I may have gotten a little carried away with the length and amount of flights I’d be willing to do in one day when I booked this particular leg of the trip.
After a day sat in Bangkok airport stuffing myself with 7/11 toasties and the traditional Starbucks, followed by delayed flights in Manilla due to the Japanese Emperor apparently needing all of the airspace for his jollies across this island country, our arrival to Cebu was topped off with those travel lowlights you try not to let people know about… a hostel from hell.
After I spent a full 5 minutes swimming in my clothes it was time to take action, and that my friends is the time we discovered Philippinos genuine and generous love of malls! Air con bliss, clean, chain brands, never looked so good.
But this is not a blog about the latest lines at H&M (although they were lovely) and I counted my lucky blessings when we hopped on a bus the next day in the stifling humidity to travel 3 hours down the coast to the Whale Sharks!!
Noordzee hostel is a little up the coast from where we were to have our fishy encounter and kind of in the middle of no where with a karaoke shack next door, it’s an awesome little hostel just on the coast and with beautiful views, comfy beds and delicious food… not even paid to say it! They also do some cool tours from there, shame it was called off due to rain on the day we planned… boo!
The great thing about staying in these small towns is how much you see of the actual culture of a country with out it feeling like a show and tell. At the entrance of Boljoon, this particular small town, is the church a simple stark white building, cracks tracing along it’s exterior like veins on it’s surface, alive with it’s animated history.
This particular church sheltered the towns people from storms and battles, has provided refuge to immigrants to the helpless, it’s interior much like the exterior is being treat with some TLC when we visited but it was clear this was more than a building to the town it was the heart.
Beautiful blues and greens traced the walls up to a gorgeously intricate ceiling, Sistine Chapel it was not but I sure loved it.
Boljoon had a distinctly eery feeling to it, something I couldn’t quite place, like where was everybody? It kind of gave me that feeling you’re being watched but you don’t know by whom or where from.
One thing I can always find though is something weird and wonderful to eat, even if you’d only eat it once. You know when you’re younger and your mum says ‘no dessert till you’ve eaten your dinner’? Well it was one of those grown up days where I went full on rebel and quickly ordered the brightest most bizarre looking dessert EVER! Much to the amusement of the two Philipino women across the brightly dressed shack we stumbled into out of the rain.
‘Halo Halo’, oh yeah that’s a thing!
– Condensed milk
… to be honest I’m not sure what else, apart from maybe those marshmallows.
It was with a little bit of trepidation I went to see the Whale Sharks, these majestic beautiful creatures belong to and in the ocean and I am very much the land baby. I never know if I m right to invade their space for means of my own entertainment, that and, well they’re huge what if I get sucked into their vast cavernous mouth! “They will spit you back out” our guy assured me, “you will not taste very nice”… thanks.
The rain was coming down as we arrived, but hey what’s a little more water when you’re about to jump in the sea?
Gearing up to get into the water I couldn’t help but feel the nerves rise, all around me were more boats full of tourists and travellers from all over the world flapping their black fins, adorning their bleach/damp infused masks. I wasn’t scared of the Whale Sharks any longer, I was scared of drowning, a totally legit worry in a life jacket surrounded by able swimmers (read: potential life savers).
And then I saw it, the gaping mouth of this, the largest fish in our sea, and I was in… the sea that is, not the mouth.
I want to give you some beautifully illustrative piece of writing about these graceful giants manoeuvring with ease around a hoard of flailing limbs as everyone vied for their next great profile selfie, myself included…
But the worlds kind of failed me. It amazes me these beautiful creatures exist and that I got to see them. I never knew this was on my bucket list until I’d done it, I was always far to scared of the sea to want to swim out in the open, I didn’t even know these majestic creatures even existed before I started booking this trip. Will my bucket list ever get shorter?!
And if you’re wondering there are researchers on site and regular check ups, the whale sharks are not distressed or being harmed in any way by us swimming with them. They’re checked on regularly.
Just minutes away is one of the Philippines little (or big) gems, it’s waterfalls. After the Whale Sharks it was debatable whether anything could match up to our experience but just a quick ride left us standing at the beautiful Tumalog falls.
Even in the rain the jungle closing in around us made it feel like a magical, tropical bliss.
Growing up in England, close to an estuary, I’m never used to seeing luminous blue water that is’t the result of water treatment or some toxic algae. I don’t think this feeling will ever get old, staring up and seeing the jagged rock reaching high up into the sky, moss draped seductively over the outcrops luring you in, I’m in the Philippines, the water will be warm. Right?
All I’m saying is there’s a reason people round the edge kept there clothes on!
Here’s to the first explored island of the Philippines!!