Oslob Cebu

Let me get this out of the way first, the cheapest way to probably get to Oslob is to take a Ceres bus from Cebu City and pay P500 to snorkel with the whale sharks when you get there (P1000 if you’re a foreigner).

Now let me tell you how we got there. First we got in touch with Island Trek Tours. Their website http://www.oslobwhalesharks.com is the first that pops up when you Google Oslob diving. They will contact you and then you have to deposit a down payment (50% of cost ) to their bank account.

We then booked our own accommodations separately. We chose to stay at The Henry Hotel which was excellent for two nights.

One of Island Trek’s drivers Rolly picked us up at 6AM the next day. It took us only two and a half hours to get to Oslob so we really could’ve left at 7AM. When we got there a girl named Elise took care of us. She asked for the rest of the payment (P900 cheaper per person if you’re a local!) and then we sat through an orientation. Don’t touch the whale sharks or wear sunblock because it will disturb the whale sharks!

We then went to the scuba dive guide (P500 less if you have your own gear whether you are a local or a foreigner). His briefing maximum depth 7m because, well, that’s the bottom of the floor. And the big news, you can spend 40-45 mins. with the whale sharks. This is what makes scuba diving worth it. First of all you avoid the hordes of people and secondly you get more than the allotted 30 mins. And there were only two other dive duos and one individual with us plus their dive guides.

After 50 minutes and still half our air left, we went back to shore. We were then shuttled off by Rolly and Elise to Tumalog Falls which is surprisingly worth it (and part of the package tour). Just be ready for a harrowing (helmet-less!) motorcycle ride. (Better than walking!)

Then back to lunch. By the way we also had a free breakfast of mango, sticky rice and hot chocolate before the dive. Lunch was very substantial. Kinilaw (raw vinegared fish), tinapa (smoked fish) chicken (with tomato sauce), soup, vegetables, and rice plus a soda or bottled water of your choice.

We got back to our hotel by 4PM. All in all satisfied with our trip.

Now the moral dilemma. Do the whale sharks look fine? They seem to be… But for the more eco-friendly traveller I would definitely suggest Donsol.

The Henry Hotel — The best boutique hotel in the country so far?

Maya at Crossroads strip mall — The king of Cebuano restaurants (They serve Mexican food.) The jam packed Fat Pho is also in this strip mall.

Canvas at Ayala Center — They have an Australian beef pie floating in gravy topped with green pea mash! Something I was looking for in Australia that I never found.

Taxi tip — Cebu taxi drivers surprisingly switch on their meters as soon as you board the cabs (175 pesos to the airport).

Mt. Pinatubo trek

A staple of the backpacker trail, I finally got to climb Mount Pinatubo twenty-two years after it erupted.

Send a text to Weng Santos 0999 365 5069 for a trustworthy reservation.

Anyway, I got there by driving down the NLEX, connecting to the SCTEX, and got off at the Concepcion exit.  I turned left, drove into the town of Capas, Tarlac and took a hard right after the McDonalds (a great place to catch an early morning snack).

I turned left eventually after that.  There must have been a sign, and drove straight till I reached a satellite station of the Capas tourist office housed in a container van.  Here you can get a ride and a guide to the foot of Pinatubo if you don’t already have a reservation.

A jeeps costs P3000, P500 for a guide, P450 per person for taxes and P50 to park my car.

It took around an hour and a half drive to get to the foot of the volcano and another hour and a half hike to get to the top.  BIG TIP: If your shoes are kind of old, bring an extra pair of footwear, even if it’s just slippers.  A few old pairs of shoes in the group I hiked with didn’t make it back in one piece.

There’s really nothing to do there once you get to top.  Just hang out for awhile, snap a few pics, and head back down.

But the feeling of achievement is pretty awesome.

By the way, last trip leaves at 10am and starts at 5am because it could rain in the afternoon, causing flash floods.

One last question, should you ride the open-air jeep or the closed Land Rovers.  It’s up to you, the view was great in the morning from the open-air jeep but would probably be too hot on the way back.  We had to ride the closed Rover because we didn’t get a choice.  Happy tramping!

Backpacker Sea Routes

The ramifications of this will be endless.

http://business.inquirer.net/144605/ph-to-lead-asean-wide-ro-ro-connectivity

It seems they are planning to start a Ro-Ro from Davao to Manado, Indonesia this October 18, 2013. Then a Ro-Ro from Batangas City to Da Nang, Vietnam (passing near Hong Kong first) in 2015.

link

And it also seems there will be a Ro-Ro connecting the southern part of Palawan, Brooke’s Point to Kudat, Sabah in January, 2014.