By Nathaniel Chavin
Ever since our first dive at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Kirsten and I have wanted to become PADI open water certified divers. For our weeklong summer vacation, we wanted to spend it on a beautiful beach in the Philippines. After looking into the dive certification, we discovered we could probably accomplish both goals that week.
We began to research the different dive spots in the Philippines (of which there are many), and decided Malapascua was the perfect spot. A secluded island off the coast of Cebu, Malapascua offers dives featuring beautiful soft and hard coral gardens and, most importantly, dives to visit thresher sharks.
Next came the task of finding a place to stay and get our licenses. Sea Explorers was the top ranked dive center on Tripadvisor and it just so happened Ocean Vida, the linked resort, was also the top rated hotel/resort. It was affordable and looked amazing from the pictures so we booked.
From the inception of our experience with Ocean Vida, they exceeded my expectations in every possible way. Before departing for our trip, I corresponded with the resort owner about our stay and dive plan. He was always quick to respond with thorough answers, giving us all the necessary information for our dives and how to get to the resort.
Ocean Vida Resort
After arriving in Cebu after midnight and then taking a taxi, bus and boat, we finally made it to Malapascua around 8 am. Exhausted from the long morning, we were welcomed with complementary drinks and sat down to eat a much anticipated breakfast. Piling our plates with bacon, corned beef, baked beans, eggs, croissants and fresh island fruit from the breakfast buffet we finally sat down to eat. There is no doubt Ocean Vida has the best food on the island. We ate most of our meals at the resort restaurant, which has a variety of Western and Asian cuisine and nothing on the menu disapointed.
After breakfast, we were shown to our room. About twenty meters from the ocean, our patio melted into the soft white sand. The room was open but not too empty that gave off an aura of calmness. After taking a long awaited nap, we walked over to the dive center a mere minute walk from our room.
Sea Explorers Dive Shop
We met our dive instructor, Tata, who was all smiles. He outlined our dive plan for the next four days and we were ready to go! We started our first dive the next day. Tata was the best scuba instructor we could have hoped for. Before learning any new skills, he explained exactly what we would need to do and made sure we understood completely before starting. Each new skill seemed so easy to learn and I give all the credit to Tata. He always would give positive feedback. Even if I made a mistake, he would respond positively, telling me how to correct it (and of course with smiles). I cannot emphasize enough what a valuable skill this is in a teacher. He made learning so easy and I would definitely recommend requesting him as your instructor!
Our first and fourth dives were at Bantigue. We saw some beautiful coral and a variety of sea life including clown fish, murray eels, puffer fish, box crabs, nudibranches, wress fish and, my favorite, lion fish.
For our second dive, we went to the Hard Coral House Reef. If you like coral, this is a must see. Its expansive hard coral garden is filled with angel fish, soldier fish, clown fish, puffer fish, and pipe fish.
Lapus- Lapus was the site of our next and deepest dive thus far at 17 meters. It is home to a vibrant soft coral garden where we saw puffer fish, more clown fish, scorpion fish, and deadly urchins waving their treacherous spikes.
Finally it was time to see the renowned thresher sharks at Monad Shoal. We descended to 30 meters, watching the light of the surface slowly fade to black. Time seemed to slow as we reached the viewing site, on the same plane as the sharks. It was just past dawn and the sharks had finished their breakfast. Because of the depth, and not being NITROX certified, we had a bottom time of 23 minutes. Luckily, most of our time at the viewing site, a young thresher (about 2 meters long) was smoothly circling in front of us. Its smooth grey skin shimmered each time its extensive tail whipped across the water. When it came close, I could see it observing us as we were observing it. Contrary to my awe, it appeared indifferent to the human presence. It was an extrodianary experience that I will never forget.