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Malapascua. Any recommendation?

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We are planning to go to Malapascua in February for 5 days. We thinking to do the Thresher shark early morning dive and then may be macro stuff in the afternoon. Does anyone have any good experience to share? We are not sure where is the best location to stay if we are looking for a quiet get away but without having to walk too far with the camera rig to the dive/port. For the dive shop, we are looking for a small group and a guide that dive well with photographer.

 

Cheers

 

Si

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There's a plethora of dive ops and places to stay. My favorite place is still the Blue Coral. The Bounty beach facing rooms catch the breeze and it's nice and cool throughout the day and night without the need for a/c. Most of the boats take off from the beach in front. It however can get a bit noisy at night with the music from Maldito's and in the mornings on the other side of the beach where the fishermen come in to sell their fish. But you'd be out diving Monad when that happens.

Exotic is on the other side of the beach and is all inclusive dive resort. they have nice rooms with a/c and fan. CocoBana has nice little cottages and rooms on the main beach as Blue Coral. These are the ones I've stayed in and a few others but my fave is still Blue Coral. I just left my camera stuff at the dive shop since we had the boat to ourselves.

Ops:

Andrea and Trev of Thresher Shark Divers are great people and if Trev likes you, TWIN TANKS for Monad Shoal can be had, but I didn't say that. :blush: They still have a faster boat and if you offer to pay for the extra fuel, they can get you to Calangaman or Gato faster.

Sea Explorers are also a good op. Exotic's own op is very decent too and they have been hosts to TV and photogs as well.

Food:

La Dolce Vita: great italian food in the Visaya Sea! Better than 90% of the restos in Manila by a lot!

La Isla Bonita: Good food and I hear the seafood is awesome too. But I wouldn't know. SLLLOOOOWWWW service!

Sunsplash: Thai food in PI. Not exactly authentic but it beats pinoy food. ;)

There are a few other restos which had nice food including local favorites like Ging Ging's and Exotic's own resto.

Just bring a head lamp and watch out for falling coconuts. I almost got beaned twice in my several visits there. It can be a noisy place which is why Exotic is probably the quietest of the lot.

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I have stayed at Malapascua Exotic twice. Very good dive op, and comfortable rooms, I always took the hot water/AC room.

 

I stayed there as it was the only place with 24 hour electricity (last visit in 2005, so don't know if that is still true.) You might want to check if this is still true, cause there is no fan or A/C without electricity.

 

There was no fresh water for camera rinsing or in the bathrooms. You must purchase fresh water to drink, and I improvised a camera rinse bucket with a crate I had.

 

Have a good trip.

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Many many thanks for both of the swift and detailed answers. :) We've just booked our flight today and I can't wait to go. We checked with exotic and the rooms are not available already (may be because it's chinese new year that weekend?). So we are looking at Mangrove Oriental but I've heard it's a trek getting to the dive shop every morning.

 

I guess no electricity during the day can be a nuisance for charging batteries but I can bring a few extra rechargable batches and chargers to make the most of it during the night. Does the shower work when the electricity is turned off? I'd need to change the lense between the dives and would need to rinse it during the day.

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Many of the resorts keep the generators running in the daytime if the resort has guests. The promised municio provided electric is still vaporware I think. Dive shops also run their generators when they need to fill tanks. What you MUST invest in is a voltage regulator or surge protector. Generator power can have spikes and drops, especially when switching.

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Next year's Chinese New Year coincides with the Valentine's Day... :) Guess it would be busy busy time, if Exotic is booked out...

Both times I have stayed & dived with Exotic. They will usually arrange for 1 guide per group & will try to keep the group small. But it is still good to tell them your preferences upfront... The blue-ring octopus at my avatar is fr Malapascua...

Have lots of fun! Good luck with the thresher sharks!

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Just remember, strobes are not permitted during the Thresher Shark dives.

 

Stu

 

 

Thanks Stu, I have seen it in the previous post somewhere. Does it include torch and other lights? This should be the first thing for dive operators to mention but I guess it has detrimental effect on the booking.

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Thanks Stu, I have seen it in the previous post somewhere. Does it include torch and other lights? This should be the first thing for dive operators to mention but I guess it has detrimental effect on the booking.

 

If I remember correctly, even my little uK Q40 light was not allowed at Monad Shoal...

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I stayed at Hippocampus recently. Clean rooms, great food. Aircon, hot showers but not in all of the rooms. Dived with Sea Explorers, no complaints.

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Hi !

 

Given the strobes are forbidden and the low light conditions in early mornings in Malapascua, what lense would you recommend to shoot the thresher sharks ?

 

Will they usually come close enough to use the Tokina 10-17 FE? Or should I best take a fixed focal lense with wide aperture such as the 35mm 1.8 (using a DX camera) ?

 

Thanks,

Axel

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The problem with shooting with a longer lens is DOF. If you get within 2m of the thresher, shooting with a 24mm @ f4 will give you a DOF of less than 2m (if my guesstimate is correct). Threshers can be pretty long. Normally 24-35mm (FX equivalent) would be a nice shark lens since you won't be getting too close, so maintaining f5.6 is important, which means high ISO. I suggest a 16-35 or 17-55 f2.8 for flexibility.

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It is extremely dark at that time in the morning when the threshers come up to the top of the reef. I suggest you get an FX camera set to ISO 1000 at least for ambient light pics. I used strobes and no-one said anything about them being banned.

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John, the ban was instituted in Apr 08 I believe. When were you there last?

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John, the ban was instituted in Apr 08 I believe. When were you there last?

 

 

March 2010.

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Lemme guess... you dived with that liveaboard which doesn't follow the rules the island based operators adhere to. If I remember correctly, they also tend to drop divers onto other groups and ruining their interaction by overcrowding cleaning stations already occupied by others interacting with threshers, thus scaring away those very threshers when it could have stayed for awhile and be shared by all. Not a very cooperator operator. The point of the staggered allotted times was to minimize crowds and allow all the operators to have quality time with the threshers.

I remember they were French? I almost gave them the Lambert Wilson/Merovingian lines!

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Lemme guess... you dived with that liveaboard which doesn't follow the rules the island based operators adhere to. If I remember correctly, they also tend to drop divers onto other groups and ruining their interaction by overcrowding cleaning stations already occupied by others interacting with threshers, thus scaring away those very threshers when it could have stayed for awhile and be shared by all. Not a very cooperator operator. The point of the staggered allotted times was to minimize crowds and allow all the operators to have quality time with the threshers.

I remember they were French? I almost gave them the Lambert Wilson/Merovingian lines!

 

Not a liveaboard, the French owner of Abyss seemed to be very well received by the locals. He's been diving there for 20 years. Maybe it's a rule like the one some Emperor dive guides tried to enforce in the Red Sea - without success...and no, we didn't drop on top of anyone else although we did gather up one time a happy local dive-guide ascending on our mooring line.

Edited by John Bantin

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That's right. It's a big day boat and you crash at various hotels along the way. They were staying at that Mangrove resort.

I actually find that no strobe rule to be worthwhile due to the traffic of people with strobes going through Monad. Having been there a few times, over the years, it's pretty obvious the more people flashing the fewer sharks hang around. I think TSD's Andrea was saying since they instituted that ban, the encounters have increased despite more bubble blowers than in the 90s. I can't argue with facts, no matter how much I want well lit pics of threshers. ;)

As for being welcomed, that's the great thing about the filipinos. They are magnanimous people who are friendly. Confrontation (other than the military of course) isn't in the general culture. Regardless of who the owner is and how well received they are, their diving practices did not impress me. I'm glad to hear they don't do that while a magazine writer is on board.

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Maybe it's a rule like the one some Emperor dive guides tried to enforce in the Red Sea - without success...

 

That doesnt mean that the ban is without merit. Ensuring that the sharks remain comfortable with the interactions is the number one priority

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Thanks for your replies ! ;)

 

My intent was to dive next May with TSD. Andrea did confirm the ban on the strobes. As you mention, the light is pretty low in the morning and as I will use a D70 (which I don't believe is really good at high ISO...), that will be kind of challenge !

 

Do you have any samples in the galleries of successfull shots there ?

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I you don't want to disturb the animals, you should not be there in the first place.

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John

You know the point of the ban isn't just about protecting the shark but about protecting the industry built around Monad. Sightings were going down as tourists increased. They looked for a reason why and found the strobes from P&S and DSLR were scaring off the sharks, since they are sensitive to light. My personal experience is mixed, but they "generally" swim away when strobes are used. The operators on Malapascua banned strobes and lights, and the encounters increased again. A win for tourists and operators, and not so nice for photographers looking for close up shots of threshers.

As for your ability to use a strobe, we all know that bans are usually for the masses and certain people are exempt (especially for writers of articles which will increase tourism). AFAIK, all the land based operators enforce that ban on customers (VIPs not withstanding).

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I went to Monad last year and was pretty pissed off that i was banned using my then small strobe while this 'writer' was allowed to use twin ike 150s which needless to say, he had one attempt at a shot. A single fire and the shark bolted, ruining everyones experience that morning.

 

Thankfully in later days we saw many sharks and even had 'private' viewings by going to a smaller less populated cleaning station ended up with just me, my wife and the guide after the non-nitrox divers went up. amazing viewing.

 

Now, im as keen as anyone to get a shot of something, especially an amazing shark like this, but as a marine biologist and resort operator in the PH i can fully understand the ban and adhere to it. We ban use of strobes with the resident whale sharks here in Leyte and although it can annoy photogs, it enhances everyones interaction and experience. Not a single shot for a single page spread in some sh!tty newsletter with a circulation of 6 people, and claim to be a 'writer' or 'journalist'.

 

But back to the original question, Trevor and Andrea run a good operation and we highly recommend them. The divemasters know what they are doing and find some amazing subjects for you. They have been there forever and are greatly involved in the protection of the sharks and the developement of the area as a whole.

It is also good if u can talk to Simon @ the thresher shark project. Its not a dive op, but a volunteer program but they will give u some great info on the threshers. They are based on the mainland tho so u may have to arrange a visit.

 

The island does not and probably never will have fresh running water. The wells just arent there. All fresh water is shipped in. Exotic supposedly does have the best filtration system to get as fresh water as possible but its still brackish.

 

Blue coral is ok. It where we stayed but dont expect too much. The showers are salt water - nothing nicer than washing that salt water off ur body after a dive eh? the power is 6-6 so get charging them batteries while u can. And our shower drain smelled bad. but its close to the beach, has good views and is fairly cheap.

 

As for eating. Ging gings is the place. Its a tiny native eatery but the food is amazing for a few pence. U will have to ask ur dm to walk u there. it aint easy to find. Sunsplash has great food, but is ruined by white pervs at the bar. My wife and i were disgusted by what people were openly saying out loud in a restaurant - and we live here so are fairly used to that side of the islands! And it wasnt a one off, we tried again later in the week and it just seems to attract them. Hope you have a better experience there tho.

 

Enjoy ur trip.

 

Olly

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