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Philippines

Philippines

Coron Island, Philippines

Coron is a quiet little island north of the island of Palawan in the Philippines. There are a dozen Japanese ship wrecks from WW2 scattered around Coron that made it one of Forbes top 10 dive spots in the world!

On 24 September 1944, a squadron of 24 Helldiver bombers burst out of the sky above Coron Bay in the Philippines, located the Japanese supply fleet hiding among the islands below, and proceeded to blow it apart. The dive bombers, escorted by 96 Hellcat fighters, some of which were also carrying bombs, had just 15 minutes to sink as many ships as possible before their fuel would get too low for them to complete the 340-mile return journey to their aircraft carrier. The attack was ruthlessly successful, and left a legacy that wouldn’t be discovered until years later when recreational diving came to this remote part of the Philippines.

To get from El Nido to Coron can be done a few ways. You can take a 4 day cruise with companies like Tao that sail you to islands and snorkel spots during the day and you camp on beaches at night. You can take the slow ferry which takes about 5 1/2 hours or you can take the speed boat and be there in about 3 hours. I chose the cheapest option, the slow ferry.

It ended up taking about 6 hours and costed 800 pesos ($16). The ferry has no windows so its open air and you can climb on the roof if you prefer to get a tan. The views along the way are spectacular!

About 50 islands make up the Calamian Archipelago in Northern Palawan that separates the South China Sea from the Sulu Sea. The ferry boat passes many of these islands on the way to Coron. People living on islands in paradise, living the dream and they don’t even know it!

When you arrive in Coron at the port there is many tricycles out front waiting. To get to the town where most of the hostels are at is not really close enough to walk. I got a Moto taxi ride for 80 pesos to the front door of my guest house. I stayed at Guapos Guest House for 600 pesos ($12) per night for a private room with a shared bath. I don’t know that you will get a better deal then this in Coron and after staying in so many hostels a little privacy was nice. I would book in advance if it is the high season because there was not many budget options. But this place was good and clean and was located close enough to walk to everything in the town. You can also book tours, shuttles and diving through the office here. This phot was taken near the port.

As for the town there isn’t a whole lot going on. A few streets for basic shopping, a couple restaurants a handful of bars and agencies to book your tours or diving. No Name Bar is the only late night spot that I could find. Some Irish lads and I found ourselves there until it closed. After the bars close there is a restaurant down near the port that is open all night and also serves beer.

You can rent a scooter in town for 24 hours for about 500 pesos ($10). There is a few beaches on the island as well as a couple waterfalls. Once you leave the town the island is beautiful! Green hills, rivers, wild cattle roaming the fields. It was very peaceful! I didn’t have much time to spend in Coron because my 30 day visa was about to expire. (If you are in the same position, the closest place to renew your Philippines Visa is either in Manila or Puerto Princessa so I suggest you renewing before going to Coron. I believe the price is around $60) But I did manage to explore a good bit of the island, see a few beaches and catch a basketball game.

The flowing day I met near the port and border a boat set to explore a bit of the sea. My first stop was the Coral Gardens. I have never seen this much live bright beautiful coral in one place before. There was hundreds of different kinds of tropical fish, giant urchins, star fish, and if you’re lucky they say you can see sharks here some times.

The next stop was Kayangan Lake. When you google Palawan you will keep seeing this epic photo from the top of a viewpoint overlooking a blue and green bay. (the photo at the top) This is done from the walk to the lake. The next photo was taken about half way up the hill to the viewpoint.

After soaking up some of that view there is a path leading down the other side to the lake. The lake is half fresh, half salt brackish water so swimming is a bit more difficult then you have been used to but if you swim out to the middle of the lake the views of all sides is amazing! I don’t know what kind of critters are in the water but some Pinner fish were following me around everywhere I went.

It seems to be some kind of tradition with the boat captains that ever time the boat stops he must cook something! No matter what tour I was on in Palawan I would always come back to the fellas having a feast!

The next stop was the twin lagoons. The entrance to the other lagoon is a 1 meter across tunnel behind that blue boat! The fella that found this little secret was really looking for something. But on the other side of that tunnel is another big beautiful lagoon with green water surrounded by giant gray rock face.

These local kids took their bamboo raft to the lagoon to check it out.

And the final stop was this WW2 Japanese ship wreck. The nose of the boat was about 15 feet under water and went down to about 40 foot deep. Many fish and a few divers exploring the deeper part of the wreck.

Getting to and from Coron-

-The ferry boat leaves every other day to and from El Nido.

-Flights depart daily to Busuanga from Manila via Philippine and Cebu Airlines.

Where to stay-

-Guapos Guest House- 500 pesos per night. ($10)

Where to eat-

-Blue Moon Resto bar. I had dinner here every night. On the main street. Good food and wifi

-For dessert check out Pedros Gelatos. Made from scratch every morning.

Philippines

Palawan, The Philippines

The last frontier as they call it. This was it! The reason I absolutely had to go to the Philippines. For the last two years Palawan was named the number one island in the world by Travel & Leisure and many other travel magazines. I had to come see what all of the fuss was about!

Getting around the Philippines is almost a science in itself. If you improperly plan your trip (as I did) you will end up spending a fortune on flights backtracking all over the country to get to your next destination. To get from Boracay to Palawan is only about 95 nautical miles. But to get those 95 miles was one of the most ridiculous days of traveling in my life!

I woke up and packed my bags like any other day, hopped onto the tricycle and headed to the port. After a short ferry ride and I was to the mainland. That was followed by a 2 hour mini bus ride to Kalibo. (There is a much closer airport but the bus ride saves you a cool $75) From Kalibo I had to fly to Manilla for a 7 hour layover. The international terminal in Manilla are amazing! The domestic terminal is not so pretty. There is not much to do, the food choices are burnt pizza or pot noodles. I made the best of it and walked laps around the waiting room and watched the Chicago Bulls game on the television with some local guys. Basketball is kinda a big deal in the Philippines. I was then notified that my flight was delayed an hour. Its pretty standard in Asia. I don’t think I have had a flight leave on time yet. That hour went by and we started to board the plane.

After we all loaded the plane they then informed us that we would be delayed again because of runway traffic. Another 45 minutes later the captain came on the intercom to say those three magic words. Prepare for takeoff. After about 45 minutes in the air we began our decent for what seemed to be our landing. Another hour of the plane jerking side to side and the engine jets boosting and then not making noise I knew something was NOT right. The plane at one point was nose up in the air and you could just feel it float in the air. After two more unsuccessful attempts to land the captain gets on the intercom and tells everyone that the weather was to bad in Puerto Princessa and that we would be returning to Manilla!

By this point I thought I was going to have an actual heart attack! We turned back and half way to Manila he turned off the autopilot and we flew the next 30 minutes at the hands of Mr. Captain. The planes wings turning side to side for the rest of the flight. At this point I came to terms and realized that this guy had absolutely no clue what he was doing. After thirty minutes of this nonsense and the plane dropped to the runway like a skid of bricks and screeched to a stop. Everyone on the plane got up to get their bags and I needed to figure where I would sleep that night now that I was back in Manilla again. The stewardess advised us that they wouldn’t let anyone off of the plane. As you would expect that went over very well with the people on the plane.

A guy sitting next to me was speaking English to someone on the phone in Puerto Princessa and they said that not only was there no weather but there wasn’t even any wind. Another 30 minutes went by and they announced that the flight crew would be giving us some food. Their idea of food and mine are a bit different but they brought us all some kind of chocolate snack cake and water. Another 30 minutes passed and I see the pilots and the entire flight crew leave the plane. As the pilot was leaving I said “hey buddy, first time?” He just put his head down and walked off the plane. I got a chuckle out of that. A few minutes later an entire new flight crew and captains entered the plane and announced that we were going to Puerto Princessa. At this point all I could do is laugh hysterically in disbelief.

Another hour went by and we successfully landed to a beautiful summer night in Puerto Princessa. So 16 hours and $300 later after Air Asia put my life in jeopardy for what should have been a 90 mile boat ride (that doesnt exist) I finally arrived. This want going to be my last run with problems from Air Asia. And they are supposed to be the “good” airline! But it was in the past. They say the adventure getting there is half of the fun. That day I had enough adventure..

That night I stayed at the Airportside Inn. It wasn’t nice, it wasn’t clean, it was quite run down but it was close to the airport and it was almost 12pm at night at this point. I had a 12 person dorm room all to myself with no locker so I spent most of the night waking up to see if my computer and camera were still next to me. I have a cable lock that I used to locked my small bag to my arm. The next morning I took a tricycle to the bus terminal to get the mini bus to El Nido.

It is a 5 hour ride in a cramped mini van local people trying to get across the island. Some of them transporting huge sacks of rice and spices. One girl had a lap full of picture frames. The AC worked and to me that was all that mattered. English is one of the recognized languages in the Philippines but you will see that the further you get from the cities the less and less English was spoken.

El Nido itself is a very small populated town on the ocean. The magic of El Nido happens in the sea! I stayed one night in the town at the Austria’s Guest House to get a feel for the town. Its a nice place a block from the beach and only cost 500 pesos ($10) for a private room with a fan. There is also a legit fruit and pancake breakfast with coffee included and a restaurant on the property to purchase lunch or dinner.

I spent the next three days aboard the Palawan Secret Cruise boat. This was a bit on the pricey side of a backpacker budget but it was really worth it!

The cruise included three meals a day, a tour every morning and afternoon, and a sunset cocktail. I slept in a bunkbed on the sea overlooking Snake Island. There was kayaks to use and a beach bar on land at the end of the sand bar of Snake Island. Other then that we were alone in paradise! During the day a few tour boats would visit the bay to see the island.

The first day we took a tour to snorkel some of the clearest waters I have ever seen in my life! I saw sea horses, parrot fish and my first puppy fish.

The evenings were filled with fresh seafood and cocktails with my new friends.

The morning we woke up to breakfast and a tour of the big and small lagoons. As we entered the small lagoon local guys brought us out kayaks to rent for —- pesos. Inside of the lagoon was truly a sight to see! Rock walls on both sides. Deep green waters underneath of me.

As I was paddling into the lagoon I started to see jellyfish. Big ones and lots of them! They looked exactly like the stingless jellyfish I had seen in the photos. The only place on earth I am aware of these things exists was in a lake in the island of Palau and on the island of Surigao in the Philippines. The lagoon in Surigao had recently been shut down because the population of jellies was almost completely gone in a few short years by tourists swimming in the lagoon. So maybe these guys migrated from there. I bet there was 100 of them I saw swimming near the surface. It was unbelievable!

When I reached back to the boat a spoke to the captain about what I saw. He said he had been to this lagoon many many times and he had never heard about any jellyfish there so I felt pretty lucky!

After arriving at the large lagoon if you arrive at low tide you have to walk down a valley of rocky shallow water to get to the lagoon. I swam in with a snorkel and paddled out to the middle of the lagoon. All was well until I put on my mask and looked down. I couldn’t see the bottom, not a fish, not a thing! Just the dark abyss. It was a really erie feeling!

I wrapped an amazing day up with a Coconut delivered to the boat by a fella on a raft for 50 pesos.

The following day we took a tour of Papaya beach. If you book tours on the mainland they all leave at the same time and they all arrive at the same time. The beauty of staying on this cruise was they were determined to get me to see the sights before anyone else arrived! We had the beach to ourselves.

 

I even got a game in with some local kids working on our boat. Im not real sure what the rules were but everyone got two shots and you didn’t have to dribble unless you wanted to.

There was one bamboo hut that someone lived in and another that they sold coconuts and rum out of. Two bucks for a coconut full of rum? Ill take two.

Im not sure if there was a school somewhere in the jungle or if the kids that lived in that hut had to take this boat to school but what a way to grow up!

Because coconut.

I would highly recommend staying on this boat for a couple nights when you make it to el Nido! It was the highlight of my Palawan trip!

After returning to land I spent one night again at the Austria’s Guest House and booked my ferry boat to Coron. From there I woke up at 5 am for the 3.5 hour speed ferry to Coron.

It’s not often you get the pleasure of seeing the real paradises of the world before they have been taken over by hotels and bars. I spoke to one gentlemen from the USA that had been living there for 13 years. He told me about a time when there was no streets and almost no travelers because no one knew about the place. Tourism will in time kill a lot of the beauty of El Nido but if you get the chance you must see it for yourself..

Getting in and out-
-Flight to Puerto Princessa from Manila plus 5 hour mini bus ride. From Boracay I paid almost $300 and spent a whole day traveling to get to Palawan. Don’t do what I did! Plan your flights properly.
-Flight to El Nido from Manila.

Where to stay-
Austria’s Guest house- $10 per night
Palawan Secret Cruises- $130 per night.

Where to eat-
Art bar- Really good food a bit on the pricey side and the best wifi in El Nido. (I promise you will pay $1 more for a chicken with good wifi)

Philippines

Boracay, The Philippines

Condé Nast Traveler readers choice recently named Boracay the number one Island in the world! To be completely honest with you in my opinion it is pretty far fetched but I have a few photos from there that say differently. I arrived to Boracay before Christmas and was just looking for a good beach to relax on and celebrate the holidays. Boracay is a place that you can spend as little or as much money as you would like. If you aren’t into partying then you better do your homework about where you are going to stay because this place knows how to do that very well! Boracay also has no shortage of things to do. From diving, snorkeling, helmet diving, sailing, day trips, island hopping, parasailing, sunset cruises to cliff jumping, there is something for everyone.

After arriving to Caticlan from Cebu upon arrival to the airport I grabbed my backpack and got onto maps.me (which I must say has completely changed the travel game! Its an offline map that operated from your location. It is completely brilliant!) So there was tricycles (Moto taxis) outside of the terminal picking up people to take them to the ferry terminal for Boracay. But after looking at my map I saw that the terminal was only a 5 minute walk away. When you arrive to the ferry terminal you have to pay three separate fees that add up to about 150 Pesos ($3) to board the ferry boat. A 10 minute boat ride will take you to the port in Boracay. From there you have to take a tricycle to your “Station.”

The beach area in Boracay is split into 3 stations. Station 1 is a bit quieter with ocean front hotels and guest houses. There is also many good higher end restaurants and bars here. Station 2 is where the party is at. This is also where you will find most of the hostels and the walking streets. And Station 3 is probably the most relaxed of the three. I stayed at the Boracay Backpacker which is right on the edge of station 1. It is close enough to the party and there is a bar on the property but you can also rest in the evening. It is a minute walk from the beach and lots of good restaurants. The walls, the sheets, the towels, everything is white. There is a tiki bar in the courtyard and bamboo cabanas to relax on.

(Photo- Hostelworld.com)

White sand beach is the main Beach in Boracay. It is the finest example of paradise lost I have ever seen. You can tell that 20 years ago this was one the best beaches in the world! One of those beaches where the palm trees go all the way up to the sea and thats followed by white sand and amazing aqua water. If you happen to walk the beach at sunrise while everyone is still sleeping you can get a good look at what it once was.

By 9:00 in the morning the entire beach is full of dive tanks and boats loaded full of people going to take day trips and soon after comes the guys selling sunglasses and tours. My first stroll down that beach I remember thinking man, I could live here. I think a day or two later that opinion had faded but at the right time of day it is still a sight to see.

I spoke to some local women about the island and they told me how sad it makes them because as children, they knew everyone on the island and it truly was paradise but now many businesses are owned by people from other counters and with that came big price increases. And now they do not know their neighbors. But there is still many amazing places on Boracay to visit!

After a good rain if you take the 5 minute walk to cross the island, on the other side Bulabog beach is good when the crouds aren’t there. When the weather is good the entire beach will be filled with kite surfers and wind surfers as far as you can see. This beach also has many hostels and hotels lining it but most are geared towards the wind surfing.

In my opinion the best beach I saw was Diniwid Beach. While I just so happened to be in Boracay I was watching a video of the top 10 bluest waters in the world and Diniwid Beach was on that list! A few minutes after watching that video I packed up my camera and started walking down white beach to do some exploring. After you walk north past the stations is when Boracay starts getting good! A beautiful beach and a few resorts in the distance. You will walk past the occasional tiki bar with a few locals and tourists hanging out. At the end when it looks like you can not go any farther follow the path and you will walk around a cliff face to a small shore of colorful fishing boats. Another 10 minute walk and you will arrive to Diniwid Beach. Women drinking tropical cocktails sun bathing on a white sand. The water is so turquoise its hard to believe its real.

If you keep walking past the beach and follow the trail will lead you to the Spider House. This has to be the coolest bar on the island! Levels of seating over looking the ocean, a giant raft in the sea to swim out to and a plank for diving. The Spider house is one of the best places in Boracay! You can grab lunch or a beer, take a swim, lay in the sun and watch the sun.

I had to move hostels before New Years for three nights because the Boracay Backpackers was booked. I moved to the W Hostel and I have to say, this was one of the best hostels I have stayed in many years of traveling! Pod bunks with curtains, your own plug and light, big lockers, All day AC, hot breakfast and good wifi. Those things might not mean much if you’re reading this and you aren’t a backpacker but to us those things mean the world! By this point I had been in Boracay for 8 days, which for me was about 5 days to many already but the flight prices were outrageous to leave because of the holidays. And after talking to people they told me that Boracay was the best New Years party in the Philippines so whats a few more days. New Years Eve was a blast though! I joined some friends in a pub crawl of three bars, two night clubs and a firework grand finally on the beach! It was one of the biggest firework displays I have ever seen! It went on for a solid hour from a pier, the shore and a barge. The whole sky was full of explosions in every color.

 

 

Getting to and from-

-From Caticlan it is just a short ferry boat ride away.

-From Kalibo you must take the bus 2.5 hours to the port in Caticlan and then the ferry. There is mini busses and taxis at the port when returning to Kalibo. The mini bus does not leave until it is full so if you are in a hurry the taxi is the way to go.

Where to stay- 

-Boracay Backpacker- 500 pesos per night ($10) Prices here seem to change by the day.

-The W Hostel- 700 pesos per night. ($14) I believe this is a fixed price.

What to eat- 

-Army Navy- Amazing hang over food. Burritos, steak sandwiches, burgers and french fries. Its owned buy a guy from the USA so you know its good and terrible for you.

-Cheaper local food, go to Munchies on Bulabog street. Good food fast and cheap.

-For cheap booze go to Coco Mangas in Bulabog. Basically a store in the back to buy convenient store priced booze and seating in the front to drink it! (make sure you go to Coco Mangas in Bulabog. The other one is a dive bar down the street)

Philippines Travel

Cebu, The Philippines

I have had a strong urge to visit the Philippines ever since the first time I saw a Photo of the Kawasan Falls. Every photo I see of the Philippines from fellow photographers looks like a post card from paradise! Recently Condé Nast Traveler recently ranked Cebu the number 5 island in the world!

I had a few concerns about traveling to the Philippines though. Muslim extremists in the south, Pirates on the seas and the new President that recently took office. The first two we will get to later. As for President Rodrigo Duterte, he wooed the people with promises of cleaning the streets of drug dealers and crime. He took office on June 30th and boy did he keep his promise!

By the time I had left for the Philippines there was reports of over 2,000 people killed from Dutertes “War on Drugs.” A few weeks later those reports were over 6,000 people dead. 2,000 by government officials and the rest by unknown gunmen in return for a bounty. The stories I was hearing sounded less like the present time and more like something from a John Wayne movie!

Here is a link to Time Magazines recent article. http://time.com/philippines-drug-war/

So I had a lot of thinking to do but the more that people told me I may not want to go there right now, the stronger my curiosity got! You can ask my mother, I was never one for listening. I do not use drugs, but me being a guy with tattoos and piercings, I was concerned that I might end up on the wrong end of this war. And then I looked at a few more photos of Kawasan Falls and that was all I needed to know that I had a flight to book.

That week waiting for the flight had come and gone and 30 hours of traveling later I had landed in Cebu. I grabbed my backpack and left the airport looking for the cheapest most raggedy taxi I could find. There were fresh clean white ones all lined up in front of the airport with men in proper uniforms. I knew that wasn’t for me. Then I saw local people around the corner standing in a line to get into these beat up yellow Nissan sentras. After waiting my turn I hailed my cab to the Pacific Cebu Resort on the Island of Mactan. The price seemed more than fair but of course I hired the one person in the country that doesn’t speak English! I got a laugh out of that.

I knew traveling to the other side of earth was going to take a toll on my clock so I booked a nice room for the first two nights in Asia. The first day by 3pm I couldn’t function any more. I rested my eyes for a moment and the next thing I knew it was 1am! After stalking the internet for photo ideas in the Philippines until sun rise I went to the onsite 24 hour convenient store and bought a few beers. The staff didn’t know what to do when I walked into the breakfast with 2 bottles of San Miguel in my hand.

This resort is definitely not the nicest I have ever stayed but the ground are full of views. Three pools, one of which is used for dive training, a small beach, tennis courts and a small gym. The breakfast though.. Now that was incredible! Everything you could ever want in a breakfast and many things that had no business being there but it was impressive. A table of food fit for a king! In front of the restaurant there is also a long pier that you can walk. At low tide there are local people scavenging the shores looking for anything that they can sell. “Hello sir. Would you like some souvenirs?” This gentleman asked me. That was one of the first things I realized about the people of the Philippines. They all seemed so polite! Even if they were trying to talk you into something they knew you didn’t want they were polite and did it with a smile. I also remember thinking this was one of the only places in the world that if you didn’t want something, no meant no. They give you a smile and let you go about your day. This fella spent hours sitting on the pier cleaning shells to sell. We talked about his shark tattoo and I showed him my shark tattoo. He told me anything that I needed from snorkeling, to boat tours, to advise, he was my man.

After a few days of relaxing by the pool it was time for the real journey to begin. I learned two lessons very quickly after leaving that resort. One don’t ever travel in Cebu City anywhere that you don’t have to during business hours! It took me about 2 hours to get three miles from Mactan, over the bridge to the mainland. The sun beating on my face the whole way to the bus terminal. And number two, just because you ask the taxi driver if he has a taxi meter does not mean that he is going to turn it on! A half hour into the trip I realized that the meter hadn’t changed. I asked what was wrong with the meter and he said it was broken. After refusing to pay the 500 peso he asked me for and tried to get out of the cab in traffic his tune changed real fast and we agreed on about half that. You always have to keep your eye on the cabbies. I think I have seen every single trick in the book done by these guys while traveling around the world. Its their job to make money for dinner and usually your job to keep them honest.

From the South Bus Terminal to my next stop of Boljoon, the ride from the city to the south of Cebu was about two hours. This was the first time traveling in almost 30 countries that I could sit on a bus with local people and have a conversation! That was really something special for me. I talked to a local girl about her growing up on a farm on the island south of Cebu called Negros. We talked about the local political situation, good places to hike and the mountains on her island. It was really nice to be able to travel a place and properly communicate with the local people. While we were talking, I showed the drivers helper a photo of my hostel and two hours later they dropped me off at the Noordzee Hostel. Now this place seemed less like a hostel and more like a resort! A swimming pool overlooking the ocean, cabanas on the shore, a restaurant bar with a view and even a koi pond.

The property had two armed guards on the grounds at all times which I thought was a bit much but hey safety first. That was my thought until I read about the travel advisory put out by the USA advising no one visit the cities of Dalaguete and Santanders. Advising against travel because of muslim extremist threats of kidnapping. I just so happened to be in between those two towns and I guess that explained the two armed guards at the hostel. But I walked these towns with my own two feet, got lunch and a haircut. Nothing seemed out of the norm and the people were exceptionally nice! Every person that I talked to about this travel advisory all seemed to know nothing about why it was issued and even the Philippine government asked for any evidence that there was a reason for concern. As for me I had no problems. I got a hair cut on a bucket in front of a chicken coupe on the side of the road for $1! Whats not to like about that.

From Noordzee Hostel you can organize your trip to Oslob to swim with the whale sharks. I have been chasing these majestic creatures for years. In South America I went to coastal towns hours out of my way just for the hopes that I could see one in person. I went to an island in Mexico that is a big part of their migration pattern during the mating season but of course I arrived a few weeks to late. So I figured this is one of the things that the Philippines is known for. I have to give it a try!

Oslob is only a 30 minute bus ride from the hostel and they drop you off right at the entrance. (Well they actually drop you off at the hotel next to the Whale Center and the hotel charges you 100 peso extra to do the exact same tour.) I left at 6am to make sure I beat the crowds of people I had earlier heard about. After arriving though I was really a bit disappointed at what I saw. They took me out in a boat about 30 meters from shore and there was another guy sitting on his boat dumping what I assume is some kind of plankton into the water. I did not feel good about it but I was already there so I jumped into the water and from there I have to be honest I was amazed.

There were five whale sharks swimming around me. They were so big and beautiful! One swam towards me with his mouth open and right when I thought my arm was going in, he turned away. This went on for about 20 minutes and then I looked to the shore and saw more and more people showing up. I really didn’t feel good about this at all. In my opinion any animal being fead by humans isn’t doing its job in the wild and this was no different. Though this was not a zoo, they do have the option to stop being so lazy and swim away any time they want! It just didn’t seem right. Then I went back to the hostel and read about how this is a terrible diet for the whale shark and it is going to cause reproductive issues for them. I also read that whats happening in Oslob is stopping the proper migration patterns for mating as well. I later found out about many other places in the Philippines that you have an excellent chance to see them in their natural habitat without doing more damage then good. The Miss Universe candidates went the there the day after I was and many were outraged at them for this as well.

From Boljoon I took the bus to Santander and switched to a bus going up the opposite coast for Moalboal. This town is a good starting point for many tour opportunities. Its a 45 minute tricycle ride to the Kawasan Falls, you can also do canyoneering here, the sardine run and there is also many good restaurants and bars in the vicinity. I stayed a few nights at Chief Mao Hostel. Nice beds, AC and a good breakfast. (Not included) It is also a 1 minute walk from the ocean.

After a long night of “exploring” all of the bars that the town had to offer until the early morning, on a few hours of sleep I woke up to go fetch a snorkel and mask. I rented one for 100 pesos ($2) for the day. I tried snorkeling a few spots off the shore with no sardines in site. Then I saw a local kid swimming and asked him where he was hiding all of the fish. He waved me to follow him. We walked a minute or two down the beach and he dove into the water. I followed him swim out about 10 meters as the earth began to drops off a giant cliff. As I swam out over the deep water I started to see the ocean light up like glitter!

Before I knew it I was completely surrounded by walls of sardines. They were everywhere! Local people said that a few years earlier they didn’t have the sardines in Moalboal. I don’t know where they come from but it truly was a site to see! If you have a bit more time and want the truly epic photograph you can go diving here directly from the shore and get a photo from underneath the sardines to get the true effect.

The next morning I was up early with one thing on my mind. The mighty Kawasan! And I really wanted to beat any crowds of people. I flagged a tricycle (rickshaw Moto taxi) and negotiated a price to take me to the Falls. They told me that 700 pesos ($14) was the standard rate to take me there and wait for the return trip but I talked him down to 500 pesos. Its amazing how far a smile and a couple of jokes will get you in the world. 45 minutes down the winding coast later and I arrived in a church parking lot. I didn’t know where to go so I just started walking down a path into the jungle. A beautiful green river lined the trail and a few bamboo huts with women selling fruit on the opposite side.

After about 15 minutes of walking I got to a little village and was starting to have my doubts if I was on the right track but it was so beautiful I wasn’t turning back.

Another five minutes around the bend and I started to hear the crash of water in the distance. Local kids with huge sacks of rice passed me and smiled. A few steps later and I arrived..

To be honest the falls themselves weren’t as big as I had imagined especially after already seeing some of the biggest in the world but I have NEVER witnessed water like this! There was just a few people here and most of them worked at the nearby restaurant. It was just me, this gal, a bamboo raft and the sound of the water crashing.

I don’t know how I got so lucky because I had heard stories of this place crawling with people but I just sat and admired the nature around me. This was what I came here for..

If you follow the trail on the left of the falls up you can get an unbelievable view from above!

After admiring the view from above for a while a police officer that was walking the grounds told me to follow the trail up another 15 minutes and there was another set of falls. I think lots of people come here and don’t know about the second falls. They also told me that if you have proper shoes another 20 minutes up a muddy trail there is a third set of falls that are meant to be really beautiful but I didn’t go that far.

Getting to and from-

Buses leave the south bus terminal every 30 minutes or less heading south to Santander. There is a bus also on the other side of the island that runs every 30 minutes. Prices depend on the pick up and drop off point. From Boljoon to Moalboal took about 2.5 hours. I took a mini bus from Moalboal to Cebu City and it dropped everyone off in Mactan. You can also take the public bus but takes about an hour longer.

Where to stay-

Boljoon- Noordzee Hostel- 500 Pesos ($10) Does not include breakfast but has great options to buy.

Moalboal- Cheif Mau Hostel- 400 Peso ($8) Also no breakfast but ala cart breakfast menu is good and cheap.

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