Monday, 28 January 2013

Moalboal --- Another Diving Paradise


Pescador Island from Panagsama Beach
After 11 years, I was back in Moalboal!

Moalboal is a town south of Cebu. A favorite weekend destination for locals and a favorite spot for divers.  Having been based in Cebu for about 6 years, it has been our favorite long-weekend destination whenever we have enough of Mactan Island. This is where I had my fill of the underwater world and where I spent lazy days with good friends.

A short , 2 1/2 hours ,  drive from Cebu City passing through the quaint town of Carcar, Moalboal is home to Pescador Island. One of best dive spots in the country.

Panagsama Beach
A resort near White Beach  --- a great house reef
So much has changed, but for the better. Even the diving improved. Well, as far as I can remember, I could not recall diving along Moalboal's wall (shore) was that great too!  

I went back in 2010 after watching a video footage of thresher sharks and sardine run. My dive buddies and I,  packed our bags at short notice to ensure we get to see this rare chance before it is too late.

Underwater shots along Moalboal reef
Photos of the pink diver by Jovic S; Stephen D; Raymund R.
At Moalboal reef -- huge fans abound

At Pescador Island

Diver enjoying the sardine run :)
Can you see it?

Moalboal reef diving

Pescador island diving

And we were not disappointed! We saw thresher sharks feeding almost every dive. Of course, the sardines where like there forever waiting for us. It was one hell of a weekend trip. I just ticked off 2 items on my bucket list: diving with a thresher shark and to witness a sardine run.

The thresher got too near but swiftly got away
A huge ball of sardines! (Photo courtesy of Jovic S.)


And here is a short video of the daily sardine run we witness at Pescador Island. Awesome and overwhelming!



video

One of those weekend trips I will not forget. One of those experiences I will treasure. On the same level as when I was able to dive with a whale shark. What an awesome underwater experience!

And here's the group shot and the droids of a gear!

The droids and its masters

With my Fey


Saturday, 26 January 2013

Visa-Free Countries for Philippine Passport Holders




About time for me to post this list, mainly as my personal guide, but also sharing it to everyone. We all know that unlike the more privileged countries, we  Filipinos still have to go through visa application nightmares before we can travel to most countries. A bump on one's nomadic dreams, yes?

But despair no more. There are still a lot of countries that welcome us with open arms. All you need is your valid Philippine passport, roundtrip plane ticket/itinerary, a valid identification card, and some money. So here are those countries which do not require visas prior to travel or provides visa upon arrival:

ASEAN Countries
•Brunei Darussalam: 14 days
•Cambodia: 21 days
•Indonesia: 30 days
•Laos: 30 days
•Malaysia: 30 days
•Singapore: 30 days
•Thailand: 30 days
•Vietnam: 21 days

Non- ASEAN Countries
•Azerbaijan: 30 days visa issued upon arrival for US$100
•Bangladesh: 90-days visa issued upon arrival for US$50
•Republic of China (Taiwan): 30 days if holding a vaild visa for Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Schengen countries, United Kingdom or United States
•Georgia: 90 days visa issued on arrival for US$10 ~ US$200
•Hong Kong: 14 days
•India: 30 days visa issued upon arrival
•Iran: 15 days visa issued upon arrival for US$50
•Israel: 90 days
•South Korea (Jeju Island only): 30 days
•Macau: 30 days
•Maldives: 30 days visa issued upon arrival (free of charge)
•Mongolia: 21 days
•Nepal: 15/30/90 days visa issued upon arrival for US$25/40/100
•Sri Lanka: 30 days
•Timor-Leste: 30 days visa issued upon arrival for US$30

Europe
•Kosovo: 90 days

Oceania
•Cook Islands: 31 days
•Fiji: 120 days Visitor's Permit issued upon arrival (free of charge)
•Marshall Islands: 30 days visa issued upon arrival (free of charge)
•Federated States of Micronesia - 30 days
•Niue: 30 days
•Palau: 30 days visa issued upon arrival (free of charge)
•Samoa: 60 days Visitor's Permit issued upon arrival (free of charge)
•Tuvalu: 30 days visa issued upon arrival (free of charge)
•Vanuatu: 30 days
•Micronesia
•Tonga
• Northern Mariana Islands: visa on arrival
• Tokelau

Central America
•Costa Rica: 120 days Visitor's Permit issued upon arrival (free of charge)
•Dominica: 30 days visa issued upon arrival (free of charge)
•Haiti: 30 days
•Nicaragua: 30 days
•Saint Kitts and Nevis: 30 days visa issued upon arrival (free of charge)
•Saint Lucia: 60 days Visitor's Permit issued upon arrival (free of charge)
•Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: 30 days visa issued upon arrival (free of charge)
•Turks and Caicos Islands - 30 days

South America
•Bolivia: 59 days
•Brazil: 90 days
•Colombia: 90 days
•Ecuador: 90 days
•Peru: 90 days
•Suriname: 120 days

Africa
•Burundi: visa issued upon arrival
•Cape Verde: visa issued upon arrival
•Comoros: A free 24 hour transit visa issued upon arrival at the airport. Within 24 hours this must be converted into a full visa at the immigration office in Moroni (fee payable)
•Djibouti: 10 days visa issued upon arrival for DJF3,000; 30 days visa issued upon arrival for DJF5,000
•Gambia: At port of entry passport 24-72 hour transit pass is issued. This must be converted into a full visa valid up to 1 month at the immigration department in Banjul (fee payable)
•Kenya: 90 days visa issued upon arrival for US$50
•Madagascar: 90 days visa issued upon arrival for MGA140,000
•Morocco: 90 days
•Mozambique: 30 days visa issued upon arrival for US$25
•Saint Helena: visa issued upon arrival
•Seychelles: 30 days
•Tanzania: visa issued upon arrival for US$50
•Togo: 7 days visa issued upon arrival
•Uganda: 180 days visa issued upon arrival for US$50
•Zambia: 90 days visa issued upon arrival for US$50
•Sao Tome and Principe: visa on arrival

Notes:
  • Please take note though that the list and information may change. We encourage you to double-check with the respective Embassies and consulates before travel.
  • Some countries may require transit visas for non-direct flights.
  • The days indicated are the maximum days Filipinos as allowed to stay in said country. If you plan to stay longer, then, you need to apply for a visa. Contact the country's embassy/consulate near you.
  • Some countries above provide visas upon arrival. Ensure you have the proper documents they require before traveling.
  • Source: Wikipedia, Mabuhay City
The above list is intended for travel to these countries for tourism purpose. These are intended as guide.  For other purposes and for more details, please get in touch with respective embassies or consulates.

Happy travels!

Revisiting Bantayan Island


Fishermen coming in with their catch early in the morning
From Malapascua, Gia and I proceeded to Bantayan Island for an extended vacation. We initially considered renting an outrigger boat from Malapascua to Bantayan, but seeing the waves and the more than 2 hours trip, I decided to ask the van driver to drop us at Hagnaya Port to catch the ferry to Sta. Fe port in Bantayan, instead.

The ferry ride took about a little over an hour. We then hired a tricycle to Sta. Fe Resort. The resort is actually a few meters away from the port. About 5minutes ride.

I have been to Bantayan Island several times in the past and I enjoyed the trip all the time. What I love about Bantayan is that, it has the same fine white sand beach as the popular Boracay, but without the crowd. We had a great 3 days of mom-daughter bonding.  Frolicking on the beach, riding the tricycle around the island to check out some of the places to see, "binge-eating", and just lazing around. What a very relaxing trip!






Bantayan Must-See and Must-Do:

 1) St. Peter & Paul Church - a five-decade old church located in the town center. It is made of corals and stones from the island.  It is the center of the island's  unique Holy Week celebration.

St. Peter & Paul Church (photo by pickled_newt)
2) Ogtong Cave - a natural underground shallow cave where one can swim in its cool waters. The owners of Sta. Fe Resort developed a resort around the cave. Not as spectacular as most caves though but I found it unique with its cool clear waters. You descent a few steps of stairs to the cool waters.

Ogtong Cave (photo from the web)

3) Island hop to Virgin Island (Or Sillion Island) - a privately owned island with same white sand beach as Bantayan. We passed up on this as I felt I had a fill of white sand beach already for this trip. But for hardcore beach bums, I recommend you go.
Sillion Island (photo by Beach Placid Resort)
4) Hire a bike or tricycle and explore the island - visit the local market, visit other resorts, see bucolic living inland, try out other restaurants or go on a photography jaunt. Everything is possible and safe around Bantayan Island. We did just that and we totally enjoyed it.

5) Stroll along the glorious beach - did I say, that the sand is white and soft you can practically go barefoot? The beaches in Bantayan is worth the stroll. Unspoilt and no crowd!
Bantayan beach
6) Enjoy the peace and quiet - just that. Watch local life going on around you. Or space out and enjoy the silence. Meditate? very possible!

Inviting to just laze
7) Eat seafood - this is an island after-all. Never miss their dried "danggit" fried until crunchy. Not too salty.  Nor the "kinhason" (seashell). Yum Yummm.

8) Try some water sports - snorkel or try the banana boat for that adrenaline rush.

9) Spend Holy Week here - they have a unique celebration during these holy days. You will see "lechon" (roasted pig) being paraded and/or served during this period. Being an island, seafood is their staple food and fishing is their livelihood. So, for them to join the Holy Week celebration, they were given special permission by the Catholic Church to eat meat to prevent them from fishing.

No, visitors are not exempted from abstaining from meat, even if they visit this place on said days. And most thought so.

10) Don't miss the sunrise - calming, peaceful, relaxing. Then, watch local fishermen come home with their catch. You may just be lucky and be offered to buy them at such a bargain.

Glorious sunrise





Friday, 25 January 2013

MELBOURNE Walking Tour on the Last Day

The city of Melbourne from the Shrine of Remembrance
Being a free day, we decided to do another walking tour. This time, to places we failed to cover on the first day,  and do a little souvenir shopping. 

Since our hotel is centrally located, we decided to visit this place first, the Parliament House, as it was just a stone's throw away from our hotel. It is the seat of Victoria's Parliament since 1855, located along Spring St .



Parliament House

Just a little across the Parliament House, you will see these two gorgeous buildings: The Princess Theater and Hotel Windsor. A throwback to anything European-looking.
Princess Theater - one of Melbourne's iconic landmark

Hotel Windsor established in 1883 is one of Melbourne's grandest luxury hotel
As you walk towards St. Patrick's Cathedral and Fitzroy Gardens, you will see this at a small triangle piece of  land called Gordon Reserve, between Spring St and MacArthur St. The monument carries the verse of Australia's, Adam Lindsay Gordon:
Life is mainly froth and bubble
Two things stand like stone —
Kindness in another’s trouble.
Courage in your own
An Australian poet, jockey and politician

Gothic-looking St Patrick's Cathedral -- the seat of the Archbishop of Melbourne
A few meters away from St. Patrick's Cathedral is Fitzroy Gardens, a 26-hectare Victorian Era landscaped garden. Beautiful, peaceful, and calm atmosphere, it has several nooks and crannies worthy to take a seat, read a book, relax or just plain watch life pass you by.


Fitzroy Gardens
"Come have a sit". The Conservatory in the background

English Elm Trees lining a pathway "Autumn colors is love!"
A pathway at Fitzroy Gardens

Model Tudor Village

The Fairy Tree

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Diving Malapascua


Sunset @ Malapascua Island


APRIL 2007
Malapascua Island, Cebu 

I can still remember being excited for this trip. I was so looking forward to seeing thresher sharks for the first time.

This is one of our dive group's (Hello Divers) dive trip outside of Luzon.

From the Mactan International Airport, we hired a van to take us to Maya Pier, north of Cebu Island, the jump-off point to Malapascua. Then we hired an outrigger boat to bring us to the island.We have no choice because we have our dive gears with us.

1st batch to Malapascua
After sorting out our accommodation problems, we settled in  and had our very late lunch, before exploring the island.
  
While most of us slept the afternoon away (including me), others did not lose time exploring the island and swimming. I woke up at 4pm and decided to join the rest of the group at the beach. Our part of the island is so quiet and secluded, it is paradise!


The view from our cottage
Malapascua white sand beach
The 1st day was more relaxed. After swimming and camwhoring, we started fixing and sorting our dive gears for the very early date with the threshers the following day. We had night cap at a floating bar before taking a very late dinner after.

Woke up very early the following day to keep our appointment with the threshers. But unfortunately, we were able to dive Monad Shoal past sunrise already as we have to wait for the rest of our diver friends who were coming from Cebu that day. :( Really sad we did not get to see the sharks. Monad Shoal is an underwater plateau --the only place one can see thresher sharks regularly before sunrise, and where pelagic also abound. The sea mount is used by the sharks as a cleaning station---where wrasse remove parasites from their skin and clean their gills and mouth. 
Ready to dive!
Disappointed with Monad Shoal, we proceeded to Gato Island. We enjoyed the dive and snorkeling in the area. Later in the afternoon, we dove along Malapascua shores to witness the colorful Mandarin fish do their mating dance early in the evening. Well, they did not mate but I got to see one. What a lovely creature! Too bad I was not able to capture one decent shot as they hurriedly hide amongst corals as soon as they see the dive lights. :(

Despite the disappointments,  we had a great time in Malapascua, albeit short. A great weekend trip.
Mandarin Fish (photo from services.flickie.com)
-----------------------------------------------
Getting to Malapascua:

From Manila, take the flight to Cebu Island. You will land at Mactan International Airport. Malapascua is located north of the island of Cebu, and travel by land and ferry is a total of 3-5 hours depending on your choice of transportation and travel time. Best to take the earliest flight to Cebu.

Option 1: Private transfers - Before arriving Malapascua, you can arranged from the resort for an airport pick-up and transfers to the resort. This is a bit expensive but more convenient. 

Option 2: By Taxi - You can hire a taxi from the airport or the North Bus terminal that will cost you around P4,800 to P6,000 one way depending on your haggling skills.

Option 3:  By bus - from the airport, take a taxi/cab to the North Bus terminal. Take Ceres Bus or Rough Riders to Maya Pier. Buses to Maya leave every 20 minutes and runs 24hours. While buses from Maya pier to Cebu runs from 1am to 6pm only. Non-aircon buses is non-stop and takes 4 hours. Aircon buses have designated stops and takes them 5hours to reach Maya Pier. Bus fares is around P150-200 per way.

From Maya Pier,  there are 2 options:

Option 1 Private boat - hire a private boat from the pier. Cost may range from P1,500 to P2,000 depending on time of day and your haggling skills. Trip will take about 30 minutes.

Option 2: Public boat - you will have to wait for the boat to be full before it leaves the port. Be sure to be at the port before 5pm to catch the last trip for the day. Fare is P80 per person and travel time is also 30 minutes.
 

 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

MELBOURNE - Going on a Scenic Roadtrip

The Great Ocean Road

This is THE most awaited part of the whole trip. Researching and looking at photos fueled the fire.

Yes, on our 3rd day, we went on a road trip to Australia's most scenic coastal drive --- The Great Ocean Road.

A national heritage site, the 240+km stretch of road hugs the south-east coastline of Victoria. Passing through quaint towns, surfing beaches, historic ports, whale lookouts, shipwreck coasts,  breathtaking mountain ranges, majestic rainforests, scenic coastal towns and national parks.

We left Melbourne from the West Gate Bridge and visited charming towns, beautiful beaches and breathtaking wonders of nature:

*Torquay
 

Our first stop for morning tea. We had time to check and take a photo of the beach. A surfers haven.  

Yes, we missed the surf shop outlets. Unfortunately, they were still closed and we have a long trip ahead of us.


Torquay Beach
Quaint Torquay

* Bells Beach 

Home to World Surfing Championships. This is where I thought the black specks I saw out on the sea where penguins, and quickly realized that those were surfers trying out the waves at such a cold and early morning! brrr... We were, after all, in one of Australia's best surfing beaches.
Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia
North view of Bells Beach
No, those are not penguins...
* Horseshoe Bay at Port Elliot is 2000miles from the South Pole. So named because of the obvious shape of the beach.
Horseshoe Bay from a Lookout
* Great Ocean Road (GOR) welcome arch  or better known as a memorial arch, dedicated to those who built this road in World War I.

The Great Ocean Road welcome arch