We’ve been on Cebu Island in the Philippines now for a few days, long enough to get a first impression of what this stage of our adventure is going to be like.
After a nightmare series of flights from Australia (Brisbane-Sydney flight cancelled, Sydney-Manila delayed, then missed the Manila-Cebu leg), we *finally* got to our first stop – Moalboal.
Due to the delays, we finally flopped into our bed at 3am on Sunday morning and were due to start our diving course at 9am. Great! I messaged the dive shop owner to let him know, and luckily we woke up feeling reasonably normal and made it down there for 11am, so not too bad.
What’s Moalboal like?
First impressions of a country can affect your experiences in that place for the first few days while you settle in. I always think “everything looks better in the morning” and try to not form an opinion until I’ve slept on it. By night, and in the pouring rain, Moalboal didn’t seem too great. However, we woke up on our first morning to our air conditioned room (thank god, it’s so hot here), sunshine, and a fantastic breakfast at our accommodation – Roo’s Guesthouse. Things were looking up.
One of the guesthouse owners, Hanna, is really friendly and happy to help us out with info on what to do here, where to eat, and planning what to do when we leave Moalboal. All of her staff are equally friendly and the guesthouse is small enough that they know each guest by site and have our room key ready as soon as they see us. It’s really easy to get talking to other people here too, as most people seem to be travelling alone, so are happy to grab a beer or dinner with you.
Moalboal itself is a seaside town on the south west of Cebu Island, small enough to walk everywhere along the seafront within minutes, but large enough to have a fairly good selection of restaurants and bars – if you’re here for a week, you won’t have to eat at the same place each night… one tip would be to venture up the main street away from the shoreline, and you’ll find some cheaper restaurants with some amazing food. Three Bears is bloody brilliant… rum and coke for 50 pesos, which is 70 pence UK, and beautiful food for £3 (200 pesos). We’d also suggest stopping at Shaka for smoothies after a dive, they’re gorgeous.
Quite a few of the bars and restaurants are right on the seafront, and perfectly placed for some amazing sunsets. Chili Bar in particular does great cocktails and has a great view. It’s a little pricey at 250-400 pesos for a pizza (£4-6, breaking the budget), but Blakey reckons it has the best beer he’s had since leaving the UK.
Of course, Moalboal has it’s share of taxi drivers shouting out locations at you as you walk past, and kids coming up with bowls of bracelets to buy, but it’s way more chilled out than many other places, no one really hassles you at all, it’s super friendly.
Diving in Moalboal
I’ll post in more detail about learning to dive in the Philippines, but for now I’ll just say that I think learning to dive here was the right choice. Not only is it cheap as chips to get your open water certification here, but the reef wall is a few metres out from shore, and most dive shops are on the waterfront. This is amazing because it means you can just enter the water directly from the dive centre, walk out a few paces and then you’re down and diving.
They take boats out to dive sites further away, and some of them are meant to be world class. We’ve been mostly sticking nearer the dive centre for our open water course, but tonight we’re doing a night dive, and tomorrow a deep water dive, so we should get some new experiences.
One of the best things we saw on one of our dives was the sardine run – something Moalboal is well known for. I believe you can book snorkelling or diving experiences especially to see it, but we were lucky enough to be in the middle of our fourth dive when we got surrounded by millions of sardines, all swimming as one unit. It was like something out of Blue Planet. Then a sea turtle would swim by, or some clown fish would poke their heads out of the coral, and my mind would be blown all over again.
Another activity that everyone seems to squeeze in around their dives is the canyoneering trip to Kawasan Falls. From what we’ve heard, and read in other blogs, this basically means jumping off a series of waterfalls into the pools below, then scrambling over some rocks to the next one and doing the same. This seems pretty dubious to me, but you get helmets and life jackets apparently, which makes it OK. We’re doing it on Saturday so I’ll have to let you know.
Keeping things open
We’ve kept things completely open ended for the Philippines, which gives us freedom to choose our next stage of the adventure without worrying about pre-booked flights or hostels.
One thing you do need for your 30 day entry visa (for UK citizens anyway), is proof of onward travel. This is easy to get around. On our way to the airport to catch our flight here, we booked a random flight on expedia.com with 24 hour free cancellation. When the girl at the check in desk asked for proof of travel, we showed her the confirmation and she put it into her system. Once we came through immigration in Cebu, the first thing I did was cancel that flight and we were refunded within a day.
Simple. Now the only thing we need to do is make sure we leave at the end of the 30 days.