Malapascua island diving

Dive Sites

Dive sites on Malapascua Island

Malapascua Island: One destination; everything here! 

Malapascua is the only place in the world where the magnificent thresher shark can be seen daily. 

It also boasts some some of the best and most varied diving in the Philippines: guaranteed whitetip sharks as well as other sharks and large rays; wrecks and reefs; wall dives and muck dives; beautiful unspoiled coral gardens, mating mandarin fish, frogfish, seahorses, cuttlefish, nudibranchs galore, endless crustaceans, amazing macro and much more…

Scroll down for more details, wrecks you’ll find at the bottom!

Monad Shoal

Divers Close to Thresher sharks on Malapascua island

Depth  26m+ / Travel Distance 20 mins

Monad Shoal is an underwater island on the edge of a 200m drop off, and if you’re on this page, we’re sure you already know that it is famous as the only place in the world where thresher sharks can be seen everyday!

TSD dives a special area for the sharks. Most dive centres will take you to a line where you sit and wait for 30 minutes with all the other divers from all the other shops. 

Our dive is not like that; it is a swimming dive. Close encounters are common and you generally won’t run into many, if any, other divers. As you are swimming, you will see other marine life too, so in the rare instance you don’t see a shark, you will still have had a great dive!

The shoal also attracts other pelagics such as large rays and other species of shark. Monad Shoal is perfect for Nitrox. TSD also offers a unique PADI Thresher Shark Diver Specialty Course. 

Please note that this is a more advanced dive site and if you are Open Water please contact us for your options.

Gato Island

Depth 24m / Travel Distance 40 mins

Gato Island is one of our most famous dive sites. TSD’s famous saying is that “You come to Malapascua for the thresher sharks, but leave with Gato in your heart”. 

Gato is a marine reserve and sea snake sanctuary. It has at least five dive sites with a huge diversity of marine life. We are constantly seeing new creatures. 

At all sites you can see such things as banded sea snakes, cuttlefish (often while mating), seahorses, nudibranchs, frogfish, scorpion fish, porcupine fish, and smashing mantis shrimp. Away from the reef you can see schools of squid and big-mouthed mackerel attracted by the bait-balls. There are many white-tip sharks in residence at Gato, as well as bamboo and cat sharks.

The coral is in good condition and the rocky island has many interesting underwater rock formations, overhangs, and swim-throughs.

 

Gato: White-tip Alley

Depth 24m / Travel Distance 40 mins

You are 95% guaranteed to find whitetip sharks sleeping under rocks, and if you are lucky you will see them circling. 

They grow to huge sizes – sometimes over 2 meters. Other life here includes banded boxer shrimp, nudis, seahorses and scorpion fish, spider crabs, frogfish, lionfish and whip coral shrimp, perfectly colour matched to the huge whip corals found inside the ‘Seahorse Cave’.

Gato: The Guardhouse

Depth 24m / Travel Distance 40 mins

Drop down to 24m to find the extremely rare pygmy seahorse, both pink and yellow as well as spider crabs and cowries. 

Then work your way back along a wall where you can find lion fish and many nudibranchs, including the beautiful Spanish dancers, up to 30cm long. Painted frogfish are often in residence.

Gato: Nudibranch City

Depth 22m / Travel Distance 40 mins

As the name implies, we find nudibranchs galore at this site. 

Also around are lots of hermit crabs and scorpion fish.

Gato: The Cave

Depth 24m / Travel Distance 40 mins

Or more accurately, “The Tunnel”. Journey underneath Gato Island and come out the other side! This 30m tunnel houses all the usual cave dwellers: many types of crab big and small, lobsters and cardinal fish. You should also encounter some large puffer fish and perhaps bamboo and cat sharks.

Most exciting of all, the cave is home to white-tip sharks! You may see them hiding in a corner as you pass by inches from their face, or see their silhouette as they circle near the exit in the midst of a huge school of smaller fish. If you are careful and move slowly, they will swim straight by your face. The sight is simply breathtaking. Not for the faint of heart. For experienced divers only.

Gato: Cathedral

Depth 22m / Travel Distance 40 mins

Explore some of the more amazing rock formations around Gato, including the stunning Cathedral rock. 

This is a great place to see sharks – we have seen as many as 15 white-tips circling. It is also possible to see blue-spotted rays.

Lighthouse

Depth 10m / Travel Distance 5 mins

The mandarinfish is possibly the most beautiful fish in the world, certainly the most psychedelic. There are few places where they can be seen, but Malapascua is one of them. And – even better – on Thresher Diver’s famous “Randy Mandy” dive you will see mating mandarinfish in their full glory!

Mandarin fish are quite rare and very skittish, but in Malapascua you have a reasonable chance of a sighting at this time of day, especially in low season when there are less divers in the water. They have a unique mating dance; the male (who is larger) dances with the females one by one and takes his time choosing. When he finally decides on his mate, they spiral up towards the surface, shimmying together above the corals, explode in a puff of gametes, and dart off separately into the corals.

A one-of-a-kind experience, not to be missed. What a photography opportunity!

Dusk is a time most people rarely dive. However, it is one of the best times to observe marine life because of the increased feeding and mating activity. It is the time when all the action takes place on the reef! Daytime animals mix with night-time animals, and all hell breaks loose!

As day turns into night, and the mandarin fish return to their hiding places, the creatures of the night come out. You should catch some interesting nudibranchs and a variety of cephalopods – reef squid, bobtail squid, starry night octopus, blue-ringed octopus and cuttlefish. Your DM will take you to find some seahorses and you may also see scribbled and banded pipefish, juvenile sweetlips, banded sea snakes, huge crabs and sea stars, many varieties of shrimp and the occasional frogfish.

Many of our divers have told us this is the best night dive they have ever done.

Also near this sight is a small World War II wreck that is a great shallow dive during the day.

Lapus Lapus

Depth 18m / Travel Distance 5 mins

Lapus Lapus Island has some of the most spectacular coral growth we have ever seen. There is a huge variety of soft and hard coral, much of it in pristine condition. 

Other marine life includes giant frogfish, painted frogfish, smashing mantis shrimp, various sweetlips, cuttlefish and lion fish. There are many nudis, several varieties of commensal shrimp and also porcelain crabs.

 A great macro site and at the end of the dive you come to 8 meters onto a seemingly endless beautiful soft coral garden.

North Point

Depth 22m / Travel Distance 5 mins

Beautiful soft coral and varied marine life including frogfish of different colors, fire urchin hikers specially zebra crabs, candy crabs, and nudibranchs. Great macro. 

An amazing rocky hang-over could easily keep you busy for the whole dive.-

North Wall

Depth 24m / Travel Distance 5 mins

This is a short wall at 24m, about 10m long by 6m high.  

Its nooks and crannies hide a wide variety of life including giant frogfish and nudibranchs. 

After investigating the wall, swim out from the wall into a sandy area which is home to a field of sea pens and many other critters, then let yourself get taken by the current on an amazing drift dive.

Chocolate Island

Depth 16m / Travel Distance 20 mins

Chocolate Island is a beautiful shallow dive site and a macro photographer’s delight. The healthy soft coral is home to a large variety of life: sea snakes, snake eels, moray eels, cuttlefish (including flamboyants), seamoths (Pegasus), large crabs and juvenile batfish. 

Macro includes nudibranchs, flatworms, shrimp, shells and cowries. Flatworms are common and if you are lucky you will see them performing their jaw droppingly beautiful shimmery mating ritual!

Bugtong Bato

Depth 30m / Travel Distance 5 mins

Bugtong Bato is an underwater pinnacle, very near Malapascua.

There is a large school of batfish is residence as well as squid, mackerel, nudis, scorpionfish, lion fish, zebra crabs and whip coral shrimp.

Quiliano

Depth 20m / Travel Distance 5 mins

A beautiful site with better than average visibility and fish life, soft corals, spearing mantis shrimp, pygmy sea horses and a lot of macro.

Deep Rock

Depth 25m / Travel Distance 5 mins

Deep rock is 5 minutes from Malapascua. 

It starts at 5 meters and slopes down to 22m. It has frogfish, nudis, pygmy seahorse, robust ghost pipefish, juvenile batfish, harlequin sweetlips, spotted leather coral cowries and and bigger black cowries

Bantigi

Depth 18m / Travel Distance 5 mins

This is a great muck dive – some divers have told us that Bantigi is even better than Lembeh!

 It starts as a shallow reef that turns into a sandy bottom at around 12m where you can find all kinds of unusual creatures. There are goby and shrimp living together in holes everywhere and the tiny rocks often house small mantis shrimp. You will often see fire urchins, zebra crabs, dwarf lionfish, cuttlefish, seamoths, crabs, snake Malapascua Island Divingeels, frogfish, nudis and snowflake moray eels. One rock is home to a large carpet anemone. The anemonefish that live on it often have a patch of their orange eggs to guard and get quite aggressive if you get too close! If you can brave the nemos, look below for porcelain crabs, banded boxer shrimp and lionfish.

Occasionally we see mimic octopus and stargazers here. Ask for our DM Tata to help you to find those!

Ka Osting

Depth 12m / Travel Distance 5 mins

Adjacent to Bantigi, Ka Osting offers some similar diving to Bantigi with the added attraction of hairy frogfish!

Kimud Shoal

Depth 40m / Travel Distance 60 mins

Kimud Shoal is a sunken island. The top of the island lies at 12-16m, and the steep sides drop off to 200m+. Its main attraction is hammerheads, thought sadly in recent years their numbers have dwindled and sighings are rare. We do still see them occasionally, best time is December to May.

Hammerheads are more often seen in ones and twos but around April is the best time to catch them in full schooling glory; this has not been seen for several years though.

Kimud is near to Monad Shoal and in the same trench so we often see thresher sharks and devil rays. Turtles are occasional visitors. The top of the island has a lot of hard coral, and many excellent hiding spots for moray eels and frogfish. The sides are covered in soft coral growth. Many species of shrimp can be found among the corals and several species of unusual nudibranchs. The east side is especially interesting for its rock formations and overhangs. Because of the drop off, at any point on the island there is the chance of seeing other pelagics such as sharks, rays and tuna. Dolphins are also in the area!

Nunez Shoal

Depth 40m+ / Travel Distance 2 hours

A stunning wall dive, Nunez Shoal hosts a wide variety of life. As you approach the wall and drop off, look ahead into the sandy areas for groups of garden eels. 

As you drop over the wall, look out into the blue for pelagics such as eagle rays and sharks, and along the wall you can spot white eyed and snowflake moray eels, lionfish, scorpion fish, and rare nudibranchs galore among the giant sea fans and sponges. 

Visibility can be around 30m and there are big schools of small fish. Nunez shoal is on the edge of a drop off to almost 1km, so expect the unexpected!

Kalanggaman Island

Depth 40m+ / Travel Distance 90 mins

Kalanggaman Island is the picture postcard desert island, actually chosen from over 7,000 islands to grace the cover of Jens Peters – the definitive Philippines Travel Guide. The island itself is just palm trees and a pile of white sand surrounded by crystal clear water and steep walls dropping off into the blue.

Vis is usually good and fish life is plentiful. Drop down the walls which are covered in hard corals and gorgonian fans and inhabited by many varieties of fish. Look for pelagics out in the blue including sharks, rays, tuna and barracuda, or unusual fish like clown triggers on the wall. You can also see many critters including nudibranchs, crabs and shrimp. As you come back along the top of the wall, look for fields of garden eels, and large patches of hammerhead nudis which always seem to be mating! You can often find the beautiful white mushroom coral pipefish, ornate ghost pipefish and candy crabs as well as the very special Denise Pygmy seahorse which is currently in residence.

Dolphins are often seen on the way there or back.

Often we will stop on the island for a beach barbecue during our surface interval and overnight stays can also be arranged.

Sambowan

Depth 30m / Travel Distance 3 hours

This is a very special trip to an isolated area that is rarely dived. 

Expect stunning reefs with a lot of fish life. Including blacktip reef sharks, beaked coralfish, Bartlett’s dragonets, Denise pygmy seahorse, barracuda, tiger mantis shrimp, nudi galore and much more! 

We usually run this as a 3 dive day trip, including breakfast and lunch, with a possible stop at dive sites on the way.

Capitancillo

Depth 30m+ / Travel Distance 2 hours

A picturesque and pristine Coral Island that derives its name from a notable American Navy Captain Cillo, who during the second world war, beached his vessel on the Islet. This is a stunning wall dive of soft corals, sea fans and a plethora of colourful macro-life.

Dakit Dakit

Depth 15m / Travel Distance 5 mins

Dakit Dakit is very close to the dive shop and has beautiful soft coral, nudibranchs, banded pipefish, seahorses and cuttlefish.

House Reef

Depth 9m / Travel Distance 5 mins

We have been building and artificial House Reef since 2008 and it is starting to attract plenty of life. It has several old boats, a basketball hoop, Stonehenge, a toilet and several other structures that have been constructed especially for the reef.

The East Side

Depth 10m / Travel Distance 5 mins

A side of Malapascua Island that is sometimes sheltered when the rest is not, this is a pretty dive site. 

The hard coral is in great condition and there is a good variety of marine life: dwarf lionfish, nudibranchs, squid.

The Sand Patch

Depth 10m / Travel Distance 5 mins

Search through the sea grass and the sandy patches on the east side of the island to find an amazing variety of life. 

There is plenty to see here including moray eels, lion fish, crabs and many other bottom dwellers

Twins

Depth 10m / Travel Distance 5 mins

Off the north of Malapascua, Twins is an easy, shallow dive site covered in soft leather corals. 

There are some interesting rock formations and good macro life.

Maria’s Point

Depth 10m / Travel Distance 2-3 hours

Great diving because of the strong currents here. Clear waters, good corals and an excellent variety of life. 

For advanced divers only.

Buhoc Point

Depth 30m / Travel Distance 2 hours

Buhoc Point is a site off North Leyte rarely visited by divers. 

The pristine corals slope down to a sandy bottom where you are sure to spot some blue spotted rays if you move slowly! A variety of other marine life can be seen here

Maripipi

Depth 30m / Travel Distance 3 hours

Another rarely visited dives site, Maripipi has everything you could want in a dive site: excellent corals and plentiful fish life including sharks and rays.

We dive here on a minimum 2 day dive safari.

 

Shore Diving

Depth 5m / Travel Distance 0 mins

Shore diving is limited but possible. It is very shallow off the main beach, and you will have to swim out for 200m to get even 3m. However, there are some good tings to see. The first 100m is mostly sea grass, but it hides beautiful starfish, puffers, pipefish, nudibranchs, small octopus, and is the schooling ground for many juveniles. 

The sea grass turns into hard coral, home to schools of cardinalfish, damselfish and sergeant majors. Look carefully and you can find lionfish, moray eels and incredibly well camouflaged and very weird looking sea hares. Occasionally seen are blue-ringed octopus and eagle rays. You must do this dive with a float or SMB above you at all times as it is so shallow.

Malapascua's Wrecks

From beginner to technical diver, Malapascua has a wreck for you! If you’ve heard that Coron is the only place in the Philippines with good wreck diving, think again!

Lighthouse Wreck

Depth 5m / Travel Distance 5 mins

The wreck at Lighthouse was a Japanese World War II landing craft. It was bombed just before landing with a large shipment of cement destined for a gun emplacement. The wreck is in very shallow water – 3m average – and is broken up with the hull in two pieces. The nearby rocks that you will see are actually bags of cement and you can still see the weave imprints on some of them!

Marine life around the wreck include yellow-tailed barracuda, hermit crabs, octopus, pipefish, juvenile harlequin sweetlips, and banded sea snakes. This is a great boat for wreck diving newbies and you may even dive on it during PADI Open Water course dives. It is also perfect for practicing reel use and running a line in preparation for wreck penetration into the Dona Marilyn Wreck (shown here) on the PADI Wreck Diver Specialty Course.

Nearby is Lighthouse (see above) – easily reached from the wreck to see abundant mandarinfish and seahorses.

Dona Marilyn Wreck

Depth 18-32m / Travel Distance 90 mins

The Dona Marilyn was a Cebu-Manila passenger ferry that sank in a typhoon over 20 years ago. It was a huge disaster and many people lost their lives. The wreck is around 100m long, and now lying on its starboard side, amazingly still all in one piece. Long lost fishing nets encrusted in coral are draped all over it, giving it quite a spooky feel!

Marble rays, blue-spotted rays and whitetip sharks live under the bow and eagle rays and devil rays sometimes pass through. The wreck is covered in a healthy growth of soft coral, and the resident fish grow to a large size. Several varieties of sweetlips grow bigger here than at any of our other dive sites and the juveniles are often seen. Large cuttlefish and scorpionfish are common as well as nudibranchs and flatworms. A giant moray eel is living in the wreck. You can also see many of the beautiful purple fire sea urchins, accompanied by their resident zebra crabs and Coleman’s shrimp. Penetration is possible for qualified divers. There is lots to see inside as it has remained unsalvaged

We dive here on a minimum 2 day dive safari.

 

Tapilon Wreck

Depth 22-28m / Travel Distance 30 mins

The ‘Taplion’ Wreck, is an unidentified World War II Japanese cargo carrier, named for the nearby town on the mainland. The boat was hit by torpedoes and although it lies in several sections, it is still recognizable as a vessel. There is an abundance of life on this wreck and it is covered in beautiful black coral, some bushes containing hundreds of almost invisible shrimp jumping around.

There are also many species of flat worms and nudibranchs, as well as moray eels, cuttlefish, squid, and scorpion fish. Huge marble rays are sometimes seen; also the fire sea urchin and its accompanying zebra crabs, squat lobsters and Coleman’s shrimp. Sometimes we have several ornate ghost pipefish and frogfish in residence and if you are lucky you will see a flamboyant cuttlefish.

A recent attempt to salvage the wreck uncovered bullets and bones so this is not a dive for the faint-hearted!

Pioneer Wreck

Depth 42-54m / Travel Distance 10 mins

The “Pioneer” Wreck is still unidentified but thought to be either the Japanese WWII Oakita Maru or Mogami Maru.

It is about 60m long, in the upright position and still mostly in one piece. There is a torpedo hit on the stern but the prop is still remaining. The wreck has more fish than anywhere else on Malapascua due to its depth, as well as sharks, rays, barracuda and groupers. Only diveable when the tides are right, so you should arrange this in well in advance. Find out more about technical diving at TSD Tec.

We have other secret sites that we dive occasionally and we try to go out looking for new sites regularly, so come and dive with us to find out more!

Our Dive Schedule

Malapascua Thresher Shark

Our dive schedule is not fixed, but below is a typical example. 

5am – Thresher Shark Dive

Our first dive of the day is at 5.30am and it is well worth getting up for. We provide plenty of coffee and tea, and you will get to see an amazing sunrise. On the dive you should get to see the rare sight of thresher sharks! You will be back in time for an early breakfast. If you wish to leave earlier or later we try to be flexible. In hammerhead season we often leave earlier to try to catch them at the break of dawn.

We are the only shop that regular offers double shark dives (and yes, we see them!), as well as 3-dive trips starting with the 5am shark dive, giving you extra time for more diving or enjoying the island. 

Day Dives

Day Dives During the day we have single dives at around 10am and 2pm (+/-), or 2-3 tank day trips, depending on the dive site . See our list of dive sites for more information.

5pm – Thresher Shark Divers Famous Randy Mandy Dive with MANDARIN FISH!

In the late afternoon we dive Lighthouse, where the rare and psychedelic mandarinfish are guaranteed. Do not miss the exotic mating dance of the male and his adoring females.

Many of our divers have told us this is the best night dive they have ever done.

6pm – Night Dive

We also regularly run full night dives to other sites around Malapascua. The sites are very different in the dark, so it is a great idea to do a few of these both by day and by night!