By Gael Hilotin for Yahoo! Travel
The moon is at its peak; big, bold and bright. I was standing in the terrace of my inn about 100 meters away from Maya port, the jump off to Malapascua Island. That night, I missed the last trip of the boat that will take me to the majestic tropical island.
Malapascua is an island in the Philippines which has attracted foreign tourists especially divers because of its rich marine sanctuary. It is best known for Monad Shoal where thresher sharks can be seen regularly before sunrise. But for non-diver tourists like us, Malapascua still retains its charm even after sunrise.
Here are some suggested activities for non-divers:
Snorkeling and island hopping
Boats for island hopping can be rented for as low as Php 500 inclusive of snorkeling gears. There are four sites for island hopping -- the Coral Garden, Bantigue Cove, Los Bamboos, and Guimbatayan. Because of its rich marine sanctuary, catch a glimpse of a magical array of coral, fish and other marine life.
50-foot cliff jumping
For adrenaline junkies, you can try tombstoning or cliff jumping in a 50-foot craggy cliff in Malapascua. Daredevils usually do this during the island hopping tour, and you don't have to pay any entrance fee.
Biking or riding a habal-habal
Walking or biking around the island will give you a glimpse of the local way of life in fishing villages. Tourists can hire a bike or a motorcycle at reasonable prices. Alternatively, you can reach the lighthouse and other beaches such as Los Bamboos by riding a habal-habal (motorbike) for as cheap as Php 50 per pax or Php 100 if you are alone.
Get a tan! Lounge on the beach like most foreigners do. Or you can also reach some secluded coves by foot which is good for swimming since it is not crowded by tourists.
Indulge in Happy Hour
Malapascua reminds me of Boracay but it's more laid back. Before sunset, upscale bars and restaurants usually offer Happy Hour. You can relax at the sun loungers or cushions by the shores while sipping on tasty cocktails.
Watch the sunset or the sunrise
Malapascua Island offers a majestic sunset and sunrise. Relax or do yoga by the shores, but just beware of naughty dogs.
Despite the influx of foreign tourists, Malapascua Island remains underdeveloped; no paved roads or even street lamps to provide light at night. Although some of the village folks have shifted to tourism business to earn a living, its shores are still packed with fishing boats. I have seen a number of locals fixing their nets and preparing for a good catch.
I'm just glad that despite being a tourist paradise, it has retained its original culture. Unlike many famous beaches and islands where the original inhabitants are driven away for the sake of tourism, the locals here still thrive harmoniously with tourists. And I hope it remains that way because the sand and water are for everyone. Nobody should be driven away from the beach. Malapascua Island belongs to the local inhabitants; the water and the sand are theirs.