We had such a fabulous time at NAD, that we asked them for their expert opinion on where to go for a week in April. Our criteria was sunshine, warm water, easy diving, and a place that would spoil us (not in terms of spa experiences, but more about effortless private diving). They recommended Evolution Diving in Malapascua (the Philippines), and we coincidentally saw someone wearing a Malapascua shirt in the airport, so we took it as a sign and booked when we got home.
We did an overnight flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong (9 hours), and then connected to Cebu (3 hours). This put us into Cebu around noon. We decided to break up the journey with a night in Cebu in each direction, and in retrospect this decision was spot on.
The hotel picked us up at the airport, and 30 minutes later we were pulling into the fabulous grounds of the five star Shangri-La. Hint: if you arrange transport via the hotel, you are greeted by a hostess who takes you straight to your room for checkin. We’re not big fans of large resorts, but figured it would be good for one day on either side of the Malapascua adventure. We mostly hung by the pool, ate at the Chinese restaurant, and enjoyed the powerful air conditioning.
The following morning we went for a walk around the ground and checked out the massive buffet breakfast. The driver arranged by Evolution picked us up at 9:30, and we headed four hours north to the port of Maya. The traffic was a bit crazy, and the route took us from call center land to the mountainous highlands. In Maya we boarded an outrigger style boat for the 40 minute crossing.
The water was every possible shade of blue, and perfectly clear and still.
The outrigger boats pull right up to the beach at Evolution – this is the last time I wore any sort of shoe for the duration of our stay.
The resort consists of a few bungalows close to the beach, an open air restaurant, an open area and adjacent room for rinsing and drying gear, an open area for PADI courses, and a two story building at the back of the property. Our room was on the 2nd floor, which was nice for privacy. It wasn’t the Shangri-la, but with air conditioning, hot water showers, etc. weren’t roughing it. The free wifi in the restaurant was fine when no one was around, but if you require reliable speed, get your own data plan.
The resort was also home to Bruce, a wicked smart doggy. When we visited in April, it was HOT and HUMID – sunny and not a drop of rain during our stay. Bruce dug holes to get to the cooler sand, and then curled up in the hole resting his head on the sand pile he’d just made.
Malapascua is 2.5 by 1 kilometre (1.55 by 0.62 mi) and has about 4000 residents. You can supposedly walk around the entire island in an hour or two, but with the heat and three dives a day, we didn’t leave the resort once. The restaurant (Craic House) has a fairly extensive menu – our favourites were banana french toast for brekkie and mac and cheese with meatballs for dinner.
Life is too short to drink bad wine. And also too short to dive on cattle boats 🙂 I’m spoiled. I like having my own guide (to spot critters and also help me with gear), and my own boat (flexibility to come and go where you please, and more room for all that gear). I’m pretty sure that the folks at Evolution thought we were crazy when we pre-arranged for our own boat, because they triple checked once we arrived, but it was so, so worth it. Most dive sites are within a 10-15 minute boat ride, and divers sign up for whatever interests them (except for us – we had our own boat and a plan).
Our guide Gino was a Malapascua native, and took great care of us. Our gear was on the boat when we arrived in the morning, tanks were swapped after each dive, and wetsuits were hung overnight. Gino even carried my camera back and forth to the boat, even though it was only a short walk across the beach. He also had a super cool mohawk wetsuit hood.
Each day started at 4:30am – that is not a typo. The thresher shark dives are done at dawn, and Monad Shoal is about a 45 minute boat ride from the beach at Malapascua. Entry is a giant stride off the front, and to board the boat there is a ladder that folds down from within the outriggers. This is the absolute easiest entry/exit that I’ve encountered so far.
(Not the best quality video, but check out that tail !)
Because the shark dive started so early, we’d be back at the resort by 7am. The schedule varied by day.
- We did one day trip to Kalangaman Island. a thin white sandbar or an island (with a lot of day trippers). We did one dive, then pulled around to the quiet end of the island for lunch/safety stop, and then returned for dive #2.
- We did one day trip to Gato Island, known for its 20 – 25 metres long cave swim-through. I’m not wild about confined spaces, or dives that require a torch (flashlight), so my backup plan was “you guys go ahead, I’ll swim over the top.” Unfortunately this plan wasn’t well thought through as there was no swim OVER, because the tunnel went UNDER the island and wound up on the other side. I survived, and we even got to see a few white tip sharks as we emerged on the other side.
- For the other two days, we dove local sites which had some beautiful soft corals and lots of good macro subjects. We did one mandarin fish dive, which was as frustrating as Lembeh. Those little dudes are FAST!