Cebu, Philippines

FYI: We’re going to play a little ‘catch-up’ on our travels here over the next few weeks. So, here’s part one of many – a personal favorite of ours, Cebu, Philippines

As per great recommendations from a friend (AJ, you are awesome!), our first destination was to an island in the Central Visayas named Cebu. Wedged between the islands of Negros and Bohol, this tropical paradise is best known for its vibrant coastal waters. What this meant for us, was that we would get the chance to witness the famed sardine run and to finally swim alongside the elusive whale sharks – something we dreamed about doing ever since our first dives! So, with these experiences in mind, we made a bee-line from the airport to the southern coast.

View from the side of the road along the southern coast

Our first stop was to Moalboal, a small seaside town along the southwest coast of the island. The town itself was not much to marvel over, but the real appeal of this corner of Cebu stems from the sardine run. Just off the beach from our guesthouse was a large reef wall filled with healthy coral, small schools of fish, a handful of sea turtles and thousands, literally thousands, of sardines. Though no one is certain what attracts these tiny silvery fish, a fair guess would be that the plethora of small plankton that inhabit the reef wall serve as a daily feast for the sardines to feed upon. What this means is that every afternoon there is an onslaught of these sleek little fish that swarm the coast in an endless glimmering tube, creating something absolutely mesmerizing and something near impossible to properly capture on camera… Just floating on the surface of the water for hours on end, watching this natural phenomenon and the surrounding environment became one of our top highlights of our entire Southeast Asia leg.

One of the many sea turtles we came across while snorkeling, this one was just so kind enough to escort us to the reef wall
School of sardines going off into the distance
School of sardines going off into the distance -no justice served by this photo- try the video links below



Our next stop on our maritime tour was to a small town called Oslob – best known for the whale sharks that inhabit its coastal waters!! These, non aggressive, filter feeders range up to 40 feet long and have mouths roughly one yard wide!! Thankfully, they are very friendly! As a means of luring these beautiful spotted creatures into the bay, the local fishermen under the guidance and conservation efforts of the government feed them every morning off the sides of their fishing boats. We had our reservations, thinking that through the process, the whale sharks would become domesticated or even harmed by such close proximity to humans – seeing as humans are their only natural predators – but this did not seem to be the case. Rather the government appeared to have put in place a pretty good conservation campaign and through their efforts, the staff are able to educate visitors on the wonders of these creatures, protect their habitat and ensure that these beautiful giants are not restricted from their normal migration habits. The end result, an amazing morning spent swimming with these gentle giants!!

The numerous spots seen along their backs – apparently, they have unique clusters of spots around their fins which make each whale shark identifiable [we learn something new each day]
A side view of one of the whale sharks
A side view of one of the whale sharks – a little guy, only roughly 25 feet long!
Devika swimming alongside one of the whale sharks
Devika swimming alongside one of the whale sharks – making friends 🙂

The combination of our encounters with the whale sharks and witnessing the sardine run really made Cebu one of the most unique destinations in our travels. Though there are endless islands to explore in the Philippines, we’d highly recommend making a detour before you set out to the more well traveled sun-worshipping havens. Getting a chance to swim with the marine life in this area  left us feeling giddy and left us feeling alive. It’s hard not to walk away from these experiences and not feel amazed by how much beauty lies out there and how little we have all seen so far… And the beauty for us, was that there was still so much more to come.


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