Do you have a bucket list of ideas or a compilation of “things to do before you die”? Did you know that some of the most popular bucket list experiences can be achieved in the Philippines?
The Philippines is often on people’s travel bucket list of places to visit due to its abundance of paradise white sand beaches and spectacular marine life, but it also has many other bucket list activities. Scuba Diving, Skydiving, swimming with turtles, all of these and many more can be found and achieved in this beautiful archipelago of over 7,000 islands.
In and around Cebu you can have an adventure filled visit, ticking off more than just one activity from this bucket list. Cebu is an international and domestic hub of the Philippines, and if these bucket list experiences are not found in Cebu, they are a short convenient plane or boat journey away.
Moalboal Eco Lodge share an exciting bucket list of ideas and experiences you can have in the Philippines.
What is a bucket list?
A bucket list is a compilation of things you want to do, or places you want to visit, either by a certain age or before you die.
The term was coined by screen writer Justin Zackham, who compiled a list of “Justin’s List of Things to Do before I kick the Bucket” which was shorted to “Justin’s Bucket List”. He wrote the 2007 movie “The Bucket List” about two terminally ill patients (played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) who escape from a cancer ward with a wish-list of things to do before they die.
A bucket list or a list of goals is unique to you. It can contain anything that you wish to do, and any places you wish to visit. They could be adventurous, adrenaline seeking, ways of getting your heart pumping to make you feel alive. Alternatively, they could involve food (eating in a Michel Starred Restaurant), or drink (sipping a Singapore Sling in Raffles Hotel Singapore), viewing a famous building (Taj Mahal or Eiffel Tower), or going on safari – it can be whatever you want.
This list is a compilation of popular bucket list activities which can all be achieved from a visit to Cebu. Many people leave Moalboal and the Philippines having ticked of more than one adventure from this list.
1. Get your PADI - Learn to Scuba Dive
Learning to Scuba Dive is a popular bucket list activity, and very easy to achieve in Cebu. Located in the heart of the Coral Triangle, the most bio-diverse area in the world, in 2019 the Philippines was voted the world’s leading diving destination. Cebu has two of the best diving spots in the Philippines so there is no better place to learn to scuba dive than here.
Once you are a certified open water diver, you will be qualified to dive anywhere in the world. This will open you up to incredible experiences, and will take you to the most beautiful places in the world, some of which are in the Philippines.
Twin a trip to Moalboal with another popular diving destination such as Malapascua for the thresher sharks, Leyte for the whale sharks or Apo Island for abundance of marine life (including turtles). Not only will you learn more about the underwater world, but you will visit stunning beaches and be introduced to a diverse group of people within the dive community.
Diving changed our lives, and if we wouldn’t have become divers, we may not have ended up here in the Philippines, and wouldn’t have had the opportunity to open Moalboal Eco Lodge.
2. Dive the Sardine Run
One of the most spectacular dive sites and experiences in the world is the sardine run. In Moalboal, Cebu you can swim with a sardine ball which is made up of millions of fish, it's so large it often blocks out the sun. This is a bucket list tick off for many divers, and once you have got your PADI, you can see the sardines change formation over and over again. It’s nothing short of mesmerising – 10/10 in my log book!
If you don’t want to become an Open Water Diver but wish to see the sardines, you can do a half day Discover Scuba. An instructor will take you through a few skills in the pool, and if they feel confident you are ready for the next stage, you will be taken into the ocean for a dive.*
You don’t have to dive to see the sardines; grab a mask and snorkel then walk off Panagsama beach where you will find them just off the reef, however the best way of viewing the sardines is from underneath.
*Note this is entirely at the Instructor’s discretion. Scuba Diving is considered an extreme sport, and there will be boats and people swimming above you in the ocean. The instructor needs to feel assured that you are comfortable being under the water so you don’t come to any harm. Your safety is the instructor’s primary concern.
3. Be a Mermaid (or Merman) and go Freediving
Moalboal is the Freediving capital of the Philippines, and the perfect place to learn if you aren’t already AIDA or PADI qualified. Once you have learnt the techniques for breath hold, you will be free to dive wherever and whenever you like. If you already freedive and have dreamt of becoming an instructor, take your education one step further here in Moalboal.
As a zen state of mind is required, people who do yoga or meditate should find freediving a natural progression.
For people wishing to feel like a mermaid, wearing a monofin will enable you to move through the water just like a mermaid (or merman).
However, if you want to take it one step further and it’s on your bucket list to actually be a mermaid, the Mermaid Acadamy in Bohol can make your dream come true! They teach you how to swim, how to move like a mermaid, and how to model on land and in the water. Move over Ariel!
4. Swim or Snorkel with Turtles
There are many places in the Philippines where you can swim with turtles. Apo Island in Negros , the island to the west of Cebu is a famous places, but if you don’t have enough time to visit, Moalboal in Cebu can tick another box for you.
Turtles can be spotted along the same stretch of reef as the sardine run, so grab your mask and snorkel and just hang around until your bucket list experience has been fulfilled. Snorkellers have seen as many as seven turtles in one day.
Make sure you are a responsible swimmer and never chase the turtles. Why? Because turtles are easily stressed and need to come to the surface to take big gulps of air which enables them to stay underwater. If you chase them, this will stress them out, they won’t be able to take in as much oxygen as they need and they could drown.
5. Snorkel or Swim with Whale Sharks
Whale Sharks are the world’s largest fish, but these gentle giants only eat plankton making them harmless to humans.
Not all whale shark watching is ethical, and Moalboal Eco Lodge only promote sustainable practices where they are not fed. One of the best places to have an ethical encounter with the whale shark is in Southern Leyte, an island to the east of Cebu, however Donsol and Palawan are also ethical alternatives. Whale shark season in Leyte runs November to April.
Travel info: To reach Leyte, catch a ferry from Cebu City where you will find a number of routes depending on the time of year and time of day you wish to travel.
Related Post: Is Oslob Whale Shark Watching Ethical?
6. Learn to Surf in Siargao
The Philippines may not be the first place you think of when learning to surf, but if this is on your bucket list and you are planning a trip to the Philippines, head to Siargao.
Home to the annual professional surfing competition the “Siargao Cloud 9 Surfing Cup”, Cloud 9 Siargao is known as the surfing capital of the Philippines. Between September and November, there is enough swell to give the most adventurous surfer their desired adrenaline kick.
If you are in Siargao during October at the time of the tournament, expect lots of people and lots of parties. If this isn’t your scene, schedule a visit between November and May.
But what if you don’t know how to surf or are a beginner? Jacking Horse near Cloud 9 Surfing area is the best place to learn, and Quicksilver is for beginners wanting to practice. There are many surfing spots in Siargao and plenty of places to hire a board, you can even attend a surf camp if you have the time.
Note: There are no direct international flights to Siargao, but from Cebu you can catch a domestic flight.
7. Go Skydiving
Ever dreamt (or had nightmares) about throwing yourself out of a plane? Why not add a vision of paradise to the event and do it over a white sand beach!
Skydiving is one of the most extreme adventure sports in the world, and you can do it on your visit to Cebu! Sky Dive Greater Cebu are USPA (United States Parachute Association) certified, and offer a tandem sky dive over Bantayan Island, north of Cebu, or on Siquijor which is off the South coast.
It’s a surreal feeling freefalling through the sky, the wind rushing against your cheeks, then your parachute opens and you drift slowly towards land. Definitely one of those once in a lifetime bucket list experiences, especially if you are visiting Cebu for a special occasion.
8. Sip a fresh coconut on a white sand paradise beach
Some of the most beautiful powder soft, fine white sand beaches can be found around Cebu. If you are in Moalboal for the sardines or to swim with turtles, head to Lambug Beach in Badian, or go to beautiful White Beach in Basdaku for sunset.
Is there anything more exotic than sitting on a palm tree fringed white sand beach, looking out at an aquamarine ocean whilst sipping a fresh coconut? Here in the Philippines it’s called Buko Juice, and don’t forget to bring your reusable straw in case the seller only has plastic. #saynotothestraw and #savetheturtles.
If you are visiting for a special occasion and want more of a Robinson Crusoe experience, head north to either Bantayan Island (where you can also do a sky dive), Kalanggaman Island, or Virgin Island. If scuba diving with sharks is on your bucket list, Malapascua ticks two boxes – Thresher Sharks and stunning white sand beaches!
9. Jump or swim in a jungle waterfall – Kawasan Falls
There are two ways of achieving this bucket list experience. With over 90 waterfalls to visit in Cebu, you can spend a day chasing waterfalls, and jumping into beautiful lagoons and rock pools for a cheeky swim. Guests staying at Moalboal Eco Lodge will be given the location of a secret waterfall, where you have a chance to swim in a jungle waterfall with no one else around! How is that for a bucket list tick off?
For the more adventurous traveller wanting an adrenaline pumping experience, canyoneering at Kawasan Falls is the one for you! This half day activity involves walking through a jungle, climbing over boulders, then jumping from a variety of cliffs into canyons and milky blue lagoons. One thing is guaranteed, you will be screaming with fear and excitement in equal measures, jumping from heights you never thought possible!
Kawasan Falls is only 30 minutes away from Moalboal, so this bucket list experience can be twinned with turtles and/or sardines!
10. Bungee Jumping in Bohol
At Danao Extreme Adventure Park in Bohol, you can have a heart-stopping experience known as the Bungee Plunge; the highest canyon swing in the world.
Just like a bungee jump, you are strapped into a harness wrapped around your bottom which is mounted on a 200 metre high cliff overlooking a 300 metre wide gorge. You have a choice of falling head first, or being dropped in a sitting position, either way your screams will echo all around when the bungee is released. After freefalling for 70 metres, you will swing like a pendulum in the gorge surrounded by beautiful jungle.
For an entire day of thrill seeking activities, at the Adventure Park you can go wall climbing, river tubing, kayaking, extreme caving, ride a Cable Car (Sky Ride) before rappelling down a cliff, or go on a zip line for 1.5km.
Travel Info: Bohol is the island east of Cebu and you have two travel options. Catch a boat from Cebu City Pier 1, or if you are in Moalboal, drive through the mountains on the Ronda – Argao road and catch a ferry from Argao Port.
11. Fly a Plane
Ever wanted to fly a plane? Only 25 minutes away from Moalboal in the town of Rhonda, Fly a Gyro Cebu give you the opportunity to fly a Gyrocopter.
A Gyrocopter, also known as Autogyro, Gyroplane or Light Sport Aircraft, is an open sided propeller plane which carries a maximum of two people – you and the pilot. You will be seated behind the pilot who will be in radio contact with you the entire time, then you will have the chance to take the wheel and fly the plane yourself. It can be flown in strong winds and weather conditions, and for the brave, your pilot can do a few tricks for that added adrenaline boost.
Viewing popular tourist areas in a unique way, you will fly over Moalboal, White Beach and Pescador Island in this fun, thrill-seeking experience.
12. Eat an unusual delicacy
Before we visited Cambodia where we ate crickets and frogs, tasting a traditional delicacy was on our bucket list – and you can achieve this right here in Cebu!
The controversial Balut egg is considered a delicacy, and part of street food culture. This exotic Asian snack has an acquired taste once you get over the thought of what it is, ignore the crunch, and forget the “interesting texture”.
Introduced to the Philippines by the Chinese around 1885, it can also be found in other South East Asian countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, but if you’re in Cebu and want an exotic experience, why not give it a go?
The Balut is a developed chicken or duck fetus complete with tiny facial features. The egg has been fertilised and incubated for a period of between 14 to 21 days, boiled then served directly from the shell. They say the perfect time is when the embryo is 17 days old, and best eaten when freshly cooked. If it’s left too long, the features are more developed and there is more of a crunch.
But what does the Balut egg taste like? Apparently the egg part tastes like egg, and the fetus tastes like chicken, although it has also been described as stinky tofu. Some say it’s the perfect hangover cure!
I dare you to give it a try!
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