Diving is what brings in most of the tourists. The diving here is truly world class. In Asian Diver magazine, Monad Shoal was named number 11 in the top 101 dive sites in the world. And since it has become even better with daily manta sightings.
Malapascua is of course famous for its daily thresher shark sightings. Thresher sharks are a deep water shark and are very rarely seen by divers. Malapascua is the only place in the world they can be seen every day. They are very distinctive with their long tail, which is about half of their body length.
Many people do not realize it, but Malapascua has many other things to offer scuba divers. Malapascua is probably the best place in the Philippines for big fish encounters. There are regular sightings of giant manta rays. These are huge! At up to 6 meters across, they sometimes come so close you could almost touch them. Sometimes you will be lucky enough to see them on the same dive as a thresher shark. What heaven for a diver! Whitetip sharks also grow very large and close encounters are almost guaranteed at Gato. Hammerhead sharks are around from December to April although these are less common. Also get devil rays and marble rays. Other very occasional visitors include turtles, whale sharks and once there was even a tiger shark!
Gato Island is another very famous Malapascua dive site. Gato has a great variety of creatures - seas snakes, cuttlefish, seahorses (large and pygmy), frogfish, many nudibranchs, loads of macro and good soft coral.
Malapascua is also very well known for incredible macro at all its dive sites. You can see many types of shrimps and crabs, including harlequin shrimp, ghost shrimp and xeno crabs. Pipefish are all around including several types of ghost pipefish. The night dive is spectacular, with mandarin fish mating all over the place, seahorses, bobtail squid, sea hares, and huge crabs and sea stars. Mimic and blue ring octopus can be seen as well as the occasional stargazer and hairy frogfish. Some have said the muck diving rivals Lembeh Straits.
There are several wrecks at various depths for all levels of divers from beginner snorkelers to technical divers including a couple from WWII.
The list of wonderful creatures goes on and on. For more about the diving, the informative Thresher Shark Divers web site has a very comprehensive page on the marine life.
Note: If you are looking for millions of fish and endless visibility, Malapascua may not be for you. Average vis is around 20m, and like many places in Asia, many of the reef fish have sadly been over-fished at some of the dive sites. But most people find that the pelagics along with the profusion of rare macro more than make up for that.
How to choose a dive shop
This advice goes for dive shops anywhere, all around the world, and does not reflect on any of the operators on Malapascua.
Price is of course important but it should NEVER be your main reason for choosing a dive shop. Remember that when you go diving you are using life support equipment in an alien environment so you need to make sure everything is up to scratch. It has to be functioning and well maintained. Some dive shops take that responsibility seriously and some do not.
As well as asking the price, ask to see their equipment and their clean air certificate. Do they carry oxygen on their boats? Do they used certified divemasters? If not what is their level of experience? Do the guides know Malapascua well or have they not been here long. Some of the dive shops have guides (usually locals) who have done thousands of dives here - those are the DMs you want!
Does the dive shop ask to see your certification card or ask your level of experience? If they don't care about your certification or your experience level, how can they care about your safety or make sure you go to dive sites within your level of experience?
In general do they seem like a professional dive operation or not?
Remember you are also there to have fun, so have a chat with the staff and see if you think will enjoy your time with them. If you are on your own, perhaps they have some social facilities to help you meet other people, or do they just shut at 5pm and leave you to your own devices?
If you want to take a diving course, ask to speak to your instructor. Do you get a good feeling from him or her? This is especially important if you are learning to dive.