Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mabuhay Philippines - Oslob and Malapascua

Once again I embarked on a last minute 2 week solo trip, this time to the Philippines.  Idea really materialized while I was vacay-ing in Thailand over Xmas and NY, thinking why not use my remaining vacation days over CNY and do something really fun! I've always wanted to go back to Philippines - The islands mind you, and Feb seemed like a good time to go!  So a vacaton was born during a vacation! And planning started when I got back home.  It was easy to choose places since I'm a diver, so beaches/islands where there are nice diving! And some partying! That was how these 3 places came about - malapascua, bohol and boracay.  Of cos I swore to myself if I didn't see whale shark in Thailand, I would go over to Philippines.  Donsol first came into my mind, but then travel was a headache and finally decided Oslob, which is in Cebu.  4 places in 2wks, it's not really a lot of time!!
With my lonely planet, I read through the places and rough idea of things to do, and just booked my flight and off I went.  Nothing else done! And I was off from the 1st to the last day of CNY!!
Flight to Cebu went smoothly on time, landed on time.  Once in Cebu, off to the Southern bus terminal for the bus to Oslob (3H and 155P).  Funny how air-con and non-aircon has only a 5P difference, yet many more locals flocked to non-aircon.  Am I missing something?  It was after 7pm when I arrived in 'ghostly' town of Oslob where whale watching is big business.  Precisely why it's a ghost town after 1pm cos whale watching is only 6-12noon.  Someone from the whale watch shop came over to offer me accomodation once I arrived and got myself a room in a boatman's house for 300B.  Basic but just1 night, it's absolutely fine!  Bad thing - no food at the hour of 730pm.  So just survived on cup noodles for the night and early lights out for the 6am whale watch.
Small bangka sailing off coast to see whale sharks
Easy peasy - head over to any place, they all charge the same.  1000P if you swim/snorkel with whale shark or 700P if you just watch from the boat.  Of cos you have to go under to get the action!  Even at 6am, there were already 3 or more whale sharks.  And you don't sail out far, it's just off the coast! The fishermen feed them every morning 6-12 without fail so you are guaranteed to see them!  And these are baby whale sharks!  Still they are HUGE 6-10m! Imagine if you actually see an adult one!  We got 30mins with them whale sharks but I think being early birds, I was in the water for much longer.  Boatman was kind enough to take photos for me, and it was tiring!  The current was pretty strong and I was instructed to swim under, go under continuously for 10min without resting.  So down up down up down up just for good photos.  Worth it!  Now, you are NOT supposed to use Flash, splash around them, wear sunblock, and stay 4m away from them.  But the boatman kept asking me to "Get closer" and i was literally an arm's length away from whalie!!  Dream fulfilled! Showered off and caught the next bus back to Cebu and rush off to Malapascua!
I was this close to the whale shark
Cabbed to North bus terminal for the long ride to Maya, gateway to malapascua.  163P for the ride.  Gota make it to Maya before 5pm to catch the last boat over, else be prepared to pay private rates for boatman to get you over.  80P for the ride, and 20P each way for the small bangka to get you to the big bangka during low tide.  30mins is all it takes to get you to Malapascua, the so-called Boracay of the old.  Interesting story - After I purchased my 80P ticket, a boatman 'offered' me a private rate of 200P to leave immediately instead of waiting for the next boat which according to him was cancelled and don't know how long more to wait.  Of course I declined!  He tried on another passenger and got declined.  5mins later, we were off to go! No special rate!  Turned out, they had to leave because of the supplies they wanted to bring over! Scam!!
Upon arrival, time to find accomodation.  I sorta made a tentative enquiry to book 1 night over Internet with Purple Snapper, but wanted to try my luck with other cheaper options but none was available after walking the entire Bounty Beach.  Turned back to Purple Snapper and guess what!  They screwed up my booking!  The owner apologized and found another place for the night - 900B at a very far-out deserted place north of the island where there is no place for food or anything else!  Still nice for a quiet night of sleep.  Met a lovely Finnish couple on a 3 month honeymoon trip - Hanna and Mikko who were in the same plight as me.  Lo and behold, it was not to be our one and only chance meeting!! More on that later...
Next morning woke up refreshed and energized for a day of exploring the tiny island of Malapascua!  Started with a walk to the Lighthouse, where the view was alright.  Wanted to go up the lighthouse but the captain, who has the key, was not in the village.  Bad luck.  Then walked to the edge of the northern side where people head over to do cliff jumping.  Had to pay a 25P entrance fee cos apparently, I'm walking past a resort.  Oh whatever!  The view there was real nice but of course I didn't jump!  There was no way of getting back up once I'm down...
On top of the hill!
Still no guts to jump yet....
Then followed by a long walk to the other side of the island.  It is really just a small island, probably takes you under 2H to explore. But it was a nice day!  Finally checked into Purple Snapper, at 800P per night it is actually not that cheap!  Room was alright, with shared bathroom.  But the place is quite cool!  And tada! Bumped into the Fins again! Tried to lay by the beach to do some relaxing but the sky decided not to cooperate.. Turns out, there was a typhoon in South Mindanao which affected the weather.  And that was why I got shitty weather in the following days...
One of the nicest sunset during the entire 2wk trip!
By a chance encounter at a dive shop, I was recommended to eat at Kiwi, a local eatery.  Took me a while to find the little shack in a dark alley.  And when I arrived, only 1 table of travellers was there.  I decided to take a separate table cos I had a 5am dive the next morning and if I joined, I'll be fucked! Haha.. As i sat quietly at my own table, the conversation from the next table became really interesting and piqued my interest.  Time passed, 45mins later, still no sign of food.  I was finally invited to join them in waiting and drinking for food  Turned out they have been waiting for much longer!  Our food finally arrived 2H later.  Why? Because there's only 1 lady cooking and everything done from scratch! Even the coconut had to be bought upon order!  But it was a good wait with those people!  Funny, cool and interesting bunch of people!  When the food arrived, totally worth it!  Delicious and cheap!  Highly recommend it, if you can find it!  Of cos, I ended up in bed only after 12.  For the threshers, I will survive on 5H of sleep.
Next morning, though tired, but excited cos Threshers! Off we went at 5am, and down we went at 6am.  All was quiet and still until - DUM DUM DUM! We spot the 1st glimpse of the giant! 1, 2, 3 no 4!!! They were just swimming, minding their own business like we don't exist! Holy crap they are huge with those whipper tail!  One of the most amazing moments, just sitting down there, watching.
Hello Mr Thresher!

Caught in action!
Went for another dive in the mid morning, which was pretty cool too.  I thought I needed a nap, but damn those threshers must have given me energy cos no nap required, and I met those group of people for dinner again! This time - Ging Ging, another local eatery much bigger scale.  Still a long wait for food but still good food worth waiting for!
My hilarious newly made friends from Taiwan!  This is called the Lindsey stacker
Did I mention about the Fins? Oh they are very much involved in my trip! Yes, the next day we were on the same dive trip out to Gato Island! Booked it the day before with Fun and Sun dive.  Thought just the 3 of us in a group, ended up another German DM (Gordon) joined us.  Fun!  We had a great group!  The dive was nice, saw some cool stuff - worth mentioning 4 cuttlefish fooling around. My night ended once again with the same group of people from Taiwan, with drinks and being serenaded by a local guy at this really cool cushion place by the beach.
Eve of V day - being serenaded felt nice!
What do you have to do on V day? Of cos climb a coconut tree!!!
On Valentine's Day, I bid good bye to my friends from Taiwan, went for a crappy dive and just lazed around doing nothing much.  Went for a sunset by the lighthouse which wasn't really good.  Oh did I metion happy hour? 2-1 really great deal.  My life on vacation - Happy hour after 5 everyday!  Enroute to dinner (was planning on just a quiet dinner then off to bed cos I was planning on hoping to Bohol the next day which meant early morning), bumped into the German guy and another traveller.  Ended up having dinner with a bunch of people and heading to the local village for their Mr & Ms Valentine contest and the disco after!  It was actually LITTLE Mr & Ms Valentine! Haha but yea, dico dancing was fun and ended up back home at 4+am, which totally wrecked my plan to travel.  So one more day in Malapascua! But definitely Bohol the next morning!

My Partners in crime at the disco dancing arena! 3H non-stop dancing. Hey I'm still not too old!

I would say Purple Snapper, though not the cheapest, is a really cool place to stay and hang out.  The owner is a very nice American.  The diving there is not the cheapest but they are pretty ok.  Heard from the Fins that dive society (the yellow brick building) is pretty good too!
Malapascua is a really small island.  Boracay of the yester year? I don't know and can't compare.  It is much smaller than Boracay though. But definitely quiet place.  No discos or clubbing, ust nice relaxing chilling bars (a few only) along the beach.  Other wise the place is pretty dead at night.  Of cos diving is the main activity here! But I'm sure snorkelling is pretty alright! Or if you are not a diver, just relax by the beach and do nothing!  Yes, there's basically NOTHING you can do on the island.  NO hill or viewpoint much to explore or hiking to do.  Or you can try hiring a bangka out to far out island like Calanggaman to just chill.  But you really can't miss out on the Thresher shark dive (if you are a diver) Worth the early morning!


Anonymous said...

how long did it take you to go from oslob to malapscua to make the last boat? like what time did you leave at?

DianShan said...

Took the 7am bus from Oslob to Cebu, reached around close to 10 probably, then transferred to the North bus terminal in Cebu and caught a bus that left around 12+ to Maya. Reached Maya around 4pm and took the boat across to malapascua.

Anonymous said...

Do the buses run frequently from oslob to cebu city?? Just want to make sure theres no problems trying to get back!

DianShan said...

Pretty frequent enough, pretty sure I saw buses heading towards cebu direction when I arrived in Oslob around 7pm at night. You will have no worries if you leave in the late afternoon