Moalboal, Panagsama Beach Trip 05.2016
Get Down Under
People often remark that some of the best of the Philippines lies under water. Those people are correct. If you are aquatically inclined, take yourself to Moalboal’s Panagsama Beach. There is plenty to do: snorkeling, free-diving, scuba diving, canyoneering, eating, drinking, or just relaxing on the beach.
We traveled to Moalboal to celebrate my close friends’ anniversary and another’s birthday. This is the latest of many trips to this western-facing dive oasis and Moalboal remains my favorite power-down and relaxation destination.
If you are partial to the Lonely Planet Philippines (and you should be), you’ll read that, “Diving, drinking and dining (in that order) top the list of activities in Moalboal…” I’ll counter with my own top three for Moalboal:
- Diving or snorkeling the sardines
- Diving or snorkeling Tongo Point marine sanctuary
- Sundowners at Café Cebuano or Chili Bar
Tipolo Beach Resort
We stayed at Tipolo Beach Resort (P1,800/night), which remains my favorite accommodation on Panagsama Beach. The rooms are functional/comfortable with aircon and large bathrooms. All have porches good for drying your gear, enjoying morning coffee, or general hanging out.
Positioned right on the beach, the house reef around the wall is excellent. Tipolo’s house restaurant is the Last Filling Station and the yogurt fruit salad breakfast is a revelation.
It’s not like there aren’t plenty of other places to stay. Options in the same neighborhood include Quo Vadis and Maya’s Native Garden. Both are respectable options with accommodating staff. Quo Vadis focuses on the diving scene with three-four dives per day and night dives on the house reef.
Quo Vadis Snorkeling Excursion
This trip, we decided that snorkeling would be the order of the day. Quo Vadis is amenable to snorkelers joining their dive trips at P375 per person. The Quo Vadis team is very accommodating, knowledgeable, and professional.
The itinerary for the first two dives was Pescador Island and Tongo Marine Sanctuary. Tongo was fantastic with serious wall action and spectacular coral gardens. We saw reef needle fish, trumpet fish, schools of jacks and trevalley, large groupers and several turtles.
I enjoyed Tongo enough to return for a bit of free diving practice the following day. It’s one of the best dives in the area if you are certified for scuba. If not, Tongo is just the reason you need to take the course.
Did I Mention Turtles?
Apo Island is rightly known for turtles, but Moalboal has them in abundance as well. On my way to Tongo and back I saw four turtles along the wall — two I ran into coming and going. Each encounter was captivating. Watching these creatures glide through the water never ceases to amaze.
Sardines: Hypnotic Schools of Joy
Our afternoons consisted of chasing sardines and then relaxing, sunset-gazing over frosty beverages. The sardines remain a remarkable experience — some say life-changing — undiminished by the easy access that Panagsama Beach affords. Previously, the haol-haol (Tagalog) stayed around Pescador Island but moved closer after the last big typhoon. Or so I’ve heard, the fish are pretty tight-lipped on the matter.
If you are anywhere near Panagsama, you would be remiss for not checking out the awesomeness of millions of little, oily fish cocooning you in a tornado of fun.
We tried several places for sundown drinks after snorkeling with the sardines. Café Cebuano, Cebu Dive Centre, Chili Bar, One Eyed Jacks Bar as well as the pavilion at Tipolo with Jowell serving as bartender. All have their strengths.
- Café Cebuano: Fantastic sunset view. Food for a refined palette (and the only sardine dish around, the fried sardines and wasabi dip) and a higher budget. The grown-up ambiance warrants a bigger bill, in my opinion.
- Cebu Dive Centre: If you want to drink beer and talk diving while the sun drops below the mountains on the other side of the Tañon Straight, this is your place. (Doing my nitrox cert with these guys next month.)
- Chili Bar: Sits next to Café Cebuano with a fraternity esthetic and big-assed food. Flintstone ribs, massive burgers, great pizzas, and the signature mango mojitos make Chili Bar the default destination for many (like me).
- One Eyed Jacks Bar: The sunset view may be a bit obscured but the upstairs swing seating and live music are my ticket. Frosty beers and a bit of acoustic make for a great, chilled-out end to the day.
- Tipolo Pavilion: Jowell on the 42 Below slushies and tasty, fried goodness in the form of spring rolls from Maya’s and Last Filing Station pizza make this an excellent choice if you’re a guest. Also makes the stumble to face down on the bed quick and painless.
Dumaguete to Liloan
As usual, we departed from Dumaguete. Pre-arranged for a tricycle for the three of us to the Sibulan Port (P120) where we jumped on the fast ferry for Liloan (P62 each).
Liloan to Moalboal
Once we hit the ferry terminal at Cebu Island’s lands end, we met our driver who was coordinated by the good people at Tipolo Beach Resort.
The car ride is considerably faster than the bus but costs considerably more (P3,000 for three of us vs the bus service running about P600-800/head including the trip from Liloan to Bato and the P100-150 tricycle from Moalboal to Panagsama).
Moalboal to Cebu
Imagine squeezing into a cramped bus that climbs and winds its way along as you attempt to incrementally shift your position without further invading the privacy of the three people shoehorned in next to you. At P120 for the non-aircon Ceres Liner, it’s a bargain to get to Cebu but, trust me, there has to be a better way.