Thursday, 27 September 2012

Between two worlds: diving in Malapascua

Me (left) diving in Papua New Guinea in March
© Thierry Dardare/2012
There’s something astonishing about stepping out of one world and into another. I’m reading a book about the moon landings and in many ways it reminds me of diving, the key difference being the speed of the transition. With diving, you kit up and step off the back of a boat, and within minutes you’re weightless and submerged. The world of ocean surface, boats and islands is replaced by an alien, underwater realm of iridescent coral, shoals of brightly coloured fish and – if you’re lucky – a huge thresher shark gliding through the blue haze.

This February I was in the Philippines, researching a book I’m writing about the islands. After visiting the historic sites of Cebu and interviewing a church historian, I took some time out to go diving at Malapascua, a tiny island just off the northern tip of Cebu and one of the top dive sites in the world.

My journey started at the bus station in Cebu city. I had an old copy of the Lonely Planet guidebook, from my first visit in 2009, and it neglected to mention the new, modern bus service. Instead, I ended up on an old, shabby bus with seats so close together that I couldn’t get my knees in, let alone my luggage. Luckily it was half empty so I could stretch out on the front row. The door was left open and a youth hung out the doorway, shouting the destination at potential customers. Vendors would jump on and off whenever we stopped, folded bank notes clasped between their fingers.