In the Philippines, there are many islands where you can go dolphin watching. We have been twice, once in Alegria, and the second time was just off Panagsama Beach in Moalboal for sunrise.
Dolphin watching in Cebu is the perfect day trip from Moalboal, and as this has been on my bucket list for years, I was keen to give it a try. But is it ethical?
We only support ethical animal encounters, and when our research discovered there was no feeding, no chasing, no touching, no human involvement to attract the dolphins, we knew this was the sustainable dolphin watching experience we wanted. The only tricks the dolphins performed were because they were having fun in the wild – the best way of seeing them.
Our dolphin watching experience in Cebu was amazing and unforgettable. Viewing these playful and intelligent animals in their natural habitat was very special, and a memory that will stay with us forever.
In a series of articles showing day trips from Moalboal, Moalboal Eco Lodge share ethical dolphin watching in Alegria, Cebu.
The Tañon Strait is a stretch of water between the islands of Cebu and Negros. It’s a Marine Protected Area spanning 300km of coastline, and in some areas as deep as 571 metres, its the perfect place to go dolphin watching. Rich in marine biodiversity, there are 11 species of dolphins in the Tañon Strait, however the most common and regularly sighted are the spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and spotted dolphins.
One evening at sunset on White Beach, we saw a pod of dolphins in the distance breaching the surface. It was incredible, and this fuelled my desire to see them up close.
Fun fact: Did you know the word dolphin derived from Greek and can be interpreted as meaning “a fish with a womb”
Our first dolphin watching experience was with Hostel La Vista, a small business run by a local family in Alegria. Unfortunately they are no longer running this trip, as they lost their boat in the Super Typhoon Odette which struck Moalboal, Alegria, and the whole island of Cebu on 16 December 2021. I will update this post again when they are operating tours, however I have kept this article because you can still do a dolphin watching tour in Cebu, just off Panagsama Beach which is where we did our second encounter during May 2022.
The day we chose to go dolphin watching in Alegria it was overcast and cloudy, however when we looked at the ocean, it was completely flat and calm, just like a lake. Not a single wave or ripple – the conditions were perfect.
We boarded the Bangka boat, a Philippine boat similar to a canoe with outriggers, and drove out into the Tanon Strait. Today we were lucky, our spotter (Uncle Joe) pointed to a pod of dolphins within five minutes.
They were very playful, swimming alongside the boat, going underneath the boat, and doing what dolphins love to do – jumping out of the water.
Elated is the only way to describe how we felt. Such an amazing experience, and the trip had only just begun! Dolphins are naturally curious and playful, and we watched as they jumped, swam and played in their pods all around us. In total there were three different pods, and we probably saw around 50 dolphins maybe more, so we had plenty of dolphin action.
Suddenly in the distance, we saw something leap into the air and come crashing down into the water. At first we thought it was a dolphin, but no it was tuna! This was an unusual sight apparently, even though dolphins hunt and eat tuna, they are not always spotted, and not usually seen jumping out of the water.
Then it happened again, and again. What a lucky day we were having.
Clearly the dolphins were jealous of the fun the tuna were having, and a spinner dolphin launched itself into the air spinning itself a few times before crashing back into the ocean.
What an amazing experience. Alas this happened too quickly we were unable to capture it on film, so this will just have to remain a magnificent memory.
Watch our short YouTube video to view the experience.
Now that I have ticked dolphin watching off my bucket list, I want to experience them when scuba diving! That is my new bucket list dolphin experience!
Best time to go dolphin watching
As long as the ocean is calm, you can see dolphins any time of year. They are in the Tanon Strait all year round, but you need calm waters to view their movements. The waters are at their calmest between March and October, but it’s always worth making an enquiry if you want to do this trip whenever you visit. Also note that even though March to October are calm, some days may not be perfect and you may not see them. It's always best to contact Hostel La Vista to ask their advice.
The best time of day is the morning when the ocean is at it stillest, and this is when we viewed them for the second time in Panagsama, Moalboal. They can, however, be viewed any time of day as long as the water is calm. Sunset is a truly magical time, and I would be very jealous if you saw them at this time of day.
Why Dolphin Shows, swimming with dolphins in captivity, and seeing captive dolphins is not ethical
The 2013 expose documentary “Blackfish” highlighted the cruel truth behind dolphins and orcas (the largest dolphin) in captivity, how they are kept, treated and trained for your entertainment. The horrible treatment is carried out by anywhere that offers dolphin swimming, dolphin shows, dolphinariums, SeaWorld, Aquariums or Zoos. That special kiss you get with your “swim with dolphin” experience comes from the dolphin being starved so they can perform for you.
Dolphins need to come from somewhere, and The Cove is an award-winning expose documentary by former dolphin trainer, Ric O’Barry. He investigates the dolphin hunters of Japan in Taiji who, driven by the multi-billion dollar dolphin entertainment industry, hunt and capture dolphins to sell.
Dolphins are highly intelligent creatures with the second largest brain after humans, not even our closest relative the chimpanzee has a brain or intelligence comparable to dolphins. They have distinct personalities, self-awareness, can recognise themselves in the mirror, they think about the future, and have complex social skills able to solve problems as a group/family (pod).
Marine researchers, conservationists, and animal-rights activists have been fighting to have dolphins recognized as “non-human persons,” to ensure “no person or organisation has the right to own a cetacean, or to disrupt their culture.”
A summary of why a "swim with the dolphins" and dolphin shows are bad for the species:
• Dolphins are often captured during dolphin-massacres such as the one in Japan, and viewing captive dolphins contributes to keeping this industry going
• During the capture of wild dolphins, the majority are severely injured and left to die
• When captured, dolphins are taken from their friends and family to live in small enclosure
• Separated from their family, dolphins become depressed and act strangely (swim constantly in circles, stop vocalising, and can become aggressive)
• In captivity, because of depression they can become suicidal or purposely harm themselves
• They live half as long in captivity as they do in the wild (around 53% die within the first 3 months)
• Enclosures are small, and they never have enough space (they swim 100 miles a day in the wild)
Educate yourself further and read this article which explains the disturbing truth behind your swim with the dolphins.
Where to stay in Moalboal
When visiting Moalboal, Moalboal Eco Lodge is the perfect place to stay. Located in the middle of a peaceful field with no traffic noise, it’s close enough to amenities, but far away so you can have a good night’s sleep. There is plenty of space to observe physical distancing at the Eco Lodge.
Nestled in amongst palm trees, bamboo and coconut trees, Moalboal Eco Lodge have beautiful Bamboo Cottages suitable for solo travellers, couples and friends. We have two private rooms and a spacious 4-6 bed family room, a breakfast area, kitchen, and a stunning hammock/yoga/sunset deck. Take a look at our rooms!
Visit our Eco Shop* for all your plastic free,
zero waste, palm oil free travel products!
(*10% from every purchase is donated to Moalboal Dog Rescue)
For help regarding travel and Visa requirements, visit our Travel Information page
Want More Day Trips from Moalboal?
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Basdaku “White Beach”, Moalboal
Mantayupan Falls, Barili
Lambug Beach, Badian
Montpeller Waterfall, Alegria
Taginis Falls & Budlot Spring
Simala Shrine Castle Church, Sibonga
Do you want to travel responsibly?
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Sustainable Travel: How to be a Responsible Tourist
12 Plastic Free & Zero Waste Travel Tips During Coronavirus
Plastic Free & Zero Waste Toiletries: Space Saving Travel Essentials
International Orangutan Day: Palm Oil Free Challenge
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