We heard that Cebu City in Cebu (another island and the capitol of the southern islands) is the same as Manila and it’s pretty much true. It is a bit smaller, but just as chaotic and hot.
We took a taxi from the airport (white not yellow as yellow is more expensive (I don’t know why)) and the driver said because we wanted to go to Cebu City it would be 100 pesos more than the meter.
At this point, how can we argue? So we agreed and off we went. I was looking at my GPS to make sure he wasn’t taking us in circles to increase the meter. There were a few weird turns, but overall, he headed to the hostel. We stayed at Hostel 7, which a private room with 2 beds and bathroom was the same price as getting 2 dorm beds so that was pleasant.
Their Wifi wasn’t working though. We discovered that this is a common theme in the Philippines. Wifi never works or is super slow.
We had several beers at the hostel with 3 guys from England. They were each different degrees of sunburnt. One particular looked like he had 3rd degree burns on his back. It was all red and puckered and overall, when he removed his jacket, I had to turn away, I couldn’t look at it- it was really bad.
They said they did a lot of drinking and falling asleep in the sun. They were also saying that they were putting this oil on- well, oil doesn’t sound like a good protector…..sounds like you were trying to fry.
Also, they all had their ATM card swallowed by the machine. I haven’t heard of this happening to anyone before and it is weird that all 3 of them were affected. Perhaps it has something to do with the drinking….
They were good guys though. Funny and smart. It was a nice several hours with them.
Cebu is known for Lechon- pit roasted pig. In movies and such you usually see them with an apple in its mouth.
The hostel recommended us a chain called Zubuchon. We didn’t find it this time, but on our second stay in Cebu, more on this later. We ended up eating at something like Lechon Belly. It was good, but Zubuchon is a lot better (and more expensive).
It turns out that going anywhere in the Philippines that isn’t by plane is an all-day process.
We decided to go to Moalboal, south of Cebu.
We first had to go to the South Bus Terminal and drive about 4 hours to Moalboal. We booked a place prior and managed to find it rather quickly.
On the bus, we traveled with a woman from London from our hostel who was doing a day trip to the waterfall Kawasan. There are a lot of tours that go here and I would recommend taking a tour because she was rather anxious about finding it and getting back to Cebu- she did and she said it was great, but just to avoid that headache.
In Cebu there are 2 options for bus- with AC (more expensive) and without AC. Choose wisely. Supposedly without AC is faster, makes less stops.
We stayed at Moalboal Tropics. It was nice because it had a rather large pool. However, the other guests were couples or families so we couldn’t meet anyone. Our last morning, we made an attempt to talk with a couple from Argentina, but they were having none of it.
There was a dad traveling with his 3 small children, but he wasn’t too keen on talking with my dad. To be fair, he did have 3 small children to chase after, but I would have thought speaking with a fellow adult dad would have been nice.
We did an Island Hopping tour (so many of these throughout the Philippines). It cost 2,500 plus 100 each for the environmental fee- paid to the tourism office, make sure to get a receipt.
We had a private boat, which was kind of nice.
These were our stops:
- Pescador Island to snorkel with fish and corals
- Snorkel with the sardines
- Our big reason for coming to this town
- Swim with turtles
I think it was well worth it and we had a cheap GoPro type camera so we got some cool shots.
We had some turtles among the sardines and we got to see a turtle eating really close to us. The sardines were super cool in that there are thousands of them swimming around in circles essentially- naturally, no feeding.
We heard that in Oslob, to see the whale sharks, the tour operators feed the sharks to make them swim around the tourists and such- not natural at all. We didn’t go here.
However, after the turtles, we were going back to the boat and we noticed one of our guides was putting our items on shore and another group was getting on. This annoyed us in the sense that they could have told us prior that we were ending at the turtles versus just grabbing our stuff and kicking us out. So, heads up.
Our hotel picked us up from the beach and took us back.
We mainly ate at the hotel, but had a few meals outside. We ate for lunch at 3 Crowns once. It was good food and good Wifi. I ordered curry and the woman asked how spicy,
“Super spicy?” She asked giving me the options.
Normally, at restaurants, their spicy doesn’t really affect me so I ordered it. Well, I was sweating. They definitely made it super spicy! The cooks in the back were also surprised I ordered it so hot- we could hear them exclaiming,
There is a mall in Moalboal, it is small, but if you need some random items like cups (we bought some plastic cups), it’s a good place.
These beach places also boast a fair amount of older white men with young Filipina women.
Take this as you will.
Our next destination was up north to an island called Malapascua for Thresher Sharks. Upon looking on how to get there is appeared we had to go through Cebu.
We booked a place and then noticed that the last boat from Cebu island to Malapascua was around 5pm. We rushed.
We got on a bus (no AC) at 8:45am from Moalboal to Cebu. It was about 4 hours and then we took a taxi from South Bus Terminal to North, because why would they have 1 bus terminal? Then got on a bus to Maya (the port to go to Malapascua). This bus, with AC, was about 5-6 hours.
It made us feel better that there were other tourists on board so if we had to charter a private boat, it would have been cheaper.
But, to make the anxiety worse, there are no ATMs on Malapascua, and we were running low on cash. Luckily our resort we booked accepted credit cards, but lack of cash is still stressful.
Finally, we made it to Maya at about 5:30pm. We were all able to get on the boat paying 250 pesos each. It should be 80-100, but since it was the last boat, pretty much at night, we didn’t argue.
What pissed off Dad was the fact that when we got to the island (30 minute boat ride), we had to pay another boat to take us from the first boat to shore (20 pesos each). We understood it is normal and even some locals pay this as well, but after a long day and paying more for the first boat, this was an annoyance.
Of course, if all the tourists just walked away, they wouldn’t have said anything really- 6 tourists leaving, but the other tourists were very compliant with the whole thing.
The thing with the Philippines is that it is cheap by Western standards. A 10 USD beer in America or 10 pounds in England or whatever is only 1 USD in the Philippines. So many foreigners come here for 2 weeks or so (short vacation) and when they see a beer for the equivalent of 5 USD they think it’s cheap when they are really paying tourist price. I understand this completely, but as a budget long term traveler, every extra dollar counts.
So, paying 20 pesos or 50 cents USD is not a lot yes, but imagine paying that much every time. Soon you would have spent 100 USD unnecessarily, which happens to be the cost of our flight from Cebu to Palawan (another island).
To top this off, we had to take a motorbike for 40 pesos each to the resort.
We got caught in a small (5 minute) rain storm and we hid and waited it out. During this, I talked with my driver a bit and because he found out that I had Filipino origins was a lot nicer with me after.
We stayed at Thresher Cove Dive Resort, which offered dorm rooms and if you did their diving packages they discounted or gave you free room.
We ended up staying 3 nights there.
We met several marvelous people there:
- Guy from Southern Austria
- I had spent some time in southern Austria and he was surprised and I think happy that I knew some of the area. He told us he was there for over a week due to food poisoning and was finally getting over it.
- Guy from the Netherlands
- He had a really bad sunburn lines. He bought or rented, can’t remember, a motorbike and took it from Cebu city to Malapascua. He didn’t realize he was getting burnt until later. The lines make it seem like he is still wearing a shirt even though he is shirtless. He was quite red.
- Woman from India
- She was pretty excited that I know Bollywood movies and had me dance one section of a song that I knew and filmed me. We sat next to each other on the bus back to Cebu city and talked about a variety of topics. She became a dive master just to better her own diving.
- Woman from South Korea
- She was funny! She taught Korean in the Philippines for 2 years and both her and the Indian woman loved diving. Dad was kidding her that she was a professional (which was true since she had over 100 dives!).
- Woman/group from Vietnam
- There was a group of them from Vietnam, but we only talked with one woman really. She was pretty quiet at first, but once she got to know us she was talking away!
Let me go on to talk about what to see in Malapascua.
Thresher Cove is not FAR from the rest of the town, but it is far enough that walking would be a pain and paying 20 pesos every time for the motorbike would have been annoying so most people just stay at the resort, which was nice because we got to meet people around meal times and it guaranteed people would be diving with you and such instead of potentially using other dive companies.
We did 4 dives.
Since Dad hadn’t dove in a few years he did a refresher course and I joined him on it. It just reviewed the basic skills in the pool and then we did a “shallow” coral reef dive of like 12 meters (regular open water certification, which I have is up to 18 meters).
The next day we did 3.
So the reason to go to Malapascua is to see the Thresher sharks. This dive is done early in the morning as that is when the sharks come up to 30 meters to get cleaned- they have this parasite that annoys them and the fish at 30 meters clean the parasites from them every morning.
Now, to dive to 30 meters you need to be either Advanced Diver (like Dad) or have a deep diving certification, which is what I did. So I did a small book learning class (like 30 minutes) with an instructor and fellow student and then the next morning did the dive with the rest of the divers. We gathered at 4.30 am and dove around 5.30 am (takes the boat a bit of time to get to).
The fellow student was this guy from Scotland. I did my normal, trying to make friends, bond over something conversation- after exchanging names and before I got to sit down I asked where he was from,
“Oh, is this when you show me up with your 50,000 dollar education?”
I was so stunned by this comment. Like, can I sit first before you start making remarks about my education?
I acknowledge that the American university system is more expensive than other countries, but why bring it up in such a hostile way when we just met?
I made a comment about not studying for this class versus studying hard for 4 years for university. He made another snotty comment and then I lost my patience,
“Your education was not free- it was paid by tax dollars. Other people paid for your education.”
“That’s how it should be!” He exclaimed. He laughed,
“I’m border line communist.”
Even though he proclaimed his equalization of people (communism), his attitude was one from an elite class and trust me, I went to a “fancy” university with people who had the same elite class attitude he did.
Later, Dad told me that he also brought the price of education up with him as well (Scottish guy to my dad). What is this guy’s problem?
I don’t mind getting into political discussions, but after I know a person for, I don’t know, more than 10 minutes.
Anyways, let’s get to the sharks!
So, for those who don’t dive- you need to equalize your ears meaning have them pop like they do in an airplane when you go down by holding your nose and gently blowing out. Well, I’m quite slow at this.
We finally get down and swim about a bit trying to find the sharks. I managed to lose a fin.
Let me rewind a bit. The night before the dive I had everything in my dive box. On the boat that morning, I was missing my boaties. It turned out to be on another boat! Someone took them out of my box. Well, one of the dive masters gave me shit for a long time about losing the boaties. I was not on her good list even though it wasn’t my fault.
This same dive master also found my missing fin. So I really wasn’t in her good graces…she also didn’t even have the decency to remember my name so that was funny.
Anyways, I didn’t see any shark and when we were surfacing I thought- that’s nature, sometimes you see them and sometimes not. It’s not like Oslob were they are being fed. However, when I got on the boat, everyone was talking about seeing them.
It appeared I was the only one who didn’t see one. To be fair to me, they told me the sharks were quite far away and you could just see the outline. The day before it was much better they say. But I was so angry with myself and didn’t want to hear everyone else’s joy that I sat by myself.
A few people came to comfort me, which was nice. My theory is that, since my group was the last to go down, and since I was slow equalizing, that is when everyone else saw the Threshers because by the time we got to the bottom the others were starting to head up. For non-divers, at 30 meters, you only have like 4 minutes of air use before you need to head up (it’s a physics thing).
The next dives were at Gato Island. You can see White Tip sharks here and we say 4 or 5, I can’t remember now. They were hiding under the huge boulders. So I can finally say I swam with sharks (that I saw at least haha).
Unfortunately, on the 3rd dive our cheap camera got water in it and stopped working. Our SD also ended up with a small crack so at the time of writing we are waiting for a professional to look at the card to see about our footage (the computer recognizes the card so that is a good sign from my readings).
But luckily, because we made friends with cameras, they kindly offered to send us their footage of the sharks.
The only thing we won’t have is seeing sea horses! One was pregnant meaning it’s a male and a yellow one! They were about the size of my palm in height. It was so cool!
Anyways, send us good thoughts about our card!
The next day, we headed back to Cebu city and spent the night in a pod hostel. It was my first time in a pod hostel- Shejojo Poshtel I believe the name of it was. It was lovely and the breakfast was quite good. Only thing is there is no common area and the pods make it pretty isolating.
You can do a day trip from Cebu city to Bohol, but we decided to spend a few days in Bohol.
I don’t recommend this completely. If you have time and are just dedicating your time to Cebu and Bohol island- fine, but since we were all over the place in the Philippines, it was kind of a waste of time.
The ferry is about 2-3 hours. There are to ferries from Cebu city to Tagbilaran city (Oceanjet and Supercat). Supercat is like 500-800 pesos cheaper and it takes 15-30 more minutes than Oceanjet. I suggest this one.
From here, we took a tricycle to Alona Beach. First, we actually tried finding a bus to Alona beach and didn’t realize there were more than one bus station and ended up at a different bus station, but got a tricycle from there. It should be around 300 pesos for the tricycle ride.
We stayed at a resort with 2 pools. The owner was one out of 27 children- her dad had 4 wives. Her particular mother had 10 kids and she was the youngest. That’s crazy!
We hung out at Alona Beach for 2 days and really liked it. The beach wasn’t too far from our place so we walked there. There’s not really that much beach for sun bathing and such, but lots of restaurants and bars to enjoy the water. We found a cheap place for food and beers. There are also a lot of diving and island tour agencies.
The big thing to see in Bohol are the Chocolate Hills.
We ended up hiring a private car for 2,500 pesos to take us to the Chocolate Hills as well as a sanctuary for Taisers (in Corella). There are other spots tours take you to or you can go to, but they seemed made for tourists/we weren’t interested. The Chocolate Hills costs 50 pesos each to view. They are basically little mounds that in the summer turn brown looking like chocolate amongst the green flat lands.
It wasn’t that special- honestly.
There is another sanctuary near the Hills, but we heard that the Corella one is the best; unfortunately, it was closed due to a holiday.
The car dropped us off at the ferry that we took back to Cebu city to wait for our flight the next morning to Palawan.
Our last hostel was Le Village. The place could be nice, but we booked and confirmed 2 bed twin private room and when we arrived we received one double bed private. The receptionist was very unemotional and even implied it was my fault. To be fair, her Hostelworld site did show double bed, but my Hostelworld site should twin private. She was unapologetic and offered to move us to the dorm telling us it was the same price (on the website it isn’t).
The dorm room was fine- it’s just her attitude over the booking situation was what angered me.
Now, you might be asking, why didn’t we get a flight from Tagbilaran to Palawan? We tried.
So, Boracay is a major beach destination in the Philippines, but the President shut it down for 6 months starting April 26th. This pushed all those tourists or at least most of them to Palawan, the other big beach destination. And since we were booking the flights a few days prior to when we wanted to go all the convenient flights were booked.
We specifically wanted to go to Coron (for the shipwrecking dives) as Puerto Princesa didn’t have anything interesting for us and neither El Nido, but the only flight we managed to get was from Cebu city to Puerto Pricesa.
Please click here for the next part of the adventure!
See you soon! Be sure to check out my instagram for daily photos! myopenpassport