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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Mactan Island, Philippines

We left Cebu for a day to swim with the whale sharks. We visited a waterfall afterwards. To get to the waterfall, we parked then rented moped rides up the mountain. The driver waited for us at the top and took us back down when we were done.

A Christmas tree made of coconuts.

A glimpse of Cebu from the highway

We stayed at the Movenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu. I would recommend this hotel. They booked our whale shark tour for us. Purchase the breakfast buffet in the package because there aren't any other choices nearby.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Walk Around the Hotel

The view from our room was lovely - ocean, mountains, boats. Sunrise was my favorite time to hang out on the balcony as the city was waking up to a new day.

As soon as you left the resort you were in the midst of third world life. Of course there was no reason to leave the resort, so I don't think it was common for guests to walk the streets of this area.

The photo on the right is a pay for water machine. There is a stack of plastic bags (think 1 qt. size) that people filled to get their drinking water.

These are the gas meters for all the bamboo and corrugated metal shacks.

Food stands lined our walk. We got a bit of fruit, some pop and sausages that we watched being cooked.

There was a line of Christmas decorations in the town center area. They were all made out of recycled or natural products.

There were a few shops that sold seashells. Their main business wasn't tourists walking by, rather they export to places like Miami.

We were confused by all the beautiful roosters we saw tied up with little shelters.They had about 1' of string holding them to their stake. Eggs were for sale everywhere, but we didn't see a single hen. I finally asked someone about the roosters. There was a long explanation and I finally realized they are for cock fighting. Considering how many we saw, it must be a pretty big form of entertainment.

The kids are so happy and just want to trail along. They loved having their picture taken and wanted to impress us with smiles and giggles. As you can see, Elena attracted a following.

Motorcycles serve as taxis. From grabbing a ride on the back of one to these side cars with awnings, they are an easy way to get from point A to point B. These trucks have benches along each side. The driver and a collector sit in the front. When you get on you just hand your money through the back window. We took one on the end of our walk to get back to the hotel.

These little babies were 6 weeks old. Their moms let me hold them. 

Christmas Party
Our walk ended in a basketball court area that seemed to be used for community events as well. The place was full of women and children. They were dancing and having fun. When they asked me to join I thought why not? I jumped in to their cheers and danced away. 

A Day with Whale Sharks

While relaxing in the Philippines at Christmas, we took a day trip to swim with the whale sharks. I didn't know what whale sharks were or the appeal of swimming with them, but while planing our trip, people continually told me that we couldn't miss the opportunity.

We woke up ridiculously early, stumbled in the dark to a van and began the several hour journey down the island to Oslob. I don't know what I expected, but this wasn't it. We've done a few other type sea tours before and typically we get on some sort of yacht or day boat and go out into the sea before arriving at the snorkeling or dive site. Maybe it's whales we're after, but we definitely go away from land in a sizable boat. 

We got our life jackets, masks, snorkels and fins and waited a short time before being herded into a wooden canoe type boat with bamboo pontoons. We went about 30' off the shore then were paddled perpendicular to the shore to an area full of other boats. 

We were pleased to find that we were literally the only ones in all the boats who actually wanted to get in the water and swim with the whale sharks. It was amazing. We weren't supposed to touch them, but when they bump right up against you, it's impossible not to. 

Whale sharks are huge – the largest fish in the sea. They can grow up to 40' long. The ones we were swimming with were around 18' long, weighing 20 tons. To give you perspective, that's the size of a school bus. From the neck down they look like a shark, which indeed they are. They have that scary top fin, side fins, tail and slits in their side. They have a shark's cartilage type skeleton and smooth skin. But their head is a bit odd with a flat 5' wide mouth. They feed on plankton, filtering it though their bristle like teeth. 

I really wasn't sure if I was going to get out of the boat as we were driving down. Just the word "shark" had me thinking of beady eyes staring at me, a sharp toothy grin and a tail whipping again some sort of metal cage that I had been lowered into the water in. (I've seen a few too many shark week episodes.) But when we rowed out and I saw a few of them swimming around I couldn't wait to jump in. These giants of the sea are more whale like as they float around sifting dinner through their mouths. So we swam with the sharks. It was great fun. I'd do it again in a heartbeat if I had the opportunity. There's just something amazing about being in the water with these huge animals.