So over the last 4years I have extensively travelled around the world and especially around South East Asia. My latest South East Asian destination was the beautiful Philippines, a country split up into 7,000 islands all extremely different to each other, each satisfying every type of traveller, holiday maker and tourist.
Below is my Top 10 places to tick off when in The Philippines... and a true reflection on the best places to go... NOT the places that all Social Influencers unfairly rave about.
10. Salagdoong Cliff Jump - Siquijor Island
Might as wel start with something that will get your heart pumping. Salagdoong Beach Resort, Siquijor, Entrace fee of 20P (30p) to get you into the resort for the day where you've got crystal blue waters to snorkel, kayak, inflatable swan about and the main attraction...
The Cliff Jump
There is a little island between to the two beaches at the resort with 2 varying heights to seperate the boys from the men. The smaller one is about 8m high and then you come to the big boy at 10m, those 2m don't sound much but they certainly do when you get to the top. JUST DO IT!!!
Tommie Tip - for a good photo, make sure you jump up and out, don't just step down.
9. Hot springs - Coron
Now for something to make you relax and chill. 15minutes south from Coron Town, on a nightmare of a dusty road on a moped you have the Hot Springs that run along side the beaches. With Philippines located in the deadly "Ring of Fire", an area of South East Asia prone to earthquakes and tsunami's due to the tectonic plate formations. The country has an abundance of Active Volcanos, a plus side of this is the hot springs and Coron has nailed it at these hot springs. Entrance fee of 200P (£2.80), bloody steep for Philippines. 4 pools of 40+ degree waters for you to chill and relax. I personally wouldn't plan a for day here maybe an hour or so but definitely worth a visit.
8. Tour A Boat Trip - El Nido
If I'm honest, El Nido in general was a bit of a disappoint for me. You get all these instagrammers and travel bloggers praising El Nido to the high Heavens but the place itself didn't match the rest of the Phillipines to be honest. I guess with the massive boom in tourism the locals are probably getting sick and tired of all the tourists whereas other areas in the Philippines are still welcoming tourists and enjoying the benefits of extra business.Apart from this the Tour A boat trip definitely makes it into my Top 10, the locations, the dramatic landscape of the islands and the colours of the waters make it too incredible to not put it in.
When you get to El Nido you will see everywhere is selling the same boat trips... Tour A, B, C, D, we got recommended to do Tour A by a lot of people as it is the cheapest (800P(£12)) and ticks off all the main sites you'd want to see. Tour A includes; 7mission beach, which to be honest they could really skip out or do it last as it's way too busy as I believe it's the first stop for all boats, The Secret Lagoon, or as I like to call it The Not So Secret Lagoon, there was a queue of 100 people to get in but the beach in which you dock up onto is unreal, you feel like you are stuck halfway between the films The Beach and Jurassic Park, The Small Lagoon, the waters here are so crystal clear, you can hire 2man kayaks at this spot for 300P so you can kayak into the lagoon and also The Big Lagoon, you have probably seen photos of this places whenever you see Philippines Advertised, and finally the food is all catered for and it is amazing, full on buffet style spread of local and western foods.
Tommie Tip - Clean everything thoroughly in El Nido, the place is well known for tourists getting ill from the water, even with the water you clean your teeth with. Go get bottled water to be safe.
7. Secret Sunset Beach - Alona Beach, Alona Beach
The Philippines is famous for their incredible sunsets, although I must admit I was a bit scepticle that they would be the best I have ever seen... but true to their fame they were. Hands down from my point of view The Philippino sunsets are just out of this world and their is some stuff competition from other countries.
The best location took me an age to find. You can't see the sunset when on Alona Beach, well you can but you don't get that wow effect. Also If you go to the end of Alona Beach beach towards the sunset the beach get cut of by aload of rocks and you can't get round. So I was searching for hours as I was sure you'd be able to get see the sunset on Panglao but I just couldn't find a way through the palm trees and then one place I got to and it was just mud and mangroves and then finally found it. If you get a moped or tricycle and follow the map below... you come to a dead end, some family houses and 1 dive shop where you can squeeze through a little alley way which comes out onto the most perfect location for sunset.
Tommie Tip - The best colours come out after the sun has gone down so be patient, don't shoot off.
Secret location ... from Alona Beach
6. Julie's bakeshop - Cebu
Now we are talking... get me some food. The Filipino people absolutely LOVE DA BREAD, there are bakeries and delis absolutely everywhere across all the islands. My favourite and the best as I tried pretty much every bakery on the islands was JULIE'S Bakeshop... Oh my lord!! They have all the things you aren't allowed to eat when you are trying to slim down for those beach body photos and for pennies. It is like torture but you have to give in and get what you want. They have cinnamon buns, chocolate fudge cake, donuts, ube bread, Victoria sponge, you name it it's like a Gregg's on Sweet Steriods and all of the cakes and buns are about 5P (7p) each. So load yourself and treat yourself, just make sure you do a few more press ups and an crunch's before you get those beach photos.
Tommie Tip - Oh my god get the cinnamon buns, and bring me back 2000 please.
5. Hinagdagan Cave - Panglao Island, Bohol
With the landscape of the country being very volcanic and mountainous, it holds a lot of weird and wonderful places, one being Hinagadagan Cave. Located a 30min moped drive from Alona Beach on the north side of Panglao Island, the cave hosts a secret underground swimming pool that resembles something from the film The Abyss. Ofcourse there's an entrance fee, only 75P and you have to pay an extra 50P if you want to go swimming.
When you first jump in, it is most certainly quite errie as you think some monster may grab you from the shadows but once your in and the underwater lights calm you, you can see how clear the water is. It is definitely worth it, gives your trip a good bit of variety other than just beautiful beaches and palm trees.
4. Tumalog Falls - Oslob
Tumalog Falls is by far one of the best attractions in Oslob. It most certainly gets overshadowed by the famous whale watching and heard it gets missed out of a lot of travellers intineries.
We have both visited a lot of waterfalls throughout our travels and this has to be one of the best!
If you google the Falls now you will be amazed at the colour of the water, the photos do not lie, the water is really that colour!!
I would recommend hiring a moped as it will be a lot cheaper and a lot less hassle! The entrance fee is only 20P and is open until 5pm! When you get there you have to park up and then you have the option to walk down a very steep hill or get a cheap lift by a local on the back of their bike. On the way down completely up to you, coming back you would be an idiot to walk.
Tommie Tip - Pay got the lift back up!
3. The Highlights Tour - Coron
By far the best boat trip I have been on in all my travel in South East Asia, it has everything.
We decided to go on The Coron Highlights Tour, from recommendations from friends and consists of 6 stops around the Islands surrounding Coron town.
The Tour costs us 1,400P each and included pick up to the Port, A fantastic Tour Guide, Entrance Fees, drinks, snacks and an absolutely banging buffet lunch at the most paradise location as well as snorkel gear which is always a big bonus!!! Just like El Nido all of the travel agencies all do the same tours and are all around the same price, just up to you how much you want to haggle them down.
The Highlight tour we were on visited these islands & lakes.
There's about a 30min ride from each stop, we were lucky to have a perfect day and the sea was calm as anything. This helped with the snorkelling especially at Siete Pescados, some of the clearest waters I have snorkelled in with so many different fish.
Kayangan Lake and Twin Lagoon, I'm sure you would seen photos of these across social media. There's no point me even describing the places to you, instead I'll just show you some photos as they are incredible.
The formation of the rocks around the island and lakes are pretty scary, they are all sharp and spear shaped that surround the lakes like you are trapped in a prison of paradise.
The place where we stopped for lunch can only be described as something from a dream, a tiny white sanded beach, clearest blue waters and a wooden hut. Again the food is to die for too.
Tommie Tip - At Kayangan Lake go round the right wooden pathway and continue round the broken path and you can get a sick photo if you swim 10m to the old hut that looks over the lake.
2. Kawasan Falls - Moaboal
This is a day out in itself! Again we hired a moped which roughly took us around 50 mins from Moaboal centre, a pretty amazing ride too down the west coast of Cebu Island. After Parking the moped we had to walk a good 30 mins through Palm Trees after palm trees and along the bluest Greeny river. By this point we had been in Philippines for 3weeks and we were so use to the incredible colours of the waters in Philippines but if you were to do this first you would have been blown away.
You will hear the falls getting closer and then you'll come to the famous bamboo rafts, a massive waterfall, those turquoise waters and parasails that you'd find on a beach in Majorca. These parasails are for the cafe at the bottom but it did tickle me when I first saw them. Everyone stays on the cafe side to take photos but if you climb to the other side of the bamboo rafts on the right you can get some great shots of the falls without anyone ruining the photo.
Behind the cafe there's a staircase, you will probably see loads of people who are on the canyoneering tours coming down, if you go up those stairs you can do some of the last big jumps on the tours. About a 5-10min walk you will get to another massive waterfalls where the tours do the BIG JUMP, a 8-9m high jump into the bottom of the waterfall. You can get there if you follow the small mud track on the right if you are at the bottom of the falls.
The jump is incredible and the water is very deep so you don't have to worry even if you don't have a life jacket on like all the tours do.
Tommie Tip - if you swim behind the tour groups at the top of the Big Jump, you can climb a little higher to the right side of the top of the falls to get those juices flowing.
1. Sardine Run - Moalboal
One my big Tommie Travels Number 1 highlights of the Philippines is Moalboal's Sardine Run. I can honestly say this is one of the best experiences I've ever done... and it's FREE!! The Sardine run which can be experienced in apparently only 2 places in the whole world, the other being in South Africa and in Moalboal just off Panagsama beach just a 20-minute trike ride from Moalboal town. You can just walk out in the sea 5-10m and see the sardines but if you grab a snorkel and mask and swim out to the reef drop-off, about 30 meters from shore, where the sea floor goes from 5m as deep as 70m in some places, this where you can watch the huge army of sardines.
I still to this day can't believe how many we saw, millions upon millions of sardines all shimmering in the sunlight and moving in perfect harmony like a well choreographed dance. Once out there you will also see larger fish trying to catch them, leaping out of the water whilst the whole army move together at once to dodge the attack. I must add it was a bit of an obstical dodging the Jelly Fish but please don't let that put you off! The jelly fish are usually in the shallower waters, so another reason to swim out further. Although the jelly fish do have their advantages being there... TURTLES, huge turtles feed on jelly fish and you will see loads at Panagsama beach for this reason. We saw about 8turtles during our hour or so snorkelling with the sardines.
You won't regret this experience... you will feel like you are David Attenborough!!