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Places to go in the Visayas

By Ronnie Hoyle 

Dumaguete: On the island of Negros and the university town of the Visayas. Quite a few resorts and dive shops located all around the Cebu side of the island. The most famous place is the Why not bar in the heart of the city, an adjunct to El Dorado Beach Resort. It was originally called The Music Box, but someone in authority objected to the name! The boss wrote on the form asking: Why not? – so that was the name that was finally approved!

Apo Island: South of Dumaguete on Negros and one of the main dive sites of the Visayas, but only two resorts on the island. Most dive shops on Negros visit almost daily, but you can get there by boat from Dauin, especially Pura Vida Beach Resort.

Camotes Islands: An hour away from Cebu but not much in the way of resorts, and getting around is by motorcycle hire: a place for backpackers who don’t mind roughing it. Untrammelled and under-rated!

Alona Beach, Panglao Island, Bohol: Twenty-eight resorts and 15 dive shops on less than one kilometre of sand with dozens of dive sites and quite a few eating places. Take a boat to Tagbilaran from Cebu and the drivers will be waiting for you at the pier to take you to anywhere on Panglao or Bohol.

Cabilao Island, Bohol: Take a fast craft to Tubigon from Cebu and head south on the coast road to Loon and then by pumpboat to the island, which is famous for hammerhead sharks at about 30m. Several dive shops and resorts.

Camiguin Island: Not an easy place to get to and close to Mindanao, and be prepared to stay a week or so. Seven volcanoes and hot and cold pools and a Lazones Festival in October and mainly black volcanic sands. Boats do go from Cebu and Bohol, but you’ll have to ask around for the latest information!

Siquijor Island: OceanJet from Cebu via Tagbilaran to the island of magic with psychic healers and ghosties, particularly the dreaded Wak-wak, a half human and half bat creature which is said to eat babies. Arrive at Larena and there are plenty of resorts nearby with some good diving.

Badian Island: Just off Moalboal, halfway down the Negros side of Cebu, but with only one resort for the well off. Close to the island dive paradise of Pescador Island, which is visited daily by many of the dive resorts lining Panagsama Beach, Moalboal.

Places to go around Cebu 

Riverstone Castle: A modern-built castle based on an old design some 60 kms south of Cebu just outside of Argao. Built entirely of river stones, it has two suites for hire and everything from dungeons to keeps and banqueting halls…plus a live crocodile in the moat under the drawbridge. A great place for parties. (032) 273-1570 or 412-4942, cell phone 0919-447-9081.

Tops: Up the hillside behind Luhug for a fantastic view over the city and its’ lights. A bit of a steep drive for most cars and can be quite chilly on some nights! Take a bottle of wine and a picnic and make a night of it with friends. Especially good on New Year’s Eve for the city fireworks display.

Olongo Island: Almost 1,000 hectares of mudflats and mangroves which is a bird sanctuary on the route from China to Australia and back. Birds drop in twice a year (August to November and February to May) - but the best months are said to be April and October.

Mount Manuggal: President Ramon Magasaysay in his plane ‘Pinatubo’ crashed into the side of it in 1957 and died. A 960m-high rugged and wild peak which attracts some dedicated trekkers in the Central Cebu National Park near Balamban, especially on the anniversary on March 13/14.

Carcar:  By itself, not all that inspiring, but it is the boot and shoe capitol of the Philippines. South of Cebu, it has an outdoor shoe market (with a giant shoe as the centrepiece) and you can buy great designs at factory prices, which are a quarter of shop prices.

Daan Bantayan: About 130 km north of Cebu City, it is actually on another island but looks like part of Cebu. You cannot miss it…because it is surrounded by sugarcane fields which stretch for miles. At the right time of year, watch out for the sugar trains crossing the roads and the laden lorries heading for the mills!

Bantayan Island: Head for Hagnaya and take the ferry across to the island famous for producing crabs, chickens and eggs, which is why the roads are so good! Santa Fe also has some great sandy beaches and resorts, but not much in the way of diving.

Malapascua Island: Bounty Beach is lined with resorts and dive shops…because the island is famous for thresher sharks. In the main, however, it is a place to chill out and drop out and earn a good suntan. Sorry, no cars…so you’ll have to learn to use your legs to get around once you leave the mainland at Maya.