Category Archives: Philippines

Philippines_Moalboal

Moalboal, Cebu Island, Philippines

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Moalboal is a small town on the West coast of Cebu Island in central Philippines.

Moalboal was famous in the 1960s as a diving location, and its reputation lives on.  There are numerous dive shops/resorts there and the main draw for divers is Pescador Island, about 3km off the coast.
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Technically, the coastal ‘village’ (where the tourist accommodation is) is called ‘Panagsama Beach’.  ‘Moalboal’ refers to the nearest town, which is 5km away, up on the National Highway.

I visited for a few weeks in December/ January.   Skies were mostly overcast and the water was a little cold (or maybe I just stayed-in too long). There was some minor current, but nothing to cause safety concerns. There were no problems with jellyfish and very little boat traffic. Visibility was reasonable at about 6m.

There is some lovely coral here..
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But you have to pick the right spot

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The burgundy line is the area that I checked-out.

The best spot for coral is Area F and, especially, Area G on the map.   There is a decent spot at D (near the dropoff and opposite a house with a blue slate roof).   D to C is pretty good.  The coral at A- B is anaemic and sparse.  People often leave Moalboal disappointed, because they only snorkelled at A/B (because that is where the ‘beach’ is (edit: or is now where the sardines are), never having found the good coral.

Edit: in 2013 the big schools of sardines that used to inhabit Pescador Island, 3km offshore decided to move to the mainland.  These days you can find them around the yellow-painted restaurant jutting out into the sea, close to the backpackers place and the chili bar.

The coral anywhere South of point B is good, but get yourself down to Area G for the really good stuff.

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That is somewhat easier said than done.  There is a rough road through the village that gets you to the general area, but access to the sea itself is more difficult. Most of the coastline is privately owned by homes or dive resorts.  Maybe if you ask nicely, the resorts will let you walk through to get to the sea.

At the Southern reaches, properties end at a coastal wall and there is a 2-3 metre vertical drop down to the sea. Most dive resorts also have a car-width ramp going right down to sea level.

When I was there, there was access through an empty lot…..(deleted), (edit it’s been used up now by Club Hari, a big Korean dive resort and no longer give access).

There is a narrow track between two concrete walls which is now (@2017) your best option for public access to the water at the Southern end.  Look for it opposite the turning to Vivian’s Nipa Huts.

If all else fails, you could get in the water at the beach (A-B) and swim down to G.

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So, to the snorkelling itself:

There is an enormous amount of healthy, diverse coral garden around F and G. There are also about ten Turtles (Green and Hawksbill) that live around there.

There is a wide reeftop, (about 40 metres wide) at depths from 1 to 5 metres, then a steep drop-off down to 10+ metres deep.

There is also some patchy, not-so-good coral around, so keep on looking until you find the good stuff
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Here’s a photodump of some highlights from the reef around F and G:

Coral Gardens:
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Close-up on Corals, Sponges, etc:
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The drop-off:
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Turtles:
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There is some video of an adult and a juvenile poking about in the same hole here.

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Fish:

There are plenty of Lemon Damsels and Anthia schooling about the reeftop:
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Other small reef-fish putting in an appearance include Damselfish (Sergeant-Major, Indian, Humbug Dascyllus) and Blue/Green Chromis
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But don’t expect to see any bigger fish – they have all been caught and eaten!  You might find the occasional Parrotfish, Checkered Snapper, Pufferfish or Nemo.
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Link to the specieslist.

Edit: since 2013 make sure you pay a visit to the huge schools of sardine, near the chili bar.

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Here are some (literally) one-off sightings I had of other species:
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This one is interesting – a big school of Striped Catfish Eels all huddled together to imitate a bigger fish.
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There is some (not very good) video here.

I don’t think that had seen any cartoons, because they never adopted the shape of a question-mark or arrow when I asked them where the turtles were.

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Other species:

Other interesting other species spotted included several banded sea-kraits:
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This Finespecked Moray Eel:
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Some flatworms:
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Quite a few Messmate Pipefish:
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A couple of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish:
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And in the scrappy shallows, near entry point E, were hiding this small Octopus:
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And a Peacock Flounder:
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But don’t tell anyone  – they’ll eat it!

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Admin

Up top, the resort area/village is kinda scuzzy. Are those old German guys at the next table really discussing how to fix a marriage contract so their young wives can’t hit the cake-tin when the ceremony has passed?  Yes. I’m afraid they are.  Most resort visitors stay inside the refined, confined areas of their resort swimming pools.

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The ‘beach’ is the only public area. The sand itself is only 100m long and it disappears at mid-high tide.  Even at low tide, there are lots of stones mixed in with the sand and it is barely suitable for sitting-on.

Apparently, a better beach for sitting-out is White Beach, 7km to the North.  I’m told that there is some surprisingly good snorkelling there, too. I didn’t go there, myself.  Edit: on a return visit in 2017, I checked out White Beach.  There are one or two spots there with great coral (notably the big luxury dive resort at the South of White Beach (?Dolphin House Dive College?).  But generally, the corals (and turtle numbers are) MUCH better at Panagsama beach, to the South).

Moalboal is 90km, 3 hours by road from Cebu City. Bus fare is 100PHP. Buses get very crowded.

Diving:  I did a dive on Pescador Island. It was pretty sweet.  Pescador is somewhat famous for swirling vortexes of Sardines who feed by trapping their helpless victims in the middle of a fishy tornado.  Edit: I hear that the Sardines moved to the mainland Feb 2013. Pescador Island is still a draw for divers because of the diverse coral on its sloping drop-offs.

There are maps of various Moalboal divesites on the internet.

There are no shortage of diveshops around the Pangasama Beach village. I paid 1000PHP at a locally-owned place for one dive, including equipment.

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Tips for those on a budget:
Cheap sleeps:   It is 275PHP for a dorm at the Backpacker Lodge. That seems to be the only listed cheap-joint in town. Edit: @2017, there are a couple a new backpacker places opened up on the main road down from Moalboal (500m back from the coast).  300PHP seems to be about the norm for a dorm.

You’d be pushed to get a meal in a Panagsama Beach restaurant for under 100 PHP. There are a couple of cheap local places 1km away (marked on the map), but it ain’t cordon bleu food. Also, some local people sell pork-skewers and rice on the corner near Hanna’s restaurant in the evenings.

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There is no public transport from Moalboal town (at the highway) along the 5km down to Panagsama Beach.  You will have to pay a motorcycle taxi.  40-50PHP, depending on the amount of competition around at the time. Tricycle taxis are more like 100PHP.

Motorcycle taxis aren’t allowed to pick-up in Panagsama (only the more expensive tricycles are allowed to), so get the phone number of your motorcycle driver if you want him to pick you up and take you back to the National Highway when you leave.

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Expect to be woken-up at 3am by roosters/cockerels crowing.

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Written: February 2012                                             Last updated: February 2017

Philippines_Oslob

Oslob, near Cebu Island, Philippines

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Oslob is a small town on the South Eastern side of Cebu Island in the central Philippines.

Oslob is becoming known as a good place to find Whalesharks.  I believe that the season is November to February.

The local fishermen have taken the opportunity to make a living out of the visiting Whalesharks. The fishermen feed them (with, plankton-like feedstocks) from 20kg sacks, which they take out in their bangka (kayaks) and tip over the side while the Whalesharks follow along with their mouths’ wide open..

Other fishermen charge money to bangka tourists 100m out into the bay, so the tourists can jump in the water when a Whaleshark appears.

It ain’t exactly a natural scene, but it is a reliable way to actually find a Whaleshark.   I guess I’d sooner the fishermen make an income out of feeding the sharks, rather than killing them!

The fishermen seem to be quite responsible about managing their charges. They were slapping-down people who tried to touch the Whalesharks.  I had a new camera and I didn’t realise it kept switching its own flash on and I got a telling-off for using flash photography.  Quite right, too.

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If you get away from the melee in the feeding area, you can often find a Whaleshark taking a break and swimming around freely.

On the day I was there, three Whalesharks showed-up. They were 3-5 metres long.  Just pups, really.

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Here’s the scene in pictures:

The bay and the people: .

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Whalesharks munching chow from the side of a boat:

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Here is some video of the feeding:: 1 (up close), 2 (further away).

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Whalesharks swimming free:

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Admin:

It is about a 100m swim from the beach to the centre of the bay where the feeding was going on. I understand that there is some homestay accommodation at the beach.

I came on a daytrip from Dumaguete on Negros island.  It cost 1400PHP for the trip which entailed an hour with the Whalesharks then an hour’s snorkel at a pretty reef 2km away. The trip was run by Howard’s backpackers who seem to be well in-control of the backpacker-tourist market in Dumaguete.

Some folk paid over twice the money to do to the same trip, but diving.  But the Whalesharks were being fed at the surface, and spent most of their time at the surface, so the divers really only saw was the underside of the sharks and lots of tourists asses!

This was at the end of January.  The trip operators weren’t sure whether the Whalesharks would show up, as the water is warming-up at that time of year and the Whalesharks start heading out to deeper water.

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Sumilon Island

In the afternoon, our boat motored over to a pretty reef, 2km away. The reef was close to a small island called Sumilon Island.

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Island:
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Reef:

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It was a lovely spot. A Great Barracuda turned up to check me out.  He was the only big fish that I saw the whole time I was in the Philippines!

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Edit: The island was due-East from the Whalesharks. Sitting here now, looking the location of Sumilon Island on satellite maps, suggests that the Whalesharks were actually not at the town of Oslob at all, but at another location, about 15km further down the coast.  Either there are (at least) two locations nearby where Whaleshark feeding goes on; or when people talk about ‘the Whalesharks at Oslob’, the ‘Oslob’ refers to this other location 15km South of the town, itself. I can’t shed any light on which it is, I’m afraid. “edit 2 – I found this text on a travel forum “Also be aware the actual whale beach is 10K outside Oslob in Baranguay Tan-awan”.  Also, the poster was saying that you have to pay to get into the water, or even to watch from the beach.

 

Other links: 1 2 3
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Written: Feb 2012 . . . . . . . . .    Last updated: Feb 2012