Diving Visayas- 1st Stop Moalboal-Oslob

The best diving in the Philippines can be found in the Visayas region

It was around the first week of August and I was really tired of diving Anilao. I have logged probably more than a hundred dives in the last 7 months of 2012 and I really needed a change in underwater scenery....

Just when I was about to finally book my ticket for an insanely expensive out of the country big fish diving holiday, Jason who I also dove with in May sent me a message that he and his family wanted to do some diving in the Philippines. I then took a look at which places would be good as they are bringing along their mom, wife and several kids along, while from my end had the personal agenda of wanting to go Diving with Whalesharks again.

At the time I was doing my pre trip research, there were news that the practice of feeding Whalesharks was already being attempted in Moalboal...with photos & claimed favorable results plus news of the sporadic sightings of the sardines schools which made Moalboal quite appealing at the time. In a(an) hour, I drew a simple trip itinerary, using one of my Anilao photos as the backdrop to my planned Visayan Seafari. The plan was to first accompany Jason's family for some dives in Moalboal and will do some backpack diving after this trip, doing a quick pass at Oslob for some Whalesharks, taking a quick peek at Dumaguete, an area where I have never been, a probable stop at Bohol for Balicasag & Cabilao and finally shoot some Thresher Sharks in Malapascua which I have seen twice but failed to take photos during my September 2011 trip.

controversial, yes... a guilty pleasure encounter

1st Stop- Moalboal

The trip to Moalboal from Mactan aiport took us three hours and we all finally arrived at around 6pm. Upon arrival, the resident DM Kayo was sharing how amazing the house reef was, I invited Jason & his brother Jonathan that day but they came from a long trip and they decided to start diving the next day, so off I went on a night dive.  Kayo wasn't kidding, the house reef was pretty amazing, and this would be the itenerary for everyone for the next four nights, night diving the house reef.

sardines are back in 2014

For the next two days, Me, Jason, Jonathan, the cool dad Shink, younger sister Grace with DM Kayo went diving all around Moalboal. Pescador had spectacular visibility and we saw loads of frogfishes of all shapes and sizes. On almost all dives we saw an abundance of turtles but diving Tongo point yielded us an amazing seven, in my mind at the time, I thought we were in Sipadan. The cool thing here is Grace on her sixth dive managed to see 7 turtles, 6 different frogfish and loads of other cool stuff. I personally only saw my first frogfish on my 60th or so dive. 

decorator crabs...how they camouflage themselves by day
mating mandarinfish are close to guaranteed by sundown
Turtles everywhere
plane wreck at Copton Pt.
massive Gorgonians at Rondo Point
I was really impressed with the gorgonian fan corals at Rondo point, they were massive and everywhere (site i've missed on my first two trips) while the Copton point plane wreck dive is always fun for everyone. They were all great dives but something was really missing, there weren't Whalesharks in the area plus sadly, the Sardines were at the blue water part of Rondo point, we did not attempt anymore to dive with them as every local shared visibility was really terrible & the sardines were quite shy (unlike in 2010), so there was no point in pursuing them. On the night of our third diving day, I wanted to suggest to the Shiue's if they may consider doing a trip to Oslob. They were actually way ahead of me and inquired about the trip. Going to Oslob from Moalboal was quite pricey, the standard prices for all Moalboal operators was USD150 per diver for transfers, two dives, inclusive of lunch, excluding the marine park fees which during the time of our trip cost Php1,500 for none Philippine passport holders. After a few minutes of deliberation, Jason gave the go signal and we were all off to Oslob the next day.

controversial, yet changed the lives of hundreds of families living in the area

Getting to Oslob was an easy 1 hr and 30 minute drive from Moalboal but upon arriving, I was personally quite disappointed how the operator handled our first dive, where we were forced to do a long swim to the whalesharks, mixed with poor visibility and strong currents, we practically were quite shortchanged, and all elements were going against us. Due to surges, our first dive lasted only 20 minutes and we only dove with whalesharks for about 5 minutes as the current just pushed us out to open sea.

The second dive, we had to plan more strategically and DM Kayo gave instructions to feed the Whalesharks by the fixed buoy. It was already 12 noon and we had to move fast as feeding was only done till 1 o'clock. At least on the second dive, the locals offered us a short boat ride to the feeding area and finally, we had a full 45 minutes with the Whalesharks. The visibility was practically zero till 10 feet. Luckily, the Whalesharks this time around, with us being the only people in the area managed to swim zip passed us at around 20 feet without fail. This experience was also new to me as it was nice to see the Whalesharks swim towards you constantly rather than their usual stationary upright feeding position

always great
Then came the final day of diving. Jason had to bring his wife & kids out while Jonathan was unfortunately suffering from a sudden ear infection so only Shink and Grace did two more dives. We went back to Pescador and did Cathedral point which is famous for its easy cave swim throughs. From inside out, the four blue holes make it look like a disfigured face of sorts. I had to stay at around 32 meters to get a shoot all four blue holes together. Last time I went, I couldn't manage to capture the whole scene since I was using a compact camera with a limited 25mm field of view. This time around, armed with a Tokina 10-17mm lens, I was able to take the shot I wanted of Cathedral point which was on my mind for the longest time. 
On our final dive, we attempted to look for small schools of Sardines along the house reef of Savedra which was shared by the locals to be there from time to time, but a quick look yielded none, so we just did our last dive at Kasai point, where we just goofed around & enjoyed the warm hot sun and crystal clear visibility

Moalboal is still a great place to dive, there is much amazing macro life, lots of turtles and has a huge selection of awesome reef scenes. Compared though to what it was in 2010, it sadly is missing the big show of huge school of sardines and feeding threshers. 

After exchanging goodbye's with the Shiue's, I made my way to Dumaguete via bus (less than Php100) to South Liloan Santander port which took but an hour and a short 30 minute fast craft ferry (Php67) to Dumaguete City where I am to meet Snoopy to check out diving in his side of town. Real back pack diving starts now. 

Cost Summaries Moalboal
  • Cost Per dive- High Php1,500 // Standard Php1,250, inclusive DM
  • Accomodation- Php4.5k lavish twin to Php1k budget fan room per night
  • Meals- Starts Php50 (bakery), Php150 mid, Php300+ high end
  • Private Van Transport- Php8,000 return (accommodates 6 comfortably with gear)- 3 hours
  • Bus Mactan to Moal Boal- Php180+/- one way via Ceres Bus line, every 30 minutes- 4 hours
  • Public Van GT express- Php200 one way, ask taxi to bring you to Southern Terminal (around Php80+/- from Mactan). Dive gears will be charged Php200 as well- 3 hours & 30 minutes
  • Current USD exchange rate- Php43.5- USD1 as of Jul 2014

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1 Komentar

Hello Jun,

This blog is very interesting, I've been stuck in diving in Puerto Galera for quite a while and I only dove once in Anilao. A DM Boracay told me that I have to upgrade my license from Open water to Advanced if I want to dive in Malapascua. Do I really need to take his advice or is it just a business talking?

Because my clients from Japan are interested in diving in Malapascua in March 2014 for my birthday, it would be sad to know if I can't dive while they can because they hold an advanced open water lic.