Cebu Island holds some of the Philippines most attractive tourist activities and was a huge driving force to make Cebu the first stop. Island hopping around the Philippines was our plan with Cebu to start. Not only are the world renown Kawasan falls there, but also the controversial and famous diving with whale sharks.
Noordzee Hostel is a 3 hour bus ride south of Cebu city. Following the coast south you will come across one of the of the best hostels I have stayed at to date. With its own secluded beach, dorms and private rooms this place has it all. The budget backpacker or the middle range backpacker looking for something a tad luxurious with all the vibes that you get at a hostel.
A restaurant that caters western food and an array of alcohol if you are that way inclined. Beach beds along the beach, your own private beach but with pebbles. Has a pool that is epic to chill in the middle day heat. Also great to spend the evening in as the water still holds the heat from the day.
When you are at Noordzee you will want to go and see the many attractions that the South has to offer like whale sharks and multiple waterfalls. If you are looking for a hassle free experience I would highly recommend asking for the guide JP. He is the most genuine guy with an awesome sense of humour and does everything at a reasonable price.
Swimming with whale sharks is always on the travel goals list and is an experience that I will never forget. From the hostel, you can catch one of the many buses, that pass by the hostel, south to Oslob. It will cost about 50 pesos, although be careful as they will drop you down from the briefing center. They will also charge you extra commission plus you will need to walk a few hundred meters back to the briefing center. This is the legit government location to purchase tickets and do the activity.
As opposed to getting a ride with JP, who will charge you about the same, to take you down on his tricycle. He will provide good banter, and drop you directly where you need to be. He will also organise the tickets and equipment you need like snorkel gear and life vests.
Your number will be called, you will jump on a wooden boat with 8 others and get paddled out surprising close to the shore. Once you are at the whale sharks you jump off the edge and you have 30 mins to swim around. The locals feed the sharks to keep them at the surface. Which makes them seem a tad domesticated. But it also means you can get up close and personal. Don’t be surprised if you get so close you accidentally touch one!
They are truly majestic and harmless animals gliding around the ocean. At one point I was backing away from one that was swimming towards me, and as I turned around another was coming my way, I almost got sandwiched between them. At other times you will look down and see them gliding gracefully underneath you. A truly remarkable experience.
Tip. Make sure you go early in the morning, earlier the better to beat the peak tourists time of midmorning.
Tulog is a singular waterfall in-between the hostel and Oslob. This makes for a perfect side attraction to the whale sharks. Although you will need to either get a taxi cab or jump on the back of a motorbike, as the road up there is extremely steep.
Once you get to the top it’s only a short 5 min walk to the waterfall. A huge cliff with a mesmerizing trickle running over into a large lagoon at the bottom. The water is refreshingly cold, which is welcome after a short but hot walk.
Laying on your back in the lagoon looking up to the waterfall it is hard not to get seduced into a meditative state. Again get here early to beat the crowds. The whole experience is well worthwhile and does not take too much of your time.
Canyoning in Kawasan falls was one of the activities that I wasn’t going to leave the Philippines without doing. A 3-hour trip jumping, sliding and swimming down a river and a series of waterfalls. To end up at the bottom which is the infamous Kawasan falls.
Again transport to the falls can be quite expensive. Being an hour and a half away, the most effective way to get there is to chat with other people at the backpackers and share a van. The van (which was organised by JP) costs 2500 peso and can fit 6-8 people depending on how comfortable you want to be sitting.
Once there, you get your gear, and jump on the back of a motorbike. The locals will take you for a 15 min ride along the coast and up into the mountains. There you will walk on foot for a further 15 mins to the river where the canyoning starts.
Tip: Take money as there is pretty much food the whole way along. Yes they have food in the middle of the river!
Jumping and sliding down the river with waterfall after waterfall it is truly a unique experience. Each waterfall you jump off seems to get bigger and bigger until you reach the end, Kawasan falls. Which I would estimate to be about a 10-meter jump. A good place to conquer your fear of heights if you have any.
Staying on Cebu for 4 days seemed to be the perfect balance to do both the activities and have some chill out time at the epic hostel. I would highly recommend putting Cebu and these activities on your Philippines itinerary. Onto the next island yeeow!