Three hours by road and 89km from Cebu City, on the southwestern flank of Cebu Island, lies the once drowsy coastal town of MOALBOAL, now a boozy hangout for travellers and scuba divers. Sun-worshippers looking for a Boracay-style sandy beach will be disappointed – there isn’t one. If being on the beach is top of your list, head 8km along the coast to White Beach, an attractive strip of sand with several mid-range resorts. In Moalboal, the shoreline is a little rocky in places and not generally suitable for recreational swimming. Moalboal makes up for this in other ways, with a great range of cheap accommodation, a marvellous view of the sunset over distant Negros, and some good discounts on diving and rooms. Besides diving, the jagged limestone peaks and lush river valleys of Cebu’s central mountains offer canyoning, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking and horseriding all within easy reach of Moalboal.
Pescador Island, 30min by bangka from Moalboal, is one of the best dive sites in the country, surrounded by a terrific reef that teems with marine life, and renowned for its swirling sardine shoals. Barely 100m long, the island is the pinnacle of a submarine mountain reaching just 6m above sea level and ending in a flat surface, making it look from a distance like a floating disc. The most impressive of the underwater formations is the Cathedral, a funnel of rock that is open at the top end and can be penetrated by divers. Pelagic fish are sometimes seen in the area, including reef sharks and hammerheads, while at lesser depths on the reef there are Moorish idols, sweetlips, fire gobies and batfish.
There are at least ten other dive sites nearby, including the gentle Balay Reef, Ronda Bay Marine Park, Airplane Wreck and Sunken Island. Arranging diving trips is easy, with a dozen operators at Panagsama Beach, including Blue Abyss Dive Shop (t032/474-3036, wwww.blueabyssdiving.com), Savedra Dive Center (t032/474-0014), Seaquest (t032/232-6010, wwww.seaquestdivecenter.ph), and Visayas Divers (t 032/474-0018). Dives typically cost US$23 for a shore dive and US$28 for a boat dive, including equipment. For something a little different, Wolfgang Dafert (t0928/263-4646, wwww.freediving-philippines.com) arranges free-diving courses which aim to assist guests in holding their breath longer and diving deeper unassisted!