On the 14th of March, I flew from Puerto Princesa to Cebu City. The flight was once again uneventful however I was seated in the very first row of the plane, free of charge due to my seat allocation which was very nice. Extra leg room and all that. It was short lived however as the person sitting in the seat 1 over from my stunk of B.O! I spent my night’s stay in Cebu in my own private hotel room to treat myself with a bit of luxury, plus it was very close to the bus station I would be needing the following day. I even went and got myself a haircut, from a barber shop which had no review on google and was clearly used only by locals. I ended up paying 50 Peso (around 75p) and honestly its one of the best haircuts I’ve ever had. Originally, I was a bit sceptical as I asked for a slightly new style and he kind of just kept it how it was, but he did a bloody good job and now it’s grown into the style it looks great (if I do say so myself). The following morning, I was up at 5 am and caught the bus from Cebu City north bus terminal up to Maya port, right on the northern tip of Cebu island. The bus journey was standard and took around 5 hours. Once at the port I then took a ferry (more local boat) over to the island of Malapascua which took around 30 minutes. Total cost for the bus and ferry was about £4.
I must admit I hadn’t even heard of Malapascua before Zoe and Jade mentioned they were going here, and I investigated it. I’m grateful that they did as it is a world famous place for scuba diving and as I’m sure you’ve all gathered I’m now pretty obsessed with this so was dying to get out there. The reason it is famous is that you can dive with Thresher Sharks, which normally live very deep around 200 m so way too deep for diving but just off of the island of Malapascua is a sunken island called Monad Shoal, which acts as a cleaning station for the sharks. They come up from the depths to the island which is about 25 m deep and are cleaned here by smalls wrasse fish. Luckily for me, I wasn’t the only diving fanatic coming to Malapascua. Two other girls, who we met back in Cambodia and who joined us in El Nido, Keira and Kirsty were also coming to Malapascua at the same time and they are equally obsessed with diving as me now. I should point out it was Kiera’s recommendation of Sairee Cottage in Koh Tao that convinced me it was the place to do my open water courses as she said they were so good. She wasn’t wrong. I was, therefore, looking forward to doing some diving with them both on the 16th and 17th of March before on the afternoon of the 17th the rest of the gang from El Nido showed up (Fred, Con, Lisa, Jade and Zoe). But I’ve digressed a little to set the scene I guess. So, going back to the 15th when I arrived on the island I simply spent the afternoon not doing a lot other than sorting myself out for diving the following day. I did eat a very nice chocolate brownie which I then had a further 4 times on the island it was so good. In the evening I caught up with Keira and Kirsty to hear all about there days diving as they were doing 3 days unlike my two. They also introduced me to a Swedish guy named Stefan who they had been diving with who was very nice and the 4 of us sat and had a few drinks in the evening. I wasn’t too late to bed however as I was up very early for my shark dives in the morning.
I was up at around 4.45 am on the 16th of March all in the name of scuba diving. The reason for this is because the sharks are also early risers up at the cleaning station, so you must play them at their own game to see them. I was doing two dives in the morning both at Monad Shoal in the hopes of seeing the Thresher Sharks. I was on the dive boat around 5.30-6 and in the water by 6.30 am descending to see the sharks. Beforehand I was a little apprehensive about how my ears were going to fair equalising due to the worry I stated in the last blog when snorkelling in Port Barton. Thankfully my sinuses had cleared, and I had no troubles. The shark dives were a little different to any other dives I’ve done, the reason for this is instead of swimming around exploring for the dive we swam to a little ledge about 25 m deep and then sat here and waited for the sharks to appear in front of us. The place we were stationed is obviously a good place to see them, so you simply get down there and lie on the sandy bottom and wait. Thankfully on the first dive, the wait wasn’t long and before I knew it I caught my first glimpse of the beautiful thresher sharks. They are so cool with long tails, plus cute beady eyes. I think on the first dive we saw around 3 different sharks come and go. Sometimes two of them at once and after enjoying them swim close to us for a bit we made our way back across the sunken island to the mooring line and back up to the boat. The only problem with sitting still in the water instead of swimming around is that it did get a little cold, but nothing too unbearable. On the second dive, the sharks weren’t so friendly, and we only saw brief glimpses of them. Therefore, after a little while our dive master just took us off to explore a little bit more of Monad Shoal where there were some other nice things to see. After the two-morning shark dives, I went back to my dorm and had a nap. I never nap but for some reason, scuba diving really takes it out of me. Later in the evening, I was back at the dive centre this time preparing for a night dive with Kirsty and Kiera which I was excited about as I’d never dove with friends before. We were also joined by a lovely older American man named Steve. The night dive was good fun and we saw cool things such as squid, octopus and cuttlefish. Annoying however my enjoyment of the dive was somewhat destroyed by my leaky mask, which meant every minute I had to take the time to clear it which got very annoying and frustrating as it meant I couldn’t just enjoy myself. There was even some nice bioluminescent plankton in the water too. After the night dive we had some food then had an early night as the 4 of us were diving again the following day (Kiera, Kirsty, Steve and I) which I was excited about as it was a really nice dive group.
On the 17th we had 3 more dives together. The first being another dive of Monad Shoal to see the thresher sharks once more, followed by travelling to another little island called Gato where we then had two more dives. Initially, when I woke up at 5 am on the 17th it was pissing it down. The first time I’d seen rain in a long time and it didn’t brighten up until after our second dive. Thankfully it had stopped by the time I left to make my way to the dive centre. The first dive at Monad was once again amazing seeing a few more thresher sharks while waiting on the sandy ledge. The highlight, however, was when we were swimming back to the mooring line and one of the sharks was waiting for us on our route back. It was just swimming around peacefully by us, although at one point I was a bit worried it was eyeing me up haha. Once we got back on the boat however we were all freezing due to the cloud blocking the sun and the slight breeze. Thankfully I had brought my raincoat due to the weather, so this was able to provide some protection and warmth, along with a cup of tea while we made the 30-minute journey from Monad to Gato island. On the first dive of Gato, we swam through Gato cave which was a small cave going from one side of the island to the other underwater. In the cave and as we exited we even saw a white tipped reef shark which was cool. The rest of the dive we spent looking a lot of little things, but the reef and wall really were beautiful. When we came up from the first dive at Gato we were greeted with warm sunshine which we were very happy about and a lovely lunch provided by the boat crew. On the second dive we dove Gato Cathedral named after the what I presumed was the Virgin Mary statue placed underwater at the dive site which none of us expected to see but where a blue starfish had decided to make itself at home. Overall the diving in Malapascua was amazing and it was great to see the sharks and aquatic life here. It was also great to simply go and enjoy some fun dives with friends, something up till now I hadn’t done due to always doing some kind of course. I loved being able to just swim around looking at stuff not worrying about any skills I had to do.
In the afternoon, after a wonderful two days of scuba diving, I reunited with all the gang again. Initially, Zoe, Jade and Lisa turned up having travelled from Bohol, then later in the evening Fred and Connor arrived having travelled from a different place. Fred and Con were unsure if they were going to make it that night due to arriving after the final ferry to the island but were able to rent out the entire boat for 1000 peso and made the voyage across. When on the boat they asked if there were any beers as a joke but were presented with a whole bottle of rum. They then both decided to polish this off during the journey (which only takes around 30-40 minutes), adapting the game of Port to Port with a bottle of rum instead. Therefore, when they joined the rest of us at a bar with live music, they were pretty far gone as you would imagine haha. The bar we were at was just by our accommodation called Vila Sandra and every night they would have live music; the place was very hippie though. One of the musicians was even the dive master we had on our scuba diving trip that day. A man called Boyet, what a guy scuba diver by day, diva by night. So that was that we were back as a group of 8 but for one night only due to Kiera and Kirsty leaving the following day.
On the 18th Me, Jade and Zoe headed to the beach at the very north of the island for most of the afternoon and just chilled out relaxing. Connor, Fred and Lisa stayed at the hostel and just chilled by the pool. Once again, we went out for some food at a nice Italian restaurant we had eaten at the night before then went back to Vila Sandra for live music. On the 19th all of us decided to head to a slightly different beach closer to the hostel but this one wasn’t as nice as the one me and the two girls had been to yesterday. Although we did chill at a little Irish bar place on the beach which served some nice food and once again spent some time chilling out and not really doing a lot. As we were leaving it looked like the heavens were about to open, but Connor insisted they wouldn’t, so we waged a beer on the matter. Thankfully but also not so thankfully I was right and within minutes it was raining cats and dogs. We got thoroughly drenched on our walk back from the beach to the hostel, but I did get my free beer.
Come the 20th it was time to say my goodbyes again as I was headed off to explore my final week in the Philippines on my own while the rest of the guys headed to Boracay for their final week. It was a difficult goodbye with Zoe and Jade, as after meeting them all the way back in Chiang Mai 3 weeks into our whole trip. We have also met up with them again along the way in multiple countries (the infamous Manchester Girls). They are now off to Australia for their year visa so I’ve no doubt we shall meet up again there. But it’s likely to be several months down the line while we all complete our farm work in Aus. With Fred, Con and Lisa, the goodbyes weren’t so difficult as I am likely to see them again in a couple of weeks when we reunite in Bali. Plus I also fly to Aus with Fred and Con.
In the next blog, I will write about my final week in the Philippines where I visited Bohol and Moalboal which shall conclude my time in this amazing country.