I’ve been dreaming of visiting the Philippines for about two solid years now after seeing photo after photo of crystal clear waters, limestone mountains, and hidden lagoons. It’s always seemed like a far-off dream, destined to be at the top of my bucket list forever, but last month, this dream of mine was granted after Dom and I hopped on our very first group tour - the 10 Day Philippines East tour with TruTravels. So in October of this year, some legit life goals happened for me and i’m pretty sure i’ve reached the peak of my travel life!
A little bit of background: TruTravels is a company based in Southeast Asia with group tours to all the bucket list spots - Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Bali, and more. When it was time for me and Dom to choose which tour to join, it was pretty much a no brainer upon reading through the itinerary for the Philippines East tour. Swimming the sardine run in Moalboal, visiting the mystical island of Siquijor, island hopping around paradise in Siargao… honestly, what more could we ask for?!
From then on, everything was a whirlwind of excitement. We eagerly booked our flights from Vietnam to Cebu for October 28, made sure our travel insurance was up to date, and started counting down the days to paradise!
I’m very rarely in group situations these days, so when Day 1 of the 10 Day Philippines East tour rolled around and it was time to meet everyone for the first time, I was actually NERVOUS! The group all trickled in from the airport throughout the day, so our first main activity was a group dinner at the House of Lechon.
Side note: *If you’re in Cebu and like meat, this place is freaking epic. I don’t eat pork yet I was still drooling over all of the add-ons (cheese-stuffed jalapeños FTW), so if you’re a meat eater, you’ll be in Lechon heaven.
While stuffing our faces and grabbing some happy hour drinks (for $1, I should add!!), we all bonded over embarrassing karaoke songs, super strong mojitos, and an excitement for the ten adventure-filled days to come.
I’ll try to keep this section short, though I could probably write a short novel about this wonderful group of people. Spending ten days with a group of 15 people, you kind of expect there to be some cliques that eventually form, right? WRONG! All 15 people were the most friendly, caring, and entertaining humans i’ve ever encountered, and I was honestly shocked how quickly we all became friends.
Oh, the activities! I’m still in disbelief over some of the things we did and saw, but here’s a list of my favourite moments:
Canyoneering to Kawasan Falls: Easily my favourite day of the tour… maybe of the whole year. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to jump off 40ft cliffs into the bluest waters you’ve ever seen, then you need to do some canyoneering with TruTravels.
Not only was it the best bonding activity for the group (I never would have had the cohones to jump off those cliffs without everyone cheering me on), but it was also INSANELY fun. We ended our adventure day at the famous bright blue Kawasan Falls, and i’m pretty sure our whole group can agree it’s a day we’ll be telling stories about for life.
Swimming the Sardine Run: Snorkeling while being surrounded by millions of sardines = A-freakin-MAZING. The Moalboal sardine run was something I had never even heard of before joining the TruTravels trip, but on Day 3 of the tour, our group hopped on a boat and ventured around the islands of Cebu.
The day started with snorkeling at a remote island, and I remember looking down at the vibrant coral, starfish, and fish below and thinking how the day couldn’t possibly get any better than that. Well boys and girls… it did. Our second stop was the sardine run, and upon diving into the water, we were immediately surrounded by MILLIONS of sardines. Not hundreds, not thousands, but I swear there were millions of them, all moving in sync with one another while us snorkelers paddled around them. It was like watching a performance, and left me seriously lost for words.
Experiencing the magic of Siquijor: Our third destination on the TruTravels Philippines tour was the most unique, as we headed to Siquijor, an island known for its voodoo, witchcraft, healers, and black magic. I soon learned that Filipinos actually fear this island, which made it all the more exciting to experience (in my opinion!). While everything in Siquijor seemed to be magical (the cascading tiered waterfalls, the shockingly blue waters, and the palm-lined roads), it was our visit to the faith healer that sold it to me.
On Day 6, our group headed to the home of a woman to have our bodies healed and our palms read, and it was the most unique thing i’ve ever experienced. My only regret of the day was admitting that I had a cold, and the faith healer squeezed some not-so-nice-smelling leaves over my freshly-washed hair to help my health improve… big mistake on my end, but a hilarious memory to look back on!
Everything about the island of Siargao. If I had to choose my one all-time favorite memory from the TruTravels trip, it would undoubtedly be Siargao. Upon arriving, we were met with a van ride through the palm-covered mountains, and even on a rainy day I was blown away by its beauty. Siargao has the charm of a local island along with having some of the most beautiful spots I have ever seen, and I am 100% certain it’s going to be a serious tourist hotspot someday.
This island was our final stop on the 10 Day Philippines East tour, and I couldn’t have imagined a better place to end the trip. We spent the days learning to surf (and fall gracefully), island hopping to some of the most pristine beaches i’ve ever been to, eating like royalty, enjoying super cheap drinks every night, and wishing the tour didn’t have to come to an end. It’s hard to put Siargao into words, and I don’t think photos can even do it justice, but take a look at the photos below and see why I fell in love.
Also, a little pro tip I learned about Siargao - if you’re going island hopping, put in a request to do the tour backwards, starting at Guyam Island, visiting Daku Island for lunch, and ending the day on Naked Island for sunset. You’ll miss a lot of the tourists and end up having Naked Island completely to yourself to watch the skies turn pink! I can’t recommend that more highly.
To be honest, I was expecting to stay in hostel dorm rooms every night of the tour, but boy was I way off. Way, WAY off. We each shared a private room with one other group member, so I was lucky enough to be put with Dom LOL. We stayed in 4 different hotels/resorts during our 10 Day Philippines East tour, each seeming to be more beautiful than the last. Starting off the tour with a bang, we had 1 night in Cebu where we stayed at Red Planet, a comfy hotel directly across from my favorite Cebu hotspot: the mall! I was going through a serious fast food withdrawal after 6 months in SE Asia, so access to McDonalds was like a gift from God.
Our second destination was Moalboal, Cebu, where we stayed at a beachside resort featuring a swimming pool and one of the nicest owners ever, Angel - she literally handed me and Dom sandwiches at 6am when we were heading out for an early morning of exploring - she lives up to her name for sure.
On the island of Siquijor, our resort was a similar beachside resort featuring tons of towering palm trees, flowers, and AN EPIC POOL! Within 10 minutes our group had taken over the giant pool and were playing our own version of NFL football using a tiny pink ball. We came up with secret plays and everything. It was legit.
Our final hotel in Siargao exceeded all of our expectations though, because we were greeted by a huge resort by the beach, an amazing restaurant, and the biggest rooms of the whole trip. There were also dogs, so you know I was loving life especially hard.
Word to the wise: wifi is pretty hit or miss in the Philippines, so luckily TruTravels had warned us of this prior to arriving, and we came prepared with a SMART sim card to get us through the slow stages. Definitely a lifesaver! My recommendation: a 30 day SMART Sim Card gets you 16 gb of data and costs 1,000 php, or $18 usd. You can get them from the Cebu airport in the arrivals area, so definitely check out the options before leaving the airport!
I’m drooling just thinking about it.
We ate like Kings and Queens during our 10 days with TruTravels, and now that the tour is over and i’m back on that budget noodle grind, i’m missing the tour food extra hard. It was honestly the perfect mixture of Filipino food and Western food throughout the trip, and every night was seemingly better than the last.
My favorite meal of the trip definitely had to be our seafood lunch on Daku Island, and we ate our way into food comas with platters of fresh fish, chicken, veggie dishes, and tropical fruit.
BRB, i’m going to go cry into my bowl of instant noodles now.
OUR TOUR LEADER
I may be biased, but our tour leader Jason “Jase” is BY FAR the greatest tour leader to ever exist.
He somehow got all fifteen of us from point A to point B every single time without any problems, he took care of us when we weren’t feeling our best *cough* hungover *cough*, he got us super excited for every single activity. And best of all? He got us McDonald’s when we were all being babies about waking up early for our big travel day. That won him MAJOR points in the tour leader department. Except when it caused the big hash brown dilemma of 2018, when one of our group vans “accidentally” ate the other’s hash browns… #neverforget!!! Haha.
But back to Jase, his infectious energy is the thing that turned the tour from being great, to exceptional, and I know we’ll all be friends for life because of him.
Also, for those of you who managed to catch my Instagram LIVE from Naked Island on Siargao, you will recognize Jase as my special guest. Any questions about the tour, I highly recommend you shoot him a message because he will set your mind at ease and get you super duper excited to see the Philippines!
Thanks for being the best tour guide, Jase!
We rode in style on the TruTravels trip. Vans, ferries, planes, boats, trikes.. we did it all! The Philippines is massive, and if you’ve never been here before, it’s pretty hard to navigate your way without getting lost, which is why I was SO grateful to have our trip all planned out for us. It made it so easy to have Jase telling us exactly what we were doing for the day and organizing the transportation for us.
I couldn’t have planned a better trip if I tried, and every single moment of the tour was easy, carefree, thrilling, and memorable. The Philippines East trip started off my time in the Philippines in the absolute best way possible, and I now have a new favorite country thanks to TruTravels. I got to do things I had only dreamed of, faced and conquered some of my biggest fears, and did it all alongside some truly incredible people,
As a couple, me and Dom weren’t sure what to expect when meeting and traveling with a group of 15 (after all, we’ve been traveling with nobody but each other for the past year!), but those fifteen people quickly grew to be our own little travel family, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to meet them all. Nando’s reunion 2019, anyone? If you’re traveling as a couple, solo, with friends, or even with family, a TruTravels tour is perfect for you. It’s the ideal mix of adventure, culture, and fun, and perfect for anyone who wants to let someone else take care of all the travel planning details for once and just go with the flow.
Our tour was 10 seriously awesome days of exploring Philippines East, but if you want to see even more of the islands, TruTravels also has a 19 day Philippines Island Hopping Experience that hits all the bucket list spots like Moalboal, Siquijor, Siargao, El Nido, Coron, and way WAY more!
So if you’re thinking of doing a group trip and have any questions at all, shoot me a message and ask me anything! x