We grabbed a taxi outside our apartment and headed to the airport in KK and met a very interesting American in line at the airport. He was an older gentleman by the name of Johnny who went from island to island in South East Asia spreading his Christian ideals. He showed us pictures of his boat and how it got destroyed in a Typhoon and that he was on his way to the Philippines to get a flying boat. It turns out he was trying to purchase a very small one prop/one wing boat for his travels. It sounded like a recipe for disaster to me, but to each their own. We chatted with him on the plane and said farewell once we got to Manila. We heard later that he was not able to purchase his plane. Just as well.
We passed through customs no problem and actually they stamped my passport on the first page, meaning that they didn’t take up any of the last few spot in my passport. I only have ten, maybe twelve spots left in my passport and we have at least three countries to go (six more stamps) so this was the break I needed just in case we ran into a customs agent having a bad day and decided not to let me into a country because of my limited pages. We exited the international gates and took a bus around to domestic but after having no trouble getting tickets or passing through security we got delayed getting to our Cebu flight. At one point they told us we were delayed 4 hours but it ended up only being delayed 2 hours. We had fun with the crazy bus in the airport and had a crappy pizza dinner, ah travel.
Once we arrived in on the island of Cebu in Cebu city we hopped a taxi and checked into our hotel for the night above a seven-eleven. This seven-eleven just happened to be the party spot in the neighborhood, after putting the kids to bed and arranged our car for the next day I popped down for some breakfast supplies and I found a party going on. There was about 20-30 young people drinking and chatting and buy stuff from the store. They were well behaved, and you couldn’t hear them from our room so…. carry on.
The next day our driver was very prompt, actually he was two hours early. We finished our breakfast and packed up our stuff and then took off an hour ahead of schedule, and sat in traffic on our way to Oslob a town near the southern tip of Cebu island. Once we fully got out of Cebu City the traffic eased up and we began to see the beauty of the Philippines. Lots of palm trees, green hills, turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. We were back on the ring of fire after a quick pit stop in Borneo, bringing us more volcano vistas.
We checked into Saschas Resort near the town of Oslob, we booked the place because it had a pool with a slide where the kids could play and the adults could sit and enjoy the ocean. The place was great except that it was half under renovations, but in our usual laid back style we didn’t let it bother us. We were only there for 4 nights anyway.
Our second day there was filled with finishing school and lots of relaxing and pool time after the last couple days of travel. I also was making last minute preparations for Maddy’s birthday. We had dinner in the small town of Oslob, there was only a few places to eat or at least only a few that would suit us. It looked like most of the locals ate from the barbecues that were set up on the main road. The girls took a look at the grills and decided against all the varieties of fish and meat that were on offer, so we ended up with pizza.
The next day we went on a tour of the local water fall, which was a few miles down the road. We took one of the ever present motorcycles with a large metal side car. The five of us piled in and then had to transfer to two single motor bike to make it up the hill to the water fall, we then had a ½ mile hike into the jungle. It was worth the effort, the water fall was amazing, very cold water but the blue hues and streams of tumbling water was mesmerizing. The girls got a bit cold because we were in the shade the entire time so we didn’t stay more than ½ hour. We had dinner at our resort and reserved our car for the swimming with whale sharks the next morning.
We got up at 5:30am on Maddy’s birthday, not much after dawn and roused the kids, we threw on our clothes, ate a bit of banana bread and headed 5 miles south where lots of people began converging. Our driver helped us to navigate through the lines people. We acquired a mask and snorkel, signed in and then started looking for our assigned boat. We also got a bit of instruction about staying outside of a 3 meter buffer zone with the sharks and that we were not allowed to apply sunscreen, because the chemicals bother the whale sharks.
We finally boarded our boat and paddled out to the viewing area, our boat was part of a “U” shape with 5-6 other boats in a stationary formation and then several other boats feeding the sharks started moving on the outside of the “U” and we began to see the sharks. We jumped into the water and got our first view of the largest non-mammal vertebrates in the world. Even the babies were 15-20 feet long and the biggest was 30-35 feet. It was hard not to image them just swimming over and swallowing you, but of course they are very gentile creatures and only eat tiny krill. The kids all jumped in and got a view, and were surprisingly brave, and were gushing about how amazing it was once we were done.
Even though the limited 30 minute experience was incredible, both Maddy and I were left with a bit of an empty feeling with the staged nature of the shark viewing. We both agreed that we would love to have a spontaneous encounter with one of the whale sharks on a dive. The whale sharks are only allowed to be fed in this manor for half the day and then find food for themselves in the afternoon to allow for natural behavior. Once we finished we bought some donuts from a little stand with Nutella filling, a tasty cherry to our shark Sunday.
We were finished and back to our hotel by 7am, and felt we had a whole day adventure and didn’t know what to do with ourselves. So we had breakfast, more pool time and gave Maddy some birthday love. We lounged around, until around 11am then went out to lunch at a restaurant in the town and walked around the local basilica. After we had our fill of walking and sun we headed back to our pool, by this time the cake that I had ordered had arrived and we drank a bit of bubbly to celebrate Maddy and gave her a few presents. We finally ate our cake by the ocean and relaxed around the pool and enjoyed an amazing day of sun and sea.
The next day we packed up our things to travel to the island of Cabilao just across the channel from Cebu toward Bohol. This is where we were to meet our friends Sharon and Scott and enjoy 10 days of relaxing and diving.