The Philippines has its fair share of incredible underwater experiences, but it doesn’t get much more insane than swimming with millions of sardines in Moalboal. The epic Moalboal sardine run is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one of the best South Cebu tourist spots that you need to add to your bucket list.
Having visited this Cebu tourist attraction many times ourselves, we’ll explain how you can experience the Moalboal sardine run FOR FREE, as well as what to bring and what to expect.
WHERE IS THE MOALBOAL SARDINE RUN
This is what makes the Moalboal sardine run so special. It’s literally just a stone’s throw from the shoreline of Panagsama Beach. On any given day year-round, they’ll be right there in front of Savedra Beach Resort. In fact, they even have their own Google Maps location.
HOW MUCH DOES THE MOALBOAL SARDINE RUN COST
The amazing thing about the Moalboal sardine run is that it’s completely FREE if you have your own mask. All you have to do is head down to the beach, grab your mask and snorkel and swim out to around 30 metres. From there you’ll be free to swim with the school to your heart’s content.
If you’re not sure about going it alone, then you can always book a tour with a dive company. A lot of people will book a combined tour with Pescador Island, which is what we did through Quo Vadis Dive Resort. After diving at Pescador, we took the boat straight to the sardine run and jumped right in. You can also book ahead online with GetYourGuide for a hassle-free tour.
WHAT TO BRING TO THE MOALBOAL SARDINE RUN
Prepare for the Moalboal sardine run with our must-have travel essentials.
Waterproof backpack & phone case: Earth Pak 35L or 55L Heavy Duty Backpack, IPX8 Waterproof Phone Case Included (click for price)
Quick dry microfiber travel towel: Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Travel Towel (click for price)
Action camera: GoPro HERO9 Black (click for price)
GoPro dome: TELESIN Dome Port Lens for GoPro Hero 9 (click for price)
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WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE MOALBOAL SARDINE RUN
Nothing prepares you for the sheer volume of sardines. It’s estimated there are some 5 – 10 million sardines, but that’s as close a number as can be pinpointed by researchers who were tasked with counting the Moalboal sardine run.
The shape of the Moalboal sardine run is constantly changing; sometimes the school is long and wispy, other times it appears as a solid ball or mass. The appearance also changes depending on the light which reflects off their shiny bodies.
A common misconception is that you have to scuba dive to get the best sardine run show. This is definitely not the case! Snorkelling will suffice, as the sardines actually like to hang out around the surface. However, if you do scuba or free dive, expect a completely different perspective. The beauty of scuba diving is that you can hang out below the school and watch them as they dance and dart around in a mesmerising display above you.
One thing to be mindful of, particularly if you’re snorkelling or swimming just below the surface, are jellyfish. If you’re wearing a wetsuit, you’re covered (literally), but if you’re just in a bikini or boardshorts you’re in for a treat. The good thing is that the jellyfish here aren’t excruciating or deadly, but they’re definitely unpleasant. Have some vinegar handy, and no, using pee to treat a jellyfish sting doesn’t actually work.
Aside from sardines, we also made a turtle friend! He wasn’t paying the sardines any attention and was doing us a favour by eating the jellyfish! Turtles are very common in the waters of Moalboal and this guy was, in fact, the second turtle we saw that day. The first was out at Pescador Island earlier that morning.
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WHERE TO STAY IN SOUTH CEBU
Southern Cebu is where all the adventure is at, from waterfalls and whale sharks to island hopping and diving. When visiting anywhere in the south, the best place to stay is Moalboal. It has the most accommodation options, and is a fun little town with dozens of cafes, restaurants and bars. Check out our top four picks below for where to stay in Moalboal.
BUDGET/HOSTEL: CHIEF MAU
Right on the main strip of Panagsama Road you’ll find Chief Mau, a fun and social hostel that dubs itself the chillest place in town. Clean, modern and affordable, boasting a restaurant, bar and billiards, Chief Mau is a favourite amongst backpackers
MIDSCALE: ADAM’S VIEW HOTEL
Simple but with all the amenities and facilities you need – including a massive pool – Adam’s View Hotel is our top pick for those looking for a little more luxury than a backpackers. Located in the main town, Adam’s View Hotel is right next to Gaisano Mall, but still close enough to the action of Panagsama Beach to remain convenient.
LUXURY: TURTLE BAY DIVE RESORT
If you have deep pockets and an appreciation for the finer things in life, Turtle Bay Dive Resort is the place for you. Tucked away on a private cove in the quieter part of town, this luxury resort is perfect for couples looking for a little exclusivity.
AIRBNB: LRS APARTMENT
We can personally attest to how great LRS Apartment is, having spent two weeks there. Aside from a beautiful private pool, the apartment itself is modern, well furnished and spacious enough for a couple. (And a cat!) It’s just a 5 minute drive from the hustle and bustle of the restaurants and bars along Panagsama Road, but far enough away to offer a little peace and quiet. We can’t recommend LRS Moalboal enough!
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