My top 5 things to do on Cebu

No matter what kind of adventure you’re looking for in the Philippines you’ll no doubt end up on Cebu at some point. It’s right in the centre of the archipelagoes and has tons of fun things to do. I found this island one of the easiest to get around with their super handy local bus service. You basically go to the local bus station or stand on the side of the road and wait for the bus. It’s first come first served and it’s up to you whether you jump on a non air-conditioned one or wait for an air-conditioned one. If you’re travelling at a busy time you may have to wait for a few buses to go by before there’s one that’s empty. It’s cheap and the people who work on the buses are always willing to help you find your accommodation.

I think Cebu has something for everyone, it has beautiful green countryside for you to wander through, gorgeous beaches for you to lounge about on and superb marine life for you to get up close and personal with. Cebu is a great place to use as a base. We flew straight from Manila to Cebu, travelled around for a week and then left to go to Siargao and then came back to Cebu again before heading to Palawan.

There are lots of islands in the north of Cebu with pristine beaches which are definitely worth checking out, they look amazing! But, we knew that our week in Siargao would be spent lazing about on beaches, so we decided to head south down to Moalboal. Our time on Cebu was mostly spent getting active.

Tip: Buses heading south will be heading to Bato but there are two different routes. One is Bato via Oslob and the other is Bato via Barelli {this is the one you want for Moalboal}. Buses are pretty frequent and come around every 30 minutes, just remember you might have to sweat it out on a non air-conditioned one like we did.

Here are my top 5 things that we did with our time on Cebu.

1. Swimming with sardines in Moalboal

Our first destination on our month trip around the Philippines was Moalboal, a three hour sticky bus ride from Cebu City. We were dropped off at the side of the road near the public market where there were countless tricycles to take us to our accommodation. Turns out we were a little outside the main tourist stretch at Archery-Asia, but it wasn’t too much trouble to get into town at night. We stayed in a Nipa Hut and were greeted with the most perfect of tropical sunsets as we arrived. Diving is the main draw here in Moalboal and one of the most spectacular things you can witness is the sardine run just off of Panagsama Beach. Grab a snorkel from one of the many dive shops (they also have lockers for your stuff) and then swim a maximum of 20 metres from shore, where the reef drops into an eerie abyss and you’ll find yourself amidst a sea of sardines, over one million of them to be exact. I didn’t really expect it to be so incredible, there were literally thousands of them! Sometimes they would surround me and I would lose sight of Matt, but with a quick wave of my arm or leg they would dart in another direction. It was probably one of the best moments I’ve had snorkelling, and then to top it off we saw a turtle. This was the most perfect way to spend the last day of 2016. We saw divers below us, but if you don’t have the budget to dive, a good ole’ fashioned snorkel is just as awesome, and the best bit – the sardines can be found here all year round!

We forgot our GoPro sd card on this particular occasion, so this photo was taken from Galore Tours.

2. Canyoning in Badian

Canyoning was something that we didn’t even know was available until we arrived in Moalboal and after deciding not to hire a moped and go exploring ourselves we joined a group and got our adventure on. Anyone that knows we me well knows that I hate jumping off of high platforms into water, mostly because when I was in Australia I jumped out of a tree into a creek and surfaced with my back ruined and a bloody face. Since then I have been canyoning, but am always a little weary. Most tour companies offer the same things, pick up and drop off from your accommodation, all safety equipment, an English speaking guide and a BBQ lunch on the beach. The owner of the place we were staying in recommended Planet Action and advised they were the most respected company to go with out of Moalboal. There are lots of tour companies around depending on which municipality you’re in – you can even join a tour departing from Cebu City.

Departing from Moalboal we drove to Badian and it took just over an hour to get to the start point. After you gear up with a helmet and safety jacket you walk half n hour or so to where the fun starts. Heading down slippery, muddy slopes you’ll know you’re close when you can hear screams of either fear or excitement. With this tour there is no abseiling, it’s all jumping and swimming down rapids. Despite being terrified at every jump, I was soon getting into it and enjoying every moment. The guides are very friendly and the younger of the two took a liking to Matt and he was constantly trying to impress him with backflips, I was only hoping Matt wouldn’t follow suite. After jumping into three or four pools of cool, fresh water we headed to two of the bigger jumps, which I chose not to do. I had to endure Matt jumping off them instead, just over 10 meters high, it was horrible.

You finish the tour at Kawasan Falls but you don’t really get the chance to spend much time there, so plan to have another day there if you can. Starving hungry we tucked into some freshly grilled chicken and fish straight from the BBQ, washed down with a nice cold beer and then we headed back home.

3. Kawasan Falls

When you arrive at Kawasan Falls either as part of a tour or on the back of your hired moped the first thing you’ll notice is the stunning blue waters. You may have seen photos on Instagram and thought ‘it must be photoshopped’ but you’ll soon realise it really is the same colour as a blue Powerade, it’s beautiful. This place is very popular with the locals as well as the tourists, so if you can, make sure you visit on a weekday. Once you arrive in the carpark area you’ll need to walk around 1.5km until you reach the first waterfall. If you’re planning on staying there for a full day, I would recommend bringing some snacks and water, this is what the locals do, probably because the food vendors charge an absolute fortune. The first waterfall you come across is the largest and the busiest, so make sure you head uphill for a more peaceful experience, where you’ll find even more waterfalls. This is a very touristy area and if you’re here for the day bring cash so you can rent out a bungalow for 1,500 to 2,500 php (£24 – £40) and/or a table for 500 php (£8), so you can have your own space. You can’t come to Kawasan Falls and not jump on a bamboo raft and float around the cooling blue waters, you can even go under the falls for the ultimate refreshing experience, a bamboo raft costs around 300 php (£5).

4. Swimming with Whale Sharks

If you’re in the south of Cebu you’ll have probably heard of Oslob – a town made famous because of the opportunity to swim with whale sharks, the largest fish in the world. We knew that swimming with these magnificent creatures would be an option whilst in the Philippines, but there was some controversy surrounding the activity. In Oslob the whale sharks are encouraged to swim towards the tourist area because fisherman feed them . Groups of tourists spend 30 minutes snorkelling around them watching them feed, the cost of this is 1,000 php (£16). I knew that swimming with whale sharks was something I really wanted to experience, but not necessarily in this environment, and even though maybe my head was telling me no, don’t do it, I went with my heart and jumped in the water with them, wondering if I would ever get the chance to see so many of these creatures in one place again. The experience was breathtaking, literally and an amazing way to start 2017. Seeing something so huge (easily 20ft long) swimming gracefully next to me was incredible, the tail itself was bigger than me. However, the experience was a little tainted when an Australian guy was boasting about touching the whale shark, even though we had a briefing beforehand warning us that we will be fined if we touch the animals and that we could harm the whales because of bacteria on our skin. When in the water it was clear that the touching of the whale sharks didn’t really seem to be regulated at all, even though there was so much effort to inform us about the dangers beforehand. Most people choose to see the whale sharks in other places, such as Donsol in the north. Even though Donsol is meant to be a better environment to swim with them I have seen pictures of tons of boats in the water, and whose to stop those tourists touching the whale sharks. I will treasure the experience I had, but after seeing what actually happens in the water and that the majority of people are not like Matt and I, and are happy to touch the whale sharks just so they can get a better photo, I’m not sure I would do it again. On the upside though, swimming with the whale sharks who are being fed by the fisherman, is much better than when the fisherman used to hunt and kill them. If this is something you definitely do not want to do, there is not a lot else to do in Oslob, expect maybe spend a few hours on Sumilon Island.

5. Climb Osmena Peak

We didn’t just come to the Philippines for the beaches, we wanted to get some hiking in. As we made our way back up to Cebu City we stopped off in Dalaguete a small seaside town, which was lacking in nice beaches to chill out on – good job there was a mountain to climb, Osmena Peak. Osmena Peak is the highest mountain on Cebu, at 1,013 it’s not the highest peak we’ve ever walked to the top of, but from the top we were rewarded with some incredible views of both sides of the island, and of course the beautiful and unique Cebu countryside.

Our journey started with a habal-habal (motor-cycle taxi) along steep and winding roads, the views were gorgeous and unlike any we had seen so far in the Philippines, rich green farmland. We drove through tiny villages where local people would smile and wave at us as they were going about their daily business, dogs would chase after us until they lost interest and we would hit steep hills where the habal-habal would struggle to carry the three of us to the top. We were making our way up to Mantalongon where you can find a huge vegetable market with some of the freshest looking vegetables you’d ever seen. Most hikers start the hike from here, but as usual our request was lost in translation and our driver took us all the way to the base of the peak. At the base you can stock up on some water and here you must pay the entrance fee. You can also hire a local guide, but this is one of the easiest hikes you’ll ever do, you don’t need a guide, just follow the trail.

>>> READ MORE – TYPHOONS AND TURTLES: ONE MONTH IN THE PHILIPPINES

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