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skin diving

Beach Life and Free-Diving at Hale Manna Resort, Moalboal, Cebu Sep 13-23, 2012

Beach Life and Free-Diving at Hale Manna Resort, Moalboal, Cebu

Leaving Dumaguete
After 7 days in Dumaguete at Harolds Mansion, it felt time to move on again. Everything I needed to do in Dumaguete has been done - launch a marine lab website, conduct a web training seminar, free diving at Dauin's marine reserves and renew a hotel and dive resort subscription. There was nothing on the immediate horizon anymore. Next stop? Hale Manna Beach Resort in Moalboal!

Moalboal is a 7.9 has. municipality that extends to a peninsula on the southwest of Cebu Province. By land, it is 89 kms or 2.5 hours from Cebu City. Because of its diverse coral reef system and rich biodiversity, it is often regarded as Diving Paradise of Cebu. Scuba diving and free-diving is the main tourist attraction. There are 2 areas popular to tourists - the Panagsama Beach (Basdiot) or White beach (Basdaku). Basdaku is known for its shifting white sand. It's more quiet and isolated while the Basdiot sees more action with its generous sprinkling of bars, resorts and restaurants. I stayed at Hale Manna in Basdaku.

Hale Manna
Hale Manna is a sprawling 2.85 hectare compound right off the northern tip of Moalboal. Most of its limestone area is groomed to make for a manicured coral garden. Is has 8 spacious rooms on a two-storie columned infrastructure. The upper rooms have their own private veranda overlooking the garden. The entire resort is finely appointed and tastefully designed with its clay-inspired hue reminscent of Sante Fe. Water pressure is good, washroom space is generous, food is delectable, hammocks are placed right by the beach, and chillout huts are likewise placed along the coastal property line. Staff, headed by M'am Marcela, is friendly, helpful and efficient. Perfect? Not yet. I have a wish list.

  • faster internet connection - at times, I would get a server time-out
  • internet inside rooms - it would be nice to surf the web in the privacy of my room in my underwear
  • in-room TV - after the web work, the workout and the beach walk, at the end of the day, TV seems like a nice indulgence before bedtime

For undisturbed time to accomplish some computer work, Hale Manna is perfect. It's quiet with just the waves and bird chirps in the background. Given the backlog I still had to do - prepare my motivational talk to the graduating batch of tourism graduates at the Mariano Marcos State University, prepare for my web design workshop, develop an ayurveda website, launch an industrial 3D printing website and lots of little one-offs that needed to be off the ground (including a webpage for someone who wants to sell a solid gold Rolex), I was just glad to find this solitary place and quality time. I had 9 days to finish all of that before my yoga friends would come for a yoga retreat.

Daily Routine
For the most part, I was on my veranda doing yoga in the morning, followed by a complimentary sumptuous breakfast (as part of my double-occupancy room inclusion), and then do my web work in the lobby where wifi is available. I'll be there the entire time until my head tells me to drop everything and take a walk. The afternoon walk along the beach is therapeutic as I recover from the day's mental exhaustion. I would see people by the shore collecting edible shells trapped on the coral floor by the low tide. Further down south is Basdaku, the commercial area for carinderia eats, karaoke and cheap beer.

The beachfront coral reef was tempting specially with the anchored raft that served as a floating chill zone. To my pleasant shock, when I got to the reef area, which was a swim away after passing through the grassy sea bed, I came upon what I would describe as pristine reef that can easily rival the Marine Sanctuary of Apo Island. The corals were mostly soft spongy type but it was intense. To make it even better, the drop-off was a near-vertical abyss that plunged down 40+ meters to a dark forboding realm. It was my chance to go free-diving. Easter eggs popped out as I went deeper - juvenile Titan Triggerfish, turtle, large parrot fish, etc. Snorkeling southward alongside the drop-off, I was maybe a kilometer away already, in front of Basdaku beach and the coral reef still extended south. I was told that the reef system encapsulates the entire Moalboal peninsula - whoa!

After my first dive, I immediately texted a high school buddy whom I used to go snorkelling with back in the day, "Dude, you gotta come and see this reef!". Luckily, he was stationed in Cebu City. He was at the resort the following day. For two days, we'd just plunged down the abyss and coasted on the coral edge until Basdaku, to which we'd help ourselves to cold beer, karaoke and grilled bbq. After that unwinding, it would be time to go back into the reef and snorkel with the current back to Hale Manna. It was like high school all over again.

Yoga Group
Intent on spreading the love and sharing my bliss, I invited my yoga group to come and have some overnight fun. After negotiating on the nuts-and-bolts of the accommodation with the owners (which had many snags, but finally resolved), my group got nicely tucked-in - all 15 of us! This was also a great way to introduce the resort to like-minded individuals who can appreciate the place for what it offers.

Chill Time
It was fab bondng with Jeanne, Noricel, Jang Jang and my yoga friends whom I haven't seen since I left Cebu for Dumaguete. Gem who recently left for the US was missed. Arlien was conspicuously absent (LOL!). We hung at the beach hut, took pictures, talked, snacked, dozed-off and chilled. In the evening, the scene was ripe for fire dancing. With Reds' competent tutelage, nearly everyone put on a poi show.

4KM Drift Snorkelling
The highlight of my entire stay was the 4km drift snorkelling from the marine reserve of Tuble, a short tricycle ride from Hale Manna. Only 6 of us went on, while the others conducted their yoga practice back at Hale Manna. Geared up with our snorkeling gadgets, we skirted the marine reserve and followed the northward direction of the drop-off. From where we started, we could not even see Basdaku. I knew it would be a long drift. The two females who joined us, Nandinii and Celeste, were intrepid snorkelers who dared the deep end. Jason was a strong swimmer who braved the drift without a snorkel! Reds had his snorkeling debut - wish it was that good when I had mine. We got excited seeing our first turtle, but we encountered too many, we were ignoring them at one point! It was 3.5 hours by the time we reached the beach at Hale Manna. We were exhausted and hungry!

Ending Thoughts
Normally, I'd negotiate for a room just for myself and invite friends to be my plus one for breakfast - that was fab. But now, I kicked it up a notch - by negotiating for big rooms for my friends so we all get together and chill for a night (or two!). How cool is that? Since this is the first time, snags were expected but there were lessons learned - the next time will be more streamlined. Yeah, it'll keep getting better - not just for me and my friends, but for my online community (who benefit from impartial ratings posted by my friends) and the establishment (because they are introduced to people who can put the word out). Like I always say, everybody happy!

--- TheLoneRider

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Moalboal Google Map

Google Map Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines

tourist attractions in Moalboal tourist attractions
  • Sardine Bowl in Moalboal Sardine Bowl - millions of sardines milled around in front of Panagsama Beach
  • Pescador Island in Moalboal Pescador Island - short boat ride, famous dive spots
  • Panagsama Beach in Moalboal Panagsama Beach - sardine bowl, white sand beaches and the hub of tourism/expat activity in Moalboal
  • White Beach in Moalboal Basdaku White Beach - stretch of long white sand beach in Basdaku
  • Scuba, Freediving and Snorkeling - the entire Moalboal peninsula is a massive coral reef with depths reaching 300m
hotels in Moalboal hotel
Travel Tips about Moalboal
  1. money changer - there are 2 money changes here in Panagsama Beach - Saavedra Cottages and the small store in front of Cora's Cottages. They both offer dismal rates. Best exchange rate is at Gaisano Moalboal town center (bring an ID!!!) followed by M. Lhuillier, then Palawan
  2. weather - even though it might be raining cats-and-dogs in Cebu City or in Negros Oriental, the sun is likely to be out in Moalboal. It only rains there if there is an actual monsoon. So don't let that rain scare you off from your dive trip.
  3. tricycle - rides could end up pricey if you don't plan for it. Best to get a price established with a tricycle or motorcycle driver as you arrive (usually P50/pax for single motorcycle ride and P100/trip for a tricycle) to White Beach. Then arrange for a date/time pick-up from your resort at that same price rate (otherwise you will end up paying for a round trip)
  4. folding bike - if you really want to save up on tricycle fare (which could seriously add up if you keep going back and forth from Panagsama - White Beach), bring a folding bike with you. A folding bike fits in the under-belly of a Ceres bus
  5. Town Center to Panagsama Beach - if you want to pay the local rate (not tourist rate) of P10/pax from Town Center to Panagsama Beach, take the tricycle behind Three Sixty Pharmacy. The tricycle will wait until its full before taking off. Tell the driver you're going to "Baybay". On the way back, from Panagsama Beach to Town Center, walk a bit here and board the local tricycle. It will wait again to fill up before taking off. Best to pay the tricycle driver while awaiting for other passengers. That way, he can't charge you tourist fare when you alight.
  6. Town Center to White Beach - local tricycle rate is P25/pax beside Three Sixty Pharmacy. You should see tricycles with painted signboard, "White Beach". Tell the driver you're going to "Basdaku"

How to get to Moalboal from Dumaguete:

  1. From Dumaguete, take a bus or jeep going north and ask to be dropped-off at the Sibulan Town Proper (~P10, 10 mins). Take the short walk to the pier.
  2. Take either the pumpboat or fastcraft to Liloan, Cebu (~P50, 30 mins)
  3. From the Liloan port, take a tricycle to the Bato Bus Terminal (~P20 if shared, 10 mins)
  4. From the terminal, take the Cebu City bus via Barili and ask to dropped-off to Moalboal Town Proper (P70, ~2 hours)

How to get to Moalboal from Cebu City:

  1. take a Ceres Bus at the South Bus Terminal going to Bato (make sure its via Barili) and get off at the Moalboal Town Center - 3 hours, P130 (aircon)
  2. From Town Center, take a tricycle to your resort. Town Center to Panagsama Beach (~P50 if no other passenger, 10 mins).
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The following people like this:

Jang Samson
Jang Samson
Jules Ga Lim Pin
Jules Ga Lim Pin
Richel Oller
Richel Oller
Gem Capao
Gem Capao
Blanne Ann Acosta
Blanne Ann Acosta


Lakbay DivaLakbay Diva
(Jun 2, 2013) I love the place too! Snorkeled and free-dived along the reef. Is it really comparable to Apo Island? I haven't been there!

"Is it really comparable to Apo Island? I haven't been there!" -- Lakbay Diva
(Jun 2, 2013) parts of it are comparable to Apo Island. The difference perhaps is diversity. Moalboal has a massive reef system but essentially the same kind. In Apo, a dive spot may be very different from another dive spot.
Jang SamsonJang Samson
(Oct 7, 2012) Thanks for inviting us over Gigit. We all needed that chill out time, and away from the city. Looking forward to the next one. Love and light to you =)
Jason RoblesJason Philippines
(Oct 6, 2012) Awesome place! Drift dive, whitesand and a nice place to stay.. a home away from ;)
Gem CapaoGem Capao
(Oct 6, 2012) I missed the fun but will sure make it up soon.ahaha
Celeste BambuCeleste Bambu
(Sep 24, 2012) Images of graceful sea turtles, schools of fish, and us, agile swimmers float around in my mind. Thank you for the riveting snorkeling tutorial and for the good times. I wish you safe travels and may you continue to express your love in all those creative ways.
Blanne Ann AcostaBlanne Ann Acosta
(Sep 23, 2012) Thank you so much. We had a wonderful time. Hope one day, our paths may cross again.

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