Moalboal, Philippines

The most interesting part of our trip to Moalboal was the ride there. From Oslob we were going to catch two different busses when I realized that many of the visitors had arrived from Moalboal and would soon be returning. I approached a few vans and asked if we could catch a ride. They were all full but a young Filipino named Os overheard me. “Wait a few minutes,” he said,” then hurried away. I didn’t think much of it and returned to plan A the bus. As we were donning our packs he ran over, “okay we can take you, but we will stop to drink beers for a while, is that okay for you?” Hah! What a silly question. We clambered into his multicab.

In all there were five Filipino men and the two of us. Three of them were divemasters and the others worked in the shop doing odd jobs.  We talked about Oslob.

“Do you think it’s good or bad?” I asked

“Bad,” the all said in unison. I felt a pang of guilt in my chest but it passed as more questions entered to mind.

“Why?”

“They make the whalesharks like dogs,” was their reply. They had other arguments as well but this seemed to bother them the most. A whaleshark symbolized the wild to them and the apparent taming of that left a bad taste in their mouths.

As I thought about it we pulled into a thatch hut alongside the road. We were in in a small but beautiful village. This was their favorite bar. The stools were cut off palm trees and our glasses cut off bottoms of plastic bottles. Across the street a 18th century church loomed, as if shaking its head at our behavior. The men ordered 5 liters of beer which were poured into a tall cylinder with a tap at the bottom. It was a ridiculous scene.

After an hour of  beer, laughter and spicy peanuts we got back on the road. Our guidebook had nothing good to say about the topside features of Moalboal and indeed it was an unimpressive sight. The excessive building of patios jutting out to the sea meant the beach was ruined. Any Filipino charm the place may have once possessed had long since given way to kitschy tourist venus fly traps. No matter though, we were here for diving and our stay would be short.

The dive shops had grown fat on Moalboal’s underwater reputation and it showed in their prices. After a string of attempts to find something reasonable we found Nelsons Dive shop. We did two dives with them and while I cannot fault them for anything I cannot praise them either. The diving was good and the sites impressive but the amount of damage caused directly by divers was a bit staggering. Destruction from typhoons, dynamite, and cyanide fishing has a relatively even effect over an area. Damage from divers will generally affect a single coral amongst other healthy specimens and indeed we saw many skeletons of once massive sea fans, kicked one to many times. That’s the price of popularity. Despite thes the diving was still quite good and we enjoyed ourselves.

After two dives we were satisfied. There were many more wondrous things to see in Moalboal, including the chance to see massive shoal of sardines but coming off the fantastic diving at Malapascua, Panglao, and Apo Island we were saturated and happy to move on to new adventures.

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Scott Dusek is a writer and photography from Seattle, Washingon. He has spent over five years on the road traveling to over 60 countries. When Scott is not writing you can find him trekking, climbing, and scuba diving in far flung corners of the world.