Famed for its soft sandy white beaches, warm pearlescent blue waters and tranquil islands, it’s easy to see why the Philippines is a haven for holiday makers, backpackers and almost certainly Instagrammers. You’d be hard pushed to find a social media feed that doesn’t feature the beautiful White Beach of Boracay, sparkling lagoons of Coron or the vibrant town of El Nido.
The island of Cebu is another destination that finds itself on most peoples Philippines itinerary with many venturing to the island to tick some of the most unbelievable experiences off their bucket list and this island certainly didn’t disappoint. Travelling to the southern tip of Cebu, we were able to swim with the beautiful and majestic whale sharks in Oslob (check out our unbelievable video here). As we slipped into the water, nothing could have prepared us for the feeling that we would experience as we dipped our heads below the waters surface. The enormous sea creatures elegantly swam beneath us, their colossal tails gently swiping the water. We watched as their polka dot bodies glided past us, each pattern unique but all equally as beautiful as the next. It wasn’t until we dove deeper to the depths that the sheer size of these gentle giants was fully appreciated. Swimming alongside them, we were truly dwarfed in their incredible shadows.
As we headed back to the shore, we weren’t surprised to see more and more tourists stepping out of their vans, all also eager to catch a glimpse of the whale sharks. With the famous Kawasan Falls only an hour away, we were craving an adventure a little more off the beaten path.
To the north of Cebu lies the peaceful Bantayan Island. Almost unheard of by backpackers, it still remains largely untouched by tourism making it the perfect destination for those yearning a more authentic Philippino experience. Although it’s relatively unheard of, getting to the island is very simple.
Although there are several small islands to the North of Cebu, it was no coincidence that Bantayan Island was at the top of our list. We spent several lazy days exploring the beautiful island and we couldn’t help but be drawn to its amazing powder beaches. Kota Beach is truly a slice of heaven with its whiter than white sandbar slicing through the Gatorade coloured sea. Several lazy days were spent admiring this portion of paradise. As our toes sank into the sand and the sun beat down on us, we watched the wooden fishing boats cruise by and the local children play with one another on the beach, living that enviable island life.
Heading away from the beaches we rented a couple of push bikes for 150pesos each and took to the road to explore some more of the island. As we cruised along the bumpy roads, we quickly realised that the locals were without doubt the friendliest people we had met on our travels to date. Waving as we went, we made several mandatory pit stops to quench our thirst in the make shift huts at the roadside. As we sank several Bintang, we watched Philippino life unfold around us.
Enveloped in the island life, we stopped only a little way down the road for Charlie to have his hair cut in the coolest barber shop on the planet. With an audience of nine year old boys that expanded by the minute, it was obvious that this hairdresser’s wasn’t usually a place where foreigners opt to get their hair cut, but for 50pesos it was undoubtedly the cheapest place Charlie would ever get a new do! Showing the hairdresser an image of the style he wanted, we were both in fits of laughter as he came out with a Mohican and a square shave at the back, nothing like the picture he had shown, yet still, the barber was clearly pleased with his work!
But not only is the island home to some of the best beaches in the Philippines (check out our drone footage if you don’t believe us); it also has another secret to coax travellers away from the main islands … Skydive Greater Cebu! The only place that you can skydive in the Philippines! Taking a tricycle from Santa Fe, my heart was in my mouth as we drew closer to the drop zone. Having met with our instructors and given a thorough briefing, we were kitted up and in the plane before we knew it. As we climbed to 10,000ft, I couldn’t help but gaze out of the window at the bright turquoise seas that surrounded the island. We could see for miles! Spotting the roads we had ridden on our bikes only the day before, it all felt very surreal, until Brad opened the door that was! With the wind surging in through the open plane door, my heart was racing like it had never raced before and reality set in. Shifting towards the door I questioned what on earth I was doing … 3, 2, 1, GO!
Hurtling out of the plane, we careered down towards the earth! The sensation was like nothing I have ever felt before. Whizzing through the clouds my racing heart was now full of excitement as adrenaline cursed through my veins! The islands below getting closer by the second, I didn’t want this to end! As the parachute was drawn I looked up to see Charlie plummeting through the sky. Bantayan looked even more beautiful from above. As we glided across the horizon towards the drop zone I fell a little more in love with the Philippines. Having travelled this amazing country for the past two months, this adventure was the perfect way to round off our unbelievable trip.
How To Get To Bantayan Island
From Cebu City take a taxi to the North Terminal. From the bus terminal you can ride the Ceres Bus to Hagnaya Port, taking around 3 and a half hours. The buses leave every 30 minutes so there is no need to buy a ticket in advance. All of the buses are pretty comfortable and all are equipped with air con and WiFi!
When you reach Hagnaya Port you can purchase your ticket for Santa Fe, a small port town on Bantayan Island, these cost 170pesos and again there is no need to do this in advance! The journey takes around 1 and a half hours and the ferries depart every hour from 3am up until 5:30pm, although in our experience they didn’t leave on time so bare this in mind!
Once you reach the port of Santa Fe as you’d expect you will be greeted by porters all eager to take you to your guesthouse. Most of the guesthouses are in the vicinity of the port, and if you are staying in Santa Fe you should expect to pay around 50pesos per person for the tri-cycle.
About the Authors: Charlie and Charlotte are the wanderlusting couple behind The Wanderlovers. They have swapped their city life in London for an action packed journey across the globe. Hand in hand, they’re taking on one country at a time and creating a life they don’t wish to escape from! Through their couple’s travel and lifestyle blog and YouTube channel, they hope to inspire future travellers that anything is possible if you just buy that one way ticket … Go Live!