Next morning, after a deep, deep sleep, I awoke to this beautiful view from my room. The hotel (Shangri-La Mactan Cebu) is a resort in itself with over 500 rooms and it has a resort feel to it although it seemed to be mainly full of Korean tourists when I was there. With an island tour beckoning and a checkout from this hotel way too early, I would have liked to have an extra day at the resort to be honest, I took a quick tour of the facilities before enjoying a few cups of good coffee in the lobby lounge. Note : at the time of visit the hotel was undergoing renovation so was a little noisy and one of the main restaurants was closed so breakfast was busy, but I’m told this should all be completed now.
Day two in Cebu was billed as our Island Hopping day and on the schedule was a trip to two different islands with nothing more strenuous than fish feeding, snorkeling, swimming and lunch – my kind of day.
The first part of our trip proceeded as planned by our guides, we left the hotel for a drive to Mactan Wharf where we boarded our boat for the day (the Love Boat no less LOL). I love boats and so an hour motoring across the blue sea with the wind in our hair, and a blue sky above, towards our snorkeling spot was just what I needed after a tiring day the day before. Our swim and snorkel spot was at Hilutungan Island where our boat joined a flotilla of other boats anchored in the same area and we got to feed the fish and snorkel above the reef for a good hour or so before having our fill of watching the world below sea.
After the snorkel we started heading towards Nalusuan Island which is a popular lunch spot for tourists after Hilutungan Island. The trouble with these sorts of trips is that you tend to follow the crowd, and this is exactly what we were doing, following a crowd of other toursists doing the same as us. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we explained to our guide and the captain of the boat, that we were after a more quieter experience and to enjoy a quieter island if at all possible. Looking quite perplexed at our request (apparently one of the Filipino joys is to enjoy days out ‘Fiesta’ style – that is, with lots of other people,) the crew were surprised we wanted to try something different and that we wanted to find a quiet lunch spot. Eager to please, and seince they had quite a few islands at their disposal (remember there are 7,000) in the Philippines we diverted to the beautiful isaldn of Caohagan part of the Olango group of islands in the Cebu straight. With a population of just 600 this little island was like finding our own piece of heaven. After a quick ten minute walk across the island from our landing spot, we were on a beautiful un spoilt powder white beach, with shade for dining and a bar serving cold beer and, even better, we were the only people there apart from the villagers, pure bliss and exactly what we had been looking for.
Lunch was cooked on board our boat by the cook and brought to us whilst we enjoyed the most beautiful views and a fresh seabreeze whilst we found out more about the story of Caohagan (Kaohagan).
Whilst the island of Caohagan is beautiful, you can see for yourself from the photos I took, the locals of Caohagan are famous for their quilt making skills which were taught to them by Mr & Mrs Katsuhiko Sakiyama who used to live on the island. The quilt making allows the islanders to make money from their new skills and their quilts are bought across the world with one quilt being preserved at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in the United States.
The islanders also make their living from fishing and selling their fish, and we were greeted with a whole range of exotic seafood which you can buy and have cooked on the island too.
If you want a quiet peaceful lunchspot then I suggest you head here rather than Nalusuan Island, but of course, if Fiesta is your thing then follow the crowd and enjoy.
A special vote of thanks goes to our boat crew for our little ‘Mutiny on the Loveboat’ moment, they were incredibly helpful in doing a quick divert to a new island for us, and great with serving lunch at our new location, even better they managed to move the boat to deep water when it was low tide and whilst we were taken out to the boat in a small outrigger, the crew walked and swam back to the boat with somewhat bemused smiles on their faces and the unexpected diversion. Our island boat guy punted us out to the boat with a huge smile on his face at the chance of earning a little extra cash from the unexpected day trippers and then promptly misjudged the gap between his boat and ours and took an unexpected dunk in the sea before punting back to the island with a smile on his face a few extra peso’s in his pocket.
After docking back at the wharf we headed into Cebu City, this time to the Radisson Blu Hotel where we enjoyed an early dinner in the restaurant with our tour guides before escaping to sample some of Cebu’s street food scene (see next post – Dining in Cebu)
Disclaimer : I was a guest of the Philippine Department of Tourism, however all views and opinions are my own.