The Philippines, an archipelagic country facing the Pacific, never runs out of ways to surprise the curious and the wandering. My home island Cebu, for example, has piqued the interest of fellow Filipinos and foreign travelers alike for its incredible and jaw-dropping underwater ecosystem. On top of my list, regardless of how popular it is, is Moalboal Sardine Run. I’ve witnessed it countless times already, but it does not fail to fascinate me. In this guide, I swim you through, pun intended, the best time, the best months, and everything you need to know about the Sardine Run in Moalboal.
It should have been called Sardine Swim. Joke. Sardine Run is a sardine bait ball. A what-now? A bait ball is a large school of small fish that assembles in an area to avoid being eaten by predators.
The sardine run in Moalboal is the second largest in the world, and South Africa takes the first spot. But what Moalboal lacks in size, it makes up for in accessibility and experience.
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I’m not done with my lousy jokes yet. Unlike Oslob’s whale sharks, the sardines are not fed at all and are in their natural habitat. The good thing about this area is that it is a Marine Protected Area, which means that the area is well taken care of, and the sardines are not in danger of being overfished. Sometimes you can see locals angling for a quick kinilaw or tinuwa or in-unan—the most basic recipes for fresh catch like sardine.
Locally sardines is called tamban and tuloy, depending which part of Cebu you grew up. I grew up in midwest, so we called it tuloy. Southern Cebu, where Moalboal is located, they call it tamban most likely.
I got a joke, a very Bisaya/Filipino joke about sardines.
Who is there?
Tuloy po kayo!
Go, ask a Bisaya about it. It is a very wholesome joke, so no worries.
The sardine run is located in front of Panagsama Beach in Moalboal, Cebu. If you check Google Maps, it is right in front of Savedra Dive Center. Depending on the tide and your swimming skills, it does not take much to swim where they are.
You can also spot to the right of Marina’s kiosk. This part sometimes has turtles showing up.
You do not mind sharing the millions of sardines with other tourists? Or do you want to avoid the crowd and enjoy their company alone? I would recommend going on a weekday. The sardines are more active in the morning, but you can still see them at noon. If you want to see several lionfish in the house reef, I suggest going for a snorkel by 5 pm. There is a lot less traffic in the water.
Regardless, they are there, all year round, rain and shine. So you will not miss them at all.
Panagsama Beach is home to a number of beach resorts, which offer stunning views of the ocean and plenty of amenities to make your stay comfortable. I highly recommend this area especially if you wanna be near to all the best restaurants and actions. Here are some of the best beach resorts in Panagsama Beach, Moalboal
1. Pescadores Suites Moalboal
2. Il Sogno Resort
3. Quo Vadis Dive Resort
4. West Coast Beach House
5. Harman Suites Moalboal
6. Tipolo Beach Resort
7. Dolphin House Resort Spa Diving
8. Sumisid Lodge
9. Moalboal T Breeze
The sardines are there all year round, but the best months to witness them are during the dry season, which means fewer chances of maddeningly dangerous typhoons. The best months are from November til May. The water is at its calmest and clearest during these months because it’s dry season in the Philippines. Fun fact: Did you know that sardines are actually herring? Yeah, I didn’t either.
The best thing about this natural wonder is that it is free! You only need to pay for your transportation and accommodation. Of course, if you’re planning on diving, you also need to pay for that.
But if you are not a good swimmer, it might be best that you take a boat tour. The guides will bring you to the best spots where you can see the sardines up close, and you can approach the countless dive shops dotting Panagsama Beach.
If you want someone to take your photos, I believe some guides do it for an additional fee.
Another way of experiencing the Moalboal Sardine Run is through scuba-diving. Of course it is not cheap, but if money is not an issue for you, you can ask about Discover Scuba Diving in the dive centers. You do not need to have a diving license to explore Panagsama’s house reef. You just need to have 2500php and guts.
If you’re not into swimming with the sardines, or if you’ve seen enough of them, don’t worry because there’s plenty more to do in Moalboal. You can go cliff jumping, canyoneering, visit waterfalls, beach hopping, or go hiking.
Definitely. Panagsama Beach is the most popular beach in Moalboal, so you can expect a lot of restaurants to choose from.
The easiest and most popular way is by taking a bus at South Bus Terminal. You can choose between Ceres Liner or Sunshine Bus, and the trip takes about three hours and costs around PHP 150-200.
Ceres Liner has air-conditioned buses that leave every hour from 05:00 to 18:00. Sunshine Bus also leaves every hour but only from 06:00 to 17:00.
Check our detailed guide on how to get from Cebu City to Moalboal
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