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Malapascua, Philippines

A whole new world to explore

In the last post, Sophie said we were short on time so needed to move on... In truth, we were really looking forward to learning to dive and had also heard the beaches of Malapascua were nicer than anything on Bohol. We fancied a couple of beach days!


From Cebu we took a public bus for about 6hrs to Maya. It was fairly pleasant and the sun wasn't shining so the lack of air con was no problem. Maya was a simple little place. The bus dropped us at the pier, the end of the line, and we then had to wait for a critical mass to allow a boat to leave. We were encouraged to pay for a crossing with the two of us and a few locals who'd been on the mainland buying Xmas gifts. It was only about £30 for the hour long crossing. Still, there were worse places to sit and wait and we expected that people would show up shortly. Twenty minutes later, we were on our way for a total cost of about £2.50 (80pesos each).


Arriving in Malapascua was a bit of an anticlimax...the beach where you transfer from the bangka to a flat bottom boat was fairly shabby and the island was quite flat (no palm clad mountains or dramatic karst cliffs here). Just around the south corner brings you onto Bounty Beach. Google images shows this as just about the most perfect beach you could imagine. In reality, the water is lined with boats and the palm fringe has given way to a more concrete backdrop. It's nice, but far from a postcard beach and arriving in the rain didn't help our disappointment. Next up was a search for accommodation... for £20 there are some nice bungalows and for more money, there are some pretty decent options. In our budget range we found 1...a small bungalow set back from the beach for 500pesos (£8). Blue Water Dive Resort would have been perfect, but wasn't quite...a young Spanish couple were doing their best to spruce the place up after typhoon Hainan damaged much of the island in 2013. The westerner owned restorts all seemed back on their feet, but the locally owned places were still struggling. Our room was big and had a hot shower, but came with a ring of dirt around the edge and a smell of urine that almost hurt the eyes. We hoped it would air out and that we wouldn't notice after a while.

The next day, the weather was still poor and we were not in a room that we wanted to spend anymore time in than necessary. I found a nice resort and set about bargaining for something a bit more affordable. We decided that spending a lot more might make our experience of the island a little rosier and also decided to do our PADI open water course while the dodgy weather lingered.

Arriving at Thresher Cove, we instantly felt happy! The place is stunning.


It soon became clear that we were at a backpacker friendly resort with almost 5star service. We had our own dive gear (all as good as brand new), our own instructor and the best boats on the island. The room arrangements were a little complicated as we stayed in a deluxe room for 4nights a VILLA for another and then 3nights in a sea front cabana. The place also has a dorm, but we gave that a miss. We paid about £12 a night for the two of us which was amazing! Having posh accommodation along with dorms gave the place a nice feel and we met some good people, as well as feeling pretty relaxed!


Our one diving experience had already given us the bug. It seemed pretty easy, but we were just put in the water and led around by an instructor holding us by the tank. It quickly became clear that doing it properly was a lot more involved. Our instructor, Julia, worked us pretty hard and had us swatting up in the evenings. We signed up for a dive package that included a deep dive with thresher sharks. Sophie found the thought a little overwhelming, particularly after our first session in the pool and realising how much we had to learn!


In the end we signed up to do the advanced open water course too as it made financial sense with us wanting to dive the 100m long Dona Marilyn ferry wreck and night dive to see the Mandarin fish. We were assured that we had chosen to learn to dive in a pretty special place. The dive resort staff were amazing and you didn't have to lift a finger - they do everything. There's even a warm drink and dry towel waiting for you when back on the boat. Under the water we had seen things that people travel from all over the world to see. For us, seeing some coral and a few fish was often enough to have us smiling. This proved to be a problem for Soph as her mask filled up every time she smiled...


The awesome dive with the elusive thresher sharks was a highlight


Strong currents at the wreck dive, a test for us both.


Diving at the beautiful Gato Island (wish we'd got more underwater photos of the incredible wildlife, but were too busy doing underwater compass work).


Having spent most of our time on Malapascua with our heads under water or stuck in a book, we needed to celebrate our new qualifications. The resort manager and our instructor joined us, an Ozzy couple and a slightly nuts Norwegian guy for a night on the town. We played killer pool in a bar filled with the local dive bums. I won the first and Soph the second - the Bloor's were undefeated and one local was not happy! After this it was off to "Disco". Apparently "Disco" had not been held for 4 weeks, so it was going to be good...it was interesting. Basically a school disco in a basketball court. Everyone buys a bottle of brandy and stands around looking at girls while a DJ plays chart music. We left around 2am when it was still in full swing. Being drunk on the back of a motorbike as we were carried between palm trees with a starry sky above felt pretty surreal.


One other thing of note was the Thresher Cove Christmas party! Filipinos love karaoke and party games. For most of the evening there was hysterical laughing coming from somewhere. One game involved throwing an egg from partner to partner, getting ever further away until there was one egg left - the winner. Another was a game of musical chairs with a twist. Instead of a chair, there was a chair, with a man, with an aubergine pinched between his thighs. The woman not holding an aubergene when the music stopped was out. On top of this entertainment, there was a roasted pig, blue marlin, a slow cooked beef stew and plenty to wash it down and we were invited to it all.

Sophie here...Jason has already said that we were incredibly lucky to see some of the things were saw in Malapascua on our first 9 dIves. Here's a list of some of the special and rare underwater creatures we saw: thresher sharks, frog fish, mating mandarin fish, marble rays, white tip sharks, amazing nudibranches, juvenile sweetlips, box fish, clown fish, bat fish, mantis shrimps, banded sea snakes, puffer fish, cuttlefish, damsel fish, file fish, lion fish...to name just a few. It's been an incredible experience learning how to dive and feel it's opened up a whole new world for us.


Posted by bloorsontour 23:42 Archived in Philippines

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We all really missed your 2 lovely faces at Christmas - especially when Sophie said she was having beans on toast for Christmas lunch - so it's good to see that your Christmas was, in fact, pretty amazing! xxxxx

by Ma & Pa

It all sounds amazing. Feeling very proud of you both xx

by mutsi

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