Sadly, the Doña Marilyn is only half the dive it used to be, as illegal salvors tore off the rear end of the ship in 2018. It remains a great dive, but for long-time visitors this is a bitter pill to swallow.
The Mogami Maru.
The Mogami Maru is an excellent wreck dive just 30 minutes north of Malapascua, but at 50m deep should be considered a technical dive only. Our best guess is that this was a Japanese trawler converted into an auxiliary submarine-chaser during WW2.
Her sinking by a US bomber off Cebu was documented on 12 September 1944, and the catastrophic damage around the stern suggests that she was carrying depth-charges.
As with the Doña Marilyn, the visibility tends to be a bit lower and it takes a moment to sight the wreck as you drop through the water column.
Upright on a sandy bottom, the Mogami Maru looks impressive, all the more so as you are likely to be the only visiting divers.
A piece of metal from the hull has been torn off by an explosion and created a large swim-through along the starboard side, and a few seafans line the bottom.
The Mogami Maru has accumulated a coral coating, and as you swim up onto the deck plentiful yellow cup corals add a splash of colour. Artefacts discovered by divers have included bones, cutlery, broken cups and the bottom half of a gas-mask, a poignant reminder of the lives lived and lost aboard.
The bow has a large cabin-like area, visible from the outside through several windowed gaps. This space has become a refuge for fish and, with parts of the roof now open, you can drop in to say hello.
Meaning “the only rock” in local dialect, Bogtong Bato is an underwater seamount just off the northern end of Malapascua. This relatively small seamount can be subject to strong currents, so dropping onto it quickly is essential or you risk losing the site.
A festival of colour and a feast of macro life awaits. Every inch of the pinnacle is covered in coral, mostly soft, creating a tapestry of pinks, purples and orange.
Remaining gaps are filled by cup corals, crinoids and anemones.
Down in the 25-30m range there are a few seafans, and bargibanti pygmy seahorses are a possibility, especially with the aid of an expert guide. Scientist George Bargibant accidentally discovered these 2cm-tall animals in 1969, and somehow they manage to be cute despite their distended bellies and wart-like protrusions. They adapt their colour to match their host gorgonian and are extremely delicate.
Bargibanti pygmy seahorses are a possibility at Bogtong Bato.
Never touch the fan with a pointer or any other gear, avoid the use of constant light, and keep strobe power low if photographing. We always dive with Evolution Dive Resort when in Malapascua, and it maintains admirably high standards of diver education and environmentally conscious dive practices.
Its unexplained abundance of cephalopods makes Malapascua an outstanding night-diving destination (even if the early-morning wake-up call for the threshers makes night-dives a painful prospect).
Shallow rubble sites such as Lighthouse and Ka Osting are ideal places to track down blue-ringed octopuses, among the most remarkable creatures to encounter under water.
They live in the shallows and are typically active at night.
When agitated, by a perceived threat or while hunting, they flash iridescent blue rings that warn of their alarming toxicity, able to paralyse both prey and predators, and venomous enough to kill humans.
Blue-rings were the symbol of the octopus cult in the James Bond film Octopussy, and their leader Octopussy wears an alluring blue-ring dressing gown in the film. Her top bodyguard even has a blue-ringed octopus tattoo on her buttocks, which Roger Moore casually remarks on post-coitus.