Malapascua, 2013






Trip dates:

3 – 30 April 2013

Boat / resort:

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

Dive centre:

Sea Explorers Philippines.


As usual, excellent

Number of dives:

48 over 28 days of diving. This was a true Zen vacation

Diving conditions:

The best I have ever experienced in Malapascua and for that matter, anywhere else. Absolutely flat seas, incredible visibility and warm water at 27-28°C under a dazzling bright sun and blue skies, every single day of the month spent there. Amazing.


Sixth visit to Malapascua. Having had a so-so end of the year and tired as hell, I decided I needed a serious break. So where else to go? I was ready to be there on my own till Paul joined me for the last 10 days of the holiday. I spread the word that I had a double room to share for 20 days before he arrived if anybody was interested, and lo! I got two takers! First my friend and colleague Véronique, then my BF Carmen for another 10. Paul and I did a stopover in Singapore on our trip back home and stayed (again) at the Marina Bay Sands. We went to see the Botanical Gardens in Marina Bay, did some (minor) shopping and enjoyed a most memorable dinner at Hide Yamamoto.

There is not much I have not said already in previous entries about Malapascua. But this trip was special because I stayed for so long, so I had a real chance to experience day-to-day life in the island, along with the time to truly relax, without feeling the urge to do four dives a day, like in week-long holidays when you want to dive as much as possible. I could wander, read, sleep siestas, get lots of massages, and meet and chat with loads of people, both locals and transient. The fantastic R&R I got has served me well, since I have had no Summer holidays this year.

Very sad news was waiting on arrival, about Sven and Fabienne, the owners and managers of Ocean Vida. Their son Yanis had passed away after a short but very serious illness in February. Sven and Fabienne had left their friend Soren in charge of the resort while returning to Europe to bury their firstborn, so we did not have the possibility of expressing personally our deep condolences and best wishes. I hope they will have received them from the friends they left in the Island. Everybody was grieving for the little blond boy, the youngest Banka captain in Malapascua, a lovely little guy, full of joy. We wish his parents all the strength and courage to overcome this terrible loss. And I hope they will be able to come back to Malapascua and be happy again very soon surrounded by the many friends there that love and care for them.

We went to Monad Shoal most days. I had never seen such clear water in the site. We saw thresher sharks every day we dove there save one, and this despite the increasing number of divers on the site. The cleaning stations with the best chances of sightings are today in the north part of the Shoal, quite a bit deeper than the old ones, at about 30 – 28 m. Sea Explorers found them and placed anchored lines for divers to position themselves and hold on to, but all dive shops go there. There is room for a good amount of divers, since the lines are quite long. Still, you often see groups placed outside the stations and people sitting on corals. The ½ hour interval that had been agreed between dive shops to dive Monad is, apparently, no longer applied. I think this is now a bit too deep a dive for novice divers, but we saw them there often, holding to their DM hands and kicking sand up, spoiling the visibility for a while till the silt settled. And yet, each of those dives was exceptionally good, with up to three sharks making the rounds at the same time on several occasions. I did a lot of video there with my GoPro H2 and got really nice footage despite the early hours and the depth (read on for links to videos).

One day, Paul and I went with Martin (our friend and Divemaster) to Monad for two dives before lunchtime. We were the only divers on the site and although it was too late for thresher sightings, we wanted to go deeper and see the walls and the old stations. Diving there with just two other people was really magic. We saw plenty reef sharks and discovered deep walls covered in sea fans and bursting with life of all sorts. This is a side of Monad that one does not get a lot of chances to see. Being a regular visitor really pays sometimes!

As to the other dive sites, I have to say there are good things and less good things. One thing I don’t like is the way that the dusk dive in Lighthouse is conducted today. They have formed a pile of coral rubble to set the scene for the Mandarin fish mating. There is only room for about six divers around the tiny pile, and although there are lots of Mandarins there (they seem attracted to the rubble pile) they get to be flashed from all sides, so they tend not to mate, actually, And if they do, there is no way of getting a picture of them without another photographer in the frame. Before, groups of two or three divers would scatter along the staghorn coral bommies and everyone would get a chance to see and shoot the mating unobstructed. Now everybody is bunched up in much too small a space. It feels crowded and invasive. But I got there what is possibly my favourite photograph of the trip: two pastel nudis hugging cutely. On the good news front, Deep Rock continues to be a cracking site, even if the current there was pretty strong most dives (but we did not mind, on the contrary), Evo Reef is just a flat sea prairie, but full of small stuff to see. Gato’s soft corals were extraordinarily beautiful, and the whitetip reef sharks are still there in high numbers. The day trips to Calangaman were also fantastic, and we got to dive the Dona Marilyn wreck for the first time, courtesy of really flat seas which made the long crossing a nice ride. This trip is a two-tank, with the second dive in Gato Island, but they still keep full day Gato outings. One day, we stayed there for a night dive and it was really an outstanding night dive indeed. The entire group were telling afterwards the Sea Explorers crew to offer night dives on Gato regularly, and I think it is really worth it, especially since Lighthouse is so crowded and chaotic now.

In sum, Malapascua still rules! You always hope that the conditions will be good during the week of holidays you have to spend in whichever destination you go to. You want calm seas, warm and clear water, sunny days to enjoy topside, relax, easy and beautiful diving. I had the chance of enjoying this every single day of the whole month spent in Malapascua. For once, luck was on our side all the way. I think it will always bring a smile to my face when I will remember this. I might not be so lucky in the future again, but I had a real deal this time. If you want to have a look at happy faces and views of the Island life, see the topside stills gallery here.

And now, to video. Click here to see the one I edited for Carmen (with my iPad, on a dry day) and here for the Thresher Sharks movie. We are still working on a more varied video with images of other marine life, so come back soon to check!

In closing, I need to thank all the friends in Sea Explorers Malapascua, especially my dear friend Martin Pascobello, and Soren and all the staff of Ocean Vida, for the vacation of a lifetime!



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