Malapascua Island: Sharks and Sand

Malapascua Island: Sharks and Sand

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, for several reasons.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!