Malapscua; our anniversary getaway

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April 5th 2015
Published: May 10th 2015
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For our wedding anniversary we wanted something idyllic and relaxing, we wanted a small island with a nice beach. Not just any beach though, we'd set our minds on the Philippines. In the end we settled on the picturesque island of Malapascua and our timing was not half bad.

To get to the island of Malapascua we had to travel to one of the most northern towns of Cebu; Maya, and catch a boat to our destination of Malapascua. Usually there are big yellow coaches with air con taking people to Maya but I think we may have just missed one, hence being piled into a small minivan.

During our 4 hour ride to Maya we got talking to a group of Filipinos who were heading to a town an hour outside of Maya for a fiesta (party). They had overheard the 'conductor' charging us more than they had paid and so challenged him on why we paid more. It went back and forth between them and the 'conductor’ along with other people on the bus chipping (none if it was in English so we did not have a clue what was being said) until it was discovered we were paying more as we were travelling further. Our backpacks also took up valuable space in the already crowded minivan and so the conductor took this time to charge us more for our bags. Still it was really nice of them to stick up for us. We had a really nice chat afterwards comparing differences in culture and they also attempted to teach us some of the local language (Cebuano). We say 'attempted' as they went so fast with different phrases I can barely recall many words now. When it was their stop a couple within the group insisted on paying the outstanding amount of 100 peso the conductor now wanted for our bags. Such a kind gesture when they really didn't have to but they simply would not accept no for an answer.

For the rest of our journey we looked out of the window watching local’s splash about in the sea on the small beaches we passed. Apparently most locals hit the beach during Easter time before returning to normality. We both wished this was the same back home if the weather allowed.

Arriving at the small port in Maya, a boat man approached us and tried to convince us to charter a boat across telling us we may have to wait until midnight for the local boat. What a major exaggeration. The thing is, most boats only leave the port when they are full and when it is full enough you pay the local price of 80-100 peso each. As not many people were at the port when we arrived he thought he'd try his luck. We declined his overpriced offer and said we would wait till midnight if needed. 15 minutes later people arrived on coaches and minivans and we all hopped on the boat and headed for the island of Malapascua.

Our accommodation on Malapascua was perfect. Situated right on the beach facing the sea, with perfect dusty white sand, palm trees, hammocks and pretty gardens. Plus we had loungers, real plastic loungers. When you backpack on a budget you have to be strict on yourselves. As opposed to loungers we have beach like towels (more like a thin sarong) and most of the time we end up being covered in sand. Not here, not for our anniversary,

Malapscua is a small island on the
Underwater tunnelUnderwater tunnelUnderwater tunnel

We all had a go
most northern tip of Cebu with around 11,000 inhabitants. Walking around the island only takes 3 hours so you can easily imagine how small it is but how populated it is at the same time. Our hotel owner said a good 15 years ago the island was more or less empty with a few scattered shacks. Now however due to the nearby diving spots, many locals moved here to make a living for themselves and their family. Many tourists now follow in search of some local island life and what we hear is meant to be some rely good diving with many chances to spot hammer head sharks.

For our first full day albeit our anniversary, we decided to put the snorkels we purchased to some good use. As we went to ask the owner of the cottages about flipper hire he was planning a snorkel tour for a group of Londoners staying at the same place so we decided to tag along. This turned out to be a lovely plan.

The trip lasted around 4 hours, snorkelling at various spots, chasing the little fish we saw and getting lost in the ocean. We did not see a lot of fish or even any big fish but we did spot a lot of needle fish including the iconic clown 'Nemo' fish.

The first stop was the most challenging as the waves were huge and so most people wore life jackets to help swim with the waves. This must have been a funny sight as we all bobbed up and down in the ocean like the sea buoys.

Due to the high waves, lots of choking sounds followed with someone even being sick. Not to worry however as the bits of puke attracted a lot of fish. Nice. After this spot we all swam without the restricted life vests as the ocean was much more settled at other spots.

One funny moment on the tour was when P made everyone aware she had spotted a stingray (to her defence it did look like one in the distance). However it turned out to be a white plastic carrier bag. What a disappointment.

At the last snorkelling spot we were taken to, there was an area in the sea with a big shard of rock standing out of the water with a small tunnel underneath. One brave person swam this tunnel first and Chris followed only to get a flipper stuck as the waves pushed him up. He quickly freed himself and swam through.

P followed. However failing to swim deep enough and again being pushed up by the waves, she banged her head on the sharp rocks underneath scratching one of her wrists. Panicking momentarily she managed to swim as fast as she could to get out on the other side just before her breath would have gave way.

Both still in one piece, although P somewhat shaken and fragile the rest of the group followed and a few more scratches and cuts prevailed. One guy in particular had tried to kick himself out and really badly injured his foot with several deep cuts on the sole and the sides of his feet. Ouch! We think he now needed stitches. Sounded like a good thing to do at first but not in hindsight.

Apart from this guy’s injury it was a pleasant trip. We were sensible enough to refuse the cliff jumping towards the end but cheered the others on who took the leap and came back in one piece.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, walking around and enjoying island life. Having pizzas, chips and a mango shake for lunch and local fish dishes for dinner at our newly found favourite bargain eatery; Ging Gings. The evening was spent with good company and so lots of laughter, beer and card gaming prevailed including; Yanif a popular card game we continued to play the following few weeks.

Only securing 2 nights in our beach cottage and not being able to secure a third night as they were fully booked we found another place to stay. We ended up staying right in the village where locals live at a place called Villa Sandra, a pleasant hostel with its reggae vibe and themed room names. Sadly it lacked a beach (guess we were spoilt from our previous accommodation) and the room was a little rough around the edges.

Okay, I think we need to confess about the first place we stayed in. Yes, we did stay in a lovely resort, but being as budget minded as we are, always aware of our budget in which we always seem to overspend! We opted for, wait for it...The nanny room under someone else's cottage. Haha. Filled with pipes and a slightly low ceiling, we didn't mind as it was functional (with attached bathroom) and came with the quirks of staying here. Free breakfast, a beachfront location, swinging hammocks and great company (at the time we stayed). We sure missed this place when we moved across to our other hostel. All for 550 pesos, it wasn't bad if you ask us.

We did go back to the beach in front of the cottages after we left as we hadn't had much beach time surprisingly. Disappointingly however our excitement was short lived as the sea was filled with rubbish. Not sure why this was whether it had travelled ashore from boats or was due to an inefficient waste system for the many people living on the island or whether it had simply been washed up by the typhoon. Either way, it was such a shame in this idyllic place.

The typhoon certainly had an impact on Malapascua. There was a lot of coral washed up and dead, along with a disappointing snorkelling scene as we questioned where all the fish had gone. We passed some abandoned resorts as we walked around with much of the buildings shattered apart from the cement walled toilet cubicles that appeared to be the only thing left standing. Again such a shame.

Our last night on the island was spent at the tasty, affordable and atmospheric Ging Gings. Afterwards we strolled back through the dark alleyways using our head torch to guide us. The closer we got to our hostel we heard lots of shouting and cheers and as we turned a corner we found many locals absorbed in a basketball match and just across the way a graduation ceremony for adults was taking place. Both equally as busy as the locals celebrated achievement and sport.

Away from the diving resorts on bounty beach this island also had a lovely village atmosphere to it and it was nice getting to witness this on our last night.

Additional photos below
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10th May 2015

Happy Anniversary The Mikes!
You guys are really making the Philippines seem like an attractive destination. I love your 'warts and all' account of things...I've been sharing some of your stories with Andrew, and so far, the snake in the rice paddies drama is winning. :) Safe travels! x
10th May 2015

Haha, thanks for reading. Same with me, I was reading your blogs for some of my 6 hour bus journey and I had to interrupt Chris while he was reading to recite some of the things that had me in stitches. :)
10th May 2015
Our boat

Happy Anniversary!
What a perfect place to spend your special day--white sands, blue sea, and friendly people at a beach resort. Ah, the good life! An anniversary to remember.
10th May 2015
Our boat

Anniversary in Malapascua
It certainly was. One that will stay with us for a long time!!
10th May 2015

Malapascua Island
Happy Anniversary! We loved our time in Malapascua-- so quiet and peaceful....we loved the sun, the sand, the water, the seafood and the amazing sunsets. We would go back in a heartbeat. They had some great diving.
10th May 2015

We agree Malapascua is a lovely quaint place. Beautiful beaches and a lovely local feel to it too. Yes, we heard diving is really impressive but as we don't dive we took up snorkelling intead which was nice but disappointting. Heard this island was great for snorkeling before the typhoon as well. Thanks Dave and Merry
17th August 2017

This is one of my favourite spots in the Philippines, and only a few hours away from Cebu City, I'm hoping to get there again soon.

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