Malapascua Island

Thresher shark at Monad Shoal

Scuba Diving in Malapascua, Philippines

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Malapascua Island is the only scuba diving destination in the world where thresher sharks can be seen consistently year-round. The thresher sharks of Malapascua are typically seen first thing in the morning at sunrise at their cleaning station at Monad Shoal. Divers go down and wait at the 25-meter (80-foot) deep sandy bottom to see the thresher sharks get cleaned. 

Other than thresher sharks, Malapascua's scuba diving scene is also known for the amazing macro life, and sea snake reserve at Gato Island. Malapascua can be accessed via dive resorts or liveaboards. Malapascua is often included as one of the highlights on Tubbataha "transition" trips before/after Tubbataha season which lasts from March to June, or on the trips visiting the Visayas. 

See also: Philippines' Best Diving Spots



Intro to Malapascua Island

Malapascua Island is located on the northernmost tip of Cebu Island in the Visayan Sea in the Philippines. Its main attraction is the daily parade of thresher sharks that come up to Monad Shoal to get clean at dawn. Although most divers come to Malapascua Island to get close to thresher sharks, there is also great reef and macro diving all around the island with nightly sightings of mandarin fish and lots of macro subjects like pygmy seahorses and blue ring octopus.



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Diving Information 

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Malapascua Island Marine Life & Photography Subjects

Although thresher sharks are the main event in Malapascua Island, don't forget to bring your macro lens as there are pygmy seahorses, ghost pipefish, blue-ringed octopus, frogfish and other great macro subjects at the many dive sites around Malapascua. Practice your ambient low light photography as all the dive operators do not allow the use of strobes while shooting thresher sharks, manta rays and devil rays at Monad Shoal.  


Diving Conditions

  • Water Temperatures: Water temp drops to 78 degrees in January and rises to above 85 degrees in May.
  • Average Depth Range: 16 - 131 ft
  • Visibility: Visibility is typically good in the 60 - 80ft range.


Best Dive Sites in malapascua

  • MONAD SHOAL - The most famous dive site at Malapascua Island, boats leave Malapascua Island just before the break of dawn for the sunken island of Monad Shoal. Thresher Sharks hunt deep in the ocean most of the day but come up to the top of Monad Shoal at 90 feet to get cleaned by cleaning wrasse every morning. Manta rays and devil rays are also regularly spotted and sometimes hammerheads can be seen during the months of January to April.
  • LIGHTHOUSE - Aptly named as it is close to the lighthouse, this is where divers come every day right before sunset in anticipation of the mandarin fish mating dance. Seahorses, squid and pipefish are also often seen here.
  • GATO ISLAND - A little longer of a boat ride brings you to Gato Island, where the reef is pristine and chances of seeing pygmy seahorses are very good. White tip reef sharks, blue ring octopus are also often sighed by divers.



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Travel Information 

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How to Get There

Malapascua Island is about a 2.5-hour transfer by car from Cebu City to Maya and a 30-minute boat transfer from Maya to Malapascua Island. Cebu City can be easily reached via an hour flight from Manila or other cities in Southeast Asia.  


How to Dive Malapascua Island 

There are great dive resorts available in Malapascua. You can also explore the best dive sites in this area on a liveaboard that usually combines Tubbataha Reef and Malapascua Island.   Options for Combination Trips -  South of Cebu Island are the dive destinations of Dumaguete and Apo Island, where divers can combine thresher sharks and whale sharks on the same trip.  


Best Time to Dive malapascua

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


Topside & Non-Diving Activities

Malapascua Island is relatively limited in terms of non-dive activities. There are restaurants and bars all along the beach in the area. 4 dives a day and three meals is a full schedule, especially as an underwater photographer maintaining a camera rig. Bring a book, talk to new friends and take in the amazing sunsets on the days you're not night diving.

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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)
  • Electricity: The standard voltage is 220 V and the frequency is 60 Hz.
  • Vaccines: Please check the CDC website for updated information on vaccines, health concerns, etc. It is recommended that you are up to date with Typhoid, Tetanus/Diphtheria, Hepatitis and Polio for any trip to the tropics.
  • Visa: U.S. citizens may enter the Philippines for purposes of tourism without a visa if they present a valid U.S. passport and a return ticket to the United States or an onward ticket to another country. Upon your arrival, immigration authorities will stamp an entry visa valid for 30 days on your passport
  • Language: Filipino and English are the official languages in the Philippines

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Reviews (2)


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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