Face to face with the lionfish

Moalboal: The Gateway to the Aqua Kingdom

It’s amazing to see how other species live their underwater lives, oblivious of other creatures around them. 

Last August, I had this trip to Moalboal that is worth mentioning.  Unlike other tourist destinations, the beauty of Moalboal is not about the beach, or historical landmarks, or picturesque landscapes.  The beauty of Moalboal is submerged in its waters.

We arrived in Moalboal at dinner time.  We retired early, just after eating the pasta that Nanay Ester, the owner of room we’re occupying, cooked for us.  At 6:00 AM the next day, we freshened up and ate breakfast to prep up for our sea tour.

Our first stop was Pescador Island, best known for the sardine run.  We were supposed to see dolphin pods on the way to Pescador Island but according to our boatman, they do not show when the waves are huge.

Arriving at Pescador Island
Arriving at Pescador Island

The boatman just attached a rope in one the buoys in the island.  We’re hesitant to leave the boat at first because of the big waves but when our guide jumped in the water, we immediately followed him.  It turned out to be a good decision because it was like an entirely different world underneath.

I think this blue starfish is dead tired. haha
I think this blue starfish is dead tired. haha
The "kikay" pink clownfish watching us
The “kikay” pink clownfish watching us
 The rich, colourful corals surround the island, starfishes lounged around the seabed, and three to four schools of fishes of different types and luminous colours scatter in no time when you try to swim near them. Beside the corals, other charming fishes of species I don’t know swam by their lonesome.  It was pure magic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A little too camera-shy Moorish Idol
A little too camera-shy Moorish Idol

The water ranges from 7 ft deep to unimaginable depth.  I held on to our guide’s hand and asked him to guide me around.  A few meters away from where our boat “parked”, the sight changed from corals to dark abyss.  It is where we found a couple of lionfishes hanging around the staghorn coral.  I am stunned.

Lionfishes lounging around
Lionfishes lounging around
Well, hello there! Are you a hamphead?
Well, hello there! Are you a hamphead?

We left Pescador with heavy hearts but the boatman and his son assured us that our next stop was even better.  So okay, we hopped in the boat and off we go to our second destination.  The engine of the boat stopped off coast of Basdaku beach.  When we asked what happened, the boatman told us that we’re on the spot to find the sea turtles.  We’re like, “what?  Was that a joke?”  but then it dawned on me, you wouldn’t expect the sea turtles to be near the islands.  Their natural habitat is in the open sea.

After much self-prodding, I finally convinced myself to jump out of the boat, holding our guide’s hand of course.  Did I already mention that I don’t know how to swim?  haha.    My two other friends know how to swim and  they were both guided by the boatman.  By that time, the waves have already pushed the boat several meters from where we first stopped.

First sighting of a sea turtle swimming underneath the waves
First sighting of a sea turtle swimming underneath the waves

Holding on to the guide’s hand the whole time, while swaying my other arm, the wavy waters did not disappoint.  Just a few minutes out of the boat, we saw one sea turtle swimming calmly on its own pace.  It does not seem to mind us following.    The others, we saw lurking around the corals.  All in all, I’ve found five sea turtles.  My friends were not so lucky and found only three.

Are you eating?
Are you eating?

Before we had our last turtle sighting, a banded sea snake passed on our way.  Instinctively, my friends and I bunched behind the guides.  The banded sea snake however, just ignored us, swam to the surface to breathe and went back to the seabed.  It was quite a funny scene of us panicking over nothing.

"Mr. I don't care" blue banded sea snake
“Mr. I don’t care” blue banded sea snake
A couple of piggybacking fishes
A couple of piggybacking fishes

We would have wanted to stay for a couple more hours but our stomachs think otherwise.  I’ve read stories of sardine run in Moalboal and I don’t know if I’ve encountered it out of all the schools of fishes we’ve met.  But whether or not I did, It really doesn’t matter anymore because the whole experience of seeing all those species for the first time is already ecstatic.

Back at Ester’s, my friend and I decided to stroll down the beach while the other showered.  The first thing we noticed were the presence of logs and coconuts.  Apparently, there’s a low pressure area and the waves brought those on the shoreline.  (That also explained the huge waves back that deprived us of our dolphin pod encounter.)

We reached Basdaku beach, a white sand beach that’s perfect for family outings.  I didn’t try to swim because of all the logs and small woods in the water but I think it’s cleaner during summer when the waves do not bring unwanted litters in the shore.

Basdaku beach
Basdaku beach

After taking some pictures, we returned to Ester’s, showered and ate the shrimp and squid that Nanay Ester and her sister prepared.

Sumptuous lunch after snorkelling.  It was such a sweet day!
Sumptuous lunch after snorkelling. It was such a sweet day!

Where to Stay in Moalboal:

Ester's homestay (Photo Credits:  ALSy2013)
Ester’s homestay (Photo Credits: ALSy2013)

I recommend staying at Ester’s Homestay, at the far end of Basdaku beach.  The owner, Nanay Ester, and her family made us feel part of their family during our stay at Moalboal.  We stayed at one of their air-conditioned, beach front rooms good for two and just asked for an additional bed.  Below are her published rates but she gave us a discount and paid only Php1,100.00/3 pax, including the extra bed.  Our room has its own porch and comfort room.

That's our room on the left side, with a porch that sits in front of a beach. (Photo Credits:  ALSy2013)
That’s our room on the left side, with a porch that sits in front of a beach. (Photo Credits: ALSy2013)
Nanay Ester's Homestay Rates
Nanay Ester’s Homestay Rates

Island Hopping Contacts:

I originally contacted Mang Dodong, a well-recommended boatman by the blogs I’ve read, for our Moalboal sea tour.  We agreed at Php1,200.00 before we even left for Cebu but he told me to ask Nanay Ester if he could fetch us in her place.  So I texted Nanay Ester and she said ok.  But when we reached her place, she told us that Mang Dodong already has guests and he asked Nanay Ester to accommodate our Island hopping tour.  I texted Mang Dodong to verify what she said and he confirmed it.  I don’t know what their agreement was but one thing I’m sure of, both of them will accommodate your queries and both of them will be good guides for your Moalboal sea tour.

Our Island Hopping rate at Nanay Ester was Php1,800.00, with her husband as our boatman and her son as our guide.  It was more expensive than Mang Dodong’s rate but she said the boat is bigger and we’re satisfied with the tour anyway.

Mang Dodong’s number:  0923-937-6699

Face to face with the lionfish
Lionfish, one of the many reasons to snorkel in Moalbal

 How to Get There:

From Cebu City, go to South Bus Terminal (SBT) and ride a bus going to Moalboal.  Tell the driver to drop you off Moalboal junction or Moalboal market which is in front of Moalboal Elementary School.  From there, ride a tricycle to go to your reserved hotel.

We’re from Kawasan Falls so our way was just to trace back our way to Cebu City.  From Kawasan Falls, we walked back to the road in front of Matutinao Church and rode a Cebu-bound bus.  Bus fare is Php20.00 each.  We got off in Moalboal where several tricycle drivers swarmed around us and offered to take us whatever resort they’re promoting for a price ranging from Php100.00 to Php200.00 each.  Good thing I have asked Nanay Ester of the normal tricycle price from the town to their place and she said it was just Php25.00 each.

To nicely dismiss the crowd, we decided to buy stuffs at a local convenient store.  When we stepped out of the convenient store, one old driver from the crowd before talked to us and proposed a Php50.00 for each of us.  Maybe because he’s old and he waited for us or we’re just too exhausted from our activities for the day (count that:  swam with the Oslob whale sharks in the morning, climbed Cebu’s highest peak at lunch and dipped in Kawasan Falls in the afternoon) that we just agreed with his price.  We travelled for about 30-40 minutes that made me realize that Php50.00 is just fair, considering the distance of the place from the town.

We paid the Php5.00 entrance fee before we entered the vicinity of Basdaku beach.

Last hurray for Basdaku beach!
Last hurrah for Basdaku beach!

23 thoughts on “Moalboal: The Gateway to the Aqua Kingdom

  1. Hi! Nice blog! We’ll be going to Cebu this coming February and I’m thankful I found your blog.🙂 One question though, is the P1,200 price per person? Thanks!

  2. Is day trip long enough to visit and enjoy Moalboal? I heard the place is good for snorkeling, is it true? and is it advisable to travel with my 4 year old?

  3. Is day trip long enough to visit and enjoy Moalboal? I heard the place is good for snorkeling, is it true? and is it advisable to travel with my 4 year old?

  4. Hi! For your island hopping, did you just snorkel or dive? And exactly how many hours did it exactly last? Thanks!🙂

  5. Hi,

    My friends and I will be South Cebu Escapade next year, as inspired by your blog.🙂
    I’m just wondering what particular camera did you use here on your Moalboal Aquaventure.

  6. Ang ganda ng blog mo po. I’m mapping out my plans for Cebu trip and your blog is very informative. You’re inspiring me to make my blog too🙂 Thank you so much.

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