10.12.2014 - 16.12.2014
After a full day of travel (which included a tricycle ride to the bus terminal, a 6-hour bus ride to Puerto Princessa, an hour flight to Cebu, a 45-minute taxi ride to the bus terminal, and finally a 3-hour bus ride), we arrived late to Oslob, located near the southern tip of the island of Cebu. The next morning, we went whale shark snorkeling!! That's right... we got up close and personal with the largest fish in the sea! This was really awesome... these sharks are seriously massive, but quite tame. I was definitely a bit scared when we first got in the water because their mouths are huge and they are sucking in water and fish so fast, so I was frantic to get a good distance from them. The rules say you cannot get within 4m of them, but you can't really help it when the waves are pushing you towards them and plankton are being thrown in every direction... I think at one point we were probably only a meter away. I quickly calmed down, though, once I realized they are only interested in their food. When you see their full length underwater, they are truly impressive! We feel really lucky to have been able to experience swimming with these beautiful creatures!
We spent literally 12 hours in Oslob before bussing it to Moalboal, where we stayed for a couple nights. Our guest house was located on Panagsama Beach, which is a divers hangout just 3km away. That is really all there is to do there, which was perfect for us because everyone we met was diving too! This spot was recommended to us by a new friend we met in El Nido, and we were really excited to be there! While we felt really safe and comfortable diving in our little El Nido bubble, we were ready to experience diving in a new area. It's super convenient diving there because all of the reefs are only a short distance from the shore where there is a 40m drop off... this massive wall of coral stretching along the coast was crazy beautiful! As Open Water Divers, we can only go to down to 18m, and looking down even at that depth is intimidating.. all you see is a dark blue infinity. We got to see so many fish, but the most impressive thing we saw was the insanely large ball/swarm/cloud... however you want to call it... of sardines! We were swimming along the wall when all of a sudden it got dark, and when we looked up, all you see are millions of sardines swimming in perfect unison and creating these beautiful formations! We also saw a total 10 sea turtles, among so many other pretty fish... we can never get enough of the sea turtles, though! We were disappointed we didn't have a camera with us to capture these incredible moments, but thanks to our new diving friends, Sim and Shaun, who were so generous to share a few pictures with us from their cameras!!
We bussed it back to Cebu City where we took a ferry ride to the island of Bohol. We decided to stay in Tagbilaran because it was inexpensive and a good homebase to explore the island's sites; however, in hindsight, we wished we would have stayed in one of the beach towns on Panglao Island. A tip for those interested in visiting the Philippines... do not stay in any of the main cities! They are gritty, smelly, overly congested and just not very nice. Get out as quickly as you can and head to the beach towns... that's where all the magic happens! But anyways, we rented a motorbike and did our own little day tour through Bohol. We love the freedom a motorbike offers us versus joining a tour group, and we were able to see so much of the island on our own schedule. We first visited the Tarsier Conservatory, which is one of the few place on earth where you can observe theses tiny primates in their "quasi-natural" habitat. They are the smallest little things and so darn cute... it's sad that they are an endangered species. Afterwards, we drove to the Loboc River where we had a lunch cruise on one of the floating restaurants, and then drove through the Man-Made Forest where all trees were planted by hand in the 1960s. We arrived at the main attraction... the crowned jewels of Bohol... the Chocolate Hills. These brownish-greenish mounds are so surreal and, depending on the time of day, resemble endless rows of chocolate drops.
We ended our day of site-seeing with one of our favorite activities... we drove to Alona Beach on Panglao Island where we enjoyed some refreshing beers and delicious food while watching one of the most beautiful sunsets of our trip!! It was the perfect way to end our stay in the Philippines! We are so sad to say goodbye to this country that we absolutely LOVE, but we know we will be back again in the future!