We - myself, my wife and our fourteen year old son visited Malapascua in March/April 2008. Malapascua is a small island situated about a 40 minute boat ride off the northern tip of Cebu.
I have to say it's a trek and a half to get there - flights to Cebu via HK, a 5 hour drive up to the northernmost tip then a half hours boat ride. You'll feel pretty wrung out by the time you arrive but if you stay in the right place, it's worth every second of the trip. We did our own thing, booking our own flights & car transfer but some firms offer packages. These will probably take longer on the travel side.
We stayed at The Mangrove Oriental Resort, tucked away on the East side of the Island far enough away from the main beach but not so far as it was impracticle to reach the dive centres etc. We dived with Thresher Shark Divers, a British run outfit. Standard PADI stuff with great local guides & boatmen.
Returning to Mangrove, the word "Resort" I think ,could possibly put you off. This place is not a resort in the traditional sense. The owner, Josephine, bought the land some ten years ago or so, against the advice of all the locals who said she was mad. It was a hillside plot with a small rocky beach. Over the years she cleared the beach of all rubbish to leave a crescent shaped totally secluded private cove & built the ten or so rooms into the hillside plus a few on the sand. What's now here is, in my opinion, the most perfect hideaway you could wish for. Meals can be taken in the dining room, often accompanied by Josephine herself. There is no set menu. If you wish to eat in, ask her what's on offer that day. If you have a preference she'll do her best to accomodate it. The walk to the nearby restaurants takes about 15 minutes if you want to try elswhere. Power on the Island is sporadic, most places - Mangrove no exception - have their own generators and if you go to the main beach area you'll need a torch to get back at night. The stroll through the village, past children playing pool & the inevitable karaoke, tethered pigs and inquisitive locals was, to me, one of the highlights of the trip.
No roads here so no cars. Mopeds are about but even they may be phased out if the council has it's way. Despite the village being dirt poor the most magnificent Catholic church takes pride of place in the village centre. Aways lights burning bright here late into the night despite the villagers being in candlelight!
There's no getting around the fact that Mangrove is probably the most expensive place to stay on the island but it's all relative. We had a house on the beach with nothing between us and the sea some 15 metres away. It was huge, sleeping three of us with ease. If you're a backpacker on a budget stay elsewhere. Wouldn't want you shattering the peace anyway!
Josephine was in the throes of building a new restaurant at the top of hill which may, in this travellers opinion, spoil some of the charm it had during our stay. Mealtimes always felt like we were dining with a friend in her house but in the larger new facilities this may not be so. Time will tell.
My purpose for this visit was the shark diving. I always dive solidly on my dive trips. Not here. After a few dives, very good I must say, I found laying in a hammock with a good book listening to the water lapping at the shore & the Palms swaying above me was more then enough to keep me out of the water. No contest really. Truly idyllic. This traveller has never been so relaxed or read so many books on a trip in his lfe!
If you like the idea contact Josephine directly - google Mangrove Oriental for the web site. Be aware that as of the date of this review communications to Malapascua are still very slow. Internet is patchy since there is no standard phone service on the island, only mobiles. To counteract the reliability problems Josephine relies on her daughter in Hong Kong to receive all emails then relays them in phone calls to her mum. This will mean delays to your enquiries. If you have the patience to do this she can arrange all transfers from Cebu city and back.
Most of the dive centres can arrange the transfers and accomodation in most of the resorts on the island but be aware they will take a commision from the chosen resort as their fee. They will offer you a package - diving , transfers & accomodation but I reckon doing it yourself gives more flexibility and possible savings. Josephine tells me if you book direct with her she pays no commision so will pass that saving on to you!
Just do me favour. If you like it, don't go telling others. Lets keep it to ourself!
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- Also Known As:
- Mangrove Oriental Hotel Malapascua Island
- Mangrove Oriental Resort Malapascua Island, Cebu Island