Malapascua, 2011






Trip dates:

22 September – 2 October 2011

Boat / resort:

Ocean Vida Resort, Malapascua. Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Dive centre:

Sea Explorers Philippines.


Getting even better: new facilities installed in the renovated dive centre; charging station, camera table with pressurised air dryer, same unrivalled attention to photographers from staff (Martin would not allow me to carry my camera…)

Number of dives:

Only 9 out of the 16 planned over our 6-day stay, courtesy of Typhoon Nesat.

Diving conditions:

Stormy the first 4 days (windy and overcast, no rain). Choppy seas, bad visibility. The last two days were fine, sunny and calm. Water temperature was a balmy 30°C.


Fifth visit to Malapascua, and a very special one, because this was around my 50th Birthday, and I simply wanted to to go to the place where I enjoy my diving passion the most.

We had not been in the Philippines in this part of the year before, and we soon learnt why it is called low season: typhoons! They had had a bad one just two weeks before, and there came Nesat just the day after our arrival. It was a huge storm, with about 650Km diameter. The eye made landfall in Luzon, well to the north, causing much misery and casualties. My heart goes to the brave Philippino people, who cope with these terrible tragedies with incredible courage and resilience. With that size of a storm, we in the Visayas were bound to get hit by the winds, and we did. Coupled with a bad case of jetlag – not sure why – we missed much of the first diving day, when winds were starting to pick. On our second day, we managed a dive in Monad shoal, but decided to leave it there.  On the third day, we insisted in going out and dive the sheltered north-east side of the island at Deep Slope, but found it so murky! Nevertheless, macro was still more than OK and that’s was I was shooting anyway. On our 4th day, no diving was possible and we sat the storm out in the bar. The day after, the storm was gone and we did a full day. The final day was in Monad shoal and Gato, in the usual good conditions, even if visibility could have been better.

We had 3 dives in Monad Shoal and saw threshers every time. Low season meant fewer divers around. Also, they have now set lines on the bottom to keep divers away from the cleaning stations. I think this is a very good idea. You just have to accept that your chances to see the threshers up close are lower now. With so-so visibility, some people will be disappointed. Not us, we did have at least one close pass. In addition, dive centres have agreed to stagger their timing at half-hour intervals, so not really crowded. However, with the lines the space is limited, and you might find the best spots taken.

Good to see that the coral cover in the Shoal is improving too. They have also set lines to protect the recovering patches. All in all, these measures will make diving there sustainable. And they come not a minute too early. The number of dive centres in the island keeps increasing, and there is a need to manage and minimise the impact of such intense diving on the reef and on the sharks. Since I fully intend to keep coming back to Malapascua, I can only approve.

We stayed at Ocean Vida, the new resort built by Sven and Fabienne, the couple that runs Sea Explorers on the Island. The lucky two are having a great life down there, with their lovely son Yannis, who is everybody’s little pet. The resort is very nice, cosy and well appointed. Their new restaurant is lovely, and the dive centre facilities have been improved. Business seems to be booming in the Island, by the new bars and hotels we saw, but Malapascua’s soul seems to be well conserved, thank God. Mind you, I did notice food and drink is getting more and more expensive. Even so, it’s still quite reasonably priced.

My birthday was on the day we were leaving the island, but the guys wanted a party and so we had one the day before. We put the money down and our friend and best ever DM Martin organised everything: he bought a pig, which he then had roasted in a pit full of embers for 4 hours. We then had it for dinner with Sea Explorer staff, families and friends invited. This was “lechón”, the most festive meal you can have in the Philippines. We had such a great time, with the delicious food and all the Tanduay rum, to finish the evening with a midnight swim in the warm waters of Bounty Beach. Fantastic. I could not have asked for a better birthday party! Martin is such a nice man and such a good friend! His family is adorable, especially little Nivea. Note that the day before, another lady in the Island had her own birthday party and we were invited too. What a place. Have a look at some more images from Malapascua above the water (including the party) here.

We then flew back to Singapore for a one-night stopover at the incredible Marina Bay Sands Hotel. A hotel with 2 500 rooms!!. We paid a very reasonable +/- 300 EUR for a Horizon Grand Room. Reasonable if you note that more than a room, this was a true apartment, bigger than the one I lived in for 14 years in Brussels! There were no less than 3 huge flat screen TVs in that room, one in a dedicated home-theatre room (!!), one in the large living-dining room and the third in the huge bedroom. Insane. What a stopover. If you’d like to see some pictures of our Singapore Stay, have a look here.


Another unforgettable trip to my favourite place in the world, not just for the diving, but especially for the people, real friends we can’t wait to meet again. Malapascua rules!


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