Entries Tagged as 'By Water'
Monday, August 11, 2014
Friday, August 8, 2014
We get back in the car and our patron saint, driver and guide to peak life experiences, Rodi, inquires as to whether we would now like to go to the “white sands beaches.” We nod, then fall asleep. We wake up driving down teeny tiny gravel roads between houses and shops and food stalls. We get asked to pay a toll to go down the beach road. Then just two minutes down the road, a group of men stop our car and ask us to pay again. By this point we’ve all had it. We are all well-traveled and quite comfortable taking a hard stance on bribes or at least knowing when the request is utterly ridiculous, unenforceable and inconsequential. We say no, tell them we are going to a local resort and drive on. Eventually we land at the Dolphin Inn and situate ourselves at a table just next to the water. I order a coconut and chili king prawns. We sunbathe and eat and drink and nap. We get snorkels and swim out into the water. There are fish of every color. I see a white puffer fish, blue velvet starfish, red pointy starfish, urchins, a sea horse, a five foot long sea snake, anemones, and a giant clam. There is coral of every imaginable variety. In keeping with the “utterly surreal experiences” theme of the day, we come to find out that this is one of the premier diving spots in the world. We laugh and shake our heads – what ridiculously good luck.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Entirely blissed out after swimming with whale sharks, we get back in the car and Rodi says, “ma’am, sirs, you would like to see a waterfall now?” The answer is an obvious yes. I saw a sign for a waterfall as we drove into Oslob and I remembered reading on Trip Advisor about some nearby falls that could round out a day trip itinerary to Oslob from Cebu City. I didn’t remember the pictures being particularly impressive, but I am never one to turn down waterfalls.
A few minutes down the road I realize we have turned and are driving away from the falls. Suddenly I am very, very excited. I ask Rodi if we are going to the falls with the bamboo mats, he nods. Doing a bit of trip research on Pinterest I came across an image of Kawasan Falls. Situated on the opposite side of the island from where we are staying, I write it off as something that isn’t going to happen on this trip. Our time for leisure is short and the priority is whale shark spotting. Rodi notifies us that it is nearly two hours away, but he doesn’t mind driving.
We open packages of dried mango and coconut and pass them back and forth. Time passes easily as we wind our way up the coast through the vibrant green landscape. We pull into a church parking lot, pay 100 pesos to park and are immediately swarmed by “guides.” Rode says that he will be our guide and we proceed to walk down a trail for about a kilometer. The trail was a horticulturists dream. As a fern lover I could not believe what I was seeing. It was like strolling through the tropical plant section of my local nursery: maidenhair ferns, croton, bougainvillea, birds of paradise, palms. A bridge crosses the water and a few little boys are playing on a rope swing.
We arrive at the falls and they are utterly surreal. The water is an almost milky blue and there is a large bamboo mat empty and waiting for us. We pay 300 pesos to rent the raft and three men use ropes tied across the pool to pull us into, under and behind the falls. The water is freezing cold – I mean take your breath away cold. We lie down on our bellies and the water pours down on our backs. The pressure is intense, like a human car wash and I come out on the other side feeling slightly battered with hair covering and plastered to my face. We laugh and do it again.
We get back to shore and are harassed for an additional 300 pesos for each of the men who were “guiding” us on the raft. We are all vaguely irritated, but hand over the cash utterly disinterested in engaging any further with the fact that we are getting taken advantage of. The day had just been too good to worry about getting ripped off for $5.
Monday, August 4, 2014
We leave the hotel at 5:06am. Our driver is a shy young guy named Rodi. He’s arrives at the hotel early and I’m a bit surprised that he’s already outside waiting for us as soon as we’re ready to go. Rodi is wearing a bright yellow polo shirt and heavily starched white pants with a well-defined pleat down the front. He’s clean cut and reserved, and we spend our first thirty minutes in the car snaking our way out of Cebu City through dark back roads. The only other people outside at that hour are runners and cyclists. We are groggy and quiet. Out of the corner of my eye I see a Harrod’s department store and I think of the last time I was in London – delayed for 12 hours at Heathrow, a visit to the iconic establishment was in order.
Out of the city, we drive through an industrial district and as we pass the port the sun starts to peek up over the horizon. By 6:00 the radio is on and we are chatting. I munch on some corn flakes that I picked up at the grocery store the day before. We pass through the suburbs, then the landscape changes dramatically. Dense urban areas give way to lush green banana leaves and palm fronds. We wind our way down the coast and just before 8:00 we arrive in Oslob at the aptly named “Whale Shark Briefing Center.”
There are a lot of people milling about and I start to question whether this is going to be the serene underwater experience I had hoped for. The sand is covered with tumbled pieces of white coral reflecting the sun. As my nephew would say, it is so shiny outside. Bright orange life jackets hang across the ledge of the open air Briefing Center; I notice the contrast of the bright white sunlight and sand and blue water. We sign in, then sit down in front of a big diagram of the ocean, canoes and a whale shark. We are told not to try to ride the whale sharks or to wear sunscreen in the water. Eager pupils that we are, we ask if any whale sharks have been spotted so far that morning and the instructor looks at us incredulously (what a stupid question) and nods.
We rent underwater cameras and then we are led to a canoe. The canoes are loaded down with tourists, but somehow my colleague and I get our own boat. Two guides paddle us out into the water for no more than two minutes. We can’t be more than a hundred feet offshore, but we stop. The guide points at what looks like a big shadow about fifteen feet from us and says very matter-of-factly, “There it is. Jump in.” I am in shock that the whale shark is just right there, I mean literally right there, and so I do as I’m told and I jump in.
The guides jump in right behind us, take our cameras and say, “Please dive down ma’am. Okay, one more time, please ma’am, thank you.” The guides are relentlessly committed to getting the perfect shot. I keep diving down swimming by the creature’s fins, feeling the water moved by his giant tail. I watch his mouth open and close in search of food.
There’s a school of fish around the whale shark’s tail and a few larger fish swimming under his belly. I look down and see a group of scuba divers near the ocean floor about thirty feet below. My skin and the whale shark’s skin are marbled in rays of sunlight. I dive down and swim beside this biggest fish of sea, following his tail through the water. His movements are slow and graceful. I come up for air and the whale shark comes up to feed on crill near the surface. I tread water watching him swim along.
We swim around for 30 minutes or so. It’s utterly surreal – the entire time I cannot believe what I am seeing. Two more whale sharks come by. I felt the urge to wipe my eyes to verify that what I was seeing was actually a reality. On a total high we climb back into the boat and paddle ashore. We sit at a nearby beach cafe and take it all in. We acknowledge how absurd the whole experience is and then proceed to rehash every detail. All of our sentences start with “can you believe that…”
And, quite honestly, I kind of can’t.
Friday, August 1, 2014
From the time I boarded the plane on my way to the Philippines, I was dead set on swimming with whale sharks. I had no idea where the whale sharks were or where one could go about swimming with them, but I was wholly committed. First, we were told we could see the whale sharks in Butanding. Ends up that Butanding is not a place, it’s the Tagalog word for whale shark, so for a few days I sounded like an idiot asking local folks how to get to Butanding. In the end, we figured out that we could see whale sharks at the southern end of the island of Cebu in a place called Oslob. Lucky for us, we had a wide open Saturday to make it happen.
Monday, July 7, 2014
After being gone for the month of June, an extended holiday weekend at home was such a gift. We watched dolphins on stand up paddleboards, grilled out, sipped rosé and ate fish tacos. We enjoyed a family beach day with one very happy, very sandy puppy and even managed to work in an inaugural marathon training season long run.
We met friends for orange crushes on Thursday night and got stranded on beach cruisers in a torrential downpour and hurricane force winds as Hurricane Arthur rolled onshore. We arrived home sopping wet, shivering, pointing at one another and belly laughing. Fortunately, this was the extent of Arthur’s effect on the weekend. Happy birthday America!
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Monday, June 23, 2014
Friday, October 18, 2013
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
We spent a blissful four days at on the eastern shore celebrating our anniversary. The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay has become our favorite regional retreat. Mornings started early with bottomless cups of coffee in the restaurant’s all glass sunroom. We had to work while we were there, so our days were spent poolside, laptops open on adjacent chaise lounges in the shade of a big umbrella. At night we ventured into Cambridge to eat crab pizza, then came back to the hotel to sip red wine and roast s’mores in the giant stone fireplace.