Philippines is now the country I recommend the most for a holiday. I have already boasted about the province of Palawan in my post on Coron Islands, and again about El Nido, so here I am with another complimentary post, this time it’s Bohol’s turn.
Bohol is a 2 hours boat ride south-east of the capital Cebu. Famous for its Chocolate Hills and Tarsier sanctuaries, this island is a must for travellers exploring the country. There is so much to do but it also boasts great beaches for the perfect chill days. So, with that in mind, here is our list of things to do in Bohol.
Snorkelling at Balicasag reef and island tour:
This tour off the coast of Panglao and
Balicasag reef includes dolphin watching, a beach stop and swimming with turtles! That’s another one ticked off the bucket list (yay)! I owe pretty much all the turtle sightings we had to Pete. The currents of the sea were strong and as we all know I am not a strong swimmer. I didn’t realise at first that whilst we were swimming against the current, we actually weren’t moving at all, just swimming in one spot. Pete said, “I’ve had enough of looking at the same mound of coral, hold on!” And as if I was being rescued on Baywatch, Pete grabs me by the life-jacket and powers me forward. Swimming and pulling me along the shore towards the turtles, he is literally my hero! And there it was, a huge, green turtle. I can’t even explain how excited I was! It was so over-whelming! They are so much quicker than you can imagine when they are under water. We had no chance of keeping up! But I think we saw 6 turtles in total. We actually got pretty close to a couple of them!
Before we swam with turtles, we went dolphin watching, which was pretty disappointing. I’ve been dolphin watching on a speedboat in Florida before, here the dolphins jump and play in the waves at the back of the boat. That was incredible. This time, it was a massive anti-climax. It was great to see them, don’t get me wrong, but they weren’t interested in our boat, they just swam away. We watched them for 3 minutes then the boat carried on. I wish we could have stayed longer.
We also stopped at Virgin Island beach, again, another anti-climax. This stretch of sand and mangrove trees in the sea is pretty cool to look at, that would be if it wasn’t covered in people selling coconuts, BBQ food and jewellery. We were constantly asked if we want to buy pearls. No thanks, we’re good.
Did you know that Tarsier’s can commit suicide if they get too stressed? It’s really sad. They hit their heads so hard against the tree that it kills them. Luckily, these little guys seemed pretty relaxed. And when I say little, I truly mean tiny. Measuring an average 12cm high, you can hold them fully in your palm. Their tails though are double their body length and their eyes are the same size as their brains! Huge bulging brown eyes, and teeny, tiny little faces, they are one of the cutest animals I have ever seen! And at the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary, they are free to move about and live as they wish. During the night they leave the sanctuary to explore and hunt, they come back here during the day to rest. Only to be disturbed by us travellers wanting a glimpse of their cute baby-like faces. Note: Not all the sanctuaries let the tarsiers go free and some keep them in cages. They also let you hold the tarsiers and use flash on your camera, all sounds great! However, this is the type of thing that causes stress to the tarsiers. Just check which one to visit before you go.
Rephrasing the words of Eminem and D12, ‘…but nothing compares to these green and brown, muddy hills!’ More forest, dirty green than chocolate brown in our case, but still an unusual sight. The Chocolate Hills of Bohol are famous for their uniformity in over 120 hills. The chocolate brown colour they turn during the dry season is the reason behind the name. However, during the rainy season month of June, they are green. What made this a great view was the steam rising from the hills. With the cold rain hitting the warm earth, the water evaporates and creates these mystical scenes. Chocolate Hills are located on Bohol mainland, whereas we stayed on Panglao island. Was the trip worth a 2-hour drive squashed in a tuk tuk? Erm, I don’t think so, but hey-ho. You can do this on a tour if you prefer a comfier seat.
We set up camp in Alona Beach and I highly recommend staying here. Decent beach, not as clean and not as white as Dumanluan beach (which is only 15 minutes away in a tuk tuk) however, it has a heck of a lot more atmosphere. You can find a bunch of bars and restaurants, from Italian, to Thai, to Greek. There’s a great little Reggae bar which plays Bob Marley on repeat (what else?). The bar tender clearly loves his job, he was chatting up the girls and meeting the travellers. It’s a great place to drink, chill and boogie. Some of the restaurants along the front have loungers to use if you buy food/drink too, so no sand in unwanted places! From diving schools to ice-cream, all you need can be found on Alona Beach.
Dumaluan Beach may be another one of my favourite ever beaches. I haven’t seen sand as white or sea as clear in a long time! Most of the beach is public but there are stretches owed by swanky hotels. We stopped at South Palm Resort. By buying a couple of (expensive) soft drinks we were allowed to use their beach chairs. However, only guests are allowed on the fancy
sun-loungers, they were flat and cushioned like mattresses on the sand! But with music playing, shade if you need it, and posh clean toilets with free toiletries, we were happy.
So, after seven separate posts about The Philippines, I think I have said all I can about this fantastic place. What an amazing 3 weeks we had there, and I am already eager to return. Perhaps Philippines has changed how we now look at other countries, other beaches and atmospheres sadly just don’t compare. But, on the flip side, that also means I have happily been to one of the best countries I can imagine, so the challenge is, can anywhere else beat it?