Tiny Malapascua Island off the northern tip of Cebu in the Philippines, draws divers from around the world with the promise of an encounter with the elusive thresher shark.

You don’t come to Malapascua by accident. It takes a fair amount of planning and time to reach this tiny island just north of Cebu. It begins with a flight from Manila (usually) to Cebu City, followed by a 3-hour drive to the northern tip of the island. Finally there’s a 30-minute ferry to Malapascua. You’ve most likely come see thresher sharks in Malapascua, one of the only places in the world where divers can reliably spot these elegant animals, named for their long, scythe-like tails. If you’ve come all this way to see them, why not venture out with the pioneers of thresher-shark dives, Exotic Resort?

Thresher sharks in Malapascua

Malapascua features several fantastic dive sites. But its crowning glory is the near 100-percent probability of diving with threshers at Monad or Kemod Shoals. The big-eyed pelagic sharks rise from the depths in the early morning. They come to the shoals at dawn to get a good cleaning before the sun gets too bright in the sky. Divers who want to see these graceful but somewhat shy sharks, rarely seen by recreational divers, must head to the boat shortly after 4 a.m. — yes, you read that right.

More often than not, these sharks inhabit water beyond the reach of recreational divers. The shoals near Malapascua are the only two sites in the world where they regularly come up to recreational depths. But as exciting as it is to see these beauties, these encounters aren’t all that Malapascua has to offer.

Other dive sites

Multiple sites near the island offer interesting dive profiles and marine life. Gato Island, a marine sanctuary, is a great place for divers to find a sea bottom covered with soft corals, seahorses, tons of cuttlefish and nudis. Whitetip sharks frequent the area as well. You’ll often see them sleeping under ledges and inside the small tunnel that runs from one side of the island to the other. Lighthouse Reef is home to mandarinfish, seahorses and blue-ringed octopus. And Chocolate Island is a great place to hunt for that perfect frogfish picture or search for nudis, seahorses and Spanish dancers.

It’s easy to choose which sites you want to visit, as all scheduled trips are easily visible on Exotic’s whiteboard in the dive area. Since the resort has multiple boats, it generally has divers heading out to multiple locations throughout the day. The boats are spacious, with fresh water and coffee on demand.  And since Exotic is a PADI 5 Star IDC facility, you can take any classes you want.

Divers who come to Malapascua should know that it’s a small island with limited resources. Service operates on “island time,” water resources can sometimes be scarce, and certain foods could be absent if shipments haven’t arrived recently. If you go to Malapascua expecting luxury, you will be disappointed. Expect a fun social atmosphere and outstanding diving, along with a truly unique shark encounter, and you’ll be happy you made the trip.

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