By Alex Hatton

Last Updated:

March 19, 2024

Scuba Diving Malapascua - My Experience

Scuba Diver coming face to face with Thresher Shark at Kinad Shoal dive site of Malapascua
Coming face to face with a Thresher Shark

Of all the places to dive in the Philippines, Malapascua is one of the most popular! It is legendary among divers as the best place in the world to see a Thresher Shark (those sharks with the really long tails!). 

But did you know that since 2020, thresher sharks are no longer found at the famous Malapascuan dive site “Monad Shoal”? That’s because they’ve migrated to a different one: “Kinad Shoal”.

Why? It’s actually because those Thresher Sharks were scared into changing locations by a fairly new arrival to Malapascua: Tiger Sharks, which you can also now dive with!

In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about diving Malapascua including the best Malapascua dive resorts and dive sites; when to go, how to get there and more.

I’ll talk about my experience diving Malapascua over 2023 includig how I came to learn how it’s changed a lot since 2020. Let’s do this…

Psssttt – I also wrote a separate article titled: Best Malapascua Dive Resorts!

 

Sunrise over ocean on boat headed to Kinad Shoal to dive with Thresher sharks
Sunrise starts are all part of the experience when it comes to diving with Thresher Sharks

Best Malapascua Dive Sites

#1 Kinad Shoal: Thresher Sharks

Scuba diver filming thresher shark with gopro at Monad Shoal dive site

Thresher Sharks (aka Fox Sharks) are an elusive species of shark that are instantly recognisable from their immensely long tails which can be the same length as their entire bodies. 

With small mouths and a shy demeanour they are harmless to humans yet curious of divers and will swim up close unless spooked away by sudden movements. 

Technically you can see thresher sharks in a variety of places around the world; however they’re usually very difficult to spot. Malapascua is the only known place where divers are practically guaranteed to see a thresher shark on every dive, year-round!

Previously this was at the dive site “Monad Shoal”. However, from mid-2020, Tiger Sharks (which are bigger, scarier and higher up the food chain than thresher sharks!) started appearing around Monad Shoal and this scared the thresher sharks away to another dive site “Kinad Shoal” which is where they are now seen. 

From a diving perspective, this does not change your experience much. Seeing thresher sharks still requires an early start in which you’ll meet in the dive centre at around 4 / 4:15 am and then spend about an hour-long boat ride out to Monad Shoal. Nine times out of ten you will see at least one thresher shark there, usually 2 or 3!

#2 Monad Shoal: Tiger Sharks

Dive instructor looking for tiger sharks around Monad Shoal from boat

After one or two thresher shark dives at Kinad Shoal, many dive centres now make a stop at Monad Shoal which is haunted by tiger sharks; these mighty apex predators are named after the stripes along their body.

It’s worth noting that whilst thresher sharks are practically guaranteed at Kinad Shoal, your probability of seeing Tiger Sharks at Monad Shoal is much lower. I made two dives here and didn’t see shit. Asking around to other divers; it seems that usually only one lucky sod or so sees a tiger shark at monad shoal per week; as a posse to the daily thresher shark sightings.

All the same, if you do see a tiger shark it’s an awe-inspiring experience. Growing up to 10-14 feet, these extremely powerful and muscular sharks are top predators. When you see one, you’ll understand why the much smaller, wispier thresher sharks decided to turn-tail (pun intended) and go somewhere else!

#3 Gato Island: Critters, Sea Snakes & Reef Sharks

Colourful soft coral gardens around Gato Island

Located 16km to the northeast of Malapascua, Gato Island is a small yet dramatic looking island erupting from the sea. Uninhabited, it is part of a marine sanctuary and underwater is surrounded by spectacular soft coral gardens.

For advanced open water divers, Gato Island has an underwater tunnel that you can pass all the way through; it is home to all manner of macro critters including pipefish, nudibranch, sea snails and tiny crabs. You can also often see banded sea krait around the entrance as they’re known to nest above land here. 

Lucky divers who are first to enter the water might also see whitetip reef sharks and bamboo sharks around the entrance of the tunnel; however these sharks usually zip away as soon as divers start showing up; so it’s not a guarantee. 

On either side of the tunnel are also some incredibly healthy soft coral gardens; hiding amidst some of the pink sea fans are pygmy seahorses!

#4 Lighthouse: Mating Mandarin Fish

Male Mandarin Fish mating display at lighthouse dive site
Male Mandarin Fish: Shutterstock / WildestAnimal Daniels

Lighthouse is a local dive site just off the shore of Malapascua. At sunset you can witness the extremely colourful mandarin fish mating display in which the male of these beautifully patterned fish tries to get himself a piece by wooing the female with an elaborate display. If she likes what she sees they’ll rise up together in a stunning twirl. Ohhh baby!

After the water goes dark, you’ll spend the rest of this dive as a night dive in which you can see many cuttlefish mating, octopus and all manner of tiny fish, jellyfish and nightime critters coming out. 

#5: Local Dives: Coral, Fish, Wreck

Malapascua Island local dive sites from above water

There’s also about a dozen really nice local dive sites around Malapascua with some great coral walls and gardens in shallow conditions, devoid of currents; these dive sites are a great place to get scuba certified. Here divers can see all manner of reef fish as well as turtles, nudibranch and octopus. A few dive sites offer great muck diving with various macro critters.

There is also a wreck dive; the Dona Marilyn, a 100 meter long Cebu-Manila passenger ferry that sunk in the 90’s and now lies on it’s starboard side, encrusted in coral and lost fishing nets. 

However, it’s worth noting that this wreck is rarely dived and only when enough divers are interested in going. I wasn’t able to get there during my own trip to Malapascua! 

ULTIMATE RAP SONG ABOUT DIVING WITH THRESHER SHARKS COMING SOON: 

Where to Stay in Malapascua

I’ve written a separate article titled:  10 Best Malapascua Dive Resorts telling you all about the best places to stay in Malapascua for divers – whatever your budget. 

That said; if you’re in a rush, here’s what I consider to be the Best 3 Malapascua Dive Resorts:

Malapascua dive resort: Shark's Tail

How to Get to Malapascua

New Maya port when getting to Malapascua
New Maya Port

Despite it’s near-legendary fame among divers, Malapascua is a little more off-the-beaten-track than many other Philippines destinations and this is due to the fact that getting to Malapascua is a little tricky!

Never fear! To get to Malapascua, here’s what ya gotta do:

  1. You’ll want to start at Cebu city (located on Cebu Island). You can easily fly into Cebu aka Mactan airport or catch a ferry to Cebu port if you’re on a nearby Philippines island. In Cebu city, you need to go to Cebu North Bus Terminal.


  2. From Cebu North Bus Terminal, catch a bus (around 230 pesos) or minivan (around 300 pesos) to New Maya port. This journey about 4 – 5 hours. I took a minivan under the impression it would be faster and more comfortable. It was not, we spent ninety minutes waiting for the minivan to be full before it left and myself and several others found ourselves sitting on a block with nothing to lean back against. Your experience may differ.

  3. Once you’re at New Maya port, you need to pay around 200 pesos to catch a ferry to Malapascua island. Ferries from New Maya to Malapascua leave 7 days a week and start at 6:30 am, with the last one departing at 4:30pm. The ferry ride takes about 30 minutes. (If you miss the ferry, you can stay at the nearby D&N Lodge).

  4. Boom! And just like that, you’ve made it to Malapascua. NOICE! 

Malapascua Diving Season

Thresher shark passing group of divers at Malapascua dive site kinad shoal

Excellent news! You can dive Malapascua and see the Thresher Sharks year-round! However, that said, the best months to dive Malapascua (for greatest visibility) are January – April.

That said, visibility is still pretty decent for most of the year, barring the months of November and December when visibility can be reduced to just 15ft (5 meters). 

Other Things to Do in Malapascua

At just 148 hectares, Malapascua is a truly tiny island; it’s somewhat lacking in fancy dining options, fitness centres or other things to do. However, in between diving, you can:

View of Malapascua island from passenger boat

1) Lapus Lapus Cliff Jump - WARNING

Ok, listen up – because what I’m about to tell you, I seriously with I’d known before I went to Malapascua!!

A famous attraction of Malapascua used to be the 50ft Lapus Lapus cliff jump into the sea at the north end of the island; this takes about 60 – 90 minutes to walk to from the south end and the way gets a little confusing, so I had to ask locals for directions several times.

However much to my dismay after finally getting there, dehydrated and exhausted from a long stumble in searing heat, in 2020 the douchebag landowner erected a big old concrete wall in front of the final steps leading up to the jump and it’s now totally un-reachable! Thanks asshole!! 

Nobody told me this!!! Everyone I asked for directions cheerfully pointed me there without further comment. But, you now cannot get to Lapus Lapus cliff jump by walking there. 

However, rumour has it there be a few local fishermen who can take you a secret way to the cliff. I never got to find out if this is true because it was my last day. However, if you contact this number on whatsapp: Victor: +639122221655 this dude may be able to help you out. But seriously do not waste your time walking there, it’s impossible to get up to the cliff that way!

2) Explore the Beaches:

There’s a buncha’ beaches around Malapascua but the most popular ones are Langob Beach, Hidden Beach and Gugma Beach. 

Heads up, unless you’re sitting in a bar, none of these beaches offer much shade unless you sit precariously under a coconut tree. Falling coconuts kill a surprising number of people a year (way more than sharks)!. One almost took my Dad out in Bali!!

One of the many white sand beaches of Malapascua

3) Check out the LightHouse View

It’s about a 30 – 40 minute walk from the south end of Malapascua and a climb up some steps (next to the sign saying Lighthouse View & ShipWreck Beach Cafe) but there’s an amazingly quiet spot with an awesome view and a swing on a small empty beach. 

When I went the cafe was closed (I don’t know if that’s permanent or temporary) but it was the most peaceful and quiet place I found in Malapascua. 

The swing by Lighthouse view

4) Snorkel with Baby Black Tip Sharks

From Tepanee beach resort at the south end of Malapascua, there is some nice shallow coral with resident baby black tip reef sharks that you can snorkel with. Check out this guide to buying a snorkel set from our friends at Divein. Awesome!

Malapascua Diving FAQ

The dive sites of Malapascua are not too challenging; in fact many of the local dives are quite shallow making it a great place to get scuba certified. However to do the best stuff – like dive with Thresher Sharks at Kinad Shoal or go through the tunnel at Gato Island, you need to have your advanced open water cert as depths are around 48ft / 18 meters. 

You have over a 90% chance of seeing thresher sharks at the dive site Kinad Shoal, all year-round!

Not so easy! I went to Monad Shoal where they are supposed to be twice and I didn’t’ see shit. I spoke to other divers who had the same experienced. From asking around, it seems around only one lucky sod sees a tiger shark here every week or so. 

You can dive Malapascua – and see the thresher sharks year round. The best months for water visibility are January – April although for most of the year dive conditions are still pretty good – with the exception of November and December when visibility is very low. 

Not so easily. On my last full day, I embarked on a sweaty and arduous trek to the cliff jumping point only to find out that the asswipe landowner has blocked off the final steps climbing up to the jumps Nobody bloody told me this! That said, you can whatsapp this number: Victor: +639122221655 and this dude may be able to help you out by taking you a secret route in his boat. 

It’s a very chilled island; there’s a few bars to go to at night, but they rarely get too lively, some beaches you can visit which may or may not be crowded and a bit of snorkeling with baby black tip reef sharks. There is a very large community of Spanish folk living on Malapascua and people taking their divemaster course there.

I found this island nice but I certainly couldn’t see myself living here or staying longer than a week as there’s hardly anything to do in the way of fitness centres or healthy eating and it really is very, very small. I was getting cabin fever (despite it being an island) towards the end!

We’re glad you asked! For a detailed answer to this question, check out our main page on the Best Places to Stay in Malapascua for Divers

Malapascua Diving Squad DEBRIEFING:

Ohhh babeh’! Looks like you gone done dived all the way down to the Diving Squad dive page on diving Malapascua. Great scubaring job!

We’ve covered quite a lot here: first we went over the best dive sites and things to see in Malapascua. Then, we looked at where to stay for divers. After that we covered how to get there, then when to go and what else there is to do. Finally, we rounded it all off with a tasty FAQ section

And then…then came this bit, which you is what be on now. This is the debriefing where we’re summarising all that’s been covered. All that remains now is for you to go ahead and book your dream diving holiday in Malapascua and see those bluddy awesome thresher sharks!

Now, if you book your accommodation through one of the affiliate links on this page, we’ll get a small yet delicious commission at no extra cost to yourself which is what helps us keep this site ultra fresh, sexy and awesome whilst continuing to delve out into far flung corners of the world to create new content for you. Gracias! 

It’s also a lot cheaper to pay in advance than it is when you get there so everyone’s a winner – huzzah!!

Check out Related Content:

Scuba diver on boat looking at Gato Island
Gato Island

Written by:

Alex

Alex

Scuba fanatic, travel ecstatic and loveable rogue. A rootless divemaster and perpetual adrenaline-junky, Alex holds the esteemed rank of Grand Admiral of the Diving Squad; a title he most nobly awarded to himself. A scuba-junky since 2014, he's dived much of the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives, Red Sea, Ireland, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. It's hard to say where he'll pop up next for he never settles; forever a leaf on the wind... or perhaps a lone bubble blasted along on the current.