A Short Trip to Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines
With only a few days on the island of Cebu, no minutes will be wasted and your days will be jam packed with activities to take full advantage of what this rustic island has to offer. Here are some things that should not be missed during your time in Moalboal.
The Kawasan falls is a three-tier turquoise waterfall emerging from mountain jungle springs on the west coast of Cebu island. Despite it being VERY touristy, the aquamarine cool water and tropical forest make it a worthwhile and essential half day trip.
The falls are about 18km from Moalboal which is easily navigated by rented motorbike. Safe parking is available for about 50 pesos (about $3) and entrance fee is 10 pesos (about $0.6). While the falls are definitely the main attraction on this trip, be sure to take your time to enjoy the 20-30 minute walk to the falls along the Kawasan river. The path snakes through a village and the small bridges along the way provide a pleasant view of the streaming aquamarine water and lush greenery.
While most pictures will showcase a cascading waterfall of crystal blue water surrounded by lush green vegetation and no sign of a human presence, the reality of the falls may come as a shock. Although the waterfall itself is breathtakingly beautiful the area surrounding it is something to be avoided. Restaurants, screaming tourists and travel guides litter the edges of the first pool and you are continually harassed for money to rent tables or go bamboo rafting. A quick dip and a picture is all you need before making your way up to the less crowded second tier and its surrounding pools.
Getting to the second waterfall is relatively easy and the secluded and peaceful lagoons on the way provide the perfect places for a blissful swim in the aquamarine water.
Don’t let yourself be goaded into getting a guide to the falls. The trail is very easy to follow and you will not get lost.
Bring your own food and drinks (can be bought in the village) to avoid the over-priced and very mediocre options available at the restaurants.
Swimming with Whale Sharks in Oslob
Swimming with whale sharks is a dream for many travelers and marine lovers. While the “Oslob Whale Shark Watching” program doesn’t allow you to see these magnificent creatures in a completely natural and wild setting it does allow you to get right up close without causing distress and disruption to the animals. Although the animals are fed the program is run by the government and strictly controlled to ensure that the animals are not reliant on humans and do not have an uneven distribution in numbers (ie. too many closer to the shore where the feeding is done). This is controlled through feeding the whale sharks within a specific time frame everyday (6-12am) and following protocols set up by the program to minimize distress and ensure the animals are comfortable. No cameras flashes are allowed, no sunscreen may be worn and animals are NOT to be touched. The fine for touching the animals is 2,000 pesos and some say you may even get jail time for the offense.
The whale shark watching takes place in a village called Tan-Awan about 10km south of Oslob and about 75km from Moalboal. You can take a bus from Moalboal to Bato and then hire a motorbike or tricycle from there to Tan-Awan (15km) or hire a taxi with a driver for between 3,000-5,000 pesos ($60-100) depending on the size.
Upon arrival you will pay for your ticket (watching from the boat: 600 pesos ($13), snorkeling: 1,000 pesos ($22) and diving 1,500 pesos ($32)). Then you simply listen to a short but informative briefing, get changed and hop onto the boat for the 100m ride to the area of feeding. No motorized boats are used and the boats are arranged in a long line to prevent crowding around the animals. Once you reach the feeding spot you can slip into the water and enjoy 30 minutes of heart pounding delight and profound admiration for these majestic speckled sea creatures swimming past you.
If you are a certified diver you may be tempted to choose the option of diving with the whale sharks. However, the feeding area is relatively small with a maximum depth of only 8m. The whale sharks also tend to spend most of their time at the surface so paying the extra 500 pesos ($10) to view the silhouettes from below is not really worth it. If you are a relatively strong swimmer you will have more mobility and can free dive to the bottom for these sneak peek views.
This is a very popular activity so it can get very busy. Feeding begins at 6am so try get there early to avoid the worst of the crowds.
Edit 2017: We visited Oslob in 2015 and have since learnt more about swimming with the Whale Sharks. With some further research we have discovered that the feeding program does in fact have an effect on the migration patterns of the Whale Sharks. We therefore feel that we can NO LONGER support this program. We are extremely disappointed that we did not put in the proper amount of research before we participated in the activity. So, we urge you all to sufficiently research any activity you do as a traveller, especially if it involves animals. Don't make the same mistake we did! Let's all make the effort to be responsible travellers and make informed decisions about what industries we support while we travel. If you would like further information on why you shouldn't swim with the Whale Sharks in Oslob please read this awesome post Why we do not swim with Whale Sharks in Oslob.
Mainit Hot Springs
The Mainit Hot pring is a hidden gem of Cebu, somewhat untouched by human activity. The spring originates from the interior of two mountains in the small town of Malabuyoc, about 40km from Moalboal. Getting there is relatively easy by hired motorbike or car and is only a 10 minute drive from the signed main road turn off. Entrance fee is a measly 20 pesos ($0.5) and a short walk and crossing of a mall river will bring you to a natural spa that will leave you feeling rejuvenated without breaking the bank. The springs consist of 4 main pools with water temperatures ranging from 35.8°C to 42.6°C. The locals believe the hot pools are therapeutic and that bathing in the water can eliminate toxins in the body and kill harmful germs. Massages are also available for a small fee as you relax in the hot pools.
Be sure to spend some time exploring the waterfalls and lagoons above the hot pools.
Diving in Moal Boal
While the small island of Pescador off the coast of Moalboal is said to hold some of the best dive sites in the Philippines there are many dive spots in the area that definitely won’t disappoint. Turtles are seen on almost every dive, and the stunning coral and abundant marine life make diving in Moalboal an unforgettable experience. White and black tip sharks, although uncommon, can also be seen in the area. In addition, the magnificent several hundred thousand fish seen in the famous Moalboal “sardine run” is something not to be missed. If you aren’t a diver yet this is the perfect place to start.
Dives cost around 1200 peo ($26) including gear and most dive shops operate 3 dives a day.