Discover the Queen City of the South–beyond it's famed Sinulog Festival, century-old churches, majestic forts and mouthwatering lechon–through its unspoiled countryside!
Let's head down to the south for "Project Sursuroy", a one-stop tour of the whole of South Cebu! Get up close with the whale sharks in Oslob, swim with the sardine run at Moalboal, go on a canyoneering adventure in Badian, swim in the turquoise waters of Kawasan Falls, hike up to the highest point of Cebu island in Osmena Peak, or go island hopping around its pristine beaches…there's just so much adventure waiting ahead!
Project Sursuroy was first conceptualized by Happy Juanderer Travel Inc. The word "Sur" means south and "Suroy" in Ilokano means "wanderer". The owners started it as a regular travel agency, selling airline tickets and booking hotels, but later found their passion in being the tour operators themselves, allowing them to have fun and also monitor the quality of experience for their guests. At present, they have tours for Ilocos, Sagada, and the most popular, Cebu!
Here are our top 7 favorite picks to complete your South Cebu experience…
HOW TO GET THERE
Philippine Airlines flies from Manila to Cebu via airbus everyday from 4:00am to 10:45pm. A one way ticket is P2200-P4200.
We enjoyed PAL's excellent customer service and free snacks on board. And the free baggage allowance was perfect for our dried mangoes, otap, and other pasalubong finds!
Meet Ferdie, our super fun and kind driver. We were picked-up at 4:00am at Cebu City for our 3-5 hour ride (including traffic) to Oslob.
Tip: The tour includes a driver and guides who will help you enjoy and organize a hassle-free experience.
1. Oslob Whale Shark Encounter
Getting super close to the whale sharks in Oslob is one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had.
Whale sharks, locally known as "butanding", are the world's largest fish, measuring up to 18m and weighing more than 30 tons. Oslob was relatively unheard of the past years, but now it has been the hottest destination for watching and swimming with these majestic creatures.
The whale sharks gather in one area near the beach where the fishermen feed them krill/zooplankton every morning. It's advised to start at about 6 a.m. to secure a slot and beat the rush of tourist crowds.
(Tip: Cut-off time is at 11am; Feeding time is from 6:00am to 1pm)
The Oslob Municipality requires all tourists to undergo an orientation about the Whale Sharks.
Whale Sharks are wild animals and should be approached with respect. Here are the engagement rules.
When you're in the water, it's easy to get all excited and forget the rules! Remember to stay 4-6 meters away from these gentle giants and strictly avoid the tail and fins.
Only manually paddled boats are permitted since motorized boats could potentially hurt the whale sharks. You only have a 30-minute window to see the whale shark to give everyone an equal chance to view them.
The Oslob Whale Shark Encounter has been mired in controversy because some environmental conservationists argue that humans shouldn't interfere with wildlife by feeding them, creating a co-dependent relationship with the animal. We certainly need experts to intervene and analyze the sustainability and impact of this Fisherman-Whale Shark friendship.
But we must admit, we had a lot of fun in our close encounter with them.
Don't forget to bring you underwater camera to capture the amazing experience!
(Note: Life jacket and snorkel gear are provided with the Happy Juanderer Package)
What to Bring (Whale Shark Watching):
– Underwater camera
– Your own snorkel gear and fins (optional)
2. Sardine Run at Moalboal
We left for Oslob around 5:00 in the morning. It took us about an hour to reach Panagsama beach, Moalboal for the sardine run.
Watch the video here:
You initially might think Panagsama beach isn't much of a beach, with its relatively short beach front and its rocky shoreline. The beauty of this place, however, lies underneath its waters.
This sardine adventure can be enjoyed not only by scuba divers but by snorkelers/freedivers as well. We just went in the water with our masks, snorkels and fins, then we walked and swam about 30 meters to the sharp drop of 40 to 70 meters.
(Note: Some of us brought our own gear and some were provided with masks and snorkels as part of the package)
Immediately, after the drop, we were able to spot the cloud of sardines underneath us–millions (maybe even billions) of sardines in a tornado-like formation. This phenomenon of synchronized fish-swimming is called a sardine run.
We dove into the stream of silvery sardines, gazed at them as they surrounded us, disappeared into the distance, and then gather up again into different shapes. It was certainly an incredible experience.
It's actually a mystery why the sardines stay in Moalboal.
The sardines were previously in Pescador island, just 10 minutes by boat from Panagsama beach (where they presently gather).
(Note: Watch out for jellyfish! We encountered a small jellyfish while swimming in the waters. Might be best to wear a rash guard.)
What To Bring (Sardine Run):
– Your own snorkel gear and fins (optional)
– Rash guard (there are little jellyfishes swimming around. Ouch!)
– Underwater camera
3. Canyoneering at Badian
Do you want to truly explore the great outdoors? Are you seeking for some thrill and adventure along the way as well? Then canyoneering at Badian might just be the best way to do so!
Watch the video here:
Your journey will involve walking and climbing slippery and rocky routes, admiring the beauty of Mother Nature, swimming and floating along the rushing and soothing river currents, and most importantly, conquering your fears by experiencing the exhilaration of cliff diving or jumping off waterfalls.
For beginners, it's best to choose downstream canyoneering. Here we started off from the river in Alegria to Kawasan Falls. The whole activity is estimated to take 4-5 hours, which depends on the size of the group and whether the group wants to take a leisurely pace to take photos of their quest. For the Happy Juanderer’s package, they assign one guide for every four guests (4:1 ratio) and then 1 sweeper, since they highly value everyone's safety.
Safety first! We were provided with life vests and helmets with our package. Knowing how to swim isn't really needed, as the life jackets act as a floater.
Make sure to wear sandals with straps, aqua shoes, or rubber shoes that are ok for submerging in water and taking on slippery rocks. Slippers are no good as they can be washed away by the river.
(Tip: If you forget your shoes, you can rent a pair for P50)
Our adventure started with a 20-minute habal-habal ride, then a 15-minute trek to the first jumping point at Alegre.
The first jumping point is the most scenic, with caves and stalactite formations all around. There are three high jumps in all–the first one is fairly high at roughly 18+ feet!
This jump is required! Conquering this makes all the other small jumps easy. 🙂
(Note: The other two high jumps are optional)
Our guides are quite familiar with the trail–down to every last rock–as they've played along the trail since they were children. The guides showed us the best position to cliff jump and even did a few tricks for us to watch.
There are other fun activities like floating around the river like a train. 🙂
The guides knew where the best photo spots were and even acted as our photographer. They were very helpful and never complained about our slow pace.
What are you waiting for? Jump! 🙂
After three hours of canyoneering at Badian, we jumped of an estimated 35-ft. waterfall to Kawasan 2. Our exhausting yet fulfilling hike was rewarded with a delicious Pinoy lunch at a small cottage with a magnificent view of the falls.
(Tip: It is customary to give a tip to show your appreciation to your guide/s)
What To Bring (Canyoneering):
– Closed Sandals/Aqua Shoes/Rubber Shoes (that you can submerge in water)
– Life vest and helmets are provided
– Comfortable clothing (advisable to wear dri-fit or rash guards for the cold waters ahead)
– Underwater camera
– Extra battery (a slow pace trek takes around 4-5 hours)
– Money (refreshments are provided; there is a BBQ stand at about 3/4 of the trek; also for tip)
– Courage (There will be a lot of cliff jumping)
4. Kawasan Falls 1, 2, and 3
Kawasan Falls stands out against the lush green jungle. The cascading falls draw crowds of tourists worldwide who want a chance to dip in the clear turquoise waters.
The Happy Juanderer package consists of Pinoy delicacies including adobo, pancit, sinigang, rice, and fresh fruits.
Our favorite is their sinigang. This version has a slightly thick broth and savory sour taste.
Kawasan has three major waterfalls. The largest one is Kawasan 1, also the most popular and crowded one.
The turquoise waters are very cool and clear!
(Tip: Make sure you take the 15-minute hike down to Kawasan 1 into consideration so that you can plan and spend more time there)
You can rent a raft that can take you around the pool or have a natural shower massage under the falling waters.
The shower massage was our favorite! The intense hard fall of the water was especially refreshing for our tired bodies.
5. Osmeña Peak Adventure
Osmeña Peak, the highest point in the province of Cebu, is a popular tourist attraction, famous for its jagged rock formations. It's approximately 1,000 meters above sea level, meaning it has a pleasant climate all year round.
It is said to be named in honor of the famous Osmeña clan in Cebu. Fortunately, it's one of the easiest climbs. The hike is wonderful for beginners and it suits kids as well.
Before we started our climb, we first had to go to Dalaguete junction where we rode a motorcycle (locally known as “habal-habal”) to Mantalongon market for about 20 to 25 minutes.
The scenery along the highlands was splendid. We passed by various vegetable fields and felt the cool air rushing through our faces. The place kind of reminded us of Baguio.
We were dropped-off at the tourist assistance center for registration.
We were then assigned guides to lead the hike who also double as photographers as they seem to know the best angles for taking our photos.
(Note: The registration fee is settled by Happy Juanderer. It's also customary to leave a tip as a thank you to your guide.)
It’s a very easy hike and follows a simple path. The summit offered an amazing view of the jagged rock formations stretching across the Badian shoreline. The cold breeze on top of the hills was fantastic as well.
Tip: The view atop Osmeña peak is best experienced at sunrise or sunset.
What to Bring (Osmena Peak):
– Hiking clothes
– Water (provided)
– Money (toilet and tip)
6. Sumilon Island Hopping
Sumilon Island lies off of the coast of Oslob Province in Cebu. The 24-hectare island is home to the Philippines' First Marine Sanctuary, a shifting sand bar, and Blue Water Sumilon Resort–the only resort on the beautiful and serene island.
This photo was taken during a low tide. It's advisable to visit during high tide when the sandbar is mostly visible.
7. Simala Shrine
The Monastary of the Holy Eucharist–popularly known as Simala Shrine–is one of Cebu's most popular churches, located in Lingdogon, Simala.
The picturesque castle-like church was built in 1998 by the Marian Monks.
It is said to be home to many miraculous events, including this Mama Mary statue shedding tears.
The church also houses several items, photos, and testimonials of devotees who have been healed from serious illnesses…
…as well as those who have passed exams and had their prayers answered.
We loved our South Cebu experience! This is something we definitely won't mind doing all over again. I've crossed out so many things on my bucket list on this trip–swimming with whale sharks, the sardine run, and canyoneering at Badian!
Live an Awesome Life,
Abi of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our tour was sponsored by Happy Juanderers Travel Inc. and our flights were sponsored by Philippine Airlines. We wrote this article with our biases, opinions, and insights.
P.S. You can also fly to Dumaguete and take a 45-minute boat ride to Oslob.
Here's a sample tour package from Happy Juanderer: