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Eight Reasons to Visit The Philippines

Eight Reasons to Visit The Philippines

People often ask me which countries they should visit in South East Asia. Most of the time, they have Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia in mind. I often ask if they’ve considered the Philippines. Most of the time the answer is “no.”

I’ve been to the Philippines almost ten times and I’m not sure why the Philippines isn’t on the top of the list of countries to visit for most people, but I definitely think it should be. Here’s why.

ONE : AMAZING BEACHES

Malapascua Island

Being one of the largest island groups in the world, it’s not surprising that the Philippines is home to an incredible amount of awesome beaches. Some of the more well-known ones are the beaches in Boracay, Alona Beach in Bohol and the beaches in El Nido. But other places like Siargao Island and Malapascua Island also offer great beach options. In fact, it’s hard to go to The Philippines and NOT run into an awesome beach.

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TWO :THE PEOPLE

Filipinos Happy

The Filipinos are some of the happiest people in the world, as reported by many reports including on by the Business Insider. They say “a problem is only a problem if you make it one,” and this seems to be firmly hard-wired into the Filipino brain. Any inconvenience or issue is swiftly laughed off and countered with an “it’s ok” or “it will be fine.” With an average yearly income of about $5,000 and under the constant threat of some of the world’s most powerful Typhoons, the Filipinos deserve praise for their positive attitude towards life. They have personally inspired me to complain less.

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THREE : YOU CAN SPEAK ENGLISH

In most countries outside the western world, English is only spoken in the touristy areas. For those who are looking to spend a week relaxing, reading a book at the side of a resort pool, this is not a problem. However, as any seasoned traveler knows, to learn and understand a countries culture it’s essential to be able to communicate with the locals, not just with the waiter at the hotel. In the Philippines, English is widely spoken across the country. Even in the most remote places, the basics are generally understood. This really helps when you’re looking for local information as well.

FOUR : AMAZING NATURAL BEAUTY

Chocolate Hills

The Philippines is home to a wide variety of majestic landscapes and natural beauty, such as the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, the Rice Terraces in Banaue and the world’s second longest underground river in Palawan.

FIVE : A SCUBADIVER’S PARADISE

Balicasag Diving

Few countries on our planet can compete with the Philippines as a scuba destination. If big fish is your thing, Apo Island, Apo Reef and Tubbataha Reefs offer a variety of Tuna, Sharks and schools of Jacks and Barracudas. For beginners, Boracay and Puerto Galera are great spots. Malapascua Island is one of the few places where the Thresher Shark can be seen, while Coron is famous for it’s WWII Japanese warships, making for excellent wreck diving.

SIX : ADVENTURES & ACTIVITIES

Longest Zipline In Asia

The Philippines offers a wide variety of awesome adventure opportunities. The city of Butuan (on the island of Mindanao) is home to the longest zipline in Asia, stretching for over 1300 meters. On the same island, nearby the city of Cagayan de Oro, you’ll find great white water rafting opportunities.

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You can go snorkeling in the tropical, crystal clear waters almost everywhere in the Philippines. On the island of Cebu, near the village of Cebu, you can even snorkel with Whale Sharks. For a stunning hike, climb Mount Apo in Davao, the country’s highest peak at 9,689 feet, or trek Mt. Pinatubo in Luzon. This famous volcano erupted in 1991, producing the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century.

The wonderful island of Siargao has some of the best surfing on the continent. As the island is quite remote and relatively unknown, you’ll have more waves for yourself than other surf spots like Bali and Thailand.

Siargao surfing

For kite-surf fans will love Boracay, which is constantly mentioned as one of the best kite-surf spots in Asia and the only spot to make it to this list of best kite-surf locations in the world.

SEVEN :AFFORDABLE LOGISTICS

Cebu Pacific Route Map

With the nation’s low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific serving most major cities in Asia, it’s very easy and affordable to get to the Philippines. The airline also has an extensive domestic network in place. Domestic flights often go for as little as $20 – $50. If you’re on a budget, you can often also get somewhere by ferry, or, for the shorter distances, by a local “banca.”

EIGHT : CLIMATE FROM HEAVEN

With average daily temperatures ranging from 25 to 28 degrees Celsius (78 to 83 F), the Philippines has a very pleasant tropical climate. A light breeze is usually around (as on most islands) that prevents you from overheating. The best time to go is November to April. Expect a lot of rain from May to October. This doesn’t mean it rains all day though; most days it will just pour down pretty hard for an hour or two while the rest of the day it could be clear skies.

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Malapascua Island: The Ultimate Destination Guide

Malapascua Island: The Ultimate Destination Guide

Malapascua Island is a small island off the northeastern coast of Cebu in the Philippines. It features warm, tropical waters, palm trees, white beaches, and excellent dive sites.

The island has a long stretch of white sandy beach, where most of the resorts are located. There are a number of local villages on the island. Fishing and tourism are the main sources of income for the locals.

Malapascua island is much less developed than popular tourist spots such as Boracay and Alona Beach. The island has a friendly, relaxing vibe. There are no roads or cars and on the main beach strip; not even motorbikes are allowed.

Malapascua island is mostly visited by divers who flock to the island to swim with the famous Thresher Sharks that surround the area.

Malapascua Island Beach

How to get to Malapascua Island

The easiest way to get to Malapascua Island is to fly to Mactan international airport, just outside Cebu city. The airport is connected to most cities in the Philippines but also to a number of major cities around Asia, such as Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul, Bangkok, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur.

Cebu Pacific Air serves the biggest number of international destinations. See the route map below for an overview. The blue cities can be reached by direct flights and the yellow cities require connections with a stopover in Manila.

Cebu Pacific Route Map

From the international airport at Mactan Island you have two options: take a bus or hire a private car to Maya, a small port on the northern tip of the island.

A private car will set you back about P2500 and will take around three hours. Busses are considerably cheaper (P100-200) but can take anywhere from four to six hours.

If you take the bus, your best bet is to take the yellow Ceres bus. It has AC and free WiFi on board. Other bus operators are Ceres Liner and Rough Riders. Buses leave from the North Bus Terminal Cebu, which is about 7km away from the airport, which is a 20-minute taxi ride.

Ceres Tours Bus

When you get to Maya, you can take a 30-minute public boat to Malapascua Island. The boat should cost P80. There is no set time schedule; the boat usually leaves when there are enough people on board. This amount is kind of arbitrary, but around 10 passengers should be enough.

Some captains will try to make a few extra bucks by offering you an earlier departure in exchange for extra money or even offer a private boat for P1000 – P2000. I’ve had one guy tell me the public boat wasn’t in operation. Don’t fall for these tricks; the wait really shouldn’t be long.

Maya Port to Malapascua

The boat drops you off on the beach within walking distance of the resorts. There will be plenty of locals around who are willing to carry your bags for a few Pesos.

When to go

If you are looking to relax, the low season from May to September is the best time to visit. You’ll have a bit more rain during this period but the absence of tourist crowds more than makes up for this. Almost every single visitor during this time of the year will be looking to dive.

During the high season (October to April) you’ll find lots of beach lovers arriving to the island. Expect people to have small beach parties to the early hours of the morning. If you’re looking to meet people, party a bit, and relax during the day, this is the time to go.

Where to stay

I stayed at Ocean Vida Beach & Dive, a middle-class resort located on the center of the beach strip. I recommend you stay here if your budget permits it. Rooms start at $80/night. From what I’ve seen, this really is the best place to stay. You can book here.

Ocean Vida Beach Dive

They have a nice beach bar and a great seating area on the beach in between the palm-trees. If you’re not staying here, you should at least drop by for a happy hour drink (4-6pm) or dinner on the beach. The excellent dive shop Sea Explorers is located within the resort.

If you’re on a budget, the neighboring Hippocampus Beach Resort* is a good choice. Rooms start at around $35, you can book here.

Eating & drinking

Don’t expect too much in terms of nightlife on Malapascua Island. The seating in front of Ocean Vida is probably your best bet if you are looking to enjoy some drinks with fellow travelers at night.

There are a few good dining options. Restaurant Angelina is a great locale if you like Italian food. It’s attached to the Tepanee Resort in the southwestern corner of the island. The resort itself also features a good restaurant called Amihan. Try the fresh seafood… you won’t regret it!

Things to do in Malapascua Island

Diving

The main thing to do on the island (except for relaxing) is diving. There are plenty of dive spots around the island. Two great options are Gato island and Calamangan Island. These dive spots will provide ample opportunities to see sea snakes, frog fish, white tip reef sharks, octopi, and cuttle fish.

The highlight of the dive areas is a site called Moan Shoal. This place is frequented by the gracious Thresher Sharks almost every morning. Guarantees can’t be made, but you’d be very unlucky not to see at least one. There is no Thresher Shark season, so you can see them all year round.

I saw my first Thresher Shark on my second dive. With my GoPro in hand I was waiting alongside a perimeter of rocks that had been setup to keep divers from getting to close and scaring the sharks away. After a few minutes, the majestic creature appeared. It made two loops right in front of me after which it disappeared in the darkness. Enough time for me to shoot this video:

If you’re lucky, you might also spot a Manta Ray. The best time to see them is November to March.

There are plenty of dive shops in the area; most of them are located on the main beach strip. I dove with Sea Explorers, but other options include Thresher Shark Divers and Evolution Diving.

Snorkeling

You can snorkel right off the beach in Malapascua island. In the shallow parts, you can find crabs hiding in the grass and a few types of small fish. For more interesting snorkeling spots, take the three-hour snorkeling tour around the island. You’ll be taken to three different spots, the second one being the most interesting.

Malapascua Beach

Leftovers of what was once a Japanese warship lie on the bottom off the sea, just off the coast of the island. It’s only 10-15 feet deep, so for those who are able to hold your breath for a while, it’s a great spot. I found a frogfish and several funny looking creatures that I didn’t know existed.

Not far from the wreck is a cliff that you can jump off. Make sure it’s high tide so you won’t slam into the rocks!

Another good place to snorkel is Calamangan island. The island is about 1 1/2 hours away, and daily trips are offered by the locals.

Other things to do

Malapascua Island is pretty small and there really isn’t much else to do. You can rent a motorbike to explore the island and visit some of the local villages. The paths are pretty narrow though, so if you’ve never driven a motorbike before, I’d pass on this adventure.

There is one place where you can rent kayaks and water bikes. Walk along the beach in the western direction until you see the Blue Coral resort (you can’t miss it). Take a right and walk up to the yellow building in front of you.

One more thing I enjoyed doing was watching the sunset. There are a few good places to shoot sunset pictures. The best one is a mile or so away from the main beach where the lighthouse is located. You can’t climb it, but it’s on one of the hills so you’ll have a nice view.

Sunset at Blue Coral Resort

The Blue Coral resort has an outside patio that serves as a good vantage point for taking pictures. You can’t see the sun sink into the ocean from here, but you’ll be able to take some good shots before that.

Blue Coral Resort

Another spot is just on the other side of the Blue Coral resort. Walk past the cemetery, take a right, and follow the beach. At the end of the path, you’ll see a few beach beds (they belong to the Tepanee resort). Sit down and enjoy!

Money

You won’t find many cash machines in Malapascua Island, so it’s advisable to bring plenty of cash. At the international airport in Cebu, there is one cash machine that accepts international cards. It can be tricky to find, it’s located outside the international terminal. When you exit the terminal, take a left and keep walking until you see it.

Would I go to Malapascua Island again?

Absolutely. I had a great time in Malapascua island. I ended up extending my stay twice! It’s the type of place that I enjoy. No big tourist crowds, just a few friendly resorts mixed with a few small local villages. Adding the outstanding dive spots, the affordable prices, the crystal clear waters, and the white sand beaches makes for a top-notch destination.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please share it. If you have any questions, comment below and I will respond as soon as possible! If you’ve been to Malapascua Island, let me know what your experience was like!

Siargao Surfing: The Famous Cloud 9 Surf Break

Siargao Surfing: The Famous Cloud 9 Surf Break

 
When you think of surfing in Asia, Indonesia (Bali in particular) probably comes to mind first. But one of the best surf spots lies on the island of Siargao in The Philippines.

It’s signature break is called Cloud9. This right-breaking reef wave provides surfers with excellent surf opportunities and has a reputation for thick, hollow tubes.

Surf competitions are being held there twice a year. To provide viewers with a good vantage point to watch the action, a long walkway has been built that leads to a three level viewing deck.

Surfing Cloud9

Check for an live update on Siargao Island surf conditions. Also check out my other post about Siargao Island and The Philippines!

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Diving at Balicasag Island

Diving at Balicasag Island

Imagine having a close encounter with more than a handful Sea Turtles, a giant school of Jackfish, a few Frog fish, a Moray eel and a Sea Krate in a time-span of less than an hour. This dive has certainly been one of my favorites!

Balicasag island is a 30 minute boat ride away from Alona Beach, located in the province of Bohol in the Philippines. The best diving that Alona Beach has to offer is around this island.

Shortly after getting in the water, I found myself surrounded by Jackfish. I had never seen such a big school. The fish weren’t afraid of me and I was able to swim in the middle of the school, really cool!

Just a few minutes later I spotted a fairly large Sea Turtle. This friendly creature was having lunch at the time. The menu featured a juicy platter of fresh sea grass. As you can see, the turtle enjoyed this healthy meal and didn’t mind having a spectator!

The Frogfish has to be one of the weirdest fish I’ve ever seen. A master of camouflage, it’s hard to spot this underwater predator. They are quite common around the Philippines, I’ve seen one on almost every dive I did during my three-week trip.

Next up is this juvenile Moray eel, hiding between the coral formations as they usually do, waiting for unsuspecting prey to swim by.

My last encounter on this dive: a Sea Krate. I love spotting these highly elusive and venomous inhabitants of the ocean. Although carrying enough venom to facilitate a very abrupt end to my life, there is no reason to be afraid of these creatures: the Sea Krate’s teeth are located somewhat to the back of it’s mouth, making it extremely hard for them to deliver the poisson. Besides, they are super friendly and gentle.

If you’re a scubadiver and you’re ever in the Philippines, I highly recommend to check out this diving spot. You can easily get to Alona Beach by taking a ferry to Bohol from Cebu city (which has an international airport).

Did you ever go diving in The Philippines? I’d love to hear about it, please leave a comment below!

Day Tour along the highlights of Bohol

Day Tour along the highlights of Bohol

The island of Bohol features a surprising number of unique highlights, given its small size. It’s home to the world’s smallest mammal, the Tarsier, it features over 1000 cone-shaped hills, the Chocolate Hills and it hosts one of the oldest churches in the Philippines.

During my stay in Alona Beach, I decided to rent a car and a driver for the day to check out what this island in the Philippines has to offer. My friendly driver Larry arrived spot-on at 9am in the morning and off we were!

Tarsier Sanctuary

First stop, the Tarsier sanctuary, just over an hour drive from Alona Beach. This is a fenced off piece of jungle where a number of Tarsiers live. They are nocturnal, so during they day they clinch Koala-style to a tree branch to rest.

Tarsier

They are really tiny and hard to spot. The sanctuary staff helps out by pointing out the spots where the big-eyed creatures tend to hide. They do have an extremely high cuteness factor and I kind of wanted to keep one as a pet.

Tarsier in Bohol

Butterfly garden

Next stop, the butterfly garden, just a few minutes drive from the Tarsier forrest. It features not just a garden, but also a museum type area where you can learn bout the live of a butterfly. It also showcases a number of caterpillars and cocoons, in various stages of their process of turning into a butterfly. Quite interesting actually.

Butterfly Sanctuary

The guide that showed us around had a large inventory of way-to-cheesy jokes to fire at me, so I kind of rushed through the museum quickly to get away from him.

The Chocolate Hills

The Chocolate Hills are what Bohol is most famous for. I was taken to one of the many hills in the area that features a nice vantage point. A staircase has been installed to make the climb a little easier. After walking up the two-hundred steps, I got to enjoy quite a special view.

Chocolate Hills Bohol

The Chocolate Hills form an interesting geological formation. The cone shaped hills vary in sizes from 30 to 50 meters. Estimates of the total number of domes range from 1200 to 1700. I wondered where the hills got their name from. According to Larry, during the dry season the green hills turn brown as the grass dries up.

Chocolate Hills

River cruise

Next up: river cruise including lunch. I could choose between ‘normal buffet’, at P350 or ‘premium buffet’, at P450. I opted for premium. After paying for the tickets, I was taken to a floating, barge type of boat, with a small engine powered sloop behind it. A small buffet had been setup and I was encouraged to start my lunch right away.

Floating Restaurant Loboc

Around me I saw at least ten other barges. The platforms almost formed a large chain. Soon after the boat started moving, we arrived at a floating platform with a large group of traditionally dressed dancers and musicians. As the women played their mini-guitars and sang along some Filipino tunes, the kids danced in front. As you might expect, there wasn’t a shortage of tip boxes.

Philippino Dancers at Loboc

A few hundred meters further down the river was a small waterfall. At this point we turned around and headed back to basecamp. This had been one of the cheesiest tourist activities I’ve ever taken part in. The most interesting part was really how the local tourism board managed to create such a popular tourist activity pretty much out of thin air. Quite impressive!

Baclayon Church

My last stop was at the one of the oldest Churches in The Philippines. Jesuit priests constructed the church in 1595 and it’s still intact today. I wondered how it managed to survive 400 years of hot, humid weather and the tropical storms and typhoons that hit the Philippines so often.

Church Bohol The Philippines

The church is well worth a visit, it hosts some nice Roman Catholic relics and images. After visiting countless of Catholic churches throughout Europe, it’s interesting to visit one on a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles away.

Oldest Church in the Philippines

Conclusion

Looking back it was definitely a day well spent. I would recommend all of the highlights except for the lunch on the river cruise; I think you’re better off finding a local restaurant and have lunch there instead. It’s just to cheesy and setup, food isn’t great, it’s too crowded and the river cruise itself doesn’t add that much in my opinion.

Diving with Thresher Sharks in Malapascua Island

Diving with Thresher Sharks in Malapascua Island

The main reason I came to Malapascua Island was to dive with the Thresher Shark. The island is the only place in the world where Thresher Sharks can be seen pretty much any day.

I really enjoy diving with sharks. It’s quite a thrill to see these scary looking predators swim towards you, turning away only after coming almost within a few meters. For some reason I’m not scared of sharks. I get so excited when I see one that I forget that they could kill me if they wanted to.

Near Malapascua is a sunken island called Monad Shoal. The Thresher Sharks gather here early in the morning at a number of so-called ‘cleaning stations.’ The small fish that reside here eat the dead skin, parasites and bacteria from the shark’s body. The sharks prefer to be in the deeper, dark waters so when it gets too light they leave. The best time to see them is around 4.30 – 6am.

During my first dive I was unlucky and didn’t see any. The next day I got up at 4.30am to give it another go. After entering the water, we went down to the top of the sunken island at 15 meters deep. From the edge we could see the cleaning stations that lie at 25 – 30 meters deep. Since you can’t dive that deep for the full duration of the dive, it’s best to scan for the sharks first and go down when you spot one.

At first we didn’t see any, so after a while we descended to the edge of one of the cleaning stations. To not scare away the sharks, a rope has been put up to mark the edge of the area where the sharks gather. It’s best to quietly sit down on the sandy bottom and wait for them to show up.

Monad Shoal Cleaning Station Malapascua

After we waited for a while I saw my dive instructor pointing at something. I quickly swam towards him and in the distance I saw a vague, large figure swimming towards us. I quickly pulled out my Gopro to witness this:

I was very really happy to see this majestic creature swim so close-by! It swam in circles for a couple of minutes, making three rounds after which it disappeared into the darkness. Mission succeeded!

The Threshers aren’t the only cool sea creatures you can find on this dive site. After seeing the Thresher Shark we went back up to the top of the shoal to search for other marine life. Pretty soon we found another interesting inhabitant of these waters:

This underwater statue you have just looked at is a Frogfish. Certainly a strange looking creature that is very hard to spot if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Frogfish are masters in mimicking. This one tried to look like a piece of coral and it did a pretty good job! It was waiting for it’s lunch to swim by.

We also ended up seeing a Orang Utan crab, an Octopus and a juvenile Moray eel. All-in-all a very successful dive! A special thanks goes out to the guys at Sea Explorers who really didn’t a great job making this possible.

Ocean Vida Beach & Dive in Malapascua Island

Ocean Vida Beach & Dive in Malapascua Island

Over the last few years I’ve stayed at hundreds of resorts, hotels, hostels and B&B’s. I normally don’t review them on my blog, unless I think it’s an exceptional place and I would naturally recommend it to my friends, like the Travellers Oasis in Cairns, Australia.

Ocean Vida Beach & Dive falls into this category as well. The resort is located right in front off the main beach in Malapascua Island in The Philippines. I loved it so much, I ended up extending my stay twice!

I had been planning to visit this tropical little island just off the coast of Cebu for a while. The main reason to go there is to go diving with the famous Thresher Shark. Malapascua is the only place in the world where you’re almost guaranteed to see them!

Ocean Vida Beach Dive

Upon arrival I was greeted by Ollie, resort’s manager. He offered me a drink of my choice at the beach bar and took the time to explain me everything I needed to know about the resort, the island and the diving that Malapascua is famous for. I really don’t understand why so few resort managers do this. It makes guests feel welcome and comfortable from the start and really only takes ten minutes.

Welcome drink with Ollie

Staying at the resort felt like being part of a big family. All the staff members were super friendly and very attentive. I never had to wait for anything. Ollie checked in regularly to see if I was ok and I needed any assistance.

One of the best features of the resort surely is the seating area on the beach. Set within a range of palm trees, guests can choose between different seating options to enjoy an evening cocktail or dinner: regular chairs, bean bags or cabana-style couches. A few lights have been tastefully places on the tables and in the trees creating a great atmosphere.

Dinner at Ocean Vida Beach Dive

The restaurant is well run, serving a variety of local, Thai and European dishes. You can eat where ever you want, at the bar, in the restaurant on the second level or on the beach. Must tries are the Chicken Adobo and the daily specials, like the oven-roasted chicken and the mixed seafood platter. The buffet breakfast is simple but good, with freshly made omelets and choice of fresh juices.

Ocean Vida Restaurant

Every day from 4-6pm it’s happy hour at the beach bar. But the best feature of the bar: electrical plugs are fitted on the outside of the bar. This is a travel bloggers dream and something that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Combined with the fast Wifi this made the bar a perfect spot to work: internet, electricity, awesome view and an ice-cold, fresh mango juice.

Working at Ocean Vida Beach Resort

A dive shop (Sea Explorers) is conveniently located in the resort. This is nice since pretty much all visitors of Malapascua are divers, as the island is famous for the presence of Thresher Sharks. The guys working for the shop are great, they take care of everything for you. All I needed to do is show up, all my gear was already setup and they even carry everything on and off-board.

Sea Explorers diving

The only problem so far with my stay so far is that these bloody Thresher Sharks haven’t showed up yet. Last night I got up at 4.30am to go see them but we couldn’t find them. Apparently, this is very rare. Anyway, I’m not leaving the island before I see them!

Malapascua Diving: The Best Place to See Thresher Sharks

Malapascua Diving: The Best Place to See Thresher Sharks

This month I’m doing a tour around Asia. After a short visit to Hong Kong to catch up with friends I flew to The Philippines, starting off in Butuan, where I flew like a bird on Asia’s longest zip-line.

I have now arrived in Malapascua Island, a small island located just north of Cebu. I wanted to go to this island for quite a while. In Malapascua diving is the main activity and for a good reason: it’s one of the few places where you can get a close encounter with the Thresher Shark.

But there are other reasons to visit this pristine island in the Philippines. First of all, I always love being on small, tropical islands. I guess it gives me this feeling of being away from it all. I prefer islands with little infrastructure, not to crowded, with a nice beach and clear, warm water ocean water offering a way to cool down from the heat.

Malapascua Island fits this description pretty nicely. There is nothing better than to wake up, put on my swimming trunks, cross the 30 meters that separates my hotel room from the sea and go for a quick morning swim.

Malapascua Island Beach

Secondly, I was hoping to dive with Manta Rays here. Unfortunately, I found out it will be unlikely that I will see any. The rays are seasonal here and September is outside the season. I forgot to check this before planning my visit.

Fortunately, there is another majestic creature luring beneath the ocean surface near Malapascua Island: the Thresher Shark. This type of shark is characterized by it’s long tail, making up about a third of it’s body.

Diving in Malapascua with the Thresher Sharks

Malapascua Island is the only place in the world where you are almost guaranteed to see the long-tailed predator. There is a so-called ‘cleaning station’ nearby, a place where large pelagic fish go to have smaller fish remove parasites from their skin. The Threshers visit this place every morning.

Thresher Shark

Photo : Sven Hewecker

Threshers are early birds, so I’m going to have to get up at 4.30am to see them. In anticipation, I’ve been shifting my sleeping pattern towards waking up early in the last few days. That way I will hopefully be able to keep my eyes open when the sharks are swimming around me.

It will be worth it for sure. In fact, the Threshers are the main reason tourist (mainly divers) flock to this little islet in the first place. So, I’m not leaving this island before I’ve seen them!

*update:

On my first dive I was unlucky and I didn’t get to see the Thresher Sharks. On the second dive I was more fortunate. I spotted the majestic creature in the distance and waited patiently, Go-Pro in hand, for it to swim by. And it did, as you can see in the video below!

What does “Malapascua” mean?

On a final note, I’ve just learned what the island got its name from. In the 16th century, a Spanish ship got stranded here just before Easter. The sailors had to spend this holiday away from their families on the isolated island. They clearly did not enjoy it too much, as they named the island “bad Easter,” or “Mala Pascua.”

There is a little controversy over the name though, as “pascua” also means “christmas” in the local Cebuano language. So maybe it was the Christmas holiday that the Spaniards missed out on. Either way, I thought it was a funny story.

Have you been to Malapascua Island? I’d love to hear about your experience, comment below!

Fly Like a Bird in Butuan: Asia’s Longest Zipline

Fly Like a Bird in Butuan: Asia’s Longest Zipline

Although I’m not against checking out touristy destinations featuring famous highlights, I also really enjoy going to less well known off-the-beaten-trek places. I like to just stroll around, take in the atmosphere and experience normal, local life.

My visit to Butuan, The Philippines, definitely falls into the latter category. As it turned out though, there is something really cool to do here: it features the longest zipline in Asia.

The zipline is one of the activities offered by Delta Discovery Park, located in a mountainous area just 20 minutes outside the city.

Upon arrival at the park, you’ll have to take a ride in a jeep to get to the starting point, on top of a hill. This ride is an adventure in itself, as the jeep struggles to climb the steep, narrow path leading up the hill.

Butuan The Philippines Longest Zipline in Asia

When you reach the top of the hill, you can enjoy a great view over the surrounding mountains, dense forests and the city of Butuan in the back. Just this view is already worth the 650 Pesos (US$14) fee.

Butuan Mountain View

Butuan City Philippines

After a quick instruction session by one of the friendly staff members, I was told to lie down in a harness “Superman Style.” I heart started pounding a little as I looked down into the valley below me.

Discovery Park Zipline Butuan

The zipline spans over 1.3 kilometers and takes you through two valleys. In between you’ll pass through a section that is carved out of a mountain, adding to the adrenaline rush. After a few security checks, a staff member released me. I felt like I was flying!

Longest Zipline In Asia

Longest Zipline in The Philippines

After an exhilarating ride, a few iron blocks on the zip-line will slow you down. This is the only point during the ride that you need to pay attention, as you hit the first block at quite high speed. Make sure you face the ground as you hit it, this way the shock doesn’t impact your neck as much!

Butuan Zipline Breaking Blocks

Did you ever go on a zip-line? Tell me about your experience!

Palawan Underground River

Palawan Underground River

My main reason to head down to Palawan, an island in the Philippines, was to visit the Palawan underground river, located in the Puerto Princessa Subterranean River National Park, about 50 kilometers north of Puerto Princessa. The river was known as the world’s longest underground river until the discovery of a even longer river in Mexico. Still, the visit proved to be more than worth it!

To get to the entrance of the river from Puerto Princessa takes a while, around 2 hours. On the path leading up to the entrance, we were greated by several monkeys, which was a pleasant surprise. As the river attracts many tourists, the monkeys are not afraid and you can get very close to them.

Path to Palawan Underground River

The area around the entrance of the cave it worth a visit by itself. Beautiful tropical forest vegetation and majestic limestone rock formations surround the crystal clear, blue-greenish colored water of the river. To enter the cave, small Philippino canoes are used.

Palawan Underground River Entrance

The river is accessible by boat up to 4.2 kilometers deep, but tourist boats are only allowed 1.2 kilometers in, spending about one hour underground. Enough time to enjoy the gigantic caves, the bats and the stunning rock formations. The caves are particularly known for a type of dripstone called “speleothems.” They are basically mineral deposits often in the shape of spines, either hanging down from the ceiling or spiking upwards from the bottom of the cave.

Dripstone

It was a bit eerie to float around in a small canoe in a dark, dungeon like cave with the only noise coming from the bats flying around. The Sea Crait (looks like a Sea Snake) that I saw swimming by didn’t really help :).

Inside the Palawan Underground River

It was hard to take good pictures as the only light we had came from our flashlights. To really experience the Palawan underground river you have to pay it a visit! You won’t be disappointed!

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