Scuba diving guide The Sardine Run - Moalboal: Best diving centers, liveaboards, dive sites and recommendations

Swimming and snorkeling between thousands of Sardines just in front of Moalboal, the Philippines

One of the best experiences you shouldn’t miss when visiting the Philippines is the great sardine run in Moalboal, Cebu. Every year, thousands of people visit Moalboal to experience this fascinating marine phenomenon. Below, you will find more information on the Sardine Run, best diving centers and recommendations.

Recommendations for the Sardine Run Moalboal

We highly recommend renting or buying snorkeling gear and visit the Sardine Run Moalboal from the beach. This option is free as you can just bring your snorkeling gear and see the Sardine Run in Moalboal.

If you would like to experience the Sardine Run in Moalboal while diving, we recommend to book with Cebu Diving Centre or Savedra Dive Center as they have the best reviews from divers around the world. They also have complete information on their websites, including the rates, courses, equipment, dive packages, and island tours.

To experience the best of Sardine Run in Moalboal, we also recommend visiting Moalboal between the months November and May. These months belong to the dry season on the island when there is a low chance of a typhoon. By visiting Moalboal in these months, you can enjoy not only the sardine run, but also the beautiful Panagsama Beach and other dive sites in Moalboal.

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Scuba diving gear included
Nitrox available
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Scuba diving beginners course
Price for the scuba diving beginners course
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Cebu Dive Centre

PHP 800 (shore), 900 (boat)
PHP 4,500 for a 5 dive package
N.A.
PADI
PHP 16,500
Refreshments on the boat are available and included in the price
Accommodation available, rental of scuba gear, airport transfers

Savedra Dive Center

PHP 1,100 (shore), 1,300 (boat)
PHP 6,175 for a 5 dive package
Starting from PHP 20,000
14
PADI
PHP 18,000
N.A.
Technical dive courses available, airport transfers, rental of scuba gear

Cebu Fun Divers

PHP 1,100 (shore), 1,300 (boat)
PHP 6,175 for a 5 dive package
Starting from PHP 47,500
PADI
PHP 18,000
On liveaboards, food is included (Filipino and Western food, served with tropical fruit)
Accommodation available, rental of scuba gear, airport transfers

SeaQuest Dive Center

PHP 1,750
PHP 8,400 for a 5 dive package
N.A.
PADI
PHP 19,750
N.A.
Rental of scuba gear, accommodation available, house reef

Diving centers - the Sardine Run in Moalboal

Panagsama Beach in Moalboal Cebu has plenty of dive centers that will help you experience the best of sardine run by scuba diving. Based on customer reviews, ratings and our experiences, we have summarized the best diving centers below. 

Diving Center 1: Cebu Dive Centre

Cebu Dive Centre is one of the most popular and top-rated Sardine Run Moalboal diving operators. Most reviewers call it “the best dive team they ever met”. Besides prices for single dives, Cebu Dive Centre also offers dive packages: 5 dive and 10 dive packages. Both include standard diving equipment plus refreshments on the boat. This dive center also offers transfer service to and from the airport and if you don’t have accommodation yet, you can check out their available rooms.

If you would like to experience the Sardine Run in Moalboal while diving, you can book a shore dive. 

Prices

You can avail of the 5 dive package from Cebu Dive Centre for P4,500 ($92.5) or the 10 dive package for $8,500 ($174.7). Single boat dive for P950 ($19.5), shore dive for P800 ($16.4), and a night dive for P1,100 ($22.6) are also good options.

Courses

You can learn the basics of recreational scuba diving (the PADI Discover Scuba Diving course) in a swimming pool with Cebu Dive Centre for just P3,000 ($61.7). If you would like to get your diving licence, the Padi Open Water Course with Cebu Diving Centre costs P16,500 ($339.2). If you would like to Go Pro, Cebu Diving Centre offers the PADI Divemaster course from P45,000.

Diving Center 2: Savedra Dive Center

Savedra Dive Center is one of the largest dive centers in the Philippines and offers a 6-day Dive Safari at the best dive spots in the Visayan archipelago. In Moalboal, this dive center also owns beach resorts and a wide selection of accommodation that fits all budgets.

The Savedra Dive Center itself is located at the beachfront of Panagsama Island and offers single sessions and varying boat dive and nitrox dive packages (5,10, and 15). The dive center also conducts diving courses for beginner, advanced, and technical levels with affordable prices, not to mention the PADI Divemaster course for future rescue divers. Gears for all types of diving are also available for rent and purchase in the center.

Prices

Savedra offers complete dive package deals that include dive sessions, accommodation, transfers, breakfast, and marine park fees to make your Pescador Island diving trip convenient. A 4 days/3 nights with 5 dives package costs P13,100 ($269.3) only, while a 7 days/6 nights package with 10 boat dives costs P21,500 ($442). There’s also a package of 20 boat dives with 14 days/13 nights beach resort accommodation for P40,327 ($829).

You can also do a single boat dive for just P1,300 ($26.7), shore dive for P1,100 ($22.6), and night dive for P1,500 ($30.8).

Courses

For recreational diving, Savedra Dive Center offers a PADI introductory course for P3,500 ($72) and an open water course for P18,000 ($370). You can also take a rescue diver course for P19,600 ($402.9), and a nitrox diver course for P9,000 ($185).

There are also PADI technical courses starting at P22,000, PADI professional courses (including the IDC) from P22,500, and TDI Tech Diving course starting at P12,000.

Diving Center 3: Cebu Fun Divers

Cebu Fun Divers is a 5-star PADI dive center and is situated in the Cebu Seaview Dive Resort, a great seafront location overlooking the waters of Tanon Strait.

Aside from the Sardine Run diving, Cebu Fun Divers also offers transfer service, PADI dive courses, snorkeling, and free pick-up service from hotels and beach resorts within the Moalboal area. The dive instructors are well-reviewed and top-rated by divers from around the world, and it’s no wonder. That’s because aside from English, the instructors can also teach in German and French.

Prices

For single dives, Cebu Fun Divers’ rates are P1,100 ($22.6) for shore dive, P1,300 ($26.7) for boat dive, and P1,500 ($30.8) for a night dive. Packages include 5, 10, and 20 dive packages that cost P6,175 (126.9), P11,700 ($240.5), and P22,100 ($454.3) respectively.

The dive center also offers Nitrox diving packages that cost P7,362.50 ($151.3) for 5 dives, P13,950 ($286.75) for 10 dives, and P26,350 (541.6) for 20 dives.

Courses

Teaching PADI diving is another specialty of Cebu Fun Divers. The introductory and review/reactivation courses are priced at P3,500 (71.9) each. If you want to get your PADI Open Water certificate, this course costs P18,000 ($370). The PADI advanced course costs P14,800 ($304.2).

Diving Center 4: SeaQuest Dive Center

SeaQuest Dive Center is one of the oldest dive centers not just in Moalboal but the entire Visayas archipelago. Open since 1991, this dive center offers great experience in Diving around Moalboal. The center can give a full-service diving experience in Moalboal Cebu that includes fun dives, island hopping, complete scuba gear rental and PADI courses.

Based on the reviews, customers experienced excellent services from divemasters of SeaQuest. The staff is very friendly and helpful. SeaQuest also offers the diving course in different languages.

Prices

Seaquest is one of the dive centers that offer affordable dive rates. It offers packages from 5 to 30 dives, with the 5-dive package costing P8,400 ($172.7) and the 30-dive package at P43,000 ($883.9). Single boat dive is also available for just P1,750 ($36), while a night dive costs P1,950 ($40).

Courses

Dive learners can polish their skills with SeaQuest’s different PADI dive courses, including Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver, and PADI Divemaster courses. The center also offers PADI Freediver courses for beginners (P12,000/$246.7), advanced (P15,000/$308.3) and for professionals (P18,000/$370).

What is Sardine Run Moalboal?

Moalboal in Cebu is known to be one of the best areas for marine life in the Philippines! Sardine Run in Moalboal is considered to be the second-largest run in the world where thousands of sardines in each school can be found. It's a year-round natural phenomenon just off the shore at Panagsama Beach, where sardines make their way from the deep to feed on plankton.

The Sardine Run here is a natural activity, and it's completely ethical — they aren't fed by humans or rounded up in any way for tourists. Because of this, tourism in Moalboal Cebu is progressing, and the locals have adopted this lifestyle.

The Sardine Run Moalboal is a crazy once in a lifetime experience. The water temperature around 27°C – 30°C and the sardines can be found in Moalboal 365 days a year. As soon as you jump into the ocean, you will see thousands of little sardines moving around you.

You can swim in and out of the schools, and the sardines will disperse and then gather back together again. If you're not comfortable in the ocean, it can be a little intimidating, but there is absolutely nothing to worry about because the sardines are entirely harmless.

Option 1: The free option - snorkeling between the sardines

The Sardine Run Moalboal is something you can see and experience for free. Just bring your snorkelling or free-diving gear and you’re good to go. If you swim 20-30 meters from the shore at Panagsama Beach, the reef drops off dramatically, as deep as 70 meters. You can watch the massive cloud of sardines here, creating different shapes and forms against the backdrop of the spectacular reef wall.

Option 2: Scuba diving - Watching the Sardine Run from below

Watching the Sardine Run while snorkeling is totally different compared with what you’ll experience while scuba diving. If you want to swim with the large school of sardine or take amazing photos of the sardine run, then scuba diving is your best bet. Note that this option will be not free and your time between the sardines will be limited (due to the diving time limitations). However, the view of the sardine run from below is stunning.

Best time to visit the Sardine Run Moalboal

Cebu has two main seasons — dry season (December – June) and wet season (June – December).

Although the Sardine Run Moalboal is available year-round and you can swim with the school of sardine while raining, the best time to experience the Sardine Run is in the dry season (December - June). The months of November to May provide the best visibility and weather conditions.

How to Get to the Sardine Run in Moalboal

Moalboal is a municipality at the south-western tip of Cebu Island. To reach Cebu Island by airplane, you can fly directly to Mactan-Cebu International Airport  — the only airport in Cebu with numerous direct flights from Manila and international destinations. The easiest way to get to Moalbal can easily be reached by bus or by taxi.

Option 1: From Cebu City/Mactan-Cebu International Airport to Moalboal by bus

From the airport, take a taxi to Cebu South Bus Terminal in Cebu City. Then, take a bus that goes to Bato via Barili and get dropped off at the Moalboal City Hall or bus stop. The bus ride will cost around P110 ($2.20) and take three hours to get to Moalboal, depending on weather and traffic conditions.

Option 2: From Cebu City/Mactan-Cebu International Airport to Moalboal by taxi

If you want a bit shorter travel time, you can take a taxi in V-Hire South Terminal at Junquera Street in Cebu City. This option will cost you around P130 ($2.60) and enable you to reach Moalboal in 2.5 hours or less. Just take note that vans have smaller legroom compared to buses. So, if you prefer to have a more comfortable trip, then take the bus instead.

From Moalboal City Hall or bus stop, ride a tricycle for P80 ($1.65)  to Panagsama Beach where you can experience the Sardine Run Moalboal.

Accommodations in Moalboal

The four dive centers also offer very good accommodations in Moalboal to make it more convenient for divers to access the sardine run. But if you’re looking for the best resorts to enjoy your stay in Moalboal, Cebu, then here are the top Sardine Run Moalboal accommodations you can choose:

Accommodation 1: Parrot Resort Moalboal

Just 100 meters away from Panagsama Beach and within the vicinity of the best dive centers for the sardine run, Parrot Resort Moalboal is rated as “Superb” by divers from all over the world. It offers premium accommodation with awesome resort features that include an outdoor pool and FREE Wifi. Past guests praise the resort for having  multilingual staff that are very helpful and accommodating, as well as serving excellent breakfast.

Parrot Resort also offers airport shuttle services and adventure tours around Moalboal including river rafting, canyoning, and visiting Kawasan Falls.

Prices

Room rates for 2 persons start at $60/night.

Accommodation 2: Pawikan Resort Moalboal

Pawikan Resort is another great option if you want to stay near Panagsama Beach and most dive centers in the area.  The resort features a bar, a garden, and barbecue facilities that are accessible to all guests. It also offers shuttle services to and from the airport, as well as other water activities like fishing, snorkelling, and canoeing.

Considered as a 3-star resort, Pawikan Resort is praised by guests for its comfortable and clean rooms, superb breakfast, and very helpful staff.

Prices

A room for 2 at the resort costs around $62 per night with free breakfast.

Accommodation 3: Roos Guesthouse

If you’re looking for a nice place to crash but a bit more affordable, then head to Roos Guesthouse which is just 300 meters away from Panagsama Beach. It features a garden, a terrace, and a swimming pool you can enjoy after swimming with the school of sardine.

Previous guests love the resort for its excellent location and welcoming staff. While at the guesthouse, try booking their canyoneering activity and you’ll have one of the best times of your life.

Prices

An air-conditioned room for 2 just costs around $54 in the guesthouse.

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