The island of Cebu is famous for its snorkeling with whale sharks in Oslob and coral reefs in Alcoy, as well as the turquoise waterfalls of Kawasan and Tumalog.
Coming from Incheon (South Korea), at night, I embarked AirAsia low-cost flight to Cebu in the Philippines. This cost 132 thousand won (~103 euros), with taxes and meals.
North of Cebu
I arrived dying for sleep at 2 am of the morning, passing easily over the immigration (Brazilians do not need a tourist visa). Then I left the terminal taking a white cab for 250 Filipino pesos (~4.2 euros), cheaper than the yellow cab, to Cebu’s North Bus Terminal. Soon after, I paid 160 pesos for a seat on the reasonably comfortable bus of Ceres company, which would take 4 hours to the north of the island, in Maya.
The only stop was about 1 hour after departure, with enough time to use the bathroom and buy food. I got some sweet rolls for only 5 pesos each!
In Maya, I got into a boat later on to the island of Malapascua. As there were not enough passengers, because the boats depart every half an hour being full or not, the total cost divided per person was 220 pesos.
Three days later I left this island in the morning, this time for only 120 pesos. As the bus to the capital would take another hour to leave, I boarded an air-con van for 200 pesos. Even on the main highway that cuts through the country, there is only one lane. So you should expect traffic, especially from motorbikes and slow tuk-tuks.
We stopped for lunch on the way, before reaching the North Bus Terminal. It was a roadside restaurant with simple and inexpensive food.
Then I had to take a taxi to get to the South Bus Terminal, from where I would take the next vehicle because it was getting very hot and the city of Cebu is not the safest one.
I had come to realize that Cebuano, the official language of Cebu Island, had been greatly influenced by Spanish occupation in earlier centuries. I was sure of the similarity of the numbers when the bus collector for Oslob informed me that the rate would be “sento kwarenta singko”.
On arriving, I met at Hotel Sebastian the group of Brazilians Agatha, Caio, Thalita, Rafael, Camila and Ingrid. Around the pool, we enjoyed some Red Horse beers for 60 pesos each bottle of 500 ml.
I slept at Ocean View Lodging House, on the seafront, for 1,600 pesos a night – a bit expensive due to the location, but with a double room just for me.
We arranged a tour in their hotel to leave at 5:30 in the morning for snorkeling with whale sharks and seeing Tumalog Falls next. It was 1,800 pesos, which could have been done by paying less, if did on our own.
Arriving at the whale sharks place, we were shocked by how many tourists and boats there were at that time.
The canoes enter a few meters in the water as far as the sharks are, which remain there while they are being fed. I found it somewhat artificial, but even so it is still amazing to swim with the biggest fish in the world. And contrary to what you could have thought, there is no enclosure to keep the animals there.
This is the footage of part of the almost 30 mins we kept snorkeling around the 6 m (young adults) animals.
Tumalog Falls is a nearby waterfall where, from a very considerable height, water flows over a green wall, culminating in a shallow turquoise lake, colored so due to the limestone.
Kawasan Falls, on the other hand, has a larger area and is further away, over an hour and a half from Oslob in Badian. It cost us another 1,100 pesos to go there and enter the park, which has a complete infrastructure and a series of waterfalls with incredible colors and trails to access them. A main attraction is the bamboo raft that takes you underneath the main fall, taking you down with its strength.
Another one is cliff diving from one of the falls that sits in a higher natural pool, almost 10 m high, which I hesitated but did.
On the way back, we drank at the Brazilians’ hotel. Although I have already spent a lot in its bar, the hotel still wanted to charge me to enter the pool because I was not a guest, a ridiculous attitude.
Bad luck for them, because we went out to look for a party in the tiny downtown. First we had dinner in an appetizing pizzeria, adding more Brazilians to the group (Lis and Bruno).
As we did not find any excitement outdoors, we bought beers at 7Eleven for 85 pesos a liter, and took them in the hotel room of the Brazilians.
The next day we should go to Sumilon Island, but as the tide was already very high there would be no strip of sand, and with that we would have to stay in the expensive resort of the island. This would make the tour pass from 2,500 pesos for the whole boat to 1,500 pesos per person.
As an alternative, a tourist agency person pointed us to the beach in the city of Alcoy, and there we went, taking a bus to the north. We paid 25 pesos and arrived about 45 minutes later.
The beautiful beach of Tingko has a modest strip of sand, but its larger and clearer than the others around. We relaxed in the crystal clear waters until lunchtime, when we climbed into the relatively expensive restaurant of a resort with a nice view of the coral reef called Mambagi which is 200 m in front of the beach.
I went there soon after, swimming on my own. If I had to take a boat, it would cost 100 pesos. Most of the zone is covered with green, with more concentrated reefs in the middle. There is a certain variety of life, but not as great as in Malapascua.
I saw the venomous but calm banded-sea-krait (Laticauda colubrina) swimming there. Every time it raised to the surface I felt shivers down on my spine.
Despite that, the only thing that bothered me was the various stings I got on my skin on the way, even though I had only seen one jellyfish.
When I returned, I said goodbye to the group and followed the couple of Brazilians on a bus and then a taxi to the island where the airport is in Cebu, where I would spend the night before the next flights. The city is called Lapu-Lapu.
I slept in a simple collective dormitory in the Mactan District Budgetel, for 450 pesos, because it was only 2 km from the airport. This allowed me to walk there at dawn when I flew from AirAsia for 3,000 pesos to Kuala Lumpur, where I would wait several hours at the airport for the next flight to Myanmar. What I did not count was a tax of 750 pesos that should be paid on boarding directly at the Cebu airport terminal, in dollars or pesos.