WHALE SHARKS AND WATERFALLS IN CEBU ISLAND, PHILIPPINES

WHALE SHARKS AND WATERFALLS IN CEBU ISLAND, PHILIPPINES

As we left Hanoi last night, we land in Manila in the early morning. We will be in the Philippines for about three weeks. Dreaming of beaches, islands and new adventures, we decided to skip the big city of Manila and fly straight to Cebu.

Our connection flight Manila-Cebu with Cebu Pacific airline gets us to the central island of the Philippines by midday.

DAY 1 – ARRIVAL AT BOLJOON, CEBU

This will be a long transfer day for us. From the airport we take a taxi to Cebu South Terminal, where buses leave to all the island regions. The yellow coaches of Ceres Lines are the main provider, we hop on one with direction Oslob, perhaps the most famous area in southern Cebu mostly for its iconic whale sharks. Our stop is about 20 km before Oslob, in a village named Boljoon, which we get to after a 3-hour ride.

The place we are staying is called La Bella Beach House, beautifully located on a cliff facing the sea. As the owners are away, we are greeted by the kind Ana. We still have a couple of hours of light, so we decide to rent a scooter and visit the nice village: as in the whole country, the Spanish were in Boljoon for more than 300 years, between centuries 16th-19th.

where to stay in cebu

Boljoon Parish Church

The effects and remains of this domination are very interesting, varying from names and words in the language to religion and architecture.  Nuestra Señora de Patrocinio Parish Church of Boljoon is a clear example, built in a pseudo-baroque rococo style.

At the end of the mass, we take a walk through the houses, encountering the surprised faces of locals: we are definitely an attraction here, literally every kid says hi and adults ask us many questions too. Later we move together with half the village to the indoor gym, where a basketball game is taking place.

hostel cebu oslob

Basketball is the national sport in the Philippines

We already understood that religion and basket are the main beliefs in this country!

For dinner we try a couple of delicious local dishes: one is adobo, a cooking process including meat (any kind of) or fish, with vegetables all marinated in vinegar, garlic and soy sauce which is browned in oil and simmered in the marinade. The other is kare-kare, a stew with a savory peanut sauce. We return to La Bella and plan our first days in the Philippines.

DAY 2 – TUMALOG AND AGUINID WATERFALLS

In the morning we meet Marcial and Melisa, the owners, who welcome us with a delicious Filipino breakfast. La Bella is their family house and they recently decided to rent two rooms to travelers, since they live in Cebu city. Marcial and Melisa give us many info about what to do and where to go, we immediately fall in love with Filipino hospitality. They also lend us a waterproof bag which will be essential in the next days. The position of La Bella Beach House over the sea is stunning, hopefully we will get nice weather to enjoy it fully.

cheap stay oslob cebu

Sea-view from La Bella Beach House

Since the Philippines have over 7.000 islands, and they’re spread over thousands of kilometers, the weather is not easy to predict. The dry season normally goes from November to April, so we are almost at the beginning. Unfortunately these days’ forecasts say showers every day.

As we can’t enjoy the sun, we decide to go and see some waterfalls, there are so many around Cebu. Tumalog Falls are very popular here, they show off a very high waterfall: when we get there the rain has just stopped, there’s a lot of turbid water, although the view is still impressive, we only stop for a while.

tumalog falls what to do cebu

Impressive Tumalog Falls

We eat lunch in a typical Filipino eatery: different pots are showcased on a shelf put towards the street, everyone is free to open the lid, check the content, and order their meal. We get some rice and beef meat for an incredible cheap price, 50 pesos, less than 1€!

Later on we continue our ride going south, passing the town of Santander on the southern cape of Cebu. We meet other travellers who tell us that half section of the most famous Kawasan Falls is closed due to high water level, and water is brown and turbid too.

So we decide to stop at Aguinid Falls, recommended by our hosts at La Bella. We are welcomed by happy faces who will be our guides: the entry costs only 40 pesos, but it is compulsory to hire a guide (and later tip them) as the Aguinid waterfalls come down on 5 different levels and you need to hike them up to get to the top. It is a very exciting experience, also quite an effort but absolutely worth it!

The way up includes walls to climb, dives, natural slides and pools, all in turquoise cold waters. Our photos and videos were taken by the guides with a waterproof “gopro” camera. After almost two hours we get back to the base, we are so pleased and leave 1000 pesos to our great guides. We return to our La Bella Beach House, exhausted but happy.

aguinid falls cebu

A Million Travels @Aguinid Falls, Cebu

DAY 3 – OSMENA PEAK AND RELAX @LA BELLA BEACH HOUSE

A heavy thunderstorm hammers Cebu island all night long, so the day after we can’t head to Kawasan again. We try to go north and inland, looking for Osmena Peak, the top of the island. The road is beautiful, as we take a left turn from the town of Dalaguete and start to gain altitude, we leave the coast road and the landscape starts to change, with charming green hills taking the stage. Unfortunately as we go up, the wind increases and fog becomes more and more dense too. We surpass 700m height as we ride through some characteristic villages. Kids are getting out from schools, everybody walks back to their home, stopping by bakeries or fruit stalls.

cebu where to sleep

Kids outside their schools

 

cebu homestay

A typical Filipino house

We keep on going up, as the visibility is now reduced to 100m we wonder where the hell are we going. A local boy tells us to follow the road for some more, and we finally get to a sort of base camp from where people start the hike. The wind is strong, conditions hard, we are only at 1000m but it seems to be at 3000m! We see some people who just finished the hike, they’re soaked and have legs covered in mud. Still we came a long way and we won’t quit now! Even though we are not well equipped nor dressed at all. Our outfit is shorts and flip-flops, a hoodie and a raincoat will have to make it.
As we pay the small entry fee (40p), we are warned to be careful and are offered a guide to go up, but we refuse, at worst we will come back. The path is nothing but a thick layer of mud at first, we strive because of our slippery shoes. As we read online, the hike would be a fairly easy one in good weather conditions, it is not too steep and the path is clear. Unfortunately wind gusts become seriously powerful and dangerous too. Half way there, we reach a group of 4 girls with a guide, they are taking shelter on a side of the mountain. After waiting for the gusts to calm down a little, we carry on until reaching the last plain before the very peak. We are so close but just can’t see it, the fog hides it all. We decide not to proceed any further, we would definitely need boots to hold out against such conditions. We don’t have any pictures, it was just fog all around us. When we get back we look like we had a mud fight! It is nice to ride the way back, degrees begin to raise and we receive some warm sun rays again.

Actually when we reach the coast we realize that the weather has never been this nice so far, so that we can enjoy the sun back at our La Bella Beach House. Marcial and Melisa kindly set up a small corner of paradise for us, long-chairs, coconuts (buko in Tagalog language), and access to a private beach.

la bella beach house boljoon cebu

Paradise view from La Bella Beach House!

We can relax for an hour before the sky becomes grey again. We can imagine this places must be heaven in dry season, we just had a glimpse and it was wonderful. The owners are planning to extend their property in the future. They show us the upstairs accommodation too (we are staying downstairs), with a gorgeous sea-view. Waking up like this really makes you feel good!

La bella house boljoon

Dream like awakening

Also the name La Bella had attracted us (meaning beautiful in Italian), and Melisa explained us that actually comes from Spanish, which gave many words to Tagalog. And they named their cute daughter Arabella!

Before sunset we reach Boljoon town one last time, to enjoy the view from its high-point, have some barbecue grilled meat, and attend another basketball game at the gym. Tomorrow we will be leaving, but not before having the chance to watch the iconic whale sharks. We left this activity as last, hoping for the weather to improve.

boljoon cebu oslob hostel stay

Boljoon town from above

DAY 4 – WHALE SHARKS!

On our last day we wake up at 5.30 and see a faint ray of sun, so we quickly hop on our bike and head to Oslob. The whale shark feeding takes place every morning at 6 am, and only lasts for about an hour. When we get there it is slightly raining already, but the place is packed! We pay our ticket (1000pesos), follow the briefing (the sharks must be respected and absolutely not touched, despite their size of 10-12m and 20tons, they aren’t dangerous to us, they are very docile), and wait in line to get on one of the many bangkas (boats). While tourists stand in a boat line and are only allowed to swim close to them, a man on a boat some meters away throws food in the sea to attract the sharks.

This kind of show is considered unethical by many because the whale sharks are lured close to the coast with different food including reportedly shrimp and tuna, so that they don’t need to swim far to get plankton which normally constitutes their diet, and always know where to find it easily, which of course will modify their habits. The species is nowadays officially endangered, but that’s because of the fisheries and vessel strikes that used to happen in the past. Now they’re protected, and as long as humans don’t touch and ride them (we saw some pictures like that), they shouldn’t be badly affected. From what we saw (we don’t know what they are fed), the organisation seems to care about the whale sharks, they make sure nobody gets too close to touch them. At the end of the day, at least in Cebu they are in their natural environment and not confined inside an aquarium. Check our video to see Ambra getting a close look to a huge whale shark!

We get back in time to enjoy another delicious breakfast with our hosts, then we must catch a Ceres bus to arrive in time at Argao Pier, from where a cargo ferry boat will depart at 12.00 and bring us to Tagbilaran, Bohol, another major island east to Cebu.

cargo argao cebu bohol tagbilaran

Cargo ferry from Argao (Cebu) to Tagbilaran (Bohol), leaving daily at 12 noon

We say goodbye and many thanks to Marcial and Melisa, they’ve been amazing hosts. If you want to explore Cebu, La Bella Beach House Boljoon is a perfect base to stay: in Cebu you always need a vehicle to go around, and from Boljoon you have lots of attractions nearby, both north and southbound. And if you don’t ride, Marcial and Melisa will organize tours and vans pick ups all around the island. If you are a big group you can contact them here on AirBnB, and also on their Facebook page, you can rent the whole house! Otherwise check the photos of the double rooms here on booking.

A Million Travels @La Bella Beach House Boljoon

A Million Travels @La Bella Beach House Boljoon

Despite the weather we had a great time and made amazing memories in Cebu, it’s time now to go to Bohol for some sun-bathing on sandy beaches!
WHERE TO STAY:
  • La Bella Beach House Boljoon, Cebu: beautiful house located on a cliff overlooking the sea, wonderful view, sweet hosting family; swimming & snorkeling available on location, tours & transfers can be arranged to all Cebu attraction.
    AirBnB: La Bella Beach House, Facebook @labellabeachhouse or Booking   
HOW TO GET AROUND:
  • Hanoi-Manila flight, 4h50m, Cebu Pacific starting from 60$/1way;
  • Manila-Cebu domestic flight, about 1hour, Cebu Pacific or Air Asia, from 20$/1way;
  • Cebu airport to South Bus Terminal taxi, 30 to 60 mins, 200-300 pesos;
  • Ceres Bus from South Terminal to Boljoon, 3h, 140pesos/person;
  • Cargo ferry boat from Argao (Cebu) to Tagbilaran (Bohol), 3h30, leaving reportedly at 4am and 12 daily; 200pesos/person; check more info here.
MONEY&FEES:
  • Money exchange: 200usd=10.050 Philippine Pesos;
  • Motorbike rental: 500pesos/day; fuel: 200pp/full tank;
  • Aguinid Falls: 40pesos each+free tip to guide (500pesos);
  • Tumalog Falls: 40pesos each;
  • Osmena Peak: 40pp;
  • Whale Shark watching, Oslob: 1000 pesos/person, 30 minutes.
TRAVEL INSURANCE:
  • Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.