– FEBRUARY 01-02, 2016
We made our way to Cebu Island in the Philippines. It was a long journey from Malaysia, due to constant delays as the Philippines is run severely disorganized. Our flight from Kuala Lumpur departed on time and arrived in Manila at 2pm and we had a flight booked from Manila to Cebu Island at 6pm…so far so good. We then had to switch from terminal 1 (the international arrivals terminal) to terminal 4 (domestic departures for Air Asia) via free transfer bus. The transfer bus was supposed to run every 30 minutes, but we waited over 45 minutes until a bus finally arrived to pick us up.
We then loaded onto the bus with a pile of other people only to drive right onto the flight runway. We stopped just before the runway as planes queued up for their departures. Yes…the transfer bus access from terminal to terminal runs right over the runway. If your bus gets there with no planes then you move right along…but if there are planes queued up then you sit there and wait. We sat there for over 30 minutes waiting to for the planes to leave so we could continue our transfer to terminal 4.
It was now 4pm, as it took 2 hours to ride from terminal 1 to terminal 4 within the same airport, but we were at the proper location. The bus dropped us off at the departures back door, so we all had to walk through the terminal where people would have their tickets checked, through a side door to the street, then re-enter the terminal through security. Complete disorganization and chaotic as all hell.
So we ran our bags through the x-ray scanner (with our bags fully wrapped in saran wrap from Kuala Lumpur so the crooks in the Manila airport couldn’t stuff a bullet into our bags to extort money from us…check it out, this has become a major problem in the Manila airport where people of all ages and nationalities have been extorted large sums of money because some security guard “finds” a single bullet in their bags. They give them the option of going to prison or paying a large fine in cash on the spot…real classy guys. We wrapped our bags in saran wrap and thus had no problems) and moved on to the ticket window for our flight, still two hours early to check in.
At this time we see a screen that lists our flight number as a 9pm departure instead of a 6pm departure. I asked the ticket checker to print our boarding passes (we had already checked in online) and the pass stated a 6pm departure. I asked why there was a discrepancy between the pass and the monitor, as the worker said that the computer system printed the wrong time. I reminded him that their website states 6pm, my confirmation e-mail stated 6pm, and the boarding pass states 6pm…yet all of that is wrong and the monitor is the only correct departure time?
If the flight is 3 hours delayed then AirAsia owes the passengers a free meal. They were claiming that the monitor displayed the correct time of 9pm (amazingly exactly 3 hours late) and the rest of the times of 6pm were all wrong. What a sad way to try to pretend they didn’t owe anything to the passengers. So we waited until 9pm, which is when the airline announced that there was indeed a delay until 11pm. So that would only be a 2 hour delay, instead of the actual 5 hour delay….only in the Philippines! This was only the start of travel delays we have enjoyed since coming here a couple of days ago.
Our flight eventually did leave around midnight (they said it was due to congestion over the airport….so lesson learned is to fly into/out of Manila early in the morning or else you’ll end up waiting) and we arrived in Cebu City airport at 1pm. We knew from previous prep that in Cebu City you should always use the white taxi, as the yellow taxi charge double the rate for the same trip. So we waited in the long line for the white taxi (while the yellow taxi line only had 4 people) and after 20 minutes we were on our way to our hotel for the night.
The next day we went to the bus station to take the bus to the village of Oslob, where we would be swimming with the whale sharks. This is only a 3 hour bus ride, but of course the local traffic was backed up and we ended up taking over 6 hours with only one bathroom break stop. The common theme across the Philippines is to expect transportation will leave late and take much, much longer than advertised.
Now that we are in Oslob village we can get to the business of swimming with the whale sharks…and this is one of the best experiences of our lives! It was simply amazing to be mere inches away from something so large and powerful, yet not any form of threat to you. We took a tricycle ride from our hotel out to the whale shark area, it took about 25 minutes to ride out there and for the low cost of only $4 Canadian funds for the ride.
This whale shark business has some controversy surrounding it. You could go with the business that takes you out to the ocean to see the whale sharks maybe popping up on their own, which could last over 3 hours and end up in you only seeing one or two for mere seconds at a time, or you could use this business that puts feed into the water to attract the whale sharks to their waters and you see a ton of them for a strong 30 minutes experience. There are people who have strong opinions on both sides, yet if you take the side that this one is wrong, you could argue that the whale sharks being fed here result in the others being left alone. I won’t get into the arguments as I simply don’t care to argue with the lonely planet readers out there who seem to hate the business we used today…Jill and I simply wanted to get the most out of our experience swimming with the whale sharks and feeding them isn’t like they are being tortured or harmed, so we felt fine with swimming with this business.
The guides take 6-8 people out on a small boat and then tether the boats together. The time frame is 30 minutes per boat, so the boats always tether starting on the left side and the next boat to complete their 30 minutes will end up the last one on the right. Its a good system that works quite well. Then a few smaller boats row back and forth while feeding the whale sharks. This keeps the whale sharks moving along the swimmers so everyone gets a fair view of these magnificent creatures.
It went down as one of the most amazing things we have done over the past 12 months travelling the globe. The whale sharks were extremely active and the guides do a great job in informing the people what they can and cannot do (no touching the whale sharks or you are kicked out immediately)…so they care for the whale sharks and treat them well. A great time was had and we would do it again in the future.
Next up we went to visit the nearby famous Tumalog Waterfalls. It was more into the dry season, so the waterfalls weren’t as impressive as the pictures you see on the internet. Most people pay for a motorbike ride up a very steep mountain road to see the waterfalls…we made the decision to walk the 45 minutes up the steep road since this trip has gotten us into much better physical condition than when we began.
It was worth seeing, but be careful what time of year you come here or it’ll be a little less impressive than what you see on the internet.
For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.