As I said at the end of the last blog, on the 20th of March I made my way solo from Malapascua to Panglao, an island connected to the bigger island of Bohol. The journey was rather a long one, comprising of a ferry, bus journey, taxi, another ferry and finally one last taxi. Taking a total of about 8-10 hours to go from my one hostel to the next. I arrived at my hostel in Panglao around 6 pm had some dinner and then went to bed really. The next day I was up early diving, shock! Just off Panglao was supposedly a very nice diving site named Balicasag which I really wanted to dive at. I had therefore booked two scuba dives for the 21st of March at this little island. I was joined on my dives by a lovely English couple from London and our dive master. The two dives were simply stunning and the best I had done so far. The reefs were beautiful and the aquatic life fantastic. There were so many fish swimming around it really felt like I was in an aquarium. We also saw countless turtles as well. I lost count there was that many, but it must have ended up in double figures. Another reason the dives were so good was the fact that they were drift dives. Meaning you descend and are then simply pushed along by the current and get pick up further downstream by the boat. I really enjoy this form of diving as it requires very little effort and is just so peaceful. Another reason for the dive being so good is I prefer seeing the bigger fish as opposed to the tinny small stuff, which don’t get me wrong is still cool, but I’m a big fish kind of guy. Although the dive master did spot a tiny little pigmy seashore which was cute. Although I have no idea how he found it. The only downside to the two dives was once again I had a leaky mask. It wasn’t so bad as the one I had in Malapascua, but it was still very annoying. This, therefore, prompted me to buy my own mask after the diving to hopefully stop this issue from arising in the future. I was able to buy a good quality mask and snorkel (so I can use this for scuba and snorkelling) for about £20. I didn’t want to spend any more than this in case the mask still leaked. I mean it’s hard to tell without going underwater. The new mask would be put to the test in a few days time when I went scuba diving in Moalboal. Anyway, I’ve digressed, back to the 21st. After the diving, I had some lunch with the English couple, a few beers and some pineapple flavoured rum. Which tasted nothing like pineapple and was disgusting. That evening after the scuba diving and shopping for my mask I had some food and had another early night.
The following day I decided to take it easy and head to a nearby beach. I was actually staying within walking distance of Alona beach, but it seemed to be full of boats and stuff, so I took a tricycle a little way to a beach called Dumaluan, which was far nicer, although you did have to pay the resort there like 20 pesos (30p) to use the beach. I know what a rip-off. I spent the afternoon relaxing reading my kindle. I also took the new scuba mask and snorkel for a little test run. All seemed to be okay and no leaks. It was also the day of my Cousin Amy’s wedding (22nd of March) so when I returned from the beach I spoke with Mum and Dad on Skype before they headed off to the big day. If I’m honest I was pretty down about not being able to make the wedding or being able to see all the family at this big family event. I think this is really the only times you miss home when something big is going on such as a wedding or Christmas (sorry mum and dad). After skyping the parents, I went out for some food and had a drink to Amy and Gordon on their special day. Dad kept me in the loop with photos and everyone looked absolutely fantastic, especially Amy who looked stunning. I was also lucky enough to briefly give my congratulation to the newly married couple via skype when I phoned them at the beginning of the reception. Additionally, I quickly spoke to a few of my other family members which was great. But once again made me a little sad wishing I was there in person. By this point however it was around 11 pm my time so I headed to bed. Having now seen more photos and pictures it looked like a wonderful day and I’m glad everyone had such a great time. All the best in your lives together Mr and Mrs Raines.
The next morning, I was up early again (6 am) to make my way to Moalboal from Panglao. My last real stop in the Philippines. I was up so early in fact that the wedding antics were now in full flow with everyone suitably pissed dancing the night away. I took a tricycle to the ferry port and then boarded the worst ferry of the lot so far from Bohol across to Argao, Cebu. The ferry was so slow and took 3 hours even though the total distance really wasn’t that far, plus the shitty wooden seats were rather uncomfortable. After the Ferry journey, I tagged along with two couples making the hour-long car journey from Argao to Moalboal and we split the cost of the taxi ride. I rode in the front with the taxi driver called Jimmy who was a lovely bloke and we spent the journey chatting about life and culture in the Philippines and back in England. I must commend the Filipino people on their English language as everyone you speak to has such a good comprehension of the language.
I eventually arrived in Moalboal just after midday and had some chicken curry in a local little restaurant. It was lovely, and I ended up eating the same dish in the same place a further 3-time haha. Once I had checked into my hostel I then came over feeling rather sad and downbeat again for a few hours. It was a strange feeling and I kind of just moped around for a few hours feeling sorry for myself. I think it was a combination of several things such as missing my cousin’s wedding and my family along with missing all the people I had just been travelling with. Knowing full well they were living it up and partying in Boracay without me. I wished I was there with them. The feeling eventually subdued as I watched the sunset with a cold beer in hand. A guaranteed cure for many ailments I can assure you. Equally as beautiful as the stunning sunset was the pod of dolphins I spotted jumping out the sea just off the shore, amazing. After the sunset, I had yet again another quiet night (god turning 23 has made me boring) because I was once again up early the following morning for a day’s scuba diving in Moalboal.
I had 3 scuba dives planned for the day. The first one we dove a site called Whitebeach which had a lovely wall and lots of fish swimming around. We also saw lots of turtles once again. I must admit I’ve seen so many in the last few weeks that the novelty is almost starting the wear off, but they are such majestic creatures none the less. On the second dive, the dive master took us to see some electric fire clams in a small cave under the water which really were incredible. Once again both these dives were drift dives, so it was so relaxing just floating around enjoying myself. The final dive of the day was the one I was probably most looking forward too. Moalboal is famous for its sardine run as it’s called. Basically, massive shoals of sardines. You don’t even need to be a scuba diver to see them you can simply go snorkelling just off the beach to see the vast quantities of fish. As we entered the water you could already get a sense of the number of these fish as I caught a glimpse of the first shoal. The sardine dive, however, was rudely interrupted by a whale shark! I was merely swimming along when suddenly out the corner of my eye I saw the shadow of this huge tail and was a little unsure of what I had just seen or if I was imagining it. I certainly wasn’t, the dive master and everyone else in the group raced after this wonderful creature. At first I was very annoyed by this. The visibility wasn’t that great and the dive master and two other divers raced off after the whale shark, I was already at the back of the group so was almost left behind along with two Japanese woman diving with us who were a little slow under the water so I hung back with them, thinking it best to stick with them if we do get separated underwater. I could just make out in the distance the orange of someone’s fin who I hoped was one of our group as we frantically chased them to catch up. I must say it was very irresponsible of the dive master as he couldn’t have known where we all were or what was going on with us. I even thought at one point the 3 of us would have to surface having lost the 3 others and the whale shark. We did finally catch the whale shark and the rest of the dive team. Once we did my anger soon dissipated as I was greeted with my first real sight of this beautiful creature. It was only small by whale shark standards but still a spectacular animal. I felt so lucky to be diving with one of these creatures as it is certainly one for the scuba divers bucket list that I can now tick off. I also felt I had been repaid in my decision not to go to a place in the Philippines called Oslob where you are guaranteed to swim with whale sharks even just snorkelling. But it has been shown by the WFF that this is very bad for the whale sharks here as they are baited by the locals which affect the whale shark’s migration. It was, therefore, amazing to see this stunning creature in all its natural glory and is a sight that will stay with me forever. After our time swimming with the whale shark we returned to the dive wall where we were then greeted with massive shoals of sardines which were simply unreal. Overall it is certainly the best dive I have ever done! It was a great days diving and I hope one day I get to see a beautiful whale shark once again. During the 3 dives, I also got to try out the scuba mask that I purchased, and it worked a treat. It didn’t have any leaks and I didn’t have to clear my mask once. It really added to my enjoyment of the dives and I was so glad I hadn’t wasted my money. The only slight problem with the mask is that it’s a little large in the nose department which makes it a little harder to equalise my ears but isn’t a problem that will cause me to buy a new mask any time soon.
After my days diving it was my last real day in the Philippines. On the 25th of March, I had booked to go canyoning in the nearby Kawasan waterfalls which I was very excited about and had seen and heard lots of good thing from fellow travellers. The transfer to the canyoning was a bit hairy as the drivers in the Philippines can be a bit mental, plus at one point we switched drivers and the boy in control of the car couldn’t have been any older than 14 haha! Anyhow, we survived and arrived at the canyoneering site. After kitting up, listening to a safety talk and walking about 20-30 minutes we reach the entry point. The trip basically entailed climbing and jumping our way down the river gorge all the way to the main attraction of Kawasan Falls. The jumps started small but ended with two rather big ones of 10 and 15 m. Overall though it was a very fun, adrenaline filled morning out. The water as ever in the Philippines was so beautifully blue and clear and the scenery was stunning. It was rather crowded though with many tour companies getting in on the action. I was also amazed at the number of stalls dotted along the route selling various snakes and even full-blown cooked meat skewers, literally in the river gorge. It was a great way to end my time in the Philippines with some adrenaline filled fun.
On the 26th I transferred back to Cebu city for a night. The bus ride from Moalboal to Cebu took around 4 hours and wasn’t the most pleasant. I was on the local bus with no AC and windows down. This wasn’t a problem. It was more the lack of space and I had bad cramp in my right glute which I couldn’t shake for the last two hours of the journey. This was pretty grim. It was amazing though to see all the locals jumping on and off the bus as it was still moving. Along with different vendors who would hop on trying to sell you something then jump off again. In fact, I purchased a Buko Cake, due to the guy next to me getting one and me thinking I fancied one too. Basically, it looks like a mince pie but had coconut inside. It was delicious and helped to take my mind off my cramp. For my Night in Cebu, I treated myself to my own private double room which had an amazingly powerful and hot shower! It really is the little things when travelling. The hotel even had a little gym which I managed to work out in a couple of time during my stay. The first time in a few months. It felt great to do some exercise again and got me excited to get back into some kind of exercise routine when we arrive in Aus.
That all but concludes my time in the Philippines. On the 27th of March I flew from Cebu city to Jakarta, where I shall spend one month in Indonesia to complete this amazing 6-month adventure before heading onto Australia to start my one-year working holiday visa. More on starting my time in Indonesia in the next blog.
Concluding remarks on the Philippines then. Wow, what can I say, what an unbelievable, incredible, remarkable county! It tops the list alongside Vietnam for being my favourite countries! The two are similar but offer different things also. Vietnam was all about culture, people, food and stunning landscapes. The Philippines is all about stunning beaches, beautifully blue crystal-clear water, stunning landscapes and great kind people. I will forever be thankful to the country for making my 23rd birthday so unbelievable. The diving was world class and I saw things that will stay with me a long time. I’m so glad I’ve taken this up as a hobby, especially before visiting the Philippines and its amazing aquatic life and pristine beaches and water. Stay away from the big cities and find the secluded stunning spots of nature on the coast. There is so much to offer in the country and we didn’t even scratch the surface in a month. I will most certainly be making a return someday and would be able to fill another month seeing places that I didn’t in the first. The month was made even better by the amazing travel friends I was able to share it with and although I had some fun times on my own, I feel creating memories and experiences are something so much better when shared with someone. Thank you, Philippines, for such a great month I hope the tourism boom coming your way doesn’t destroy all your beauty and charm as one day I will return.