We bought the promo tickets to Cebu, way back in May & we hadn’t decide where to go then. Was amazed that it was so inexpensive! Just S$123 per pax! Must fly, must dive! Terence chose Malapascua. He wanted to see for himself the beautiful thresher sharks that I, Angus, Bee & Bok had been raving to him about.
Trying to meet the threshers proved to be rather difficult. It was on the 5th & final morning to Monad Shoal, that we finally managed a “close” encounter with 2 thresher sharks, circling at the cleaning station. That morning, our time-in was 5:44am, the sun had just risen over the horizon, the ocean was still dark, it felt like a dusk dive. Toto (the cool DM)’s hunch was correct, these silvery, long tailed, doe-eye beauties preferred to appear when the water was still dark & cold. Well, his email to make appointment with the thresher sharks helped, of course. The date before – on 11 Dec, we only managed to catch a fleeting glimpse of 2 thresher sharks rising from the depth, while we were making our ways down the anchor line. The other morning 10th Dec, we were teased by DM Wilmar, whose group had a 10mins encounter with the thresher shark/s, after our Nitrox group left the crowded locale! Good Grief! Yet the other morning 9th Dec, we had chose to sleep in & the early risers managed to see the thresher shark! Maybe all the misses made our 12th Dec morning all that precious & memorable, thank merciful heavens for the blessings! Also indebted to the very kind Toto for slotting us in for the 5am departure with the Thai group.
Actually Monad Shoal was more than just thresher sharks. However, if u had been unlucky there for a couple of mornings (like us), it became a hunt & the only goal was thresher sharks. At Monad Shoal, 7th Dec, time-in: 7:05am, Max Depth (MD) 23.6m, Nitrox, we had to board the Exotic Boat from Bounty Beach as the sea was too rough – peacock mantis shrimp, 2 large octopi (1 at the beginning, the other at the end). 8th Dec, time-in: 6:45am, MD 23.5m – 1 devil Ray (which I mistaken for manta ray) & 4 batfish. Time-in: 2:17pm, MD 23.1m – supposedly to be Manta Ray “hunt”, we stayed at the manta cleaning station for most part of the dive, viz was quite bad & our muscles were pretty stiff from inactivity by end of 1hr dive – 1 devil ray, then 3 devil rays in a single file & when I turned to the back, was rewarded by 2 who tried to sneak by from behind. 10th Dec, time-in: 6:15am, MD 22.9m – a manta ray! but it wasn’t in the mood to entertain divers & 1 devil ray!
The basic details are the same, except that the bus tickets on Ceres Lines had increased (doubled/ tripled) (136P/pax). This time, our bus driver enjoyed pop, not techno/ dance music, bless him! & I was better equipped with ear plugs & “blinders”, so managed to catch some sleep during the 4hrs drive.
The toilet at Maya was rebuilt in concrete & had proper toilet bowl & sink! 5P. The flush wasn’t working tho. But still it was a vast improvement from the wooden/recycled planks/sticks toilet hut, balanced dangerously on the shoreline.
We arrived too early for the public ferry, so told a private ferry on the private bangka (boat) Darrel (250P) directly to Exotic. Due to the low tide, we had to use the small boats to transfer to Darrel (~10P/pax & ~10P/bag & remember to pay the porters too!)
We arrived at a sunny Malapascua Exotic Resort at around 10+am. There were some obvious changes at there. The restaurant was decked in Christmas deco & the grounds (beach) looked clean… The dive area was expanded, there was a new bar area in front of the dive area, tho not yet functional. The 2nd storey above the dive shop was still under renovations, an internet cafe was planned… When explored further, there were now abt 30 rooms at Exotic vs 15 last year? Glad to see 1 of my fav places doing so well! The improvements were not only in Exotic, the surrounding areas – in the villages too, the grounds looked swept & the villagers were building a short bamboo fence around the paths & a couple of days later, the fence had been painted white.
After a short rest in our beach-front room (Rm 3 – refurbished! Thanks! Zoe!), we had our afternoon check-out dive at House-Reef. Time in: 13:48, Bottom Time (BT) 51mins, Max Depth (MD) 12.9m. There were dark clouds at the horizons & the seas were a little rough when we descended. This was the start of 2.5 days of rainy weather, lucky the sun came out again on 9th Dec & the weather stayed beautiful! I was still clearing my ears & adjusting my mask & my new & super tight wetsuit, when I heard Rey (the youthful DM with quiet manners & shy smile) “clinked”, a sea snake was swimming “towards” me! It was searching for food in the seagrass patch below me. What a fantastic start to the series of 17 wonderful dives (90% of the time) at Malapascua! Other wonderful creatures we met during the dive – a long fin batfish (abt 20cm, still not fully growth) & a black frogfish, they were both hiding at the steel “box” structure; a couple of grey sweetlips & a school of around a dozen transluscent squids (some were abt a foot long!) at another structure. The squids were so cute, felt as if they were trying to communicate with their big eyes & waving tentacles & I promised not to eat anymore squids/ calamari. The squids hid a large mass of longish white eggs beneath some soft corals. Rey “peeled” off the reddish/brown cover of the eggs & we could see embryo inside. Cool! During our next 2 night dives at House-Reef, the squids were just too shy to play but the egg mass was still there. Towards the end of the dive, we saw 2 pegasus sea moths! But the G9 ran out of battery (damper!).
Also did 2 night dives at House-Reef, 1 was with Paul & Terence 9th Dec, time-in 18:09, MD 14.6m & rest of the “gang” (Robin & Meng Wei) & the other on 11th Dec, time-in 18:09, MD 14.5m, with Toto & our new friend (the Brit) Michael. Both dives were very interesting & pretty productive (photo-wise). On 11th Dec, the full moon was shining beautifully, casting a silvery sheen on the waves when we embarked on the dive, half-way through the dive, we saw regular flashes of bright lights, I thought we were close to the Lighthouse, when we surfaced, it was raining cats & dogs! Very dramatic indeed! Michael complained that the dive was too long – 70mins & he was very hungry towards the end. I was only partly to blame, when I indicated to Toto to surface, it took him a while more to find our small boat… The poor boatman was huddled under a small umbrella , braving the storm. It was also the dive with the invasion of sun dollars – I think there were millions of them! It was like a C grade alien invasion movie – they looked like a patch of seagrass from far & when near, they looked like cockroaches! Yucks!
The night dive at Light-House Reef was unforgettable! 8th dec, time in 17:15, MD 8.1m, dive time: 102mins! Balance 70bar! Although the mandarinfishes were shy (who could blame them for refusing to perform for boatloads of divers), Paul (the funny DM) spotted a BLUE RING OCTOPUS! It was just about an inch, its blue rings were electric blue! After awhile, it hid under a rock, must be blinded by the German’s large white video lights! There was a cute network pipefish near the blue-ring octopus. Paul also found 2 cute tiny cuttle-fish, white seahorse, nudibranch.
North Point – 7th Dec, time-in 14:04, MD 23.1m. Rey led our group of 6 divers, Will rounded up the group. Not a wise game plan at a site with bad viz & a photog with dslr. Heard that the new-comer didn’t like the idea of diving alone with a DM, strange… The interesting creatures made up for it – 3 frogfish inside a crevice (2 blacks on the sandy bottom, 1 yellow warty balanced on the wall), several nudibranches, then another black frogfish!
9th Dec – Pantaw Pantaw, time in 09:57 (Rainbow! ), MD 23.7m. This is a new dive-site. Toto was proud to be part of the Exotic team that found it. A beautiful dive – 5 pygmy seahorses! 3 tiny “worm-like” lilac ones (couldn’t “find” them on the lcd screen, once Toto removed his fingers) & 2 slightly larger yellow ones! Several schools baby catfish, 1 snowflake moray eel which was out & abt & an anemone with many tiny transparent cleaner shrimps & a red/white crab! 1 loud explosion of dynamite fishing marred the dive. Buntong Batu also a new dive-site, very pretty with lots of pink & orange soft corals, 2 cleaner shrimps in an anemone, several beautiful nudibranches & the BIGGEST peacock mantis shrimp I have laid eyes on! Think it must be abt 30cm! No kidding! It was trying to hide under a soft coral.
Had a “day out” at Gato Island on 10th Dec. 1 afternoon dive – time in: 14:46, MD 23.4m & 1 night dive – time in 17:33, MD 19.4m. Night dive was pretty chaotic – the viz was terrible, there were 6 of us following Toto & 1 of the 2 angmos was either quite rude or he just had bad skills, knocking into & kicking everyone else! That was 1 of the few dives which I felt rather happy that it ended. We saw a band sea-snake & 2 white-tip reef shark during the afternoon dive.
11th Dec – Ubang Bato time in 10:22am, MD28.8m. 1 of the most beautiful site. Ubang Bato is a small sunken plateau, with beautiful soft corals encrusting every inch of it. Well I might be biased since this dive yielded several nudibranches, 1 yellow warty frogfish, 1 white frogfish. Then Totong the other very cool DM spotted 3 frogfish at the sandy bottom. The smaller black frogfish had 1 “hand” (fin) on a very large giant black frogfish & the other “hand” on a grey frogfish – they formed a pyramid! I spotted several large cuttlefish at the anchor line during ascent. Anyway, the other resolution I made was to give up another favourite food of mine- cuttlefish, they are more enjoyable alive than dead…
East Garden time in 14:06, MD12.2m. Shallow easy, enjoyable dive, only Michael & the both of us, led by Toto. Micheal & Toto cut opened a fish trap & saved many fishes – including 1 small lionfish & filefish! A crab was hiding under the fish trap. A small flatfish appeared when they lifted the fish trap.
We enjoyed our dives at Malapascua very much, except on the few occasions when it was too crowded – Malapascua diving rocks! Many thanks to the DMs – Will & Totong & especially Rey, Paul & Toto, they worked tirelessly to find interesting creatures for us on every dive, they never stopped working just because the dive was alreay 45mins or 1hr long, they would rest briefly only when we were safely on the boat, then they had to keep our dive gear into the store & make sure the gear was there in the morning. Rey would even set-up our gear for us, so nice (ya, we were so pampered)! Also many thanks to the hardworking boatcrew who had to hold onto us, while we gear up, who literally had to drag me up the boat ladder after almost every dive – I was so wasted after diving, they would also remove the bc & reg after the dives. The DM & boatcrew have to wake up for the early morning Monad dives & stay back late to accomdate night dives ( & brave the occasional stormy nights). Will looked much more wan than last year – the crew had to give up their weekly rest days during the peak season. Even the beautiful Milrca at the Exotic Restaurant looked very tired, she had to put in too many hours, the restaurant opened from 7am till 9-10pm… It is really not easy to do that without a word of complaint & wearing a sincere smile – day in & day out – kudos to everyone single 1 of u!!! U make Malapascua a true paradise…
Appreciate the nice company of Robin & Meng Wei. We are also happy to make new friends – Eddie, Siew Wan & Claus from Singapore, Oliver from Germany, Michael from Britain & Raphael & Chris. Thanks for your merry company!!!