Island is not to be missed an uninhabited tropical paradise famous for its white sand and its crystal clear blue waters and spectacular Wall Diving and if you’re lucky enough you might also see a Whale Shark. Malapascua is a great place for Macro Underwater Photography so don’t forget your Camera!!!

Check out http://www.threshercove.com

Rating 8/10

Malapascua Island, Philippines

Malapascua2 May 2013 - 16 May 2013

My husband and I stayed at the Ocean Vida and used the Dive Centre attached - Sea Explorers.

The Dive Centre is excellent and well managed. Like everywhere, you have to get used to their way of doing things.

Once enrolled and the first dive completed, we were given the same guide for the rest of 7 days we booked.

Which was excellent. Loy knew every nook and cranny and the best place to see everything you 'might see'.

Our first time 'muck' diving, we soon got used to using a pointer so as to disturb less of the bottom and corals.

We saw things we had never seen before - from the biggest frog fish I've ever experienced, the Pegasus fish and my beloved pygmy seahorses!

The trip to Monad Shoal is a must - one of THE reasons for travelling 33 hours! You do leave at about 5am and get to the dive site just as the sun begins to rise. You're straight down to 28 metres, where you sit on the sandy edge and wait... not too long - there were the Thresher sharks winding their way up to be cleaned.

An amazing site not to be missed. The Eagle Ray swimming past was bonus.

Currents were very mild.

You can dive at a nice slow pace and search for the curiousities that appear.

Home also to my first night dives. Another first and one place where you are guaranteed to see the Mandarin fish coming up to mate. Colourful and playful, a great experience. It can get a little busy at times, with a several divers attending (about 15 or so).

The diving was chilled and abundant with life.

The Dive guides wanted us to get the most out of our experience & made sure they found as much as possible.

The Island itself is small and caters for diving in the main. Food and drink vary from cheap as chips to 5* a la carte.

A trip on foot around the island is recommended to get a feel for the true place - take much water with you as the humidity can be overwhelming at times!

May is the Festival time on the Island so the locals arrange games and bands as well as the boat parade around the Island.

IMG0015 IMG0087 IMG0273 IMG0004 P5119777
John Fry

John Fry

Nicely timed - I am thinking of going to the philippines in feb. Threseher shark cleaning station sounds simply unreal!


Norma Thompson

WOW that is a tiny tiny sea horse.. I could hardly see it in the picture at first.. you must have a keen eye!!


Randy Chacko

ha I didn't see it when i looked at first

Rating 10/10

Thresher Cove Resort

Malapascua23 Jun 2014 - 27 Jun 2014

I visited Malapascua island, which is just off the far northern tip of Cebu Province in the Philippines. I stayed at Thresher Cove resort and the resort and diving was wonderful. The resort is new on the site of an old resort that had been abandoned. it sits in a small cove with a hill all around the resort. Nice white sand beach at high tide, at low tide the sea grass is uncovered. Mostly backpackers were there on my trip. the accommodations range from tents and dorms to a luxury villa. The dive center has all new equipment. They have two large dive boats and two small six paxs.

2014 06 24 10.20.45 2014 06 24 09.46.19 2014 06 25 09.40.06
Showing 3 of 5 comments. Show all

André Fernandes

Looks a beautiful place! Was this area affected by the typhoon at all?

Charles Davis

Hello Andre: sadly very much so. I spent some time walking around and you could still see areas that showed heavy damage. The resorts are open but some of them still have building that can not be used. Most of the dive centers have foreign owners or investors so it was easier for them to get rebuilt. The divers have not come back in large numbers yet. The dive sites are mostly unaffected. I asked to dive on the most heavily damaged site and while you could see areas that were damaged it seem to affect only about 25% of the reef. Other sites I did not see any damage to the reefs. What depressed me the most was the town of Maya which is on Cebu and is the location of the ferry to the island. Still many building destroyed. School year starts early June here and many classrooms have not been repaired. Most of the classes are being held in function tents. To your comment, yes it is very beautiful and the people very open and friendly


Sienna Mackenzie

Sad to hear that schools are not being rebuilt - but I guess it is a very poor country.. best things we can do is go there and support the local community (and enjoy the fine looking diving) :)

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