I have started taking time out to explore new places nearby or around the cities where my work takes me. Yesterday, I had half a day in Cebu before the evening flight back to Hong Kong. There are many islands around Cebu where tourists go on chartered boats for scuba diving, snorkeling, water sports and seafood restaurants. I asked the locals for an island that’s not too far, non-touristy, populated and accessible by public boats. The answer was Olango! But I was warned about bad weather, unreliable boat timings and the risk of getting stranded on the island. That added to the excitement, and I am so glad I went ahead!
Olango was a 40-minute ride on a small boat. There were rickshaws available at the pier to take you around the huge island. On one end is the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, on the other are beaches and in between is a huge village/town. I insisted to go to the Wildlife Sanctuary through the village, so I got a chance to stop at a local shop for coffee and conversation. At the sanctuary, I found out it was the season to watch migratory birds. There were guides available with powerful telescopes and information about all the birds. It was a beautiful walk up to the bird-watching tower in the middle of the wetland. I was shown Bar-tailed Godwits, Golden Plovers, Rufous-necked Stints, and a few other birds on their winter/summer break from Japan, Korea and China. I also saw Ruddy Turnstones and few kinds of Egrets from amongst the local birds! The other highlights of the island were divine lunch of local fish and vegetables at a village shop, lots of fresh coconuts and mangoes for snacks, and watching a very cruel cockfight tournament for the first time, with 99% of the village menfolk.
I missed the second-last boat back and they cancelled the last boat due to bad weather (too windy). But there was a boat going to another part of the city, from where I was able to get a taxi back to my hotel! Lessons learnt/reinforced:
- Take time out. Get out of the comfort zone. Explore more.
- Expect nothing. Be grateful for everything.
- People are mostly good, honest and trust-worthy.
- Live today; there may not be a tomorrow.
[Photo of the beautiful walk to the bird-watching tower. Full album of the above story here.]