Gato Island Diving: Exploring a Different Side of Malapascua

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Malapascua is famous for its thresher shark diving, but Gato Island is also a fantastic dive site that should not be missed if you’re in the area.

Located just an hour’s boat ride from Malapascua lies the stunning Gato Island, a pinnacle surrounded by magnificent coral formations. The island is home to a plethora of marine species, making it a prime destination for scuba diving enthusiasts.

I have gone diving in Malapascua twice and each time gave me the opportunity to visit Gato Island. In this post, I will share with you some helpful information and my experience scuba diving in Gato Island to help you plan your own trip.

About Gato Island

Gato Island is located in the northern portion of Cebu province in the Philippines, off the coast of Malapascua Island. The island is quite small, spanning slightly more than 1 hectare (2.5 acres), and is surrounded by pristine seas that provide good diving opportunities.

Gato Island is uninhabited, and no permanent residents live there. The waters around the island, on the other hand, are home to a vast diversity of marine life, including sea snakes, nudibranchs, colorful reef fish, and even white-tip sharks.

The island is particularly noted for its distinctive underwater terrain, which includes underwater cavern or tunnel that provide an exciting diving experience.

Scuba diving in Gato Island

In my most recent trip to Gato Island, I went diving with Malapascua Theresher Divers. After spending the morning diving with thresher sharks, we headed to Gato Island around 11 AM in the morning.

Gato Island Dive Map
Gato Island Dive Map

Our first dive was at the Gato Tunnel. The tunnel is around 30 meters long. The walls of the cavern is covered with corals which makes it a more interesting dive. You must bring a dive torch for this dive to help navigate.

The real highlight of this dive came when I encountered a white-tip reef shark, which was resting peacefully in a cave. I watched in awe as it lazily swam out of the cave and disappeared into the blue.

Since we were around 10 divers in our group, my dive buddy and I opted to enter the cavern last, so we were able to take our time instead of feeling rushed.

This worked out well for us since the influx of divers also disturbed the resident shark. Once most of the divers exited the tunnel, the shark eventually returned, and we got the chance to observe it.

After swimming out of the tunnel we explored the other side of Gato island. Here we saw lots of colorful soft corals.

The underwater landscape was breathtaking, and I felt a sense of peace and serenity as I swam along the walls, taking in the beauty of the island’s underwater world.

After getting our fill on colorful coral, we returned to the tunnel where we encountered the sleeping white tip shark once again. Ending our dive with a happy note.

After our dive, lunch was served on the boat. We rested for a bit and then headed back into the water around 2 PM.

For the 2nd dive we dived at the south side of the island.

This dive is perfect for macro lovers. I saw several nudibranch species and other macro critters I’ve never seen before.

Fascinating creatures such as frogfishes, sea horses, crabs, shrimps and urchins are often spotted here as well.

Gato Island truly lives up to its reputation as a diver’s paradise. I can’t wait to explore more of its underwater wonders in the future.

If you’d like to learn more about marine life you might encounter in the Philippines, read these posts:
15 Dangerous Sea Creatures in the Philippines
Marine Life in the Philippines: 100 Sea Creatures You Must See

Malapascua dive centers

Malapascua island is home to several reputable dive centers that visit Gato Island on a regular basis.

Some of the popular dive centers in Malapascua:

Evolution

Thresher Shark Divers

Devocean

Sea Explorers

Malapascua Thresher Divers

These dive centers in Malapascua offer a range of dive courses, packages, and accommodation options to suit every budget and level of diving experience. With experienced and certified dive instructors, well-maintained dive gear, and a focus on customer satisfaction, these dive centers are the perfect choice for those looking to explore the underwater world of Gato Island

Liveaboards that visit Gato Island

Gato Island is included in the dive itinerary of various liveaboard operators. These liveaboards often operate in the Visayas region, which includes dive destinations including Malapscua, Apo Island, Dumaguete, and Moalboal.

For specific itineraries and dive spots, you can check the various liveaboard operators below:

1. M/Y Almaroon Intrepid – Philippines Aggressor

2. P/Y Atlantis Azores – Atlantis Dive Resorts Philippines

3. M/Y Infiniti- Infiniti Liveaboard Diving

4. S/Y Philippine Siren- Worldwide Dive & Sail Philippines, Inc.

5. M/Y Resolute – Far East Liveaboards Inc

6. M/V Solitude One – Nomadic Underwater and Tours

When is the best time to go to Gato Island?

The dry season or during the Amihan months, from November to May, is the best time to go diving in Gato Island. The waters are normally calmer and the visibility is better during this time. This creates optimal diving conditions and allows divers to completely appreciate Gato Island.

Keep in mind that Gato Island is a year-round diving destination, and diving may still be done from June to October. While visibility may be limited during this time, you can still see the incredible marine life that Gato Island has to offer.

Recommended reading:
Amihan and Habagat: Diving Seasons in the Philippines Explained
Best Time To Dive in the Philippines + Monthly Guide on Where to Go

What to Pack for Gato Island Diving

Here is the scuba equipment and dive gear I brought when I went diving in Gato Island.

My Scuba Diving Gear
Regulator: Scubapro MK25 Evo, C300 and C200 2nd Stage
BCD: Aqualung Axiom
Mask: TUSA M-212 Freedom Ceos
Snorkel: TUSA SP-170 Platina Hyperdry II
Booties: Poseidon Pink Dive Boots
Fins: Problue
Wetsuit: Seavenger
Vest Hoodie: Scubapro Hybrid Hooded Vest
Dive Watch: Suunto D4i Novo
Dive Knife: Aqualung Blunt Tip Knife
Dive Leggings and Rash: Blue Adaptation Coral Sea Fan

My Underwater Camera Gear
Underwater Camera: Canon G7X Mark II
Underwater Camera Housing: Fantasea FG7XII
Video Lights: Big Blue AL1200XP
Underwater Action Camera: GoPro Hero9
360 Camera: Insta360 X3

> Canon G7X Mark II full review
> Insta360 X3 underwater camera review
> Scuba diving camera recommendations for beginners.

Dive Insurance
Divers Alert Network (DAN)

     

Need travel insurance for your trip? Get a quote from Safety Wing.

If you’re traveling and diving in the Philippines for the first time, make sure to read my posts on
Ultimate Travel and Dive Guide to the Philippines
Philippine Packing List: What to Bring to Your Dive Trip.

How to get to Gato Island

Here’s how to go to Malapascu Island in Cebu if you wish to dive with thresher sharks.

  1. Fly into Mactan-Cebu International Airport, which serves various domestic and international carriers.
  2. Take a van or bus to Maya Port: From Cebu City, take a van or bus to Maya Port, which is located on the northernmost tip of Cebu island. Depending on traffic and road conditions, the trip takes about 3-4 hours.
  3. Take a boat to Malapascua Island: Once you are in Maya, take a short boat journey to Malapascua Island. Several boat companies provide regular services between Maya and Malapascua, with departures every 30 minutes to an hour. Depending on the sea conditions, the boat voyage takes from 30-45 minutes.
  4. Arrive in Malapascua: When you arrive in Malapascua Island, you can walk or ride a tricycle to your hotel or dive center.
  5. Travel to Gato Island through your preferred dive shop.

For an additional price, some Malapascua dive operators and resorts may arrange private transfers from Cebu City or Mactan-Cebu International Airport. This can be a more handy and comfortable option, especially if you have a lot of luggage or want to avoid the inconvenience of public transportation. You can also check getTransfer.com if you prefer to travel in a private vehicle with a driver.

The links above may be affiliate links. If you shop through them, I’ll earn a commission at no additional cost to you. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.

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