Cora de Boer, a Filipina from Concepcion, Cebu, her Dutch husband Dik, and their friend Mikael Persson first “discovered” Monad Shoal as tourist divers in 1997. They’d been visiting Malapascua since 1996, asking the local fishermen where they thought the best fish and coral reefs were to be found. The diving was great and the island wonderfully untouched by tourists.
Cora remembers that back in 1997 they brought with them a compressor and six tanks and stayed at Cocobana. Sometimes they would go to sleep on plywood mats under the stars at the end of the beach.
During one of their dives they found Monad Shoal, a spot in the ocean where the deep water rose up to form an underwater island the size of Malapascua itself, and where strangely shaped sharks with long, scythe-like tails could sometimes be seen jumping out of the water like dolphins. Dik and Mikael went on that first dive to Monad, and Cora went with them on the next.
In love with the island, the de Boers bought a beachfront property and built their own cottage at the end of Bounty Beach in 1996. Visitors and passerby would ask them if they were willing to rent out their cottage. This gave them the idea of building another cottage to rent out.
“That’s the first cottage,” Cora de Boer reminisces, pointing to the nipa-style cottage with a verandah nearest the beach.
Malapascua Exotic Island Dive and Beach Resort rivals pioneer Cocobana with 30 rooms, ranging from standard to super-deluxe to beachfront, each one well-maintained. The deluxe rooms are airconditioned with mini bar, satellite TV, and hot and cold running water. The super-deluxe accommodation can sleep four adults, while the beachfront can sleep two.
The resort’s location is unbeatable. “Absolute beachfront,” is how the brochures describe it. Set at the end of Bounty Beach, Exotic is near enough to the heart of the tourist action on Malapascua, but far enough to allow some quiet and a relaxed atmosphere.
Personally, what I liked about Exotic was it was built with divers in mind. There is a fully equipped 5 IDC dive center – which means the resort is certified to teach the full Instructor Development Course - the first on the island. Guests can also hire a full set of dive equipment and have access to professional divemasters and guides.
In January 2008, Exotic started to offer the PADI Thresher Shark Specialty Course, a certification program for divers. Developed by Exotic’s then-dive coordinator and manager Zoe Latimer, the program is designed for divers who wish to learn more about the thresher shark and earn their credits towards a PADI Master Scuba Diver or Divemaster certification. The course includes classroom sessions and Monad Shoal dives, in which participants collect data to be submitted to project Aware for use in their worldwide shark survey.
Latimer led Exotic’s dive program in 2008 with her husband Tim. Today, divemaster Rebecca Johanson has taken the reins as dive course director.
The resort also offers those little touches that make life easier, a small footwash at the end of the stairs, a clothesline and a rack on the verandah to dry your gear; and generators that provide 24-hour electricity. There is a spa tent, beachfront bar and restaurant known for its good food. “We aim to be the best dive resort in Malapascua, “ says Cora de Boer with a smile.
How to get there
From Cebu’s Mactan airport, take a taxi to the Cebu Northern Bus Terminal, and board one of the frequent buses to Maya town (about P160 or US$ 3.4). Travel time is about three and a half to four hours to Maya, the jump-off point to Malapascua Island.
If you prefer convenience and comfort, you can also hire a van from the airport or via your hotel. Try Avis Rent-A-Car. Most resorts on Malapascua are also happy to help arrange transport for you.
From Maya, you can buy a ticket to Malapascua from banca (outrigger boat) operators. Public bancas leave the pier every half hour up till about 2pm, and cost P80 per person. Sometimes it is also necessary to take a dinghy out to the boat, for P20 per person and piece of luggage. If you miss the last trip or if you're traveling in a big group, you can also charter a banca for P1,000 to P1,500. It is best to ask your resort to arrange a private banca ride for you to get the best rates. The boat ride to Malapascua takes 30 to 40 minutes.
Malapascua Exotic Island Dive and Beach Resort, P.O Box 1200, 6000 Cebu City, tel +63 917 327 6689, +63 999 997 6601, or +6332 516 2990
For more on thresher shark diving in Malapascua, click here.
Originally published in InFlight Traveller April to May 2008. Updated October 2015