Moalboal and its mesmerising sardines
If god really did create everything he did indeed start with the natural beauty of the Philippines and nowhere is the more obvious than Cebu. Moalboal is on the western side of the island and is about half way to Santander home to the Whale Sharks (part two). My track record for actually seeing aquatic wild life on tours was extremely poor but I was sitting positively and absolutely smitten with what I had encountered here! I was even in a French café with real coffee and three French tourists squeezing croissants.
Getting here – (exchange rate at the time of my trip was 1 pound to 60 Pesos)
Flights – Cebu City does cater for international flights however I found this a bit tricky to fit into my schedule and more expensive and instead I chose to fly from Manila. Flights from Manila are cheap (I paid 75 Pounds return) and regular (about 10 a day) so this is an easy and short journey (aprox an hour flight time) I used sky scanner for this but it did not have the local flights on there, worth checking out to save a bit of money.
Busses – You get and pay for your ticket from the assistant that are on the bus when you’re underway, so don’t panic! The bus destination is on a sign in the front window of the bus and the staff are always willing to help you, as I found out many times, Australian accents are harder for them to understand!! They can be waved down from pretty much anywhere you are along the route and if you are going to do the Whale Sharks and Sardines, this is a big loop from Cebu City which makes it even easier. Times are irregular but frequent as is the way in the Philippines. Most communication with the driver and assistant are done through a combination of hissing, clicking, whistling and or tapping which I found rather amusing.
Moalboal – To beat everyone hustling for taxis and busses at the airport take a right out of the terminal and get yourself a ticket on the blue public bus to the shopping centre (this is the last stop for this loop) from there you need to get to the South Terminal there are many options for this – taxis, Uber and busses. It is only a short trip but will get you ahead of the crowd.
The bus to Moalboal itself takes about two and a half hours but remember in Philippines this is a rough guide depending on traffic.
Accommodation – A lot of the accommodation in the Philippines is referred to as ‘Transient House’, don’t let this turn you off as there are bargains to be had and they offer all the usual amenities you will need. These can be walked in to straight off the street and booked right then and there, hot tip though, ask to see the room before you pay. Also, try your luck with a haggle you never know! From the bus stop my accommodation was a short trike ride away from the bus stop and was easy to get too. I recommend staying close to the water near the sardine tour, although it’s quite, there are restaurants and bars that are all very cheap. I stayed two nights at a backpackers that was right in the middle of everything and was just over 20 Pounds for a private room and shower for two people. If you don’t want to take the risk of missing out, the usual hotspots for booking hotels like booking.com have you covered.
Highlights – For me hands down the highlight of Cebu was the sardines I just found it so captivating watching them. There are two ways to see them, first you can take the boat tour which we did and it is about 1500 pesos for the boat so the more people you share with the better – I paid 500 and there is no need to pre book. The boat takes you out to an island to look at the coral the returns to the drop off to search for sea turtles (easy to find) then surprisingly back to where the boat took off from to see the sardines. This made me feel slightly ripped off cause I could swim to where the turtles where too and didn’t think much of the island but then I remember the conversion and at just over 8 pounds for the trip it’s not too bad. If you’re looking for a cheaper version (I did this the next day for more photos) I hired a snorkelling and fin set and swam back out to the turtles and sardines (about a 50m swim) this set me back only a couple of pounds and I got the same results! If you go to Cebu this is a must see.
Kawasan Water Fall – It’s hard to pick the best waterfall here but the two I saw are worth the trip!! From Moalboal it’s about a 30 min trip – we went on the back of bikes but there are trikes as well. (500 pesos for two and they wait at the falls and take you back) it was a white knuckle ride on the back of the bike with a midget trying to win an imaginary race, it was about this time that I thought it would be nice to have some kind of insurance as my safety sunglasses and pluggers (thongs, flip flops) were not going to save much!! At the entry point it’s about a 10 min walk along the river up to the falls. At the falls there is a restaurant and seating, there are a few stalls along the way too if you need a drink or snack. It’s free to swim at the falls however if you want to get on the bamboo raft and get dragged under the falls there is a fee for this. I chose just to swim out there!
Options – There is a canyon trip that ends at the Kawasan Falls, you jump down into the swimming spot at the end. This looked very cool but does take up a lot of time so take that into consideration when booking your time here.
Scuba diving – For those already qualified there are plenty of places offering dives which means competition and cheap prices. They also offer qualifying dives and this is very cheap in comparison to the western world prices. Again this would need to be taken into consideration for time spent there!
Tips – Underwater camera is essential! I bought a bag for my DSLR and was about 3% confident it would work but it lasted me the whole trip and got some good and bad results. Although I didn’t see it, I’m sure that it would be possible to hire a camera – at the Whale Sharks spot it was 500 pesos to hire the camera.
Have a plan the list of awesome things to do here is long so keep that in mind.
Be prepared all the usuals mum would keep on at you about, sunscreen, water, food and travel insurance! I must admit I have never travelled with insurance but it’s pretty obvious that this is a big risk.
Overall Moalboal is amazing and I could see that a lot of people would travel to Cebu just for the Whale Sharks but keep this place in mind as you will not regret it one bit!