Moalboal is a small and lively coastal village on the southwest corner on the island of Cebu. Over the years Moalboal has made quite a name for itself within the snorkeling community as it is logistically quite easy to arrive to, but more importantly because it has some world class reefs and marine life. The reefs around Moalboal are easily accessible from the beaches, so you could in theory just walk into the water at any point and find great snorkeling. However, since we will be doing our snorkeling with a resort, they will be escorting us comfortably by one of their boats known as a banca. All we need to do is take in the lovely coast line and plop into the water when we arrive. The only time we will be needing to do a beach entry is from the resort to access their house reef. For this reason we highly recommend bringing open heel fins with booties as this short walk out can be a bit slippery. 

Aerial panorama of Magic Island Resort

For the most part the orientation and topography of the local reefs are characterized by a very gently sloping plateau that starts from the beach and extends to about a hundred meters or so from the coast line. Average depths start from the very very shallows and as you swim further from the island it gradually drops to about five meters or fifteen feet where the reef turns in to a vertical wall that drops off into the beautiful blue abyss. While most of the snorkeling is done just off the main coast line, there is a small limestone island called Pescadore with a really beautiful fringing reef. It takes about 15-30 minutes to arrive to and it is well worth a visit. 

Giant orange frog fish with sun behind

In the shallows of just about all the different reefs we snorkel, you’ll find a very interesting mix of sea grass, sargassum seaweed, and small hard coral formations. This is a unique and highly interesting environment as it houses some really cool critters like pipe fish, small octopus, file fish, and if we are lucky sargassum frogfish which all make their homes in this aquatic vegetation. As you swim further towards the drop off the sub-straight turns into one made up entirely of hard coral and sponges. It is here we find the more ‘typical’ reefscape we are all familiar with.

Where marine life is concerned, you can expect to find all your usual tropical reef subjects like parrot fish, puffer fish, anemone fish, and a cornucopia of colorful reef fish.  Large green sea turtles are prevalent and in certain places they come together in larger numbers for their napping sessions in the shallow reefs. One site in particular is very cool as it hosts one of the only residential shoals of sardines in the world. This school of fish is massive and you can swim for nearly a hundred meters in either direction and still be floating over this unbelievably dense cloud of fish. They are just beneath the surface and if you are able to duck dive you can swim right through the shoal which is a truly awesome feeling. 

You can’t really go wrong with Moalboal as a snorkel destination. The reefs are in excellent shape, the currents are mild to non-existent, and with the help of our resort comfortably transporting us from one exhilarating snorkel site to the next the only thing we really need to worry about is whether to take a nap after lunch or enjoy the serene views from the resort. 

Do Snorkelers Need to Equalize Too? 


Ok, to be more clear, if you intend to do any sort of duck diving—even if it’s jus
t to a meter or two in your local swimming pool—you need to equalize your ears. If you are a floater and enjoy the view from the surface then you don’t need to equalize. However, if you intend to pop (pun intended) down to the reef for a closer look then you absolutely need to equalize your ears. Here’s why. 

snorkeler diving down to photograph coral reef


As we start our descent underwater the pressure from the water builds as we go deeper and deeper. If we do not equalize the dead air space of the middle ear which sits between the eardrum and our eustachian tube we can actually rupture our eardrum. The eardrum is is basically a thin membrane that separates the outside world from the middle and inner ear. Without equaling, the  pressure on our eardrum becomes more than it can handle and it eventually breaks. Basically we want to avoid this at all costs because ruptured eardrum = ruined snorkel holiday. Lucky for us equalizing our ears while snorkeling is very easy to do. 

Snorkeler diving down to explore coral head

How to Equalize 

Basically the easiest way to go about equalizing your ears is to plug your nose and then LIGHTLY try to blow air through it. In doing this you should feel a faint pop in your ears. This is just your eardrums flexing outward with the added pressure you have forced into your inner and middle ear, consider them equalized. Please don’t get in the habit of doing this as you go about your life on land when you don’t need to. For starters people will think there is something wrong with you and immediately stop inviting  you to their social events, and more importantly it can stress the delicate components within your ears. Also, if you don’t feel that FAINT pop then don’t continue by pressing harder. You could be congested or have some other sinus issue and if you continue to force it it could lead to ear damage. 

In terms of taking this underwater, the process is the same and we need to repeat it continuously as we descend. The general rule of thumb for equalizing is once every meter and STOP IF YOU FEEL ANY SORT OF PAIN. If you fail to equalize after the first meter, then don’t keep going or try to force it. The pressure can be too much for your eardrum and you’ll run the risk of doing damage to them if you force it. Ascend and try again. Essentially equalizing should be an easy thing to do requiring very little effort, and once again should never be forced if your ears aren’t equalizing. If your ears aren’t equalizing then you may have a sinus issue or be congested which will have an impact on our ability to equalize. 

snorkeler equalizing while diving to coral reef

The bottom line is we need to equalize if we intend to spend any amount of our snorkeling time at any depth past one meter. It’s very easy to do, and should be done at regular intervals as we descend. And if you hadn’t caught the hint, DON’T FORCE IT!