The province of Cebu, consisting of the main island and nearly 170 surrounding islands and islets, is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Philippines. Owing to direct flights to Cebu City from overseas, Cebu is the perfect getaway to kick start your Philippines adventure. There isn’t a shortage of awesome things to do here, and here is a rundown of my select adventure activities to soak you through during your trip to Cebu.
Scuba, scuba, Malapascua
Malapascua, a tiny island north of Cebu mainland, is known as the only place in the world to encounter Thresher sharks daily, and indeed the island does not offer much but spectacular diving. The livelihood of the residents depends on the sharks and dive industry, and they do a great job concerning sustainability by recycling, avoiding/reducing plastic consumption, and employing ocean guardians to prevent illegal fishing activities. A part of the money you spend will help protect our oceans, but the hassle of getting to the island may not be worth it just for the Thresher shark. Getting here involves a 4-5 hour land travel from Cebu City to Maya port in Daanbantayan town, and from there it takes another hour by boat to Malapascua. It took us a total of 8 hours door-to-door by means of public transport, it’s a bit faster if you organize private transportation.
|Thresher shark with a tail longer than its body. This pic is from the web, mine turned out useless due to low visibility.
My encounter with the Thresher shark was a thrill that only lasted 3 to 5 seconds in poor visibility with too many divers around, leaving me with a feeling that it wasn’t worth the 4am wake-up call. Nevertheless, the day trips to nearby islands made all the hassle worthwhile. Gato Island stands out in my mind for the dive spots teeming with vibrant marine life, and Kalanggaman Island for the best beach.
The main allure, thresher sharks aside, you’ll encounter reef sharks, lobsters, seahorses, nudibranchs among other critters, and witnessing the mandarin fish mating on a sunset dive will surely be one of the highlights of your visit. Be sure to pack an appropriate underwater camera for your dive trip!
Wet through to your bones on a canyoneering tour to Kawasan Falls
To be honest, this exhilarating water adventure is hands down the most famous attraction on mainland Cebu. Thousands participate in the adventure every day, but it’s so worth battling the crowds. An immersive experience that takes you through towering gorges where you get to swim and slide through the river canyons, jump off high cliffs, and even do Tarzan-swings off stalactite boulders into the turquoise pools. Accompanied by a guide, preferably a crazy one like mine, Ramel, you’ll have loads of fun over the course of 2 hours as you make your way down to the Kawasan Falls itself. Check out the compiled video clip at this link https://youtu.be/pY0iDeZdRT4 and see for yourself!
Marvel at the sardine run in Moalboal
Truly a magical spectacle you should not miss out on your trip to Cebu is the Sardine Run in Moalboal on the south-western coast of Cebu Island. You can find massive schooling fish just off the Panagsama beach at shallow depths of 5-15 meters year-round, meaning you can not only dive but also snorkel with thousands, millions of sardines. I did both snorkeling and scuba diving, and the latter was the better one to witness the huge balls of dancing sardines. It was quite a spectacle to swim amidst the dense clouds of the tiny fish, as well as a big challenge to film and photograph them. They move way too quickly that my camera would never be able to keep up with. Well, their hurry was partially to evade a hungry Thresher shark, which, unfortunately, I didn’t get to see but my guide.
If you ever head to Cebu Island, make sure to say hi to the sardines and check out the video clip from my morning dive with them https://youtu.be/3jAlkeZ0NMY. Stay alert and don’t miss the show, everything is fast-paced down there!
Do NOT swim with Whale Sharks
One of the most thrilling and humbling experiences in my life was being sized up by the largest fish in our oceans, the Whale Shark. Swimming with whale sharks is also one of the most popular activities in Oslob, Cebu, but having the opportunity does not mean you should seize it without giving a second thought. Although we both loved the experience in Tanzania, we decided not to support this controversial activity here. The former fishermen, now called whale shark guides, feed the animals causing unnatural behavior like not avoiding boats and humans, not migrating anymore. The picture is from the web, the very same one seen on flyers. The fish is seemingly begging for food, and that can’t do any good.
Swimming with a whale shark is absolutely an experience I recommend you to explore, but make sure you do it in an ethical way. That’s why I would like to emphasize the importance of staying away from this activity in Oslob, an activity that interrupts the natural migration route, causes malnutrition due to lack of variety of food and intake of contaminated food, and according to studies, nearly 90% of the interactions cause injuries on whale sharks. If you want to find out more about whale sharks and how a real encounter looks like, check out my dedicated article here.
Bonus: Enjoy a sundowner or two in Moalboal
Lastly, in case you’re wondering how you could possibly get yourself dry at the end of an extremely wet day, wonder no more. Similarly, if you’re not an active type or prefer to stay dry, you can lounge under the sun and watch turtles swim by while slurping your cocktail at one of the waterfront bars in Moalbal. And be sure to wait till the sky is on fire. Cheers!