Carousing in Moalboal!

Millions of sardines, the immensity is a phenomenon!

It was a quick decision to revisit one of my favorite destination in Cebu province, initially we were aiming for an offbeat town in Southern Leyte but unfortunately, the lone local dive shop was fully booked for that weekend. We made quick arrangements on our favorite hostel and dive shop in Moalboal but then again, all were fully booked. We ignored the hindrances though, coming to this favorite town southwest of Cebu was a joy. My last visit was yet in June 2014!

The last minute changes made me scrambling from a quiet lunch with friends, it was already past 2pm and everything else went as a whirlwind – tickets, packing, gears assemble, so on.  By 8pm, I was already on board the boat sailing for the night to Cebu.

Travelers always trust things will work out well as you arrived the destination, and it sure did. As long as you are open-minded and make most of what is available at hand. One last bahay-kubo was the lodge  for the night and our friend DM at Cebu Dive Center offered us one dive in their house reef for the coveted sardines run, it was good that one dive guide was available for that afternoon. The arrangement worked well and it gave us time to see other sites.  🙂

White Beach (Bas Daku)

Got away from the crowd to get unobstructed view of the sunset!

For the many times I went to Moalboal, I never got the chance to visit the area and Torsten (of Moalboal Backpackers Lodge) described it as a wonderful spot to relax and watch sunset. It was low-tide when we got there, the shores was wide and long enough for the walk but unfortunately it was too crowded. So, we had the walk, sat at the beach, watch people, watch the sunset and in the end, had a dip and quick swim in its warm waters!  🙂

Aguinid Falls

Therapeutic morning dip at the falls basin!

The town of Samboan is 60 kilometers away from the lodge and almost two hours bus ride, so we woke up early for the trip south. Indeed, the early bird catches the best view! There was no crowd, no noise just the sound of the gushing waters! Yes, the short walk and climbing the four levels was a sure test of agility and strength. I love the early trek and swim at its basin with the majestic falls behind us. It was a wet morning adventure!  🙂

Sardines Run

DM Cameron (of Cebu Dive Center) was just good-hearted to arrange with another diver for our afternoon dives, one dive was truly not enough for me but it was better than none considering the long trip. The afternoon waters was turbulent as it was moving for the high tides, it was hard to keep steady as we wade for our entry.  At 15 meters though, we had a grand show of million sardines. It clouded above us, as we swam coyly in the warm waters – so beautiful and surreal! It was amazing, a nature’s wonder that can not be explained.  For a time the swarm was in the deep in Pescador Island, but now it’s in the shallows right next the shores. Maybe, the fishes knew that they can survive well away from the predators. Yes, the spot is a protected area and fishing them is illegal! I knew I will get back in Moalboal for the sardines again and again.

The brief get-away was a carouse but never in a noisy and lively way as in a party, but it’s about enjoying nature’s gifts in it’s most simple, relaxed, spontaneous and unaffected way. The wonderful dive was just I needed during the Moalboal visit. After we bade goodbye to our host, we left for the city thankful that our traspo connections went fluidly.

It was late when we arrived downtown Cebu, rushing but still had enough time for a relaxing dinner at La Maison Rose.  C’est la vie!  🙂

NB. All photos courtesy of my favorite dive buddy.

Moalboal Weekend: Kickoff for 2012

Family of clown fish on anemone

Squeezing my second weekend this January, I met up with Angel in Cebu – not for the Sinulog Festival but for a dive in one of our favorite site in the south of the province.  Barely ten months ago, we were in Moalboal for the glorious sardines run.  But just a day before our trip, I learned that the sardine and threshers in Pescador Island are nowhere in sight.  It didn’t dampen our spirits though, it’s been four weeks since our last dive and we direly needed to be in the waters again.

Our friends in Moalboal welcomed us warmly, DM Geom of Cebu Dive Center and the Siggelkows of Moalboal Backpacker Lodge were so helpful and provided for our reservation needs. Torsten was in town and it’s good to see them both, the lodge is like home to us.  Arriving the dive center past 11am already, our dives were arranged all in the afternoon.  It was a blessing we catch up the van almost leaving for Moalboal when we got to the terminal.

Hardly a worm!

After a hurried lunch at the Chili Bar, we geared for our first dive.  Our guide Bebet dismissed Pescador, aside from the absence of the sardines, the waters could be choppy as it was afternoon already. The weather was perfect, the sun was not scorching and was somewhat shady.  Our first descent was at Talisay Point limiting our depth to 30 meters, unto a reef wall with overhangs and crevices. It houses variety of soft and hard corals, where macros carefully camouflaged for protection.  Coral crabs, cleaner shrimp on bubble coral, reef crab, clam digger on rubber coral.  We went inside a small cave and peek on holes for electric shell, with the torch light reflections it glowed in the dark.  The wall was decorated with anemones, maze coral, staghorns, and other branching corals.  Variety of anemone fish abound in the area, sighted also balloon corallimorph, sea fans in yellow, green and brown.  A shoal of shrimpfish decorated an overhang with whips and sea ferns.  We stayed longer on a wide coral area going around until we had our safety stop at five meters, still swimming around.  We made the ascent after 57 minutes.

Large gorgonians decorated the reef

Our boat went further west for Kasai for our next descent, and after a surface time of 55 minutes, we got back unto the waters and went down directly unto reef wall with active fish life decorated with a variety of colourful corals.  There were hawkfish, buttefly, angelfish, lionfish and nudis. I needed keen eyes for the macros – a blenny on a sandy area, worms and other invertebrates. A banded pipefish wiggled away from me to the corals.  We stayed most on a wide coral area again hopping around, a large green turtle graced us but swam fast away when other group of divers chased him around.  We found a puffer hiding in between coral branch, anthias hovering on corals were abundant, sea cucumbers, sea stars, worms, anemones, scorpion fish and many more.  We ascend after 50 minutes, the cold afternoon waters left us shivering.

Vibrant soft coral with coral crabs hiding

Although we planned for three dives, we dismissed the idea for a night dive.  Our brief escape in the town with two descents in its waters was a great way to quick start our dive pursuits for the year.  The mild sun on my skin and the sea air in my lungs revived my spirits, ready for waiting tasks back home.  There is always something different in every descent, new sightings and new learnings. It was our third visit but definitely not our last – that’s pure madness, I guess!

By then, I’m still in love with Moalboal sans the sardines run, but here’s hoping that they will be back in their home at Pescador, at the right time in the near future.

Mad about Moalboal!

There is something relaxing in the depths…

Coming back to this rural town in western Cebu has been planned before I could even return home during a dive trip back in July 2009. It felt like there’s something more to discover in this place, and definitely with only one descent in Pescador Island, the mermaid in me didn’t get enough of its splendor in its depths!  Angel and I promised ourselves to be back…

Our diver’s itch is pestering again for the sardine’s run, such that Angel and I squeezed our weekend for this much awaited return.  I was hoping again to have three dives to make most of the trip, it was fortunate we took the van for Moalboal so we got to the diveshop much earlier as expected.  DM Geom of Cebu Dive Center have set up for us one shore dive in mid-morning  and two boat dives in the afternoon. As there were no other divers it was some kind of exclusive dive for us!

Gaudy Marine Life

We went for a shore dive on our first descent at the House Reef – DM Geom was firm that I should carry my gears on my back which I don’t really like.   If Mario was there, he wont allow it!  I struggled donning my fins with the tank on my back, and need to hold on with Angel for support.  DM Geom insisted that I’m not fit to dive if I can’t do it, and he is right!

We wade on a sandy slope and went deeper on a wall, DM Geom is so keen on macros so we search on anemones, sea fans and soft corals for critters – minute shrimps, nudis, coral crabs and more.  There were pipefish in abundance scattered all over – big and small ones. Of course the fish life is as well abundant – colorful anthias, sergeants, damsels, wrasses, sweetlips, angels, lionfish, hawkfish, cardinals and banners.  We followed a juvenile barramundi who was camera shy, we found two turtles in different locations who both have remoras on their backs! We were amused with the lavender fat nudis on a colorful coral.  There were gorgonians, soft corals, crinoids – all blended in the reefs.  A good find we had was the thor shrimp near the anemones.

We went back and before we had our safety stop, we found a turtle resting on a reef with remoras on its back.  After 53 minutes with 21.6m as our deepest, we ascend with still 89 bars of air.  Our lunch break at the Little Corner served as our surface interval.

Spotted lavender nudibranch

Our second descent was the highlight of the day, this is our main reason for coming back – explore once more Pescador Island!  We are mad about the mystical sardines run – the unequalled wonderful attraction of the island.  After cruising for about fifteen minutes, we descend at the southern tip with a wall, a deep one but we need to maintain at 20m depth.  We were greeted with variety of tropical fishes – variety of anthias, variety of anemone fish, damsels, snappers, lionfish and angel fish.  We went north ward and we sighted squat lobster and nudis – one just need sharp eyes and you’ll always have colorful macros.  Scorpion fish, trumpet and pipefish – somewhere we sighted also a herd of trevally.  All these with a backdrop of soft and hard corals, crinoids, sponges merge together a colorful paradise.

Colorful depths…

DM Geom summoned us pointing upward – and there, darkened our view above us – million of sardines!  We swam away from the wall towards the run – watching in awe, I went up and down to get near giving me a bad profile. So grand, all them banded together, then two jacks appeared disturbing their line of path. We got back to the wall after the display and went shallower on a slope of reefs for our safety stop.  We found frogfish on tube coral, boxfish and more of the sardines again.  They have really gotten greater in number – they look so magical on the colorful reefs against the sunlight!    We ascend with 50 minutes bottom time, still 70 bars of my air.  At the surface, the waters gone rough already – the sea is enraged according to DM Geom!  He cancelled our last dive in the island and escaped from the raging waters, then speed near the mainland for shelter.

Ornate ghost pipefish!

Indeed when we got to Talisay spot, the were no signs of choppy surface – it was so calm, we stayed there for our interval.  We had our final descent at 4:05pm on a sandy slope with variety of corals again, gorgonians, hydroids and crinoids – there were puffers, colourful clown fish and anthias again.  Then DM Geom summoned us for the ornate ghost pipefish trying to camouflage near soft coral polyps – rare find! We found a turtle again with the remora fish on him, handful of pipefish, lionfish, scorpion fish and group of puffers.  The sight of the healthy corals with tropical fishes on it was so calming and relaxing.  We ascend after 48 minutes with 80 bars of air and 18.3 meters as our deepest.

Fully Laden Day

Catching an early fight for Mactan, two hour drive to Moaboal, three great dives in its waters are more than enough for a Saturday.  It was full but so comforting – to unwind a full week at work. It still amaze me that in a real sense, it’s an exhaustive bustle yet at the end of the day, the mermaid in me felt so contented and pleased, unmindful of being tired.  Again, it can never be put in words.

Once more, we are still planning to be back in Moalboal to dive not only once ,but more in Pescador.  Angel and I will be back again for sure.  Now, that I guess is pure madness!