For decades, Toledo City on the midwestern coast of Cebu island was known for nothing else but its mining industry and for being a transit point to Negros island. Recent years, however, has seen nature lovers discovering its natural attractions like its mountains and lakes.
One of the newest activities offered here are guided stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) tours by Paddle Out Board Rentals & Tours (Mobile: +63 9159349411), which only started operating a year ago. My friends Jilly and John, together with their two-year-old son Iain, joined me on a day trip from Cebu City to try this new adventure.
I met up with them at JY Square Mall at 10:30 am, and we drove to Toledo via the Cebu Transcentral Highway (Check out this post for recommended food stops). We arrived at Hunasan Grill n’ Chill, a beachside restaurant where the tours begin, at around 12:00 noon. We arrived with just enough time to eat before our booked tour, which should start at around 1:20 pm, when the tide is at its highest.
After generous boodle fight-style lunch, we changed into our swimwear and teamed up with Box and Earl, our tour guides for the afternoon. At the beach, they ran us through a crash course in standup paddleboarding and conducted some stretching exercises to warm-up.
The restaurant sits along a stony beach, next to the mouth of the Ibo River. We paddled out and turned left towards the mouth of the river, passing underneath the concrete bridge along the highway. The paddleboards were big and sturdy, so it was fairly easy to keep my balance. It also helped that I’ve tried SUP a number of times before, so I remembered to keep by legs slightly bent and relaxed for better balance.
Paddle Out‘s river tour takes guests on two to three hours trips into the narrow waterway lined with mangrove trees. As soon as we entered the river, the water was much calmer. We paddled upriver at a leisurely pace admiring the slow-moving water, the surrounding greenery, and quiet atmosphere. The water was clear enough at some sections to actually see the bottom of river, which was strewn with driftwood.
Occasionally, we encountered groups of energetic children swimming by the riverbank. Amused by our boards, some of them swam next to us, escorting our group for a while. As we traveled deeper, the river became narrower and narrower. The mangrove trees now formed a canopy above us, protecting us from the hot sun. The mangrove forest thinned halfway into the river. Through the trees, we can now see vast fish ponds where bangus (milkfish) are raised.
An hour into the tour, we parked our boards along a river bend for a water break. Here, we could admire the little critters of the mangrove forest like fiddler crabs and mudskippers. While the guides were friendly and accommodating, I wish they could enrich their guiding by sharing information about the biodiversity and ecological importance of mangrove ecosystems, similar to how the tours at Bojo River Cruise in Aloguinsan are conducted. After all, this tributary empties out into the Tañon Strait, the largest marine protected area in the Philippines.
At this point, our guide Box asked us if we wanted to continue on. We agreed to soldier on upriver to even tighter portions of the river. We had to duck underneath branches. My height became a disadvantage at these sections, so I decided to kneel or squat cross-legged on the board to effortlessly avoid low-lying branches. A couple of branches were so low we had to completely lie down on our boards and gingerly slip through under them!
Eventually, we detoured to the right, slipping between mangrove trees to emerge into an abandoned fish pond inundated with knee-deep water. We traversed this swamp-like open space, carried over boards over a shallow riverbank, and found ourselves back to where we stopped for a water break. By this time, the tide was receding, so the water was flowing faster downstream. It was easier paddling back downriver, as the current carried us back to where we started.
It took us around three hours to complete the river tour. We pulled our boards back ashore at the restaurant, and ordered ice-cold halo-halo for us and the guides to cool down. The west-facing shoreline offered awesome sunset views over the mountains of Negros across Tañon Strait.
As we enjoyed our iced dessert, I watched a woman push a fry sweeper – a V-shaped bamboo-framed net – across the shallows to collect tiny, translucent baby bangus to raise in aquaculture ponds. It was a beautiful scene: the silhouette of lady and her push net against the sea, made silvery by the retiring sun, with Kanlaon volcano looming in the misty distance. It was a wonderful way to end our adventurous day.
How to Get There
From Cebu City, take a bus at the Cebu South Bus Terminal to Pinamungahan and alight at Hunasan Grill n’ Chill, before Ibo Bridge in Barangay Ibo, Toledo City. Alternatively, you can take a bus to Toledo, then take a five-minute tricycle ride to the restaurant.
SUP Tour Rates
River Tours (2-3 hours) are ₱700 per head, while River & Coastal Tours (4-5 hours) are ₱900 per head. Inclusions: Complete Paddle Board Setup with Leash; 2 (two) tour guides per tour to ensure the safety of our guest for group of 5 or more (Water Search & Rescue Certified Guides); Crash Course on Stand Up Paddling; Light Stretching; and Pictures of the entire experience.
Boodle meal add-on at Hunasan Grill n’ Chill is ₱250 per head.
What to Bring
- Protective swimwear (eg. rash guard)
- Hat or cap
- Reef-friendly sunscreen
- Water bottle
- Extra cash for tipping