After a short flight from El Nido, I arrived into the busy city of Cebu, which is the second largest in the Phillipines after the capital Manila.
The city seemed to be one endless traffic jam and it took over an hour for my taxi to travel the short distance from the airport to the bus station. This was followed by a three hour bus journey south, and it was late by the time I reached my final destination, the small coastal town of Moalboal.
For the next two nights I had arranged to stay in a Nipa hut, a type of traditional Filipino stilt house. It was a great experience, although I was thankful to have plenty of insect repellent with me and I was less keen on the lack of air conditioning!
I woke early the following morning to the sound of some extremely loud roosters, which seemed to be a daily occurrence in the Philippines.
I decided to start the day with a trip to Kalawan falls, arranging for a tricycle to take me there. It was a scenic but very bumpy 45 minutes journey sitting in the sidecar and I was glad to finally reach the falls.
It was a 1km walk from the road to reach the falls, and with plenty of food vendors already setting up their stalls, this gave me chance to buy some breakfast. After paying the 40PHP (£0.60) entrance fee I reached the first and largest of the falls. It was still early and the beautiful turquoise pool was completely empty.
I continued along an almost hidden path, and after climbing some steep and uneven steps I reached several smaller but equally beautiful pools. After finding somewhere to leave my bag I dived in for a refreshing swim in the surprisingly cool water.
The falls are a very popular spot for canyoning, which usually involves a combination of climbing, jumping and swimming. I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough myself, but I did watch as one group jumped from the top of one of the falls.
After several hours exploring the falls I returned to my waiting tricycle driver, who then took me back to Moalboal. On the drivers advice, I was dropped off at the originally named White Beach, which is located around 5km north of the town itself. I wandered along the impressively white sand before stopping for a swim in the crystal clear water.
I therefore took another tricycle to Panagsama beach, which is the main tourist centre of Moalboal. There was plenty of restaurants to chose from here, and I enjoyed some great lunch overlooking the beach at Cockonuts.
Moalboal is hugely popular for scuba diving and snorkelling due to the abundant marine life located just a short distance from the coast. I hired a snorkel and mask for 200PHP (£3) before heading out into the water. I could see several boat tours stopping for snorkelling around 30m from the shore and, assuming they would knew the best places to go, I decided to swim out to join them.
As I reached the boats the shallow water suddenly became far deeper, with the coral wall just below me. Minutes later I looked down and was amazed to see thousands of sardines swimming in a synchronised formation below me. It was mesmerising to watch and be so close to it, and I was disappointed to have forgotten my GoPro!
Aside from the sardine run, one of the other main snorkelling attractions in Moalboal is turtles, however despite my best efforts I was unable to locate any during my time in the water.
It had been a busy day, and was now time to relax with a cold beer. I found a table at the beachside Andi’s Tallisay, and watched what was for once a slightly disappointing sunset.
This was followed with dinner at the very popular Enz kitchen. I was lucky to get the last available table, and enjoyed some delicious and great value Filipino food before finishing the evening with some drinks in the nearby Chilli Bar.
After another warm night in the Nipa hut, the following day I took a taxi around the islands south coast to the town of Oslob.
Previously a sleepy fishing town, Oslob has become a popular tourist destination in recent years due to the huge Whale Sharks which can be found just a short distance from the coast, and which I was hoping to go swimming with the following morning!
The town was almost empty as I arrived in early afternoon, with most tourists visiting on day trips rather than staying in Oslob. I made a short visit to the nearby Tumalog falls before spending the rest of the day relaxing in the town. After an enjoyable dinner at Caferonia I had an early night, ready for a 5am wake up call the following morning.
I was still half asleep as I met with the other hotel guests the following morning, and we waited for our transport to the whale watching centre which was just a short drive away.
As we arrived we were told to wait while one of the hotel staff registered us for the tour. There was a huge crowd of people already there and it all seemed rather chaotic. However there must have been some order to it, and we were soon informed we would on the 73rd trip of the day.
We watched as the boats began to make their way out into the water, before stopping surprisingly close to the shore. There were around 30 boats in total, with each taking eight people for their 30 minute slot swimming with the whales.
After waiting for over an hour it was finally our turn, and we were provided lifejackets and snorkels before climbing aboard our boat. In an attempt to protect the whales, the boats do not have motors, and our crew slowly paddled us out to join the other groups.
It was hard work in the water with large waves and lots of people and boats in such a small space. However it didn’t take long before I had spotted my first whale shark, and there was a huge rush of excitement and panic as it swam below us.
The enormous creatures were around 5-6m long and I felt incredibly small as they swam just a few metres away. On several occasions they came even closer, and I had to take evasive action to avoid being hit their powerful fins.
It was an amazing experience to get so close to the beautiful and gentle creatures, and I was glad to have chosen to do it. However, the experience does feel a little forced given the whales are constantly being fed to keep them in the area
Although the tours are strictly regulated in an attempt to protect the whales, it has to be questioned whether it is sustainable given the huge number of visitors, and it is something that may have to be restricted further in the future.
On the other hand this can be seen as progress, given that the endangered sharks were widely hunted in the Philippines in the not-too-distant past, while the tourism also provides much needed income to the incredibly friendly and hospitable locals.
I was back at my hotel in time for breakfast, and after checking out I boarded a bus to take me back to Cebu City, before continuing to Mactan island, where I had booked a hotel for the night.
It had been a long day and I decided to relax by doing some shopping at the Island Central mall before enjoying some sunset drinks at Scape Skydeck.
This completed what had been a great few days exploring Cebu Island. However it also been very busy and I was looking forward to a more relaxing time at my next destination of Boracay.