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Chasing the Sardines at Moalboal Cebu – A Solo Travel Guide

Moalboal

Finally, after a long time of planning, I crossed off South Cebu off my list. I’ve been to north and east side of the island but this is my first time to visit south. To differentiate North from South Cebu, the former is laid back, the latter is good for adventure. If you’re looking for a relaxing place to stay and stunning beaches, I recommend Bantayan and Malapascua in the north. But, if you’re looking for adventure, you should definitely go south.

It was an immediate and unplanned trip; it was another long weekend and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to travel and relax. I checked flights using Traveloka and gladly found awesome deals. Thanks to their weekly promo code we can now enjoy extra savings to buy flight tickets.

I started my trip to Moalboal a small town on the west side of Cebu Island, famous for its world-class diving sites. To get there, take a bus from South Cebu Bus Station going to Moalboal. I went there after lunch on a long weekend, I should have known that many people would be going out of the city. The air-conditioned bus was full, I didn’t have a choice but take an ordinary bus. Travel time is 3hrs and the bus fare is 115php; cheap but you get what you pay for.

I arrived in the town proper at around 4:00 p.m. Once the bus stopped, you will be bombarded with requests from the habal-habal drivers to hire them. I think 50php is a reasonable price to get me to the resort. They will initially offer you 100php, my tip is to just say no until it goes down to 50php.

I stayed at Asian-Belgian Dive Resort, a private resort about a 5-minute walk from the white beach. Going to Moalboal, you have 2 options where to stay, either you get an accommodation  at the white beach or stay at Pinagsama beach where most of the resorts, restaurants, and dive shops are located. Most Moalboal visitors find themselves here. While there isn’t much of a beach in this area.

 

Asian Belgian Dive Resort

 

What I love about Asian-Belgian Dive Resort is the privacy that they offer to their guests. It’s a bit secluded from the public beach, yet you have your own space to swim and dive. Their staff said they have one of the best diving spots in Moalboal. The place is quiet, relaxing, and calm. This is perfect for couples who are looking for a romantic getaway. The people here are helpful and friendly that I didn’t feel like I was alone during my stay. I usually just go to their restaurant that is beach front, buy a bottle of beer, and spend the whole night making friends.I booked my overnight stay here via Traveloka.

Since it was low tide in front of the resort, I decided to walk to the white beach and swim. I find the beach just average, the beauty of Moalboal really is what you can find underwater. There are fishes near the shore and corals so you don’t need to swim far to snorkel. Unfortunately, there are many jellyfish too, one of the locals said that this month is the season of jellyfish, so if you’re planning to swim there in this time of the year, make sure to wear a wetsuit.

 

Moalboal Resort

 

I only have one goal here at Moalboal and that’s to do a sardine run, but going at it alone can be expensive. Thankfully, my Habal-Habal driver, Edcel, offered me a Pescador with Sardine run tour.

Note: Edcel arranges the tour but he is not directly connected with any tour operators in Moalboal. What he usually does is to look for a small group of people who may join you on the tour. I just paid 1,000php for a 3-hour tour and roundtrip service to the resort. From what I know, the regular rate for the sardine run is 2,500php per boat. For solo travelers this may be expensive so joining a small group is the best thing to do. You may contact Edcel at 0923-1384061. Again, this is advisable to solo joiners.

 

pescador island

 

We started our tour at around 7:00 a.m., our first stop is Pescador Island. The reef is a sandy slope covered with soft corals that go from 5-10 meters (15-35 ft), followed by a wall covered with hard corals that drop down to about 40 meters (130 ft). The underwater view reminds me of Balicasag Island in Bohol; clear blue water, beautiful and colorful corals and fishes. If you are lucky, you might just see some dolphins swimming their way to the island.

Our next stop is my favorite. I expected that there would be thousands of sardines to see, but from the moment that I jumped to the water, I was simply blown away. It was unbelievable, I can’t even find the right words to describe that moment. The sardines were so thick, it all felt surreal. I have swam in many places but never have I seen anything close to this.

 

Free Diving

 

When the water caught a ray of sunshine, it revealed a patch of these tiny but dense group of fish; thousands of them moving together in perfect harmony. The feeling of diving right into the school of sardines and watching them disperse and then congregate is amazing. This is the magic of nature at its best.

We then moved to a different spot to see some turtles. Although we did see some of them, we didn’t stay that long due to the great number of jellyfish in the area.

Unlike other famous places where its seasonal to witness a school of Sardines, here in Moalboal it’s all year round. The best time to visit is during summer, but if you don’t want to go with the crowd, there are less tourists during the rainy season (May-October). Good thing, Moalboal does not experience frequent rain except where there is a typhoon and the occasional low-pressure system.

 

Sardine run

 

There are hundreds of fantastic diving sites here in the Philippines, and the sardine run experience at Moalboal should be on your list.

 

Asian Belgian Dive Resort

 

15 comments

  • Philippines! I love you so much. You are a real gem and now I have another gem to add to my list. Your pictures are just mind blowing esp one of those fishes moving in a sync. Traveloka is something new to me. Would love to check it out, Thanks for sharing.

  • That’s an absolutely gorgeous resort! It’s a shame you had to turn back because of the jellyfish. It’s a shame that beach isn’t all that great, but glad under the sea was brilliant!

  • Moalboal and the Asian-Belgian Dive Resort look like the perfect setting for a weekend breakaway on Cebu. And seeing all those sardines must have been an amazing experience. Pity that the jellyfish kept you away from the turtles though.

  • I loved your description of diving into the schools of sardines. It made me wish I could be there with you! It must have been just fantastic to see them swimming in such perfect synchronization! Great tips on how to save money and time as well.

  • I would have been blown away too seeing that view after jumping in. I bet it looked way better in person. Great that your resort was only 5 minutes from the beach.

  • I’m not a diver…but your story makes me wish I were! Excellent photos – sounds like an awesome trip.

  • The Philipenes are the only SE Asian country I’ve yet to explore but I have to be honest, although I want to do an Island hop Cebu is a place I’ve never really had any desire to explore. However in saying that this is now the second post I’ve just read on Cebu and I might have to give it a chance now. I’m on the other end of the budget so I doupt I’ll be staying on a private beach resort but I would stay a few nights to see what Cebu has to offer me.

  • Seems I can’t stop finding posts about Cebu. I think the universe is telling me I need to get down there ASAP. Your photos are gorgeous. That looks like so much fun, swimming with all those fish. Thanks a lot for your post.

  • Moalboal has been on my bucket list for far toooooo long to not tick it off. Maybe your pics are just the stimulation I need to book that flight!

  • Oh my goodness, that looks insane! It’s like you’re actually in Finding Nemo lol.

  • Love your post. It made me remember our own experience with the sardine run and it was indeed a great sight to behold.. Such a one-of-a-kind experience indeed! 🙂

  • […] focus of my travel this time was the southern part of Cebu, particularly Moalboal and Oslob but I intentionally stayed in the city for a night to catch up with my Cebuano friends. […]

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