Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: the Philippines

CW2 Christina feeling zen in the Filipino paradise of Cebu © Christina Webb

Christina Webb, Assistant Editor at Lonely Planet, recently returned from a trip to Cebu in the Philippines.

Tell us more… I spent a week and a half backpacking, motor-biking and island-hopping around the Cebu region of the Philippines. We stayed on the action-packed island of Bohol and in diving paradise Moalboal – I find it hard to sit still even in an exotic location, so this destination was perfect for adventures. It was an affordable paradise, and you are never far away from the glistening ocean. And if you’re looking for a less overrun Southeast Asian experience, this is your place.

Fave activity? Scuba diving in the masses of shoals at the famous sardine run in Moalboal. Cebu is one of the world’s greatest scuba diving hubs, and it didn’t disappoint! Wading in from the shallows, we suddenly came to a drop-off reef wall teeming with the most varied and colourful marine life. You then look across into the great blue abyss to see thousands of flashing silver sardines swirling before your eyes – they surrounded us for the entire hour’s dive.

cw5 No filter needed at the stunning Kawasan Falls © Christina Webb

You’d be a muppet to miss… Kawasan Falls. Yes, there is no filter applied to the picture! Having seen pictures of the waterfall shared countless times online, I was determined to swim in the vivid turquoise waters and underneath the powerful falls. The long walk up to the waterfall along the calm stream was so serene and almost empty of tourists.

An undiscovered gem? The Camotes island group is pretty under the radar – I wouldn’t have heard about them if it hadn’t been for my half-Filipino friend’s recommendation (it was where her husband proposed!). There are only a few boats to the islands, a daily blackout at around 7pm and terrible wi-fi – but who needs it there?! Deciding to treat ourselves, we stayed at Mangodlong Paradise Resort, and oh my, it was idyllic. You stay in beautiful thatched houses looking out over palm trees, hammocks and grass towards the iconic infinity pool, private beach and blue ocean waters beyond. Unlike many typical luxury resorts, it’s not impersonal or expensive and for the most part, we were the only people there!

CW3 Looking out across the turquoise waters around Mangodlong resort © Christina Webb

Good grub? Whilst it’s not particularly pretty, Filipino food is tasty. Highlights include tuchino, mango curry and the famous chicken and pork adobo dish. One evening on the Camotes we joined some locals at a street food market to feast on delicious barbecued meat with sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves.

Bizarre encounter? I’m torn between two polar opposites. The first was attending a Filipino disco on the minuscule road-less island of Malapascua. Take a basketball court, disco lights and masses of thumping speakers blaring out dance music, and you’ve got yourself a night to remember. The second experience was encountering the world’s smallest primates at the Tarsier Sanctuary in Bohol. We tiptoed through a forest so as not to wake the nocturnal creatures. The little guys with the famous giant bug-eyes are one of the cutest animals I’ve seen, and fascinating to watch.

CW1 A tiny tarsier peeking out from the foliage at the Bohol sanctuary © Christina Webb

What else is there... It’s not all about the sea and sand in Cebu. On one of our day trips we also enjoyed rolling down a peaceful river by boat, watching a traditional Filipino dance, seeing the fascinating Chocolate Hills, wobbling across a bamboo hanging bridge and zip-lining across a huge gorge with an insane drop.