Diving in Malapascua - Bluewater Dive Travel

Malapascua Island

Thresher shark at Monad Shoal
Diving Malapascua
Malapascua scuba diving
Malapascua marine life

Scuba Diving in Malapascua, Philippines

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As the only scuba diving destination in the world that offers recreational access to thresher sharks year-round, Malapascua Island may be on the bucket-list of many a shark aficionado, however, this tiny undeveloped island also hides a wealth of healthy reefs, wrecks, and some excellent macro beyond its tropical beaches.



Malapascua Island is diveable both from shore-based resorts and by liveaboard. The island’s white sandy beaches are home to some high-end luxury resorts for divers looking to relax and unwind in between dives.

The island is a regular highlight on liveaboard itineraries touring the Visayas, in combination with Dauin, Moalboal, and Apo Island. Alternatively, Malapascua appears on the routes of several Tubbataha liveaboard "transition" trips, scheduled at either end of the Tubbataha season between March and June. 

Check out our range of liveaboards in the Philippines.

Intro to Malapascua

Malapascua Island is located on the northernmost tip of Cebu Island in the Philippines’ Visayan Sea. At only one-and-a-half miles long by just over half-a-mile wide, the island is a tiny tropical oasis with some big diving on offer. Discovered as a dive destination in the early 1990s, the island is well known for its long white sand beaches ringing a tropical interior of lush palms and a small number of hamlets.

Divers visiting Malapascua will be impressed by lush coral gardens, vibrant walls, some fascinating macro, and impressive encounters with bigger species such as sharks and manta rays. There is some reasonable wreck diving to be had here too, all within easy reach of the island’s coastline.

For another great macro destination, check out the "Macro Heaven" Anilao.


The diving season in Malapascua is year-round. However, during the typhoon season from July to October inclement weather can cause rough surface conditions and reduced visibility.

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Malapascua Diving Information 

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Marine Life & Photography Subjects

The world-famous thresher sharks of Malapascua are typically seen at sunrise, enjoying their morning clean at stations along Monad Shoal. Their daily routine is so predictable that divers descend to the 80ft (25m) sandy bottom and simply wait for the sharks to turn up.

However, there is far more to this tiny island than the threshers. The Malapascua dive scene is well known for its amazing macro life, with critters such as pygmy seahorses, ghost pipefish, blue-ringed octopus, seamoths, and frogfish amongst the tiny species that can be spotted on a dive here. Dusk dives will also turn up the beautiful mandarin fish, and other highlights include reef sharks, mantas, and devil rays.

Practice your ambient low light photography, as none of the dive operators allow the use of strobes while shooting thresher sharks, manta rays and devil rays at Monad Shoal.

Interested in diving with sharks? Check out our list of the Best Shark Diving in the World.

Diving Conditions

  • Water Temperatures: 78°F (25°C) in January, rising to 85°F (29°C) in May. 
  • Visibility: 60-80ft (15-25m).

  • Depth Range: 16-131ft (5-40m).  
  • Diving Difficulty: Suitable for all levels.

Best Dive Sites 

  • MONAD SHOAL - The most famous dive site at Malapascua Island, boats set-off just before the break of dawn for the plateau of Monad Shoal. Thresher Sharks hunt deep in the ocean most of the day but come up to the shallow top of Monad Shoal at 90 feet to have parasites removed by cleaning wrasse every morning. Manta rays and devil rays are also regularly spotted, and sometimes hammerheads can be seen between January to April.
  • LIGHTHOUSE - Aptly named as it is close to the lighthouse, this is a great site to visit at sunset in anticipation of the mandarin fish mating dance. Seahorses, squid, and pipefish are also often seen here.
  • GATO ISLAND - A little further offshore is Gato Island, where pristine reef within a protected marine reserve offers a good chance of spotting pygmy seahorses. Whitetip reef sharks and blue ring octopus are also often seen here, as well as sea snakes protected by the island’s sea snake sanctuary.
  • CHOCOLATE ISLAND - This site is a must for critter hunters, with all manner of microscopic invertebrates and crustaceans waiting to be photographed. Regular sightings include flamboyant cuttlefish, pegasus seamoths, nudibranch, flatworms, cowries, octopus and a whole host of shrimp species. 

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Diving in Malapascua Island is good all year round. The rainy season is mild and runs from July to December. 



Travel Information 

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How to Get To Malapascua

Fly international to Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) with direct flights from US cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Other flights from the US and mainland Europe layover at the major Asian hubs. Once in Manila, a one-hour domestic flight gets you to Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB), and then take a road transfer two-and-a-half hours north to Maya, before a 30-minute boat transfer out to Malapascua Island.

Liveaboards including Malapascua on their itineraries tend to depart from Cebu, Puerto Princesa, or Dumaguete, all of which are a one-hour flight from Manila. 

Looking for a dive destination closer to home? Read our guide to the best diving nearby for Americans.


How to Dive Malapascua Island 

There are some great dive resorts available in Malapascua, and many of the dive sites are within 30 minutes of the coast allowing for relaxed and flexible dive schedules. Many of the best dive sites are also visited by liveaboards, with boats combining either Tubbataha Reef, or a Visayas tour, with a day or two at Malapascua. It is even possible to dive with thresher sharks and whale sharks on the same trip, when boats include Malapascua and Cebu Islands on their itinerary.

Read about our trip to Malapascua and the Visayas last Feb 2019 here...



Malapascua Island is relatively limited in terms of non-diving activities. There are restaurants and bars along the waterfront areas, and plenty of long sandy beaches. There are lots of great places to stay in Cebu, especially in and around Malapascua, with many of the resorts offering spa treatments and yoga classes, this is the ultimate place to relax and unwind.

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Liveaboard availability

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The rates shown below are per person in USD. Some of the operators quote in other currencies and the pricing at the time of booking may vary depending on the latest exchange rates.

Please contact us for the availability of the following boats: MY Resolute and Infiniti Liveaboard

Other Useful Information 

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Practical Information

  • Currency: Philippine Peso (PHP) 
  • Language: Filipino and English 
  • Time Zone: Philippine Standard Time (GMT+8) 
  • Electricity: 220V

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Call us today at +1-310-915-6677 or email us bookings@bluewaterdivetravel.com

And let us book your dream vacation!

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Bluewater made a trip to Malapascua and the Visayas in 2019 on the Philippine Siren, led by Katie Yonker. Read more about it here.


Reviews (3)


Malapascua is a must do destination because it is one of the few places in the world where a diver can reliably see thresher sharks up close ... everyday! The sharks are at a pinnacle named Monad Shoal and they come up to the top of the pinnacle at 80ft to get cleaned. This happens at dawn so boats have to leave early in the morning. The payoff though is the chance to see thresher sharks and devil rays.
Lighthouse Reef is also a great dive to do at dusk because there are mating mandarinfish there.
The rest of the dives around Malapascua is mainly macro, with an an amazing array of nudibranchs, seahorse including pygmy seahorse, octopus including blue ring octopus, cuttlefish, frogfish and many more critters. The only downside is that divers can see some signs of reef destruction.
For some nice reefs, sharks and lots of banded sea snakes, do a day trip to Gato Island.
The island itself is small with most of the dive resorts located right on the white sand beach.

Visited on 02/2012 - Submitted on 03/10/2020

My partner and I visited Malapascua before the typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Located in the Visayan Sea, the island was a gem. Its dive site, Monad Shoal, is famous for the sightseeing of an endangered shark species, thresher shark. I was told that it was guaranteed to see them when diving in Monad Shoal. Indeed, we saw three thresher sharks, quite close during our dive. But scuba divers should start early in the morning, I meant early here, be ready to wake up at 5 am in the morning for the thresher sharks dive. And it is a deep diving (around 25 to 30 meter deep). It is best to have at least advanced open water license to dive in this dive site.

Other dive sites in Malapascua are also interesting; we saw various species of nudibranch; mantis shrimps, scorpion fish, ghost pipefish, crabs and cuttlefish.

We also did night dives at dive site called Lighthouse where we saw so many seahorses! It was amazing to see them that many at night. I was wondering where did they hide during the day. We also did a mandarin dive in this dive site.

We were diving in Gato island, about 45 minutes from Malapascua. We saw plenty of reef-sharks and nurse sharks to observe and tunnels to visit. There were several dive sites surrounding the island. We visited dive sites: Whitetip Alley, Nudibranch City and Cathedral.

Overall, Malapascua diving is a combination of observing the big marine species and the tiny ones.

Visited on 05/2012 - Submitted on 10/15/2014

Malapascua is an isolated island off the northern tip of Cebu. It is a wonderful blend of picturesque beaches, laid-back island atmosphere, excellent food, solid nightlife, friendly people and world-class diving. It is a great place to unwind for a while and get some diving in.

The standard diving around the island ranges from solid reefs at places like Deep Rock and Deep slope to incredible muck diving right off the beach at any of the various House Reefs. It may be fun to try your luck at finding the critters, but sticking close to your guide is the best way to be rewarded with such rarities as pygmy seahorses, blue-ringed-octopuses and pipefish. The intricate sunset mating dances of the mandarinfish at Lighthouse Reef should not be missed.

While the near-shore diving is pretty special, the majority of dive travel here is for the thresher shark cleaning station found at Monad Shoals. These animals are found on 95% of the dives year-round with slow periods experienced most frequently around the full moon. Do not be discouraged by the early hours or the crowd of other divers setting up at the lineup on the bottom. The animals have grown accustomed to seeing divers and swim in to get cleaned regardless of the crowd. When the first shark materializes from the blue your efforts will be rewarded. They will often just swim circles past the group, giving everyone a number of solid views before your NDL is reached.

One caution is that the island has no ATM's and the dive shops do not accept cards for tips, so bring plenty of cash. Getting to Malapascua requires a 3-4 hour taxi ride from Cebu airport and a water taxi out of Maya. Everyone along the way in Cebu will ask for tips including porters, drivers and even just people standing by. Use discretion. The buzz subsides once you step foot onto Malapasua Island.

Visited on 08/2014 - Submitted on 08/23/2014


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