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Published: February 11th 2013
The giant barracuda's at Mainit
Whale sharks, rice terraces and Mcdonalds
Well, it is time for an update on our travels in the Philippines. After having said goodbye to Katrine and Daniel we went to Dumaguete on Negros by ferry. The ferries are quite good and a rather cheap way of commuting. We arrived in Dumaguete at 2 am. But since this is the Philippines, there is no problem in getting transportation or accommodation at this time of night. Dumaguete is a university city and rare for a Philippine city, it actually has a lot of charm. Dumaguete is certainly our favorite “major” city in the Philippines. We enjoyed the western restaurants at the water front and we found a fantastic massage place called Lotus Spa. In this spa you could actually buy a monthly card with unlimited use of their facilities for PHP 3000. This corresponds to about EUR 60. Christian was tempted to stay in Dumaguete to take advantage of this. When you add that we could have a good wiener schnitzel with fried potatoes with our Austrian friend in Café Bogart, it was kind of hard to resist. However Inge didn’t approve on the idea, so we went on to
This little shrimp is impressive the way it resebles its host featherstar in colors and pattern
Dauin which is a well known dive location about 20 minutes drive from Dumaguete.
In Dauin we stayed at a fine dive resort called Liquid Diving. We had a nice little bungalow with sea view and a shower with hot water from the local thermal sources. We couldn’t regulate the temperature, so it was a good idea always to check the water temperature with the hand before entering full body. It was nice was a hot shower.
In Dauin we spent our time diving and snorkeling. The diving is in general more towards the small and weird macro stuff and we saw quite a few creatures in this category. Among others we saw a tiny juvenile frogfish about 1 centimeter in length. We also had a fantastic dive in a strong current on Mainit where we encountered a shoal of around 150 giant barracudas. They were big, sizing around 1½ meter in length. It is rather rare that you get an experience with this number of fish, so a moment to remember.
Dauin is about 45 minutes from the protected natural marine reserve Apo Island. On Apo Island we found very nice coral formations and a richer
We were lucky so see two of these in Dauin on the divesite called cars. They were about 5 centimeters long.
fish life than we have experienced other places in the Philippines. Unfortunately a few of the reefs were destroyed by the typhoon in the autumn. The highlights were actually on snorkel where we encountered several turtles and sea snakes. We could swim with the animals for a while and watch them go to the surface and breathe. This was a super experience. The sailing trip back to Dauin was also a star moment with a beautiful view to Mount Talinis with its characteristic two summits.
After Dauin we went back to Dumaguete for a couple of days. We had to check if the massage still was good. Well, it was. I have been quite addicted to Mcdonalds after travelling in Asia for more than 3 months. Inge doesn’t really agree, but a meal for PHP 159 is hard to resist. We went on two trips into the beautiful hinterland and saw waterfalls and the volcanic twin lakes. It was a thrill to drive on a road where suddenly we were met by steam and fumes from the cliff side with a distinct scent of rotten eggs. The underground world is very much alive in this region.
Look at the pointer. Its diameter is about 0,5 centimeter. This frogfish was tiny. Happy that our guide had good eyes.
another massage and meal at Mcdonalds we went on to Oslob in the south of Cebu Island. Here we would dive and snorkel with the resident population of whale sharks. In Tan-awan about 10 kilometers south of Oslob they started feeding whale sharks in 2011. By now it is a big tourist attraction, since this is one of the few places on the planet where you can have a guaranteed encounter with these magnificent gentle giants. The feeding is quite controversial and opponents claim that it will affect their migration patterns in a negative way. Also they are afraid that the sharks will be attracted to boat and could get injuries from propellers or would be easy targets for the shark fin industry. On a positive note, all the tourists that get this great experience will hopefully be good ambassadors in protecting these magnificent animals. Sadly shark fin soup is still popular in certain places in Asia and a fin from a whale shark could be worth as much as USD 15.000,-. That is a lot of money for a local fisherman. We spoke to a team of researchers from “La Mave” NGO doing research on the whale sharks. They
Liquid Dive Resort
It looks nice and it was nice. Php 12oo pr night for a bungalow
help in putting up regulations for the whale shark encounter. For example one has to keep a minimum distance to the animals and no use of strobes or lights. Also only non motorized boats are allowed in the interaction zone. Since April they have identified 104 different animals, of which some are regulars and others just pass by. The majority of sharks are juvenile males and with a length of 4-6 meters they are pigmies compared to an adult that can reach a length to 12 to 15 meters. The whale shark tourism took off by a coincidence. Local fishermen used krill as bait when they went fishing (for normal fish). To their regret often a whale shark would turn up and eat the krill. They used this in a creative way and found out that this could be turned into a tourism industry and this was the start of the whale shark encounters in Oslob. Inge and I are split in our view of this kind of a circus. We would definitely prefer to have an encounter in the wild, but having said that we must admit that it was a very big experience to be in the water
We love these beautiful creatures
with these gentle giants of Oslob. We had up to 10 different whale sharks and could count up till 5 in vision at the same time. The biggest we estimate to a length of 8 meters and the smallest around 4 meters. So even if these are small whale sharks they are still quite a bit bigger than us. They live on a diet of krill and plankton so they are completely harmless for people unless we get swallowed by an accident. We both tried scuba diving and snorkeling with the sharks. Snorkeling was actually the better experience. We came very close to the sharks and Inge was actually hit by the fin of a passing whale shark on 4 occasions on our last snorkel. Note, the whale shark touched her, not the other way around. On our snorkel encounter we were in the water around 1 hour and 45 minutes and we got a bit cold. However it was forgotten when one of the giant showed up swimming directly against us. The feeding is done from dedicated pangas. The feeders throw small amounts of krill into the water and the whale sharks turns up and follow the pangas as
The green color warns that it is poisonous
well behaving dogs. The sharks take a vertical position in the water and starts sucking in water. It is rather a loud sound when they gulp in the water. The sharks must enjoy this kind of food even though we found the scent rather disgusting. We didn’t observe any tourists behaving badly by touching or riding the animals, so in this respect, the guidelines seems to work. Also quite a few tourists stay in the boats and watch the feeding from there.
Controversial or not we had one of our very big water experiences in Tan-awan. We can only hope that people will support anti shark fin soup groups. These animals needs protection and shouldn’t be extinct. They must be around for the joy of future generations.
Oslob town is a very local Philippine place with almost no tourists. We ate grilled chicken on the local market and didn’t suffer any stomach issues. The Philippine dogs are rather tough. They would have the rest of our chicken including bones. They ate it with great pleasure and were still around the day after.
We were supposed to move on to Bohol and see the Chocolate Hills, but due
We like the details on this small shrimp
to a storm our ferry was cancelled so we were stranded in Dumaguete. Well, that wasn’t too bad. We frequented the Lotus Spa, Mcdonalds and enjoyed the good food in the other restaurants. We also had a go at the famous cakes in Sans Rival. Their fame is justified. It was very delicious.
Then it was time to head off to Cebu City for one night before revisiting Malapascua. We went to the Ayala mall that actually is a beautifully designed mall with loads of shops and restaurants. We even found a candy store and we liked that. By now we have become rather fond of Cebu City that has a certain charm with all of its life and local flavor of jeepneys.
On Malapascua we once again had fantastic encounters with the thresher sharks. The visibility was not good due to an algae bloom. Nonetheless our second thresher dive was in world class with the sharks passing by really close. It is just a very beautiful shark. On Malapascua we once again enjoyed the good food in the Craig House and met a lot of nice people of different origin. We have the adventure in common and
Banded sea snake on Apo Island
it gives a good basis for many a good talk. Quite a few of our fellow divers had been to Sipadan and they were thrilled about it. This is our next dive destination in the beginning of March, so something to look forward to.
The diving on the Philippines is now over. We have had many good hours underwater the highlights being the thresher shark and whale shark encounters. Unfortunately we didn’t see m(any) big fish and very few shoals of fish. They have been fished out. That is sad. In the department of small and weird we saw quite a few interesting creatures, but we have to conclude that the Philippines as a dive destination is not quite on level with Indonesia. Maybe a hard conclusion since we only dived a little of the Philippines, but we did dive some of the more well known places.
Our last stop in the Philippines is the rice terraces in Banaue. We are right now sitting in Banaue Homestay after 3 days with perfect weather. The rice terraces were constructed 2000 years ago by the Ifuago people. They are a truly magnificent sight. Especially at the village of Batad the
Hawksbill turtle on Apo Island
amphitheater of rice terraces is impressive. We have been trekking in the rice terraces on our own and by a local guide. It can be a bit difficult to find your way but we have managed to find back to to the homestay everytime. The area is on the Unesco protection list but unfortunately the rice terraces is starting to go into decline. According to the owner of the guesthouse there is neither money nor prestige in growing rice and the young generation don’t want to get involved in this kind of work. In this respect, it is a bit like in Denmark. She remembers her childhood as very happy working in the rice terraces and liked the fellowship they shared. We hope that the Unesco label will help to preserve the rice terraces that for a good reason is called the eighth wonder of the world. It is as spectacular as Sapa in Vietnam, maybe even a bit more so.
Our homestay is fantastic. Our hostess Beatriz is very friendly and Christian has done two cooking classes teaching the local girls to make fried potatoes and hasselback potatoes. Yummi.
Tomorrow we head off to Manila. There awaits
Inge snorkeling with green turtle on Apo Island
another 9 hour bus ride during the night. We were very cold on the trip to Banaue. The bus driver apparently wanted to check out how cold he could make the bus by using the air condition. We hope that the air condition is broken on our return trip, but we are prepared for a bit of this and bit of that.
Let us end our Philippine chapter by saying that we have been very happy with our 2 months in the Philippines. In general the Philippine people are very friendly and laugh a lot. Almost everybody speaks English so it is easy to travel around on your own. We will return another time. There is still a lot to experience in this big country.
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