Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Philippines 2011 - Part 4 - Malapascua

Esther and most of Big Brother left Manila Sunday night. A handful of us enjoyed the final party, which was small and reserved compared to previous years which have featured fire dancing, marching bands, and unlimited rum. We called it an early night and i caught a flight to Cebu the next morning.

My destination was Malapascua, an island off the northern coast of Cebu, one of the Philippines' main travel hubs. Reaching Malapascua is long but easy process: fly to Cebu City, taxi to the bus station, 4 hour bus ride north, 45 minute boat ride to the island. My flight arrive at 10:30am, and i arrived at Malapascua around 6pm. Seven and a half hours very well spent.

The name Malapascua translated from Spanish means Bad Christmas, and was named by Spanish sailors in 1520 who shipwrecked on the island on Christmas day. There are about 4000 residents, up from 1500 ten years ago. Tourism has changed the island, for good and bad. Most houses have electricity and hot water, there's a pharmacy, and a growing economy bringing lots of resources and money to this little island. Also Denver Nuggets jerseys.

For comparison, Malapascua is about one quarter the size of Boracay, in both land and population. But it's about one tenth as touristy. There are no roads, only sandy paths. The only motorized vehicles are dirt bikes. Bars and restaurants are cheap, as is lodging. It's a very chill place, one where drinks actually get cheaper the more rum you add. I'm actually surprised this hasn't caught on throughout the Philippines, where rum is cheaper than coke.

The major reason for Malapascua remaining untouristy, relative to Boracay, is the airport. Boracay has no airport on the island, but there are two airports nearby. One of them is right at the port, meaning you can reach Boracay withing one hour of your flight landing. The other airport is further inland, about 3 hours from the port. Compare this with Malapascua, which only has one airport, 4 hours away. If they were to open a second airport on Cebu's northern coast, it will bloom into the next Boracay overnight.

That 4 hour bus ride is part of what makes the place so special. People stay a week or two. They become a part of the island for a little while, respect its inhabitants, learn the names of locals around you, feel at home. It's beautiful, and worth the trip. But it's also not for everyone. The scuba diving is fantastic, and remains the only place in the world to see Thresher sharks. However, there is little or no nightlife, because that Thresher shark dive is at 5am everyday. My first night there, i was out until about 1am with some people i met at the dive shop. Every other night, i was in bed by 10 or 11, which was fine by me. Diving can be exhausting.

I stayed at Mike and Diose's Beach Cottage. I was so impressed by their service and hospitality, i decided to make my first review on trip advisor. We sat up one night drinking beers and eating BBQ on the beach while he told me stories about growing up in West Berlin during bombing raids. I think he liked me because my name is German, and also the mustache thing. Mike's mustache bested mine, but i made a good run at the title.

I spent 6 nights on Malapascua, and with my five full days there, i did eight dives with two rest days. I also did my 50th dive overall, which is still not much, but enough to reinvigorate my love of scuba diving. Diving might be best explained with pictures, so here are some of the weird, cool, or interesting things i saw this trip.

Pygmy Seahorse. That's a finger behind the little guy. He's tiny.

Frogfish, with her eggs. The white in the upper left is the lure on top of her head, mouth open just below that, eggs visible in the middle right.

Banded Coral Shrimp on left (or top), Commensal Shrimp on right (or bottom).

Giant Hermit Crab, closeup.

Spider Crap, or Decorator Crab. I found this guy on a night dive, just one piece of seaweed that didn't look quite like the rest. I watched it for a while and it seemed to react to my flashlight. Such and awesome and weird find!

Bob-tailed squid. Only about half and inch long, check him out against the grains of sand he's burrowing into. So cool.

Devil Scorpionfish, x2 on a starfish during a night dive. In the second pic, a closeup of another one.

Nudibranch, about 2.5 inches long. Really cool to watch because he was always on the move. Hung out with him for a good 5 minutes.

Fingered Dragonet


Porcelain Crab in anemone.

And of course, Thresher Sharks. I didn't get any good photos of them, but my Norwegian diving buddy, Bjarte HÃ¥konsen, definitely did. He had an impressive camera rig which made my cute G9 seem a bit inadequate. But it was awesome seeing his shots after each dive. I may have just gotten myself into a very expensive hobby though...

One of our day trips was to Kalanggaman, a barely inhabited island gorgeous sand and nothing in the way of inhabitants.

On our way back, our boat was visited by a pod of seven dolphins.

One of the divemasters at Evolution took a video, definitely worth a look.

When i wasn't diving, i was rereading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius in a hammock with a beer, or wandering the village in the middle of the island. If esther were there, i'd say it was a perfect vacation, but very relaxing nonetheless.


1 comment:

Stardiver said...

Hi Kevin
Well thats a REAL GOOD BLOG and fantastic fotos you show us here. Loved to have you as our guest.