The Malapascua Island is a small and pleasant island located off the northern tip of Cebu, Philippines. It is about 2.5 kilometers long and 1 km wide. Its long white sand beach stretches around the south-east coast of the island facing Cebu. The island is popular for some extraordinary snorkeling and diving spots, and has even become a major dive center due to the presence of thresher sharks that can be seen every day at the Monad Shaul, which is a soft-coral habitat. Malapascua has been noted to be one of the few places where tourists can see these harmless sharks at only 23 meters’ distance downward.
Despite Malapascua being such a popular tourist destination, it is still wise for any traveler to familiarize himself with the dos and don’ts here. Malapascua is not as developed as some of the other tourist spots of Cebu, for instance, and that may lead to problems later for the unprepared tourist. Here are but some of the reminders for your visit Malapascua Island:
- Do make sure you are insured if you engage in any diving activities. If you have normal travel insurance, your insurance will most likely cover it. But if not, we highly recommend that you get insured through Divert Alert Network or DAN.
- Do bring cash with you at all times. There are no ATMS on the island as the nearest ATM is about two hours away by boat and bus. On the other hand, you can exchange money on the island. Know that many establishments there do not accept credit cards as well so you had better be ready with your spare change.
- Do respect the local modesty. Filipinos have a very reserved and conservative culture, which means wearing skimpy bikinis on the beach and into the village is considered vulgar and insensitive to most of the locals – even if they don’t say it. Sunbathing topless for the ladies is a big no-no.
- Do minimize your negative environmental impact on your surroundings. Garbage disposal and collection is a major problem on the island. Refill your water bottles instead of buying new ones. It turns out cheaper anyways. When diving, don’t take anything with you and don’t leave anything behind.
- Don’t give money to the beggars. The Malapascua Island fortunately has few beggars as locals have a strong sense of family and community. However, some cheeky beach kids may demand money from you. Simply ignore them.
- Don’t buy seashells or corals. Importing and exporting such trinkets may be illegal to your country. Collecting such items may also cause a seriously damaging effect to the marine environment. Politely refuse to buy from persistent vendors.
- Don’t do drugs. We are not trying to sell any advocacy here but recreational drugs have not really reached the Malapascua Island yet, and most of the locals clearly wish to keep it that way. If you do want to get wasted, a bottle of Tanduay (local rum) is your best bet. In the worst case scenario, some shady locals might offer you unknown substances persistently. Just keep in mind that you have no idea what he is selling or what it contains so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Better yet, don’t do drugs anywhere else as well.