“….Many visitors to the island of Malapascua fall in love with the place as soon as they arrive. The beauty of the island easily lives up to your expectations, and the warmth and charm of the locals is infectious. The size of the island means that dive centres and hotels find themselves nestled amongst the houses of local villages, creating a special atmosphere.”
Malapascua lies approximately 4 miles (7km) north of Cebu, in the Visayan Sea. Despite its size (only 1km by 2.5km), it is still home to approximately 8000 inhabitants. The main language is Cebuano, followed by Filipino (Tagalog), although you will find that a large number of the locals have a solid grasp of English.
The main resource of the local communities is the sea. This either takes the form of income from fishing or from the growth of the island as a world famous diving location and the tourist activity that accompanies this.
Arguably the main driving factor behind Malapascua’s recent growth is that of nearby ‘Monad Shoal’. Monad Shoal (approximately 8km from Malapascua) is a seamount rising 250m from the sea floor. It is one of the rare places in the world where Thresher Sharks (Alopias pelagicus) can be seen regularly while scuba diving. The IUCN Red List classifies this species as ‘vulnerable’ but information about it is scarce. The Thresher Sharks use the seamount as a cleaning station for Bluestreak and Moon Cleaner Wrasse to remove parasites from their skin and clean their gills and mouths. The shoal also attracts other pelagic fish such as Devil Rays and Eagle Rays.
While Monad Shoal is undoubtedly the main attraction, the island offers plenty of other quality diving. Marine habitats include sandy bottoms, seagrass meadows, mangroves and coral reefs. In addition to Monad Shoal, Malapascua has other top class dive sites on offer; Lapus Lapus and Dakit Dakit are great examples. And you don’t have to ask many people to learn that Malapascua provides some world class macro-diving!
However, as is so often the case in communities such as Malapascua, tourism and fishing activities place real pressure on the marine environment. The construction of resorts/hotels on the island, and the growth in population also stretch the infrastructure of the island itself. Initiatives have been developed to help the people of Malapascua to address these issues and better manage the activities upon which their livelihoods depend. Part of the work of People and the Sea is to support these efforts and assist in the collection and dissemination of meaningful and robust data.
When Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines in late 2013, it soon became clear that it had left a trail of complete destruction in its wake. While spared some of the devastation seen on neighbouring Leyte, Malapascua was hit hard by what was later categorised as the most powerful typhoon ever recorded at landfall. While some effects of the typhoon are still palpable, with the help of a huge international effort, the amazing resilience that characterises the Filipino people and a lot of support from and hard work by local businesses, Malapascua has made a remarkable recovery.