Posted by: Jill | July 7, 2008

Malpascua Island Vacation

I just got back from a lovely, relaxing weekend on Malpascua Island, off the northern tip of Cebu. From Cebu City, it’s about a 4 hour bus ride plus a short ferry ride.

Malapascua is a tiny island with small-scale tourism and fishing industries. In my mind, this is exactly how tourism should be developed on small islands. [Granted, I hardly talked to anyone actually from Malapascua about this, and speaking with residents would likely change my mind] The tourist spots are located almost entirely along a single stretch of beach, leaving the rest of the island and the two main towns to themselves. There is, of course, a disparity between the tourists and the residents (groups of children selling shells on the beach for a few pesos to tourists sipping their mango daiquiris). However, the hotels are small (ours had only 12 rooms) and most are just collections of cottages scattered on the beach. There is nothing like the walled mega-resort of so many Caribbean islands. There are no cars on the island, so we walk everywhere via sandy paths that meander through the coconut palms. The ultimate test: I spent one blissful day barefoot, and never once wished I had shoes (most of the restaurants are open-air, beach side dining).

Where the streets are made of sand, the street signs are on palm trees.

The big draw for tourists is diving (with thresher sharks and manta rays!), and the half dozen dive shops on the island are all friendly, well-outfitted, and they coordinate among themselves so no single site gets overcrowded with divers. Divers pay a P100 conservation fee. I didn’t thoroughly investigate where this money goes, but it’s compulsory and everyone seems satisfied with the system.  Some of my favorite diving photos:

I’m not sure what this is — sponge? Fancy tunicate?

The dive site had amazing soft corals.  Look how many different shapes and colors in this photo!

This fish was wild.  It’s a juvenile Harlequin Sweetlips and looks completely different from the adult.  As a defense strategy, the juvenile mimics a toxic flatworm.  When we saw it, it was flipping and flopping all over the place, a la its flatworm model, probably to warn us not to eat it.  Difficult to photograph, lots of fun to watch.

I don’t have much of a reason to be stressed right now, but if I did, this would have been the perfect recuperative weekend. On Saturday, I swam, sunned, napped, and ate my daily mango folded inside a delicious crepe. On Sunday morning, I had my first Philippines dive. In the afternoon, I successfully avoided a traumatic brain injury from a falling coconut (thanks to many years of honing my towel-placement skills). All in all, it was a lovely weekend.

Now: I’m back in Dalaguete and on to the actual work part of my summer.



  1. So I’m wondering, did you see any of the famed thresher sharks or manta rays? Any photos to post?

    (and also: good work on the avoidance of brain injury!!!)

    -Your brain trauma-researchin’ sister

  2. Jill, God bless you for delivering some high quality vicarious relaxation! I often write my dissertation with no shoes on – that’s about as close as I’m getting to stress free these days! Next time, squeeze me in your suitcase! I may be big, but I’m surprisingly limber!

    Cheers! Have a early-morning Tuba for me!


  3. I love your life! And am glad you’re living it to the fullest! You’re the best!


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