There’s something about Moalboal that beckons my senses, the sardine run, I guess. I haven’t seen other dive site in the Philippines that matches the rare phenomenon. Drifting underneath the millions of sardines that cloud the blue water above is such a defining experience.
Its sheer proximity to Cebu City is another thing that I love about Moalboal. With just two to three-hour ride from the city, one will be transported to a breathtaking underwater paradise, undeniably one of the world’s best. The reefs, wreck, cave, vast vivid coral area and variety of sea creatures that dwell below, what kind of scuba diver would not love Moalboal?
But the unthinkable happened on our last dive there prior to this one. For unknown reason, the sardines were gone. No one knew where they went. Were they all caught and harvested by human? Seems impossible. Did they relocated somewhere? Seems likely.
Geom, our dive master from Cebu Dive Center believed that they were just somewhere, probably on the deeper part of the water or in the middle of the sea far from Pescador Island where they once thrived. But Geom was quite certain that the sardines will return. “You should be back as soon as they are”, his words to us.
Ate Claudia and I agreed.
Few months passed and we got a word that the sardines have returned. But it took us few months more to return. At least we returned.
After trekking from Osmeña Peak to Kawasan Falls the previous day, our dive day started early. We were scheduled to hit the waters at eight in the morning for the first of our three planned descent. But Geom was not there anymore, it was Cameron, the new manager of Cebu Dive Center, who welcomed us.
Our first dive was at the a small cavern northwest of Pescador Island popularly known as Cathedral Cave, a site sit in rough waters as it is already in the open, fronting Tañon Strait. The cave is approximately at 22 meters deep and known to be frequented by Frogfish, Snappers, Barracudas, Tunas, Jacks and the usual tropical fishes.
Danny, our dive guide, was the first to enter the cave, I followed. Indeed it was just a small cavern, with three huge openings that serve as entrance. I watched as Ate Claudia and Yoyo went through. It was easy.
Inside, Ate Claudia made hand gestures on her face before pointing to the opening. I looked at the holes and just nodded at her, clueless what she meant. Later did I find out that she was referring to cave’s entrance which resembles a face, the holes make out the eyes and the mouth! I missed it.
Afterwards, we drifted with the mild current with a wall adorned with corals and sea fans on our right. The wall is home to various critters, macros and other small fishes. There we saw Moray Eel, Banded Pipefish, Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Electric Clam, Pufferfish, Yellow Frogfish and more!
Fifty-two minutes past since our descent and we surfaced, went back to the dive shop and spent the surface interval lazing in the resort.
An hour of surface interval and we were ready for our second dive to a site rarely mentioned online and off – Visaya Reef. Quite an odd name for the site and how it acquired its name is unknown to us.
Visaya Reef is a sloping bed covered with soft and hard corals and home to our usual tropical buddies – Groupers, Triggers, Puffers, Nudis, Scorpions, Angels, Bats and more. We spotted also Pygmy Seahorse, Cleaner Shrimps and the rare Emperor Shrimps! Wow!
But the highlight of our second dive was the sea turtle we saw resting in the corals with remora on its shell. I didn’t actually notice it until Ate Claudia grabbed my belt to get my attention. It wasn’t our first time to see a sea turtle but seeing them underwater always amazes me.
We surfaced after spending 51 minutes underwater.
The Sardine Run
We rarely go on third descent on our dive trips but if we do, we make sure that it is well worth diving. The Sardine Run is the very reason we returned and the very reason why we will return again in the future, and it was our third dive for the day.
But the school of sardines relocated since they returned. From their previous spot in Pescador Island, they emerged near the shore of Basdiot, closer to the dive shops, resorts and community. Danny and Yoyo thought that they are in better location now that they are close to the community that watch them, it will be hard for illegal fishers to catch the helpless sardines. Ate Claudia and I concurred.
Excited to be reacquainted with the sardines once more, we waded into the water for our third and final dive and slowly descended to maximum of eighteen meters. We drifted with the mild current against a wall decorated with corals but our attention were focused on the sardines. As we drifted, it gradually darkened and when we looked up, lo and behold, millions of sardines clouding us. we were amazed! It was surreal in every sense of being surreal! It was actually our third time with the Sardine Run and yet it felt like first.
The Sardine Run never disappoints. Seeing these creatures as they synchronously sway wit their gentle moves is like watching a classical ballet repertoire or listening to a violin recital… so beautiful! The sight was made even more wonderful by a sea turtle who swam above us, below the sardines. The moment was so divine, it was the best 50 minutes of my life.
There’s something about Moalboal that beckons our senses and we are quite sure it is the sardine run. Drifting underneath the millions of sardines that cloud the blue water above is truly a defining experience that makes us fall in love again and again and again with the wonderful and mysterious life underwater. For Ate Claudia and I, it is where we belong.