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Let’s See Cebu

Let’s See Cebu

story by: Tom Ricketts

Sitting smack bang in the middle of the 7107 islands that make up the archipelago, Cebu is one of largest and most important islands in the Philippines. Long and narrow, the islands shores are fringed with beautiful white sand beaches. Yet inland, mountains still rise over 1,000 metres into the sky. Sharing its name, Cebu City is the oldest city in the Philippines with great historic buildings to explore, as well as amazing festivals and some of the best shopping in the country.

You’ll most likely start your Cebu journey in Cebu City, the second largest in the Philippines with around 2.5 million people. The city is the oldest in the country with an official establishment date of 1565 when Spanish conquistadors landed on the island. Native Filipinos had of course been living in the area much longer, and Europeans including the famous Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, had been known to visit the area before then too. The city has a number of old Spanish colonial buildings worth a visit, most notably the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and Fort San Pedro. Another popular attraction is Magellan’s Cross, believed to have been planted on the island by the man himself in 1521. 

But it’s the beaches that you really come to Cebu for. And it boasts near perfect beaches. White sand, crystal clear waters, swaying palm trees, plenty of underwater life, and world class resorts. Getting away from the city to the beaches is pretty easy to do, some of the best are only a short drive from Cebu. Mactan Island is first, and is actually where Cebu Airport is located. Here you’ll find large international resorts which offer all inclusive packages (room, food and alcohol) popular with fly in/fly out holiday makers from the likes of Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. Mactan is great for families, but can be a bit noisy for couples wanting a quiet beach vacation.

If that quiet beach vacation sounds like you, Bantayan Island might be the best spot. Relaxation is the key word here, because aside from a beautiful beach and low key resorts, there’s not much else to do here. However, it only takes a trip into the nearby, cruisy village of Santa Fe for a few lively bars and restaurants. Just make sure you don’t book your holiday here during Holy Week (usually April) when the island becomes so packed that people end up sleeping on the beach!

One of Cebu’s biggest draw cards is its diving, well known around the world. Beautiful Malapascua Island is one of the favourites and features an easily accessible population of Thresher Sharks. These sharks are popular thanks to their oddly elongated tail fins, and probably more so because they don’t snack on humans. The island was hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan, but has been cleaned up and only noticeable by snapped palm trees. Another emerging diving spot is Moalboal. This crowded wee town has been making headlines around the world for its Sardine Run where divers can swim amongst absolutely massive schools of sardines as the dart here and there in perfect symphony, a truly mesmerising sight. The sardine run in South Africa has been known for years, however only happens in certain months, while Moalboal’s is year round, and a hell of a lot closer for us Kiwi’s.


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