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Dive Review of Sea Explorers/Ocean Vida in
Philippines/Malapascua, Cebu

Sea Explorers/Ocean Vida: "An enjoyable week", Jun, 2015,

by Frederick R. Turoff, PA, US (Top Contributor Top Contributor 30 reports with 13 Helpful votes). Report 8306 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Malapascua is a small 1x3 mile island off the north tip of Cebu. Getting there in June, 2015 involved a short flight from Manila to Cebu City, then a 3 hour ride north on a road on which many areas are being worked, then a 30 minute boat ride to Bounty Beach, the south end of the island where there are numerous resorts and dive operations. [If you have a connection in Manila allow at least 2 hours as there are three terminals, with the domestic terminals a short ride away from the international terminal.] I stayed at Ocean Vida, run smoothly by German Sven Zenker, while Sea Explorers oversees the dive operation. John & Kat Nash ably direct that program, with numerous dive guides available. My buddy and I shared a garden room on the beach level and just around the side of the main building that housed the operations center, the dive area and the second floor restaurant. [There was no photo room, so photographers had to take cameras back to their rooms, but it is planned for the near future.] Internet is free, but occasionally we had connection problems. All of what I saw was beachfront, so walking around was easy and often without shoes. The main village and a fishing village are close by for those who want to see those sights.

Three dives are offered daily with an optional dusk/night dive. Nitrox is available and each day we had to test and log our tanks before leaving for a dive. Fills were 200 bar, just shy of 3000 psi. Dive plans are listed on magnetic boards at the prep area where divers put their magnetic name tiles showing who will go where and when. Nitrox tiles also indicated who used nitrox. Each dive returns to the resort, unless it is a special trip to a distant site, such as Kalanggaman Island, where a small portion of a cement wall is all that remains of the buildings destroyed by Typhoon Hainan (Yolanda) two years ago. Happily, Ocean Vida was restored in short order under Sven’s direction. The dive boats were typical large banca riggers, and usually carried 10-12 divers with at least 3 divemasters. The boats had ample room for all to gear up, and had a toilet in the back – quite convenient for many. Warm drinks were offered after dives. Divers included folks from China, Singapore, Australia, England, Germany, Switzerland and US, but everyone spoke English. Although the boats had only a small camera bucket, cameras were carefully treated by the crew. Back on shore there were dedicated rinse tubs for cameras & computers, regulators & masks, dive clothing and BCDs. All gear is stored in an adjoining room with assigned gear baskets and hangers. Often our gear was set up for us on the boat, with our gear basket near our tank/BC/reg station. The seas were relatively calm while I was there, so getting on and off the boats via the narrow, ribbed gangplank was not a problem, especially since they often were driven onto the sandy beach and the crew members were always there to help any needing help, especially caring for our camera rigs.

Dives often went an hour, with the exception of the thresher shark dives where we waited at 95’ for the show. Leaving at 5a for this required some discipline, but was rewarded with seeing those interesting animals. I did four dives to this site, Monad Shoal, where the threshers come regularly to be cleaned in the early part of the day. The first two times there were 4-5 other boats there, so for the last two we went at 6a (so the others would be leaving) and had the place to ourselves. The sharks came within photo distance on dives 2 and 3, but they stayed in the distance on dives 1 and 4. Strobes are not allowed there, since this spooks the sharks, so we relied on high ISO and available light. Upon leaving the deeper part of those dives, there was a plateau about 50’ where a small spotted eagle ray often cruised and needlefish schools hung just below the surface above our safety stop. Sven went on several dives with us, and has many excellent photos of thresher sharks since he has many opportunities to see them.

I saw numerous wrasse that I hadn’t seen before along with a few nudibranchs and blennies that were new to me. Nudibranchs, flatworms and shrimp were seen on every dive. A black hairy frogfish was new to me but didn’t make a good photo – since it was black all that could be seen were a bit of inside its mouth and its fleshy lure inside the outline. Our guide, Arnil, found bargibanti pygmy seahorses a few times. On several dives we were entertained by cuttlefish pairs. An ornate ghost pipefish danced for me in front of a rope coral, another blended into a sea fan. An orange frogfish the size of a tennis ball hopped off its coral perch and walked to me. Other than the thresher sharks and three white tip sharks resting in a cave, we saw no other sharks. Where there were coral gardens, they were beautiful and healthy. Water temp was an enjoyable 83-85 degrees at most sites, but cooler at the thresher shark depth. Visibility generally was 50-100 feet, with Monad Shoal worse only on our last dive there – the sharks were ghost images. Weather was mostly sunny and warm, with noticeable rain and clouds only one morning.

A breakfast buffet was included in our package, and the food at the resort was good enough so that we ate almost all our meals there. One could eat in the restaurant, on the beach or at the bar by the beach. For those who dislike cigarette smoke, the bar area each evening was quite smoky, so I generally avoided it. We ventured to a nearby restaurant with some new Chinese friends our last night for a change of pace and enjoyed a magnificent sunset to start our evening. Ocean Vida has a nearby spa/vegan restaurant called Buena Vida. With massages costing only $14/hour, we spoiled ourselves with 5 massages in our seven day stay, missing only when we failed to reserve a reservation in time. With the attentive staff, smooth operations and fine water conditions, we had an enjoyable week. Sven, John & Kat saw us off early on our departure day and sent us a photo for another memory, a nice touch.
Websites Sea Explorers   Ocean Vida

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving USVI, BVI, lesser Antilles, Bonaire, all three Caymans , Coco Island, Revillagigedos, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Philippines, Micronesia, Red Sea
Closest Airport Cebu City Getting There Fly from Manila - leave at least 2 hours between flights as there are three terminals in Manila with the local flights at a different terminal than international flights. Once in Cebu City, there is a 3-hour car ride north to the tip of Cebu, then a half-hour boat ride to Malapascua. The road is under much repair this summer, 2015 so it can take longer until the road is finished.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, no currents
Water Temp 83-85°F / 28-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50-100 Ft/ 15-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Check your nitrox before dives; most dives went around 1 hour. Only the thresher shark dive was shorter, since we waited at 95' for the sharks.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 1 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 4 stars
UW Photo Comments Rinse tanks in dive prep area, but only a small bucket on boat, however boat crew handled cameras with care and often carried cameras to and from boat for divers. A photo room is planned for the near future.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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