Cebu Island – Part 4: Snorkeling

It’s no secret that Dave and I love snorkeling.  The ocean life fascinates both of us, and although I can find it mildly anxiety inducing (I get claustrophobic), I never let it stop me from diving in, taking some deep yoga breaths and enjoying the world below the surface.

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Usually, I relax as soon as I find an animal to follow.

The Philippines boasts some of the best snorkeling in the world, so we were very excited to see what there was to see off the coast of Cebu and Bohol Islands.  We had 3 snorkeling trips in total and I’m sad to say that only one of them was very enjoyable.

Punglao Snorkeling

Our first snorkeling trip was with our friends Deb and Dedrick off the coast of Bohol Island. They organized an exciting morning of snorkeling for us, which started with a boat ride through some rather choppy water, and ended up at a small island where there are sea turtles and plenty of ocean life to enjoy.

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One of several turtles we spotted

This was our first snorkeling experience in The Philippines, and as is always the case when travelling…we had to learn the ropes.  Every country does things a bit differently.  In Thailand, we booked day tours that would take us out to several islands on a speedboat, and took us to several locations to snorkel.  In Indonesia, we did 2 nights in a boat to see the Manta Rays in Komodo National Park.  In Cuba, we often just snorkeled off the beach, or hopped on a Catamaran for a day trip to various small islands.  Usually, the prices of the trip, boat, food, park fees etc are included in the package price you pay for the day.

Things are done differently in the Philippines.  We were told we needed to pay 1800 pesos to rent a boat to get to the island where there are turtles and fish to see.   Then, we were told there was a fee to get into the park.  Then, when we arrived, we were told we needed to pay another boat to take us to the ACTUAL snorkeling area (another 800 pesos).  In total we ended up paying nearly $70 Canadian and there wasn’t a whole lot to see.

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The second (smaller) boat we hired.  He actually had the guys swim back to the shore…I assert they should have been given a discount seeing as how they only get the service they paid for on the way there….

Unfortunately, the trip got worse, the longer we stayed in the water.  The boat we hired had a captain who wanted to go and take more tourists out to make more money…so after only 20 minutes of snorkeling, he was trying to get everyone back in the boat.  I obliged because I’d been stung by a few jellyfish and wasn’t feeling very well, but getting onto the boat was another ordeal yet.

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We were on a boat similar to this one

Filipino fishing boats have wooden bars that come out on either side of the boat to  help stabilize them and prevent capsizes.  The captain of this boat wanted to ‘help’ me get back on, but instead, I ended up hanging off the side as he bashed me into the side of the boat repeatedly…bruising my ribs in the process.  My friend Deb wasn’t as badly hurt in her trip back onto the boat, but she also didn’t find the task easy either.  Both of the boys just swam the short way back, because it was a much safer choice.

"You've suffered a contusion to the soft tissue below the fourth thoracic vertebra exacerbating the proximal sternum. Translation: 'you have a bruised rib.'"

Lessons Learned: 

  1. Don’t bruise your ribs when snorkeling.
  2. Wear sunscreen…even when it’s cloudy (we were out of commission for a few days we burned so badly!!)
  3. Bring good people with you on trips like this so that even if the snorkeling isn’t fantastic…the company is!

Sumilon Island Snorkeling

Our second trip snorkeling was on Sumilon Island.  I wasn’t sure whether or not to count this as a ‘snorkeling trip’ though, because we never actually snorkeled.  Allow me to explain…

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Sumilon Island is located off the coast of Cebu…near Oslob.

Sumilon Island is one of the things I’d read very little about.  We mostly went off of what locals told us….and it all sounded awesome!  We were told to expect:

  • Excellent snorkeling
  • An amazing beach with chairs set up for rental
  • Clear and calm water around the island where you can swim and snorkel

Of course, what we got was very different than what we expected.

As it turns out…it is a beautiful island and it does have amazing snorkeling…but only if you hire a boat (which we couldn’t do once we were there, from what we saw).  There was definitely no snorkeling from the shore because the water was simply too rough.  What’s worse, is that boats were coming and going constantly, taking up most of the public beach area.  They didn’t have anywhere to dock, so they’d just come up on the beach.

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Although the island is quite big, only a small part of it is public beach.  This small area in the photo was the only place to swim without being at risk of being hit by a boat.  It was very shallow and there were thousands of sharp rocks to step on.

There were 0 chairs or umbrellas for rent.  We arrived at around 3pm, and were on the west side of the island, so it was HOT!!!

It turns out that the only way to get beach rentals was to book with the resort that’s only the island….which was WAY out of our budget.  So, instead of the amazing afternoon snorkeling we had planned, we crouched under an area of rocks for shade until the next boat came around.

Lesson Learned:  Do reading ahead of time!  You never know what information you might be missing that will greatly impact your day.   We would have had a MUCH different experience if we’d organized a snorkeling or diving tour.  This island is an AMAZING place to snorkel / dive if you do it right!!!

Tingko Snorkeling

Our best snorkeling adventure was the last thing we had time to do in the Philippines.  Tingko beach is just outside of Alcoy on Cebu Island.  Our bus back to Cebu city only left at around 4pm, so we decided to try snorkeling one more time before leaving the Philippines.

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Tingko Beach

We were a bit worried when we arrived, because once more, there was nowhere to set up or put our things.  There were also no umbrellas.  We were about to walk away when a young Filipino man came over and asked us if we’d like to hire him and his boat for some snorkeling.

I was VERY skeptical at first.  We asked him about a price, and it seemed a bit high, but he quickly lowered it (probably more than he needed to).   When he said he had a ladder to get in and out of his boat (to avoid further rib bashing), we agreed to hire him for an hour to do some snorkeling.  I was so glad we did!

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A small Filipino fishing boat…similar to several others we were on

He brought us around to 3 different spots in that hour.  I only snorkeled at the first spot, because I wasn’t actually feeling very well that morning, but it was an amazing area to explore!  We actually even saw a sea snake swimming through the seaweed!  Unfortunately, we didn’t have the camera with us…but we’ve learned over the last few years that some experiences just need to be experienced.  The little snake swam away as quickly as he appeared, so I doubt we could have gotten any shots anyway.

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Dave did get a shot of a clown fish in an anemone on one of his solo trips under the sea!

While Dave explored stops 2 and 3 on his own, I chatted with our captain.  He was no more than 25 years old, but has 4 children, all under the age of 5.  He told me how much he loves being a dad and how he adores going home and hearing his kids scream ‘Daddy!’ when they see him.  He seemed like a really nice person, and in the end, I paid him his original asking price.

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Cebu island from our little fishing boat

Lesson Learned:  Not everyone in the tourism industry is trying to rip you off.  Some people are just trying to make an honest living while trying to be a top-notch husband and father.

Alright….1 post left about our time in the Philippines!  Stay tuned!  I’ll be back before you know it!

 

 

 

Cebu Island – Part 3: Osmeña Peak

Usually, if Dave and I take a trip, I do quite a bit of planning ahead of time.  I always leave a bit of room for free time, of course, but we don’t usually stay in the same spot long enough for us to discover more than what have planned for.  I did things differently in the Philippines.

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We were on a bit of a tight budget, so we figured that even if there was nothing to do in Cebu, our Air BnB included a gorgeous pool…so how bad of a time could we possibly have had?

When we first arrived in Dalaguete, we knew we would discover some hidden gems, but we didn’t expect to find a spot as beautiful (and apparently unknown) as Osmeña peak.

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Osmeña peak is the highest point on Cebu Island

We learned about this hidden gem while relaxing one evening with our Air Bnb host, Thomas.  He was very surprised we’d never heard of it, and told us that it was very beautiful and very worth the short hike up.  So, the following morning, we set off to check out the highest point on Cebu island.

We were using an app to navigate to the entrance of our destination, where we’d heard of a relatively easy hiking trail up to the peak.  When we arrived at our destination, a young boy hopped over and pointed us in the right direction.

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Our original path looked promising…

About 5 minutes into our walk, a little boy ran up behind us and started shouting in a local language.  He seemed insistent that we should turn down a tiny, mud-covered path.  It wasn’t long down that path that we realized we’d come in through the ‘wrong entrance’.  We head back to our motorbike, but not before getting some great pictures first.

We drove around a bit more and found the actual entrance to the peak.  In hindsight, it made a lot more sense than our original stop.  For one thing, there was a ticket office and a little store at Stop #2, instead of a couple of farmers sitting on the back of a truck, grinning at us.  Having said that, if you’ve traveled in South East Asia, you learn that things aren’t always as official looking as you expect, which is why we went with it at Stop #1.

The hike up the hill was nice….especially when we got high enough that a breeze made it through the trees.  The trail is well maintained and if you’re in reasonably good shape, it isn’t too difficult of a trek.  It took us about 25 minutes to make it to the top, but we also stopped for quite a few pictures along the way (and a dog followed us up, so I stopped to pet him quite often!)

Aside from our experience with scarf snarfing selfie seekers, our time on the peak was beautiful.  I managed to get some pictures without tourists in it, which is always a challenge.

I did actually manage to get the shot I waited so patiently for…after the selfie seekers left.

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Once more…I think it’s nicer without people in it…

I did take a few selfies myself.  I’m not here to condemn selfies.  But when you’re in a place as beautiful as this, please be considerate of other people.  You can take 1 or 2 selfies…but a series of 8-10 poses is excessive!

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I was sitting on some very sharp rocks here, so I wasn’t too interested in sticking around longer than necessary!

Osmeña peak is a very worthwhile trip.  If you’re looking for additional information about the hike, I found a fantastic website with lots of information including directions and fees.  You can check out that website here.

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Some last shots for you

 

I have a few posts left about our time in The Philippines, so stay tuned!

Cebu Island – Part 2: Tumalog Falls

Dave and I have done a lot of travelling for the last 4 years.  Each country we’ve visited has offered new insight into the different cultures, languages and history that make up our wonderful world.

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From the Grand Palace in Bangkok….
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To the beautiful sandstone architecture of India
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Our world is full of beauty...both man-made and natural!

Although there are so many differences between each place we’ve visited, there have also been similarities.  One thing that we find pretty much anywhere we’ve ever gone, is that every place in south east Asia has a waterfall for tourists to visit.

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My favourite falls in South East Asia:  Kuang Si Falls, near Luang Prabang, Laos.  

Of course, Cebu island has several waterfalls, but we only had the chance to visit one: Tumalog Falls.  Located just outside of Oslob, it’s easy to rent a motorbike to visit, or even hire a motorized tricycle (although, they may have a hard time getting up the hills if their motorcycle isn’t in tip top shape!)

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Surprisingly…these trikes don’t always run perfectly… 

When we arrived the entrance to the falls, we were asked to park our motorbike and walk the last kilometer or so to the actual waterfall.  It was a steep climb down to get there, and then, of course, a tough climb back.  The first time we tried to visit the falls (we tried twice), we were actually scared away by the mid-day heat and the idea of climbing a km uphill.  We normally wouldn’t be worried about a short hike like that, but after suffering from heat exhaustion for several days, we weren’t keen on getting sick again.  But, when our Air BnB host told us we could hire a special motorbike to bring us back up the hill, we decided to try again.

The falls were well worth the visit.  They were very tall and they trickled more than spilled, making them quite peaceful.

The area was very peaceful too.  There was lots of bamboo growing, and it even created a bit of a dome over the area, giving us the feeling of being enclosed by the jungle.

The small pools around the falls were also stunning.

Lots of people brought their swimsuits and were swimming in the pool at the bottom of the falls, but Dave and I hadn’t brought ours.  I’m glad others had more foresight than me though, because the shots I got of them in the water help to show just how high these falls were.

Tumalog falls was a worthwhile trip I’d recommend to anyway staying in the Oslob area!

Cebu Island – Part 1: Our Lady of Immaculate Conception

Our first real stop in the Oslob area was not planned.  We were driving around, looking for a market when we came upon this huge and beautifully old Church.

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It took 18 years to complete The Immaculate Conception Church, beginning in 1830. There are several buildings on the grounds, including the church itself, a bell tower, and a parish house.  All buildings have had some reconstruction over the years, due to fires and other damage.

The church is made of a made of coral stone, which was very popular in Spanish architecture during colonial times.  Coral stone is excellent at repelling heat, so it is a perfect choice for a church in The Philippines.  While we were walking around, we saw that a funeral was being held inside the church, so even now…this parish is active and the church is in use.

There are also several buildings nearby that were equally beautiful.  We spent a bit of time exploring the unfinished “Cuartel”.  This large building was suppose to house Spanish soldiers during colonial times, but for some reason, it was never actually completed.  Now, it serves as a beautiful place to take some pictures on a sunny day.

The area around the church and Cuartel was also beautiful.  There were a few vendors out, selling treats to kids and their parents.  There were some really nice benches as well, and some trees, providing shade.  Dave and I actually visited the area twice during our week in Oslob.  It was so hot the first day that we couldn’t stay for very long, so we came back a second time.

The part of this historical site that interested me most though, wasn’t actually the church itself.  Although the church was beautiful, the Baluarte, or watchtower, was even more interesting yet.

The Baluarte has an important place in Oslob history, having helped protect the town from attacks in the past.  Now, it serves as a photographic reminder of times past.  Most interestingly, there are chunks of coral built into the wall.  It’s really very beautiful, overlooking the ocean the way it does.

I really enjoyed this ‘surprise stop’ in Oslob, and I encourage anyone in the area to check it out if they have the chance!

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One of my favourite pictures of area

Oslob’s Whale Sharks

My sunburn has subsided, and the bruises I collected on our Cebu holiday have now all but disappeared, but my memories of our time in the Philippines have not.

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Some things….like this public urinal, for example…are unforgetable

 

Now, before I get into writing about our time in Cebu, I want to write about one activity we decided NOT to do.  Most people who travel to Cebu Island stay in the little town of Oslob.  We opted to stay in a town nearby this popular tourist destination, but we skipped the activity most people do while in the area:  swimming with whale sharks.

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Whale Sharks are the world’s largest fish. But don’t worry…they aren’t the type of sharks that eat people. They just eat tiny krill, so swimming with them is pretty safe.

For those of you who know me, this probably seems like the kind of thing I would love!  Swimming in the ocean…seeing incredible wildlife…learning about a fascinating animal… but after spending the last 4 years learning how to be a responsible tourist, I took the time to learn about the Oslob Whale Sharks, and I learned how human contact affects the fish.

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I learned that although the government has set up all sorts of rules that tourists and tour operators are suppose to follow, it doesn’t stop people from touching the fish.  Sharks have very sensitive skin, so a watch or a ring can easily hurt one of these beautiful animals. 

First, I should say that unlike riding an elephant, swimming with whale sharks is not as obviously harmful to the animals.  They are not captive or trained in any way, so on the surface, it doesn’t seem like swimming with them should be too much of a problem.  After all, they are just being given some free food.  What’s the harm?

Whaleshark feeding in Oslob, Cebu
The whale sharks are swarmed by people and boats as soon as they arrive.  Tourists are also only given a few moments in the water with them, before they are told to get out, to make way for more tourists…

Unfortunately, whale sharks in the area are becoming too comfortable around boats, and are frequently hurt when they approach fishermen, expecting food.  Some fish are also dealing with malnutrition, because the krill they are fed by the fishermen is only 1 of the various types of fish they need in their diets.  Unfortunately, if their bellies are full of this free krill, they don’t search for food, and don’t get all the nutrients they need.

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But there’s actually a bigger problem with feeding the Whale Sharks of Cebu Island.  The free food they receive is actually changing their migration patterns and many scientists believe that this will ultimately result in fewer whale shark babies being born.

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I’d be happier if these animals didn’t join the very long list of critically endangered animals in our oceans.

Ultimately, we decided that seeing the whale sharks was not as important as protecting them, so we chose not to go on that adventure.  We did, however, see Tumalog Falls, a church made of coral stone and of course, and the highest point on all of Cebu Island!

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Over the next few weeks, I have several posts planned about our week in paradise.  They will all be short, and full pictures, so stay tuned!

Day 9 – Travelling

Today, we leave the Philippines. Our flight actually leaves at 1:50am, but with everything closing down in Cebu city, we find ourselves at the airport 5 hours before our flight to Shanghai.

Luckily, we sweet talked our way out of excess baggage fees (because apparently a 12kg suitcase is over the limit for 2 people…) And I managed to get the pity of a security guard, who saw how badly I wanted to keep my honey, and let it go through. Apparently, people like me today!!

Our busride back to Cebu City was pretty miserable. 3 hours (a lot of it stuck in traffic), in a standing room bus…. Full of cranky people (us included!). At one point, someone brought in a massive Nemo balloon, filling up a large portion of the top of the bus. I thought I was going to suffocate.

You can see Nemo up at the front. At this point, a few people had already cleared out of the bus. It was so badly packed that we had to start pushing our way out of the bus 5 minutes before our stop

At least they played a movie: The Fast and the Furious. I had actually decided never to watch any of those movies, after seeing the first 10 minutes of the first one. Fate had other plans…

The following 2 days will go like this:

July 29th

Wake up at 8am

At 3pm, board a 3 hour busride to Cebu city.

Grab a taxi to the airport after getting a quick bite to eat.

July 30th

Our flight to Shanghai leaves at 1:50am

We arrive at Pudong airport at 5:40am

We travel to the hotel we stayed at before leaving for the Philippines and pick up our luggage.

Our flight to Vancouver leaves at 3:55pm

We arrive in Canada at 11:40 am… On the same day…due to time changes.

At 1:25, we depart for Winnipeg and will arrive at about 6pm.

Long story short…

We will be on the go for a good 42 hours…. Sleeping only if our flights allow it.

Goodness, I hope our plane is empty!

Day 8 – Selfies & Tourists

We had a beautiful day here, in The Philippines.  We started the day visiting the highest peak on Cebu island, and then headed back towards Oslob to check out Sumilon Island, where snorkeling was suppose to be good.  All in all, it was a day full of beautiful views, lots of tourists and of course….selfies.

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It was a pretty beautiful place to take a selfie!

Of course, those who know me know that I’m not much of a fan of tourists.  I realize that this is silly, seeing as how I am one myself, but an abundance of tourist usually means I don’t enjoy myself very much.  I was reminded of that today.

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I find it amazing that I got any shots of Dave and I without other tourists in them.  I managed…but only because I’m incredible patient (and incredibly determined!)

I believe that a selfie or two in a beautiful place is a great way to commemorate the time you spent there.  Other people, as it would seem, will go to great lengths to get every pose, on every inch, of every rock….and then they’ll go back because they had a single hair out of place.

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This is in the background of the Selfie Dave and I took.  She was literally carrying her shawl in her mouth up onto that rock, so that she could get photos of herself with the shawl blowing in the wind.  

This particular group of tourists was made up of young girls and a tour guide.  Each girl got up on those rocks one by one and posed…and then they all went up again and again to get different poses and try to outdo each other.  Dave and I eventually grew bored waiting, hopped on a different set of rocks, and get a couple of shots of our own.

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Dave’s beautiful selfie.  He didn’t have a shawl, or he would have carried it up the rocks in his mouth….

Later, on our trip Sumilon island, we saw more bad tourist behaviour.  Now, I should begin by explaining that what I saw today was something I have seen many, many times before.  Some tourists…for reasons unknown to me… go on boating tours…when they are TERRIFIED of both water and the sun.  The result usually involves several locals needing to carry these tourists in and out of the water, and a lot of people refusing to get off the boat to snorkel ‘because it’s too deep and they don’t know how to swim’.

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The woman in the long skirt at the left of the photo had to be carried on a Filipino man’s back because she was either scared of the water (like the woman before her had been), or she didn’t want to get her skirt wet getting back into the boat.   The woman sitting next to her, is your average Asian tourist.  They hate the sun.  They hate it like a vampire hates it. 

In case you need more proof…here’s a short and blurry photo I took of the second woman being carried onto the boat.  One of the boat hands had to literally put her on his shoulders and carry her to the boat.  He was walking barefoot on a lot of coral while he did this.  I feel like that is important information.

So, today was a mixed bag.  I really enjoyed some of the scenery we saw today (I’ll be writing more about our experiences later), but I was pretty fed up with people by the end of the day.

Tomorrow is our last day in the Philippines (for this trip, anyway!).  I’ll be back with one more daily post, and then some detailed posts about our time on Cebu Island!

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It’s been a beautiful week!

Thanks for checking in!