From the Sardines of Moalboal to Whale Sharks of Oslob and finishing on Thresher Sharks of Malapascua...
Diving the regions around the busy island of Cebu proved rewarding for the group of 17 of us that travelled to the Philippines for the first week in June. Air Philippines operate a direct flight to Manila where you catch your connecting flight to Cebu.
Kasai Village Resort welcomed us after a very late arrival with comfy air conditioned mini bus transfer, beautiful tropical bananas and chilled water (flight delays and horrendous traffic in Cebu being a Friday rush hour arrival). From arrival to departure, the crew at Kasai Village made our group feel well looked after and their dive guides were enthusiastic in discovering critters we would never have spotted and couldn’t have been more helpful in getting us in and out of the water.
The diving at Kasai was pretty darn good. There is a lovely house reef straight out from the resort which made for great snorkelling. And then the wall dropped off to around 40 metres offering close in diving where the marine life was varied and plentiful. All against a beautiful blue backdrop. We saw Turtles, Pygmy Sea Horses on the Gorgonian Fans, Nudibranchs, Mantis Shrimp and lots lots more. The second dive for the day was out to the Sardines which was the pulling card dive. They were amazing! Huge and seemingly endless schools of Sardines in a channel up against a wall of around 40 meters. Being able to be amongst them, under them and alongside was quite incredible. And then on the wall there were numerous Green Sea Turtles (Pawikan in Philippine) either resting, scratching or off for a swim around us. Just stunning.
Our second day at Kasai we ventured out to Pesecador Island further out in the Tanon Straight. This island is a marine sanctuary. While it is busy with lots of boats delivering snorkelers to the shallow reefs at one end of the island, it is definitely worth diving. The visibility had to be 30 metres plus and after initially dropping in over the shallower corals exploding with fish life, we drifted down over the wall dropping down to max depth of 30 metres. A beautiful drift dive in light current that day. So much to explore and excellent variety of marine life. Painted crays, ghost pipe fish, more turtles, nudibranchs and passing barracuda were some of our highlights. It was one of those dives that you didn’t want to end. Hanging out with a Turtle on top of the reef as we drew down our last few bars was a great end to the dive. We then headed off to dive the plane – which was a bit of fun. It was deliberately sunk on the site and sits around 25 metres. Makes for some fun photography and we did find lots of interesting critters on the way back up. The afternoon dive was Turtle hunting – and find Turtles they did. Turtles turtles everywhere! We only booked 2 days of diving at Kasai but it would seem you could easily do 4 or 5.
On leaving Kasai we had arranged for them to organise and transport us to snorkel the Whale Sharks at Oslob. Again the staff at Kasai have this one well run. Aircon transport, arrived Oslob to find we were allocated several “cottages” on the waterfront. Somewhere to dump our gear and enjoy morning tea between snorkels and finish with a beaut BBQ lunch. Perfect. The Whale Shark operation is production line but what an amazing opportunity to spend a quality amount of time in the water with these magnificent creatures. We were in the water with around 5 Sharks of varying size. Amazing to see how well they manoeuvre themselves between the boats and people in the water. While some would say it is a shame to support this type of operation, we would have to agree with others that point out that these otherwise poor villages make an income that is better than the one they would have made hunting these beautiful fish. It pays to book this trip and it seems to only operate for part of the day – we were there in the morning and they had finished up by 11.00am. This would make a great “off gas” day if you were to just stay in the Moalboal region.
From Oslob, our next destination was Evolution Dive at Malapascua. Their drivers picked us up and travelled at a great rate of knots the full length of Cebu to where we were collected by their boat. 7 hours driving was followed by a beautiful sunset sail across to Malapascua. A big day!
The following morning it was up for 4.30am dive briefing before head out to greet the Thresher Sharks who were up for their morning clean up on the wall of the Monad Shoal – a 40 min run out in the Banka boat. I dived with them last year and they still impressed. Beautiful encounters with 5 or 6 different sharks with dive depths of between 25 and 30 metres and lots of discussion as we headed back to shore with hot coffee in our hands.
There is a lot of “muck diving” at Malapascua to be enjoyed by those into photography and that really wasn’t our thing. Having discussed this with the crew at Evolution, they knew to take us to some of their other reef/wall sites where we enjoyed poking around and finding lots of interesting stuff. Highlights were the Cuttle Fish and gangs of colourful Catfish hanging about in the crevices.
Our second day at Malapascua was another dawn run to the Threshers. This time a little more elusive but for most of the group the highlight came at the turn around point in the dive where there were a number of Sharks in very close proximity. They came back fizzing. After breakfast we all headed out for the day to Gato Island. Most opted to do the 40 metre swim through under the island and a few of us decided there was enough excitement to be had meeting them on the other side.
Beautiful rock structures with a myriad of sea life. Highlights again were nudibranchs, the odd frog fish (I saw many more here last year – maybe they were on vacation), numerous encounters with White Tip Reef Sharks, Ribbon Eels, Cuttle Fish laying her eggs, and for me a real live Sea Horse! We did a second dive at this island with a bit more current involved but still lots of exciting finds to be explored.
The crew at Evolution were ever helpful, our rooms were comfy, clean and the beach location was idyllic. Evolution run a great operation with knowledgeable staff, environmental awareness, great food and a dangerous 2 for 1 cocktail happy three hours from 4pm. The water at the island is that surreal turquoise blue and crystal clear. Sea temps of 30 degrees on the surface and 28 degrees at 25 metres make for easy diving. Wet suits not needed but if you are like me and the sea lice and stingy things make a meal of you – I’d pack your 3mm.
Departure day was an actual sleep in and a relaxed breakfast. Those of us that hadn’t had time to walk along the beachfront to the other tourist shops or explore through the village behind the resort took the opportunity to do so before departure.
Sadly we, left on the Banka boat back to the mainland and our 3 hour journey back to Cebu airport for our return trips home.
Would we return to the Philippines? Heck yeah!
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