One of the best things to do on the island of Cebu in the Philippines is to swim with the sardines in the town of Moalboal. If you love snorkeling and being underwater, this is one of the best underwater experiences you could imagine. You’ll be surrounded by thousands of fish moving in all sorts of directions and swimming all around you. It’s a real life Little Mermaid experience and definitely worth adding to your Philippines itinerary. Here’s everything you need to know about swimming with the sardine runs in Moalboal:
Swimming in the Sardine runs in Moalboal:
What is a Sardine Run?
Where are the Sardine Runs?
How to Get to Moalboal from Cebu:
You can take a bus, private van, or private car/taxi from Cebu City.
The cheapest option is a Ceres bus, which is the Philippines largest bus company. It took about 2 and a half hours and cost 156 PHP ($3 USD) per person. This was for an air conditioned bus. Although it was night and we probably didn’t need it if we had rolled the windows down, especially with how fast the driver was going. Buses without air conditioning cost slightly less. But honestly it’s always pretty hot in the Philippines. So it’s worth it in our opinion. You aren’t able to book a bus online, but can find the schedule here. More details on how to take the bus below.
You can either take a taxi straight from the airport* for 2,000-2500 PHP ($40-$50 USD) or book one ahead of time and save you the hassle of negotiating using Klook for around $44 USD. A taxi from the airport will likely cost you more than one you can find and negotiate with from the city. We talked one down to $35 USD for the trip. We considered it, because we were told it was a holiday and we’d be waiting for a bus for hours. But we ended up going to the bus station and walking straight on an empty bus and are glad we saved the $30.
There’s also the option of a shared van transfer on Klook for around $17. These are cheaper than taxis, more convenient than buses. But if they fill up, they can be pretty uncomfortable. If you’re not one for booking ahead, you can find public vans for 120 PHP ($2 USD) at the GT Express Terminal in Cebu. This method takes about 2 hours from the terminal to the town center of Moalboal.
If you like Uber, then you can always use Grab, a Singapore based ridesharing company.
We decided to take the bus and the experience was totally fine for the price. We had to make a stop at the SM City mall in Cebu, which is huge by the way, for some photography equipment repairs and replacements. So we took an airport bus there for 25 PHP ($0.50 USD). From the mall, we took a taxi for 150 PHP ($3 USD) to the Cebu South Bus Terminal. Once we got to the terminal, we just followed the instructions of the employees to find the correct big yellow Ceres bus. And we didn’t have any issues.
The most confusing part about the experience for us was payment.
We paid up front as we entered the bus terminal. But they didn’t have change and told us we could get it on the bus. We did get our change from the driver on the bus, but we had to be patient and trust them. The bus we took was practically empty. So it was decently comfortable with all the extra space. The bus had a few TV’s that played some recent Hollywood movies, so the trip went by pretty quickly.
If you decided to take the bus or a van, you’ll be dropped off next to the highway (there’s a 7-Eleven nearby for reference) and then you’ll need to grab a tricycle to your hotel. We paid 250 PHP ($5 USD) to get to the hotel area of Panagsama Beach, which is about a 10-15 minute tricycle ride. The typical cost is closer to 100-150 PHP ($2-3 USD) but it was about 1 am when we arrived. And we were tired and didn’t have too many options of tricyclists to barter with.
Why are the Sardines There?
Sardines stay in groups as a form of defense against predators. They’ve found this place off the coast of Moalboal and when the government realized it was bringing in tourists, they banned commercial fishing in the area, so it’s been years since they moved from this spot.
Do I Need to Bring My Own Snorkel Gear?
How Much Time do I Need to Swim with the Sardine Runs?
What is the Best Time of Year to Swim with the Sardines?
You can swim with the sardines all year round. That being said, keep in mind that rainy season is from June to October, so the weather and visibility might not be great during that time.
Tips for Taking Pictures with the Sardines:
The sardines are quite skittish and will disperse as you approach them. We found the best way to swim through them was to dive down in front of them with the photographer behind them. As you dive down they’ll disperse a bit, but if you hesitate at the bottom and then swim up through them it should create a pretty epic shot either from below or above.