Traveling the Philippines: Moalboal & Dauin
Moalboal and Dauin are two gems found around Cebu in the Philippines. I heard a lot about each destination before visiting and they are prime examples of the saying “different strokes for different folks.” It all depends on your experience so book a flight and check each place out for yourself!
The journey from Siargao Island to our next destination was long, but not nearly as painful as the journey was to get there. We tried to go to the port to book an overnight ferry to Cebu for that same day, but we had a strike of bad luck as the printer broke while she was processing our tickets. We ended up having to book online for the next day, but that was okay because Siargao Island isn’t a bad place to get stuck. After our ferry from Dapa to Surigao for 200 pesos ($4) we hung out in Surigao City for four hours while it downpoured, killing time before our night ferry started boarding. The night ferry was surprisingly very comfortable. There were hundreds of bunk beds all aboard this three tiered massive ship. We went with an economy ticket for 850 pesos ($17) and it was perfect with the night time breeze as our airflow. We arrived in Cebu about 3:30am and took a white meter taxi for 50 pesos ($1) directly to the South bus terminal where we found an AC bus to Moalboal for 140 pesos ($2.80). As I mentioned in my previous entry, traveling around the Philippines is no easy feat. It’s takes a lot of patience and time but it is worth it.
The number one destination on Cebu for all backpackers and tourists is Moalboal and from what I heard from others it sounded like it could quite possibly be one of my favorite spots. In this small beach town in Cebu you’ll find beach bars and millions of sardines right off the coast. We walked around for the first hour trying to find a hostel with two beds available. We found Babu Backpackers, a nice AC room with comfortable beds, but we were not aware of the massive parties that ensued at this hostel til the wee hours of the night. The staff was incredibly friendly and Babu was very sweet, but we were not interested in partying so we moved the next day to Moho Hostel which suited our needs to a T.
In Moho hostel there was a common area with hammocks, bean bags and tables along with a half kitchen where I was able to prepare a fresh salad. The fruit and vegetable market in the main part of town is only 2.5km away from the hostel. The best way to reach it is via tricycle for 20 pesos (40 cents). I highly recommend buying your own groceries and cooking up a feast sans the MSG and “special syrup” that Pinoys love to use in each dish.
One of the most talked about activities in Moalboal is canyoneering. We rented a motorbike for 400 pesos ($8) for 24 hours and drove to Badian where you’ll find many companies that do the day tour. We paid 1000 pesos ($20) for the canyoneering tour which included equipment, lunch and a guide. Our guide, Armando wasn’t much to write home about and I do not recommend Deep Blue Canyoneering, but the day was really fun. It happened to be awful weather, but the trees blocked out the rain as we swam, slid, floated, climbed and jumped through the waterfalls and rivers.
The day was full of cliff jumping, but you don’t have to jump if you don’t want to. The highest jump is at the end. The locals say it is thirteen meters, but I think it’s more like ten. They have natural water slides and rope swings that you can use as well. The crystal blue water and crazy forests made me feel like Jane out of Tarzan. By the time we reached Kawasan Falls it was pissing down with rain. Kawasan was VERY crowded yet beautiful to say the least. If you do plan to visit, go very early in the morning to have it all to yourself. The walk is very lovely along the river and there are many stands along the way to purchase food and drinks. So grab a fried banana and enjoy the views!
Moalboal is also known for its sardines. When I say this was one of the wildest things I’ve ever experienced I hope you take it to heart because I was absolutely blown away. I decided not to dive because I wasn’t feeling well and boy am I glad I made that decision because snorkeling along the coast of Moalboal was more than enough. I grabbed my snorkel gear and walked towards the pier. There are many entrances near the pier free of charge so do not pay the 500 pesos ($10) to enter from the pier. I kicked out about 100 meters expectint to see a school of sardines, but instead I saw about a million.
I’m not kidding when I say a million. It took my breath away. They were swimming in a glorious massive serpent-like school moving with the current and swirling around you. Every time you kicked down towards them they moved out of the way creating a massive black hole optical illusion. It was one of those “WOW THIS EARTH IS SO INCREDIBLE” moments where you feel like David Attenborough should be narrating as you swim along. You can dive down into them and follow them around or just simply lay above them and watch them move with the current. To top it off there were a few turtles swimming around the area as well. It was quite a surreal experience. Beware of the jellyfish!!! My friend and I got stung quite a bit causing welts all along the left side of my body. I covered myself in vinegar, but the sting still lasted for a half hour.
Moalboal is also home to White Beach which I hear is beautiful, as well as, other waterfalls about an hours drive south near Malabuyoc. There are few beach bar restaurants worth checking out at night full of other backpackers. Chili Bar is a perfect place to watch the sunset with a fresh cold beer and round of pool. Unfortunately my time in Moalboal was cut short due to not feeling top notch and having to visit the hospital, but I do believe if I went back I would love it as much as others do!
What to do:
- Canyoneering- 1000 pesos ($20) for an all day adventure of cliff jumping, natural water slides and swings!
- Snorkel with the sardines and turtles!
- White beach
- Rent motorbike- 400 pesos ($8) for 24 hours
- Kawasan falls- Very crowded, but beautiful. Go early in the morning to avoid crowds.
- Tumalog falls- Non-touristy and beautiful, but a longer drive.
- Malabuyoc waterfalls and springs
Where to eat:
- Ven’s kitchen
- Local eatery
- Chili bar
- Buy your own fruit and vegetables and make your own food!
Where to stay:
- Moho hostel - 400 pesos ($8) AC room
- Chief Mau - 450 pesos ($9) for dorm bed
- Moalboal Backpackers - beachfront 250 pesos ($5) for dorm bed
- Sea Explorer Dive resort- 400 dorm bed ($8)
Venturing to Dauin from Moalboal— Tricycle 50 pesos ($1) to bus stop in Moalboal, bus to Bato for 70 pesos ($1.20), motorbike to Liloan port for 20 pesos (20 cents), ferry to Sibulan for 170 pesos ($3.20), habel habel to Dauin 20 pesos (20 cents).
THE BEST MACRO DIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES IS FOUND IN DAUIN!!!! IF YOU SCUBA DIVE AND ARE INTO THE LITTLE CRAZY CREATURES YOU NEVER KNEW EXISTED, LOOK NO FUTHER THAN DAUIN.
I had a workaway set up in Zambougita just south of Dauin and was quite excited to help clean up the reef and spend time helping out locals in their shops. What I wasn’t expecting was the backpacker hell I walked into. There was a bamboo hut with twenty some odd backpackers and all their stuff everywhere. Showing up from a long day of travel after being in the hospital was one thing, but to show up to this was something else. It started to pour rain in the middle of the night and the roof above my mat leaked so I was completely soaked at two in the morning, the hut flooded and I ended up napping on the concrete floor before leaving early in the morning to find somewhere better to stay. I learned that this workaway is not liscenced for diving but takes open waters certified divers out anyways. I also found this to be more of a chill away then a work away, yeah the price is right for 100 pesos ($2) per night, but I’d rather pay a couple extra dollars for a proper mattress and no leaky roof.
I moved to Bongo Bongo Divers in Dauin and could not be more happy with my choice. It was a home away from home for me. The staff welcomed me with open arms and showed me to my own hut conveniently located next to the lovely bathrooms with massive shower heads. I instantly met some fellow travelers, cooked my own meals and chilled in the hammocks in between my daily dives and yoga practice. Bongo Bongo was located near the fresh market in town allowing me to buy my own groceries and cook delicious healthy meals. After a day of cooking my own meals I felt better already! Just goes to show what you put in your body matters. The MSG and oil they use in the local food dishes takes a toll on you after a while so you learn to appreciate the opportunity to cook for yourself even more as time goes on.
The diving in Dauin is some of the best I’ve ever witnessed. I’d never been macro diving before and didn’t know what to expect, but HOLY COW was I impressed. My first dive was at Ducomi Pier which consists of muck diving, where you are searching the sand for crazy little creatures before ending up at four massive pillars that used to be the foundation of a once standing pier. My guide Marv was an incredible spotter. At first we spotted some crazy looking pipe fish that live on the seaweed and have incredible camouflaging abilities before coming across juvenile cuttlefish, frog fish, and a bat fish. A turtle swam by as we reached the pillars that was beaming with beautiful corals, nudi branches and home to a gigantic octopus.
One of my favorite dives was the night dive I did at Bongo Bongos House reef, Poblacion and Cars. I’m always surprised at how much activity is going on under the water while everyone sleeps under the stars. Everything had eyes down there and my torch was my only lifeline to see all the colorful eyes staring back at me. On this dive I saw a blue ring octopus, sea moths, a massive cuttlefish, a spanish dancer, a turtle bigger than me, and so many other creatures. The amount of shrimps and crabs were in the thousands. Being night dive certified is definitely worth the adventure.
One day a few friends and I spent a full day diving around Apo Island which was also very beautiful. Bongo Bongo’s massive boat drove us to the island about thirty minutes away from the shore. The calm waters welcomed us with open arms and we had no hesitation diving right in. Most people when they visit Apo Island come back saying it’s like turtle soup, I didn’t have the same experience only spotting about five turtles, but I did sea a ton of sea snakes, large frog fish and a massive octopus. The coolest dive was the last dive on Largahon where the coral meets the sand resembling a glass of champagne with bubbles rising out from the seas surface. This is where I met my first flying gurnard. I’ve never seen a creature quite like this one. The lunch on the boat was a delicious vegetable coconut curry and the staff bumped music all day allowing us to enjoy the scenery while giving ourselves enough time between dives.
You can venture out to Dumaguete for a good night out as well! It’s a 10 peso (20 cents) ride into the city and Hiya Hiya is the place to be for good food, cocktails and music. From there you can venture to Why Not or Whatever Bar depending on whether you want to try your chances at kareoke with the fellow Pinoys. I was feeling quite lazy after all my dives and only made it out in Dumaguete one night, but it sure was an experience.
Where to go out:
- Fin Bar- only bar in town
- Hiya Hiya- sushi
- Why not
- Whatever Bar- kareoke
Where to stay:
- Bongo bongo divers- 400 pesos ($8) per night for only single hut! Nice common area and use of full kitchen!
What to do:
- Apo Island - 3500 pesos ($70) three dives including lunch and snacks
- Macro diving- house reef, poblacion and cars, ducomi Pier, San Miguel- 1300 pesos ($26) per dive
Leaving Bongo Bongo divers in Dauin was bittersweet. I felt so at home in my own hut, spending my afternoons reading in the hammocks, diving everyday, and cooking my own food, but all good things must come to an end and Siquijor was calling my name...