One of the exciting and enticing reasons to be in Central Visayas is the proximity of the idyllic islands where you can hop from one province to the next. The good news is Cebu province recently dispensed with the costly Covid-19 tests to lure visitors as part of its tourism reboot.
With the charming countryside beckoning the lockdown-weary travelers, road trips, church-hopping, beach bumming, and island hopping around the region are back.
Down south in Aloguinsan, tourists are being wooed again to experience its award-winning eco-cultural Bojo River cruise, which was named as among the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations in the World, and Best Community-based Tourism at the Asean Tourism Awards.
Guests are given a grand welcome with a bevy of Visayan folk songs by the local organization, which also prepared the sumptuous native lunch. The 1.4-km cruise is a nirvanic slow paddle on a small banca across the narrow river flanked by lush mangrove forests, with the boatmen themselves as tour guides.
The river winds up at Tanon Strait where visitors can snorkel in the coral-rich area. Alternatively, guests can also opt for a glass bottom boat for a viewing of the reefs beneath the waves and go cove-hopping afterwards.
Further south is Moalboal, a scuba diving hub for locals and foreigners alike because of its numerous and diverse dive sites. A top spot is the “Sardine Run” at Panagsama Beach, where tens of thousands of sardines swirl in a dizzying fluent motion just a few meters below, and can be easily spotted by freedivers and snorkelers.
The town also boasts of a diverse international, local and fusion cuisine due to the presence of foreign divers. Quo Vadis Dive Resort, five-star PADI dive center, which offers a variety of mouthwatering dishes to divers after a plunge into the underwater world and their non-diving family members.
A short drive will take you to Samboan, Cebu’s southern port town which is endowed with a series of waterfalls, a long beach coastline and marine sanctuaries. Aguinid Falls, its top tourist magnet, is a water adventure with its eight levels, icy pools, and lush greeneries which is like an inner sanctum of Mother Nature.
More than the typical falls with its Instagrammable curtain-like cascades, it brings out the inner warrior in you as you manually scale the rocks with voluminous water gushing right into your face. There are three tiers where you have to climb the rocks and step onto the crevices which were chiseled to serve as toeholds.
Just like any challenge, it is a mind game which you can easily achieve if you put your mind into it. Making the adventure more fun are the skillful guides who will give you the physical and moral boost to conquer your fear and make it to the topmost level and head back to the jump-off point.
To the southeastern coast is Oslob, known for its large congregation of whale sharks where guests can swim and interact with them just a hundred meters away from the shore.
The town also takes pride in the 24-hectare Sumilon Island, the country’s first marine sanctuary, which teems with a lush underwater kingdom ideal for diving. Guests are welcomed with a mesmerizing view of a white sandbar with crystalline water and the Cebu landmass.
At its heart is the luxury Bluewater Resort, which boasts of well-appointed hilltop villas and seaside units, recreational amenities, a lagoon for kayaking and pedal boats, several swimming pools, and a tropical-themed beachfront restaurant and bar.
Outdoor lovers can trek the jungle trail across the lush foliage which winds up at the hilltop lighthouse and ruins of a baluarte, which forms part of a network of coastal watchtowers.
During the dry months, visitors can rough it out and sleep under the stars in the glamping tents. The resort also welcomes day tour packages which include boat transfers, use of facilities, and a buffet lunch.
To address safety concerns, the resort is implementing its BlueCARES protocols which include hospital-grade health standards, a measure which earned it the nod of the prestigious World Travel and Tourism Council and the Department of Tourism.
Oslob is also a heritage town, with its Spanish-era historic block consisting of the Immaculate Conception Church, the ruins of a military barracks, a municipal museum, and a baluarte.
Across Tanon Strait is the port town of San Jose, Negros Oriental’s gateway for motorists coming from Cebu. Proudly standing on a roadside cliff like a sentinel is Wuthering Heights, a quaint boutique lodging which has been the most recognizable structure since the 1980s.
Inspired by the 1847 novel by Emily Brontë, its claim to fame is its breathtaking seaside scenery, manicured gardens, and crashing waves kissing the cliffs which are reminiscent of the book’s British setting. Sporting a nostalgic look, the hotel seems to take you back in time with its period architecture and is a choice spot of writers who derive inspiration from its spectacular views from dawn till dusk.
Image courtesy of Bernard L. Supetran