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  • DZT Does Malapascua – 2024 Edition

    Around the start of May is a Japanese phenomenon where 4 or 5 public holidays are almost back to back. Some companies close the office for the entire week, giving their employees a full week off work, hence the name Golden Week.

    DiveZone Tokyo takes advantage of this and usually organises an overseas diving holiday during this time. This year, the destination was Malapascua, a small island in the Philippines.

    Getting There

    Most of the people attending were on the same Cebu Pacific flight fairly early on Saturday morning. For me, this meant dragging my suitcases to my local train station (20 min walk) and then a couple of train swaps to get to Narita airport on time. A little bit later in the day I could have had the convenience of local buses..

    Everybody met up at the airport and then it was a 5-ish hour flight to Cebu, the capital of the Philippines. I managed to again “smuggle” my Triton rebreather onboard as a second piece of hand-luggage; theoretically only a single piece of carry-on is allowed, but there’s no way I’m checking the Triton into the hold..

    At Cebu, Ben was already waiting for us at the airport with the shuttle buses, which would take us for the 4-ish hour drive up the island to meet the ferry (actually, the boat from the dive-shop) which would then take us to Malapascua itself. The drive was “interesting”, with the drivers certainly making progress despite single-lane roads and at times quite heavy traffic. As we had a very tight schedule, Ben had thoughtfully arranged sandwiches, snacks, and drinks for the drive.

    Thanks to the rather spirited driving, we did make it to the boat before dark which was the important thing! A beautiful sunset crossing over to Malapascua put us into our holiday mood 🙂

    Settling In

    We stayed at Evolution Divers again, which is the only tech-friendly dive shop on Malapascua. As DZT had been there a few times before already we were well acquainted with the shop and the procedures, and quite a few of the staff remembered us from the last time we were there, 5 years or so ago before Covid.

    The resort is right on the beach set amongst trees and with all the amenities one needs for a week of diving and relaxing; tech-gas mixes, rinsing tanks, restaurant and bar, and plenty of outdoor spaces to just chill and soak in the atmosphere. I had a deluxe room all to myself, which was just as well as it gave me plenty of space to sort out my rebreather.

    Since our first dive was going to be very early the next morning, everybody got busy sorting out their dive gear; for some of us diving rebreathers, this was going to take a bit longer.. but we managed to get everything sorted and, after a welcome drink, headed off to bed excited about the upcoming diving!

    The Diving

    The highlight of the dive trip were the thresher sharks. These are generally a deep-water species, and despite having a large range are rarely seen in shallower waters. Malapascua is unique in that it is pretty much guaranteed to see these sharks early in the morning as they come up to the shallows after a night of hunting. They do so to get cleaned up at cleaning stations, where they have a symbiotic relationship with various types of fish which nibble parasites and debris from the sharks’ skin and even teeth! Brave fish..

    For us, this unfortunately meant setting our alarms at 4am or so every morning in order to get our dive briefings, make sure our gear is in order, and then head off to the dive site which is about half an hour or so away from Malapascua. The last time we were there, the thresher sharks were primarily found around Monad Shoal, but, due to the presence of some tiger sharks, are mainly around Kimud Shoal now which is a bit further out.

    Over the course of the week we had many opportunities to view these beautiful creatures! The last time I was there I was with the “bubble makers”, watching the sharks from afar, and being somewhat envious of Ben getting much closer with his Triton. This time around I was part of the CCR group and had some really amazing close encounters.

    Apart from the thresher sharks we had many other dives through the week, mostly on walls and reefs with the amazing diversity of undersea life which is on offer in this part of the world. Highlights included various kinds of rays, seahorses, a huge variety of corals and other sedentary organisms, tiger sharks, reef sharks, a peacock mantis shrimp (very proud to have spotted that one!), octopus, and more.

    Apart from sealife there was also a variety of caverns and swim-throughs, and, for the CCR divers, the wreck of the Mogami Maru, a converted cargo ship for use by the japanese navy during WW2, now lying in 52m of water. This wreck was discovered by the owner of Evolution Divers, Matt, who explored it and its history, and also recovered some artifacts from the wreck. Unfortunately it is starting to show signs of collapse now.

    Enjoying the Holidays

    So between the diving and the between-dive relaxation there was not much time left. Besides, Malapascua is a fairly small island with not a lot of sight-seeing available.

    We mostly had dinners at Evolution, but spend a couple of nights exploring some of the other nearby venues for a bit of a change of fare – after a few days the Evolution menu does become a little repetitive.

    One evening we had a roasted piglet beach bbq dinner. This is a local delicacy and when the option was mooted, everybody immediately jumped at the chance. The roast piglet was, unfortuntately roasted elsewhere and then brought to Evolution instead of being roasted on the beach, but it was absolutely delicious along with a couple of local side-dishes.

    We also had two island trips, one to Kalanggaman Island, and one to Capitancillo Island. At Kalanggaman everybody had the opportunity to also explore the island, as well as a couple of dives on the local reef. At Capitancillo, the CCR divers unfortunately missed out on the island visit itself as our dive took up most of our intended time in the area.

    On the last day I went for a bit of a hike around the island. My aim was the lighthouse on the northern side of the island, but I very nearly walked around all of Malapascua! The beaches are mostly given over to the dive shops and resorts, and the nearly 7000 inhabitants live mainly inland. Unfortunately there is quite a lot of rubbish about once you get out of the tourist areas. For what it’s worth, the lighthouse wasn’t really worth the walk, but it was interesting to see more than the resorts nevertheless. On the way back I went past the pier and “downtown” where there were some markets and quite a large town, a part of Malapascua I hadn’t seen the last time I was there.

    Back to Toyko

    All too soon it was time to pack up our gear for the final time and head back to Tokyo. Good-byes were said to the Evolution staff and then we took the boat back to the main island. The crossing was again around sunset, a very beautiful way to end our time on Malapascua.

    As we were less people we only had two cars this time, and, without the time-pressure, the driving was a (little) bit more relaxed. We even stopped on the way at a Jollibee for dinner, which is the KFC-equivalent in the Philippines, although they have more options than just fried chicken.

    A few people had a hotel as their flight was later the next day, but most of us went straight to the airport for our 2am (!) red-eye flight back to Tokyo. I again managed to get my Triton on the plane as carry-on along with my backpack full of batteries and electronics, and, despite the very uncomfortable seat (couldn’t be reclined at all), I got a few hours of sleep before arriving at Tokyo. As it was later in the day I was able to catch buses back home instead of having to take the train.

    Overall a fantastic week away! Just wish it was 2… lol

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  • New Scuba Toy – Shearwater Peregrine

    Just bought a Shearwater Peregrine as a backup for my Shearwater Perdix AI (budget didn’t quite stretch to a second Perdix..)

    Haven’t dived it yet, but following are my immediate unboxing impressions (pictures (via Google image search)).

    The good:

    • Familiar layout and the same great screen as the Perdix.
    • Smaller and lighter form factor than the Perdix.
    • Mostly full-featured recreational dive computer with some intro-to-tec features.
      • No AI/compass
      • Up to 100% O2 and 3 gases
      • Lots of “tec” displays
    • Built-in battery charging is via the Qi wireless standard, so absolutely no exposed contacts.
      • But due to wrist-straps/bungees it may be difficult to use generic Qi charging pads.
    • Dive download via Bluetooth (hopefully works better than the Perdix!)

    The bad:

    • Buttons are physical rather than the piezo-electric ones from the Perdix (subjective).
    • Battery is a built-in rechargeable battery (subjective).
    • Limited display customisation (as compared to the Perdix).
    • Screen protector is a standard thin protector rather than the thick gel-like one of the Perdix.

    The ugly:

    • The charging pad uses a micro-USB cable rather than USB-C (for a brand-new product, I would expect it to use the latest standards)
    • Still fairly large (although required to support the screen, the bezel _could_ be a bit smaller given the target market)
    • No compass or Air Integration (for the price-point, many competing products offer these features)