The Adventures of The Roving Route #11
The Philippines is a funny destination to choose when you know that Jacki gets motion sickness in both buses and boats! While amazingly, she has been relatively fine, this week was a little rougher. Instead of the large 300+ person ferries that we have been previously taking, we hopped on to a short 30-minute island hopper with less than 100 seats. As soon as we landed, the bus was waiting to take us to the south Cebu Island destination of Oslob. This combo of ferry and bus did Jacki in! It should be noted that the bus drivers are absolutely insane here. Ripping along the coastal highway, which has a major resemblance to Highway 1 in California, at 80+ km/h, they don't slow down for corners, tuk-tuks, or even dogs! If you see one, just get out of the way!
Oslob is one of those destinations that has just exploded due to social media. The Philippines is one of the best spots in the world to view the whale shark, the world's largest fish. Reaching up to 35 feet in length and believed to live as long as 130 years, these animals are massive though surprisingly docile and accepting of humans. In 2011, fishermen noticed that the whale sharks that migrated into the area liked the shrimp they used as bait. In an effort to keep them from scaring their fish away, they started to feed them a distance from their fishing spots. The dive club noticed this and couldn't be happier as it gave unprecedented views for their clients. In December 2011, the Daily Mail ran an article with some amazing pictures and that has spawned millions of copy cats. Oslob is now so inundated by tourists wanting to swim with them that it has taken over the local economy. The issue is when a huge influx of cash comes into a place that is not prepared, people or things can be exploited. In Oslob's case, that is the whale sharks. Being fed over the past half-decade has completely changed their way of life. They usually do a yearly migration to their breeding grounds in either southern Africa or western North America, but many are sticking around for the food. This is causing them to become obese and will shortly cause a drop to their population as breeding is not occurring. As an endangered species, small changes such as these can have a massive impact on the entire population. Though whale sharks have a protected status in the country, rules are not enforced in Oslob with thousands of tourists per day trying to ride, touch, or take selfies with the gentle giants. Talking with the locals, it has been a godsend as they finally have a nonagricultural money source. Our hope is that with time and education the proper precautions and protocols will be practiced and enforced for the animal's sake.
I think it is pretty obvious that we choose to not swim with the whale sharks but we used Oslob as our base for the numerous waterfalls in the region. For Jacki's champagne birthday, we chose to splurge a bit and hire a private tuk-tuk to take us around. By "splurge a bit", we mean spending $20 for 5 hours of his time, vehicle, and gas! We spent most of the day at one series of falls that were tucked away from the road by an almost 1 km walk. It was the perfect adventure! Accompanied by only a guide we jumped off a few smaller falls before heading up to the main one. What was amazing was that our 2 hours or so spent swimming, jumping, and relaxing at the main falls was only shared with one other couple! The Binalayan Hidden Waterfalls were stunning. Year of erosion has pulled the crest of the falls back leaving steep canyon walls. Along one of the sides is a number of jumping rocks the highest being roughly 45 feet! We jumped off a bunch of them but didn't dare go off the highest one, though one of the guides did do a running backflip which was epic. Swimming at the base of the gorgeous waterfall was one of the most relaxing things ever!
That evening we had some fun at the carnival that was set up. Once again, we're not sure why so many festivities are going on but it almost feels like it's part of the lead up to Christmas celebrations. There were not many rides (and the ones that were there were rusty and quite terrifying) but there were lots of carnival games. Most of the games were pretty much just gambling rather than the games of chance that we are used to back home. They had a version of dice, roulette, and bingo but the funniest aspect was the crowds. Most tables were filled with adults betting between 2 and 10 dollars a round but one "roulette" table was surrounded by the kids. Not much older than 10 and playing sometimes with only 10 cents on the table, they were having the time of their lives! Strangely, there didn't seem to be any house advantage which one little girl had noticed. Betting on almost all the numbers, it seemed that she was racking it in!
Although we couldn't find any champagne, we still had a great dinner and had a few margaritas to compensate.
Oslob was a lot of fun but the next morning we decided to move on to the island of Siquijor. Just off the coast of Dumaguete, the small island is the perfect spot to relax and get some work done. Though small in area, the island is very hilly and has some amazing waterfalls. We found a guide and negotiated a great rate for the day once again. Our first stop was the Cambugahay Falls. The 3 tiered waterfall is the most popular on the island and even in the shoulder season was quite busy. The water is one of the most incredible colours even beating the previously mentioned Bohol water from another newsletter. Half of the day was spent here soaking up the sun and gorgeous views. There are also a number of rope swings which you can pay to use that Derek had lots of fun on. The highest being roughly 10m, launching yourself into the aquamarine water was something you can never forget! After a few more waterfalls and a stop at a gorgeous beach, we made our way home. The cost for this driver and tuk-tuk - just $21 for the entire day!
We have plans to return to Dumaguete to pick up our passports from the visa office and fly up to Iloilo but we are at the mercy of the weather. A late-season typhoon is just about to make landfall with the Philippines leaving much of the country under extreme warnings. A few ferries around us have been canceled so we hope that our short journey will still be allowed. If not, we are in a beautiful area so it could always be worse!
Cheers from Siquijor, The Roving Route