Sardines & sunsets

The shards of white light from the sun pierced through the blue of the ocean, illuminating the beautiful coral formations as if they were exhibits in an underwater museum. Ahead of us, a dark cloud was emerging, blocking the light and casting an ominous shadow on everything beneath the surface.

With our diving instructor, we swam closer while the appearance of the cloud changed from that of a single, solid object to one of literally hundreds of thousands of individual moving parts. Parts that appeared to be moving as one in the same direction before suddenly dispersing into a myriad of formations, each one dancing balletically to the tune of the ocean.

We were witnessing the incredible resident shoal of sardines that congregates off the shore of Moalboal, on the island of Cebu, The Philippines. And, quite frankly, we were mesmerised by them.

You don’t have to dive to appreciate them, either – I spent my first afternoon here just snorkelling above them. But for the sheer exhilaration of swimming below, up and through a million individual fish, the underwater experience just can’t be beaten.

Schooling sardines off Moalboal

In terms of an underwater spectacle, it was right up there for us with the whale sharks and humpback whales we encountered in Western Australia, and the manta rays in Komodo National Park, Indonesia. But the difference here was the sheer density of the marine life on offer.

And that encapsulates how The Philippines have absolutely blown us away since we arrived here. Fabulous diving and snorkelling, stunning coastline scenery, warm and friendly people.

And then there are the sunsets.

We’ve never seen such a nightly light show like here anywhere else on our travels before. It’s as if the warm, smiling faces of the Filipino people are so infectious that they’ve persuaded the sun to order an early evening Margherita, lay back in its celestial hammock and let its golden yellow rays just dissolve into a pink, orange and blue explosion of colours.

Sunset at Siquijor

In fact, everything here seems to be so colourful. From the people themselves, with their big smiles and brightly coloured clothes, to the extravagantly decorated habal-habal motorbike taxis and jeepneys, it’s difficult to resist raising a smile of your own.

Children in Siquijor

We’ve arranged to be in The Philippines for the month of January before we head off to New Zealand during February and March. Don’t worry, we’ve got plenty to write about and lots of photographs to show you. Nicky’s been busy with her Go Pro catching video footage both above and below the water, too.

But we’ve just booked our flights back here at the beginning of April because one month is simply not going to be enough. The place has already touched us and we’re not ready to leave it behind just yet.

Cliff diving in Siquijor

We’ll probably come back to say hello to our favourite shoal of one million fish again, too. I’ll admit, I’m a bit partial to the odd grilled sardine or two, lovingly prepared on the BBQ, along with a nicely chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I even like the occasional lunch of canned sardines on a slice of toast. Things are just going to have to change.

Note to self: try the pilchards instead from now on.

What did you think? Have you been to The Philippines? Did it make such an immediate impact on you, too? Or maybe you’re thinking of visiting sometime soon? Either way, we’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below. Thanks!

Visit our Philippines page for further posts on the country and information on where we stayed.

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