There was no straightforward way for us to get from Donsol to Malapascua. The tricycle from Donsol to Pilar was stressful to say the least, as it was a rush against time for us to catch the midday ferry over to Masbate. To add to the equation, as we approached a steep hill, the tricycle driver instructed me, in the sidecar, with all the bags, to move and lean forwards....this did not do the trick however, and Chris had to jump off the back of the bike in order for us to not stall. This of course meant he then had to jump back on the bike, when it got back up to speed, and in the process managed to take a huge chunk out of the top of his toe, and along with it, part of his toenail. With some help from a toilet roll I always carry around, Chris was able to temporarily bandage his toe, but there was a lot of blood.
The good news was that we made it just in time to catch the ferry over to Masbate, taking between 3-4 hours. Arriving around 4pm, we found a cheap room for the night at 'GV hotel', found a busy fast food restaurant for food, and Chris even managed to watch the F1 qualifying at the hotel lobby's TV.
We were up early to ensure we had our place on the RoRo - a roll on roll off ferry. We had a three hour bus journey down to Cataingan, where the bus drove us onto the RoRo. It was a very slow, tedious, journey over to Bogo, on Cebu Island. One thing that made the six hour journey worth it was seeing dolphins playing in the ocean as the sun was setting.
Bogo is a very small, quiet town, and with limited choice for accommodation, but our main requirement was to find cable TV for the F1 race. It didn't take us long before we found a nice, AC room, with cable TV, and strong internet, all at a good price, at 'Bogo Park Lodge'. It was now quite late and we hadn't eaten all day, so off we went in search of food. Not finding any street food, we ended up in a fast food chain 'Mang Inasal', and had some really tasty BBQ chicken with unlimited rice! It was similar to nandos, minus the peri peri sauce. On our way back to the hotel we stumbled across the street where all the street food was! Typical. We noticed a lady selling mangoes, and quite fancying something sweet, we bought a couple of really small mangoes, which are eaten when they are hard. For 8 pesos each (around 12p) it was worth a try. They were crunchy, like an apple, but with the flavour of a mango - nice.
Again, not finding the street food for breakfast, we ended up in Jolly Bee, eating their hotsilog, and the nicest hot chocolate - my new favourite. We managed to squeeze ourselves onto a bus headed north to Maya. When I say squeezed, we were sandwiched in the aisle, with Chris practically hanging out of the side of the bus. It was made more awkward every time someone needed to get on, or off, the bus. We were right in the way, but they never seem to want to put our backpacks in the storage under the bus. About half an hour down the road we managed to sit down and leave our bags in the aisle for people to clamber over.
Arriving at Maya, we very carefully climbed aboard a banca, using a very narrow piece of wood to cross from the pier, over the water, to the front of the banca. It was tricky, and even one of the boat boys fell in the sea before we set off.
A pleasant half an hours boat journey and we arrived at the beautiful island of Malapascua. Just 2.5km by 1km in size and a popular island for diving and enjoying the white sandy beaches.
The main beach, Bounty beach, is home to the big dive resorts. As always, on a tight budget, we searched around for accommodation, enquiring about the diving en route. After two hours, we found a small bamboo hut, at 'BB's Lodge', tucked just back from the beach, but was a fraction of the cost of the beachfront resorts. They pointed us in the direction of a locally owned and run dive shop, with the best rates on the island. 'Sea Slug Divers', had new equipment, were helpful, welcoming, even offering us some quail eggs to snack on. They did offer the best rate, and we would have our own guide for the two of us. Our only speculation was that they had changed their name recently, which could be for various reasons. So before we signed on the dotted line, we wanted to check the Internet.
Some noodles and calamari at 'Ging Ging's', recommended in the lonely planet, for lunch, then to the beach for a way over due swim! Or so we thought...
As we were searching for a snorkelling spot, we bumped into two familiar faces, Trine and Rudolph, from our first whale shark experience in Donsol. So we ended up nattering away, and before we knew it, the sun was beginning to set. But still keen for a swim, we followed the island paths to a small cove where we enjoyed a sunset swim. It was a stunning sunset; dark pinks, purples, oranges and deep reds, lighting up the sky. Very romantic.
Only finding good reviews for 'Sea Slug Divers', we booked our dive with them for the next morning. The most popular dive on Malapascua is to dive with the thresher sharks, which also means meeting at 4.30am so that your dive begins as the sun is rising, the best time to find the sharks.
We had another tasty meal at Ging Ging's, opting for fish curry, and chicken adobo. Then a quick beer, before getting an early night.
The alarm went at 4am, and by 5am we were out on the boat, along with a French couple, and a Filipino lady with her American partner. As the sun rose, I had butterflies in my stomach, and my head was full of scary thoughts about the sharks. It was somewhere in the middle of the ocean, that we took a giant step, and made our way to the moor line, to descend. It was quite choppy and rough out at sea, and suffering a bit with a cough, I was a little panicky. Especially since this was also my first fun dive since being qualified! But as soon as I went under the water, everything was so calm, and I straight away managed to contain myself.
It was a really eery dive - quite dark, not great visibility, loads of jelly fish, and knowing that somewhere close were the thresher sharks.
The site is best known as the only place in the world where thresher sharks can be seen regularly at, and just before sunrise. They use the seamount as a cleaning station for bluestreak and moon cleaner wrasse, to remove ectoparasites from their skin, and clean their gills and mouths.
Chris and I followed our guide to a boundary line at 25m, where we waited a short while for the sharks. Not seeing any, we swam to a different location, also known for sightings. But still no sharks...
We made our way back to the first area. Then all of a sudden, a dark shape, and very long tail was swimming towards us! I couldn't believe my eyes. It was terrifying. I grabbed hold of Chris' arm for some reassurance, as the thresher shark swam towards us, but did turn away, as it was swimming around in circles getting cleaned my the wrasse.
Next thing, another one appears, bigger this time, and swims a bit closer. They must have been 5 metres away! And a white tip reef shark joined in the party too! The thresher sharks, although my natural instinct was to be scared, were absolutely incredible. So elegant, calm, beautiful, as they glided through the water. Their long, whispy tails, wafting behind them.
As we surfaced, I had a huge sense of relief, but also amazement. It was overwhelming. What an experience. The journey back, we both were astounded.
It was back to Ging Ging's for an omelette for breakfast, quick shower, pack up, and make our way back to Maya, and onto a minibus heading south.