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When it comes to diving-focused destinations like Koh Tao, or the Perhentian Islands, or Malapascua, I get a lot of questions about what there is to do for non scuba fans. Malapascua is still deliciously undeveloped, and so in this particular case, the answer might seem to be, well, not a lot. Unless of course you consider lazing in a hammock under the golden sun, floating in warm turquoise waters, and playing in golden sands to be something — which needless to say, I do.

Still, sometimes you do need a shot of adrenaline, or a little bit of physical activity, lest those muscles atrophy completely. Feeling restless one day, Heather and I set out to completely circumnavigate Malapascua, a journey thatΒ  told us would take about three hours.

Thus far, we had only really covered the small Southern side of Malapascua’s vaguely rectangular outline. The full roster of Malapascua’s tourism infrastructure — hotels, restaurants, and dive shops — is contained to that small 10% of the island, so we were eager to explore what lied beyond.

Of course, one barrier was that there was no map, per se, other than the vague outline in our guidebook. How hard could it be? We’d simply follow the coastline, and when that become impassable, we’d slip into the narrow roads and passages that made up the islands’ villages.

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We marveled at how the small villages we passed showed only faint hints of the modern world. Fighting cocks crowed from under hand-weaved baskets, and half dressed children ran out to yell “hello!,” but karaoke music reverberated from thatch-roof huts with satellite dishes.

We had worried about feeling intrusive, especially as the lack of organized roads often meant we were practically tramping through someone’s front yard, but we were always met with smiles and friendly waves in the right direction.

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Of course the day we chose to complete this mission clocked in at about a billion degrees (scientific measurement), so we were thrilled when we came upon a beach that we were hoping to cool off in. Relief was nowhere to be found, however, as the bay felt like bathwater.

Still, we had a nice breather watching local kids amuse themselves by flinging seaweed at one another, and taking shadow pictures with the starfish that littered the sand.

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Soon we were rounding the corner on Guimbitayan, the opposite corner of the island from where we were staying. Due to the isolation of the village we were shocked when, mid conversation with three young sisters, the cheeky youngest one blurted out, “Give me money?” It was the only moment in an otherwise lovely day where I felt my heart constrict and I feared for the impact that tourism was going to have on the life of the many children we had so delighted in seeing play around the island.

Although I had spent almost three weeks in the Philippines at this point, I still wasn’t quite used to the sight of churches in Southeast Asia — especially considering they were often the most elaborate structure for miles.

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We were trying to find a way to reach the lighthouse when two bold little boys appeared offering to show us the way. We hesitated, because we were worried about the etiquette of having to tip them (and I don’t like to give money to children), but they charged off into the bush — and we just shrugged our shoulders and followed them.

The lighthouse itself wasn’t anything special, but the views were.

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Once we had exhausted our picture-taking desires, we started to head back down the tiny hill we had ascended. But the boys weren’t done with us yet. “Cliff jumping?,” they asked, with smiling eyes.

When in the Philippines….

After that little adventure, which left me with a bruised ego (I wasn’t feeling quite as brave as I usually do) and Heather with a bruised knee (she jumped a bit far and smashed into a rock), we were more than ready for a quiet stroll back to our bungalow.

As I’ve said many times before, I’m so grateful to travel with Heather. We can both go camera wild and not worry hat we’re annoying our travel buddy by taking forty seven frames of the same bangka, and it challenges me creatively to be around another artistic spirit.

Though as you can see from the resulting images, inspiration was not in short supply on Malapascua.

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This little island touched my heart, and remains one of my favorite destinations of my most recent five month stint in Southeast Asia! Which photo is your favorite?

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39 Comments...
  • Heather
    June 11 2013

    Fantastic photos, I love the colours on the boats and the water. Cliff jumping looks like tons of fun, except for the bruised knee part (I can picture that happening to me…). Makes me want to visit the Philippines!
    Heather recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 11 2013

      Normally I’m a VERY enthusiastic cliff jumper, but this time I was really hesitant! I guess you’ve got to listen to your gut…

  • Meihoukaiandra
    June 11 2013

    Hi Meihoukai,

    Your photos are beautiful! One of the things I love about reading your blog πŸ™‚

    I’m wondering if you have any posts on how you edit your photos to give them such vivid colours? I did a search but couldn’t find any information. I’m very slowly learning about photography and would love some advice on photo editing.

    Looking forward to seeing more of your adventures capture through the lens of your camera!

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2013

      Hey Meihoukai! I use Adobe Bridge to lightly edit all my photos, though I think many people use Lightroom for the same. Honestly though, Malapascua DID look this vivid and bright! It was one of the most colorful places I’ve ever been!

      • Meihoukaiandra
        June 12 2013

        Thanks Meihoukai! I appreciate the information.

        Malapascua looks amazing and I think I have a Philippines adventure already planned out based on your posts alone. Now to swindle more time off work!!

        I really enjoy your blog because it’s chronological and you give detailed information about the time you spent in each place, what you did, where you stayed. I find I very helpful in planning trips for travellers like myself who can only do 2 or 3 weeks at a time in each Country πŸ™‚

        Great name btw πŸ˜‰ (hehe, corny I know but I don’t encounter many Meihoukaiandra’s!)

  • Annie of TravelShus
    June 11 2013

    Gorgeous photos! Reminds me alot of undeveloped central america. but with way better water color. Maybe its the religion thing, but I have never thought that of anywhere in Asia.
    Annie of TravelShus recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2013

      Yeah, The Philippines has such a distinctive vibe from the rest of Southeast Asia due to the pervasive Christianity here. By the way, your Nicaragua photos have me itching to book a ticket!

      • Annie of TravelShus
        June 12 2013

        thanks! Nicaragua completely caught me off guard with its awesomeness – many posts to come. I had totally written of central america, but nica proved me wrong big time. I recommend it if you need a close-to-NY warm weather cure-all. you comin to NYC soon?

        • Meihoukai
          June 14 2013

          I’m actually just up in Albany right now! Itching to get down to the city but some medical appointments have kept me up here for most of this trip home :/

          • Annie of TravelShus
            June 14 2013

            Well, if you are headed down here, let me know. we should meet up!
            Annie of TravelShus recently posted..

  • Sky
    June 11 2013

    Beautiful photos! I can’t choose one as my favorite. I love strolling through areas and getting off the tourist trail, when I can! Though it is sad to think how tourism may end up affecting these kids!
    Sky recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2013

      Yeah, that comment broke my heart. At first I thought I must have misheard her, but when she repeated again, and with such a cheeky grin, I couldn’t avoid it! Of course we did not do so.

  • memographer
    June 11 2013

    Looks to me like a walk around paradise.

    FYI, the cliff jumping video didn’t play for me (says it’s private).
    memographer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2013

      Ah, thanks for the heads up! Just went and changed the setting. Doh!

  • I love the sixth one down. The pink flowers really pop!
    Kaitie of The Smiling Sightseer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2013

      I was thinking that one might be frame worthy! Thanks Kaitie!

  • I just adore these photos, heaven on earth!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2013

      Thanks Andi! That’s a lot coming from someone who has been to as many beautiful beaches as you have!

  • Olivia
    June 11 2013

    Stunning! I like the one with all the flip flops and that teeny pair of baby crocs : x

  • Stef
    June 12 2013

    Stunning photos, cannot decide which one I like most! I will note the name of the island, seems absolutely worth a visit πŸ˜‰
    Enjoy your travels.
    Stef
    Stef recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2013

      Absolutely! One of my two favorite spots in the Philippines (with Batad)

  • Shaun
    June 12 2013

    I know I would have been a restless to see other parts of the island as well. The trek looks fun and seeing those little villages along the way make it just as interesting. Did you make it around the whole island?

    LoL! I like all the ropes holding up the basketball nets.

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2013

      We did! Alllll the way around. Okay, it wasn’t so hard really. Just hot!

  • TammyOnTheMove
    June 13 2013

    What a wonderful little place. Poor Heather for hurting her knee though.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 14 2013

      I know! It’s never fun to get hurt in places where you realize how little access you have to medical care…

  • nicole
    June 17 2013

    Amazing pictures! May I ask if you know what camera Heather used for most of her pictures? (I couldn’t fin it on her site)

    Thank you!!

    • nicole
      June 17 2013

      If she used a DSLR maybe you also know which lens(es) perhaps? πŸ™‚
      I am a bit lost ons deciding what camera(‘s) to bring on my ten month trip to south east asia..

      xx from Holland

      • Meihoukai
        June 17 2013

        She uses a professional level Nikon with all top end lenses… Email me if you’d like the specifics (which I can forward to her) but I’ll warn you her equipment is in the five figures as she’s a pro photographer for a living! πŸ™‚

        • nicole
          June 25 2013

          I was allready afraid that would be the answer.. πŸ˜‰ Thanks anyway!

          • Meihoukai
            June 27 2013

            Well I know my pictures aren’t QUITE as spectacular as Heather’s, but I am very happy with the cameras I travel with! Check out my Gear and Products page for more info…

        • Nicole
          June 27 2013

          Trust me it was one of the first things I did after seeing you posts/ pictures, because of you I am buying the s100!
          I want to bring a more advanced camera as well though but don’t want to bring my dslr because I find it too big and I am one of those persons that will constantly worry if my camera is save πŸ™‚ decisions, decisions…

  • Nini
    August 25 2013

    You take very lovely photos, Meihoukai. Next time you’re in the Philippines, drop by Davao City. Especially during the Kadayawan Festival (August 16-20). You won’t believe the colors (especially during the street dancing and floral float parade)! πŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      September 5 2013

      That sounds amazing, Nini! I love a good festival, so I’ll be sure to try to make it to that one next time πŸ™‚

  • I love the pictures, Meihoukai! It really shows off the beauty of the island without need for dramatic effects. My favorite pic is the one where you jumped off the cliff. Wonder if I can do that myself! Hahaha.. – Dee
    Dee | tropical vacation spots blog recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 11 2013

      I was actually really nervous to jump off that cliff! Normally I’m not so skittish but I think a number of things made me jumpy, not the least of which being the crowd of local boys that gathered to watch the crazy white ladies jump around in their bikinis!

  • Kevvy
    April 6 2015

    Hi Meihoukai. Is it at all a place to have a small wedding ceremony?

    • Meihoukai
      April 6 2015

      Hey Kevvy, I don’t see why not! It would certainly be a gorgeous backdrop for photos!