Where: Island of Bohol, Central Vizayas Region, Philippines
Who: Mr, Mrs, Little Miss Wanderlust together with Granny
When: May 2016
What: Exploring the beach and natural wonders of Bohol!
In the heart of the Vizayas islands of the Philippines, there is another gem that can be found. The island province of Bohol, just near Cebu and Leyte. It is a tropical sanctuary of natural allure. The coastline of Bohol is skimmed by gentle coves and white sand beaches, that can be comparable to the famous Boracay sand, though not as internationally-known famous as the said beach. However, it is locally known as a paradise for divers and snorkelers.
More than the white beaches and great diving spots, the province is also famous among other sights, for its Chocolate Hills, and the Tarsier - arguably the world's smallest primate, heritage sites and old stone churches.
There are a total of 9 flights per day (weather and air traffic permitting). All of the flights from the 3 airlines (PAL, Cebu Pacific, & Air Asia) would be all coming from Manila Airport (NAIA) straight to Tagbilaran airport which is in the Island of Bohol.
Tagbilaran City Tourist Pier handles more thousands of travelers on a daily basis, and there are also ships and sea crafts coming from Cebu, CDO, Dumaguete, Dipolog, Iligan, Siquijor, & Ozamis City are processed efficiently on a regular basis.
Tagbilaran Airport is still around 30 minutes or more land travel depending on where your accommodation is at. It is fairly easy to book vans, cars, and even tricycles for rent. We opted for the car for the tours as Mrs is pregnant and had to avoid the bumpy tricycle ride. For the more adventurous ones, you can rent motorbikes, and since the coastal road around the island is paved, it is also nice to go around as it offer the best views of the tropical island province.
There are lots of accommodation that is available in the province of Bohol, depending on your personal preferences and budget, you can find the best that suits you and your companions.
Mr & Mrs Wanderlust's Review
+The hotel/resort is definitely 5 star when it comes to its facilities and services
+ Beds and pillows are big and soft and clean, nice to sleep on.
+ Spacey rooms with balcony and view of the sea
+ Big bathroom has shower and bathtub
+ Big pools, kiddie pools, lifeguards and towels
+ Complimentary Breakfast was great, complete and more. Has everything we are looking for
+ Kid friendly food, and Dad friendly beers (has even local crafts)
+ Has a quiet and private beach front and nice bench to relax
+ Game room is cool and they also have gym free of use for guests
- The beach is actually man made, and developed, but points for trying.
- Occassional brownouts but the hotel has a huge generator
- The hotel is around 100 meters from the gate, and 5 minute ride from town center
- Tricycle for that costs 100 pesos / PER WAY
- The building from family rooms is a bit far from beach with exception of expensive rooms.
Price: $$$ - 6,000 - 20,000PHP+++ (depending on rooms)
Service: 5 star - Staff were friendly and helpful
Facilities & Amenities: 5 star - Cozy rooms, spacey, has all the necessities.
Restaurant (foods):5 star - 3 restaurants, best complete breakfast, but hotel price though.
Bar: 4.5 star - Bars are within the restaurant, or one can order a beer by the pool/beach
Overall: 4.88 /5 stars
1. See the Chocolate Hills
The most popular tourist site in the island province. It is also still a mystery to scientists how exactly they came into this shape and pattern, but all we know for now is that they are made of limestone with few layers of soil and grass which turns brown, making it look like chocolate from afar.
Like giant mole hill, they are considered unusual geological formation that consists of at least 1,268 individual mounds that are scattered throughout the municipalities of Carmen, Batuan, and Sagbayan. The hills range from 30 to 50m high and are covered in green grass, which turns to brown during the dry season, making them look like chocolate mounds.*
2. Relax at the Beach
The island province of Bohol also boasts beautiful and alluring beaches that has white sand, clear blue water, that can be comparable to the country's most popular beach destination (Boracay in Aklan). Some accomodations like hotels and resorts have a beach front, and it would be nice to just sit back and relax and enjoy the tranquility it offers.
If you want a different atmosphere, which is similar to Boracay, that has beachfront restaurants, bars, accommodation, souvenir stores, tour package offerings, massage etc., just go to Alona Beach. It is probably a few minutes tricycle or car ride from your accommodation (assuming that you are within Panglao area).
3. Meet the small and endangered primates
Some millions of years ago Tarsiers have been living in the rainforests around the world, now only a few exist in the rainforests of Philippines, Borneo, and Indonesia. In the Philippines, the province of Bohol has always seen these primates and they were a common sight on the island even until early 1960's as attested to by some elders living there. They were once protected by vast rainforests and the hills, however these mysterious primates struggle to survive as their home is cleared for farming land and also because of poaching.
The conservation status of all tarsiers is vulnerable to extinction. They are now a conservation dependent species meaning they need to have more and improved management of protected habitats or they will definitely become extinct in the near future.
Now, in partnership with the countries' Environment and Natural resources department, and Bohol's local government they now run a Tarsier Sanctuary, also a research and development center. Now tourists can be able to, at the very least see a real living tarsier in their controlled natural habitat.
TIP: Avoid going to places or tours that show tarsier in cages. These are most likely illegal and have gotten the animal through illegal means. They are kept in insufficient care and condition and they often die of stress from the visitors and handlers.
4. Dine beachfront at Alona Beach
After a long day of tours going around the nice sights of Bohol, a dinner by the beach with a cold beer while watching the sun sets is nice. In Bohol, most of the beaches are quiet, less people, and not much activities to do (except if provided by a private resort). However, the stretch of Alona Beach is different. It has a busy atmosphere, where you can find lots of accommodation, beachfront restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, diving, tours, activites, massages, etc. offered. The beach has a fine white sand that can be compared to Boracay, which is why you can see a lot of tourists just out in the beach, basking or swimming. Alona beach gets even busier at night, where the tourists who likes to have a drink, or maybe party flock the area. Lights and sounds, and grill smoke coming from local businesses trying to attract customers.
*TIP: Somehow fish is a bit expensive in restaurants as they charge you by the weight. And to think you are on a beach destination, fish should be cheap, but apparently they are not. So either try to look around different restaurants in the area for the best deals, try to bargain.
*Just our point of view*: Alona Beach is a beautiful beach, with fine white sand and clear waters. However, due to the influx of tourists, and the demand for more services, business establishments have almost occupied the beachfront and even extending chairs and tables to the beach at night. Boats just parked and anchor along the beach area which makes the view a bit unpleasant.
There are also lots of trash not disposed of properly just lying around the beach waiting to be taken by the waves, good thing that our Little Miss has love for the environment and picked up a few litters and disposed it properly, and funnily enough, other tourists saw her and started cleaning up a few as well, so that is a good start.
While it is nice for the locals to benefit from the businesses brought about by the tourists, If the degradation of the environment continues, the next generation may not be able to even enjoy a nice clean beach. We just hope that the local government would have the initiative to make better policies (not influenced by money) to take care and preserve the place.
5. Visit the Old Historic Churches of Bohol
Baclayon Church, a national treasure, and a national historical landmark, formerly included for the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List of the Philippines, One of the old churches that became early Christian settlements in Bohol, founded by the end of 16th century.
Loboc Church, The Church of San Pedro in Loboc is the second oldest church in Bohol. Located near the river, it has survived a number of floods. Inside the church, you can admire some remarkable naive paintings on the ceiling.A Spanish coat of arms can be found in the stone wall near the entrance of the convent. The bell tower of Loboc is about 100 meters from the church.
On October 15, 2013, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake destroyed the churches of Loon, Maribojoc, and Loboc, and heavily damaged most other historic churches in Bohol. But upon visiting 2016, they are restoring the churches, but it is uncertain if the glorious old beauty of the church can be fully restored, nevertheless the faith of its people is strong that no calamity can destroy.
6. Eat Lunch Buffet While Cruising Loboc River
Aside from the Chocolate Hills and its Tarsiers, the Loboc river cruise is also another attraction not to be missed in the province of Bohol. The river runs inland through the town of Loboc and other towns on Bohol island and opens to the sea at the southern part of the island. The cruise offers its visitors a nice experience of the splendid and serene river.
The cruise on the river includes buffet lunch which makes it peak up during lunch time where most city tours include the cruise in their itinerary. The cruise takes about one hour long and goes through the most beautiful part of the river. While eating lunch, entertainment is also provided by either local choirs or singers on board.
7. Walk Under the Shade of the Man Made Forest
Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape is located in the municipality of Bilar. Located just at the south of chocolate hills, you would definitely pass by it when touring the island. This man made forest is made up mainly of mahogany trees stretching in a 2 kilometer stretch of densely planted Mahogany trees located in the border of Loboc and Bilar towns.
What makes it stand out is because of the uniformity in the height of the trees, with their branches and leaves spread out straight up high as a result, it enshrouds the road from the sun. This is why you can observe the sudden drop of temperature and a refreshing cool breeze upon entering the forest, more noticeably on a hot summer day.
**However, one thing that you can observe is that, it is just the breeze and the sound of leaves that you will hear, and no noise coming from birds or other animals for that matter.
The reason according to Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, is that mahogany forests are harmful, rather than helpful, to the Philippines’ environment. Mahogany, not being a native species to Philippine soil, is basically an alien, and thus, native organisms do not recognize those trees and do not thrive in such forests. In other words, it can be called biodiversity dead forest.
Tree planting, while with good intentions in mind, it should be noted that they do it using native trees, or even consult local botanists / plant specialists.
8. Cross the Hanging Bamboo Bridge
The bridge is crossing the Sipatan River in the Municipality of Sevilla, Bohol. Originally constructed using just bamboo and rope, today the rope has made way to steel cables, giving added safety and stability.The deck of the bridge is formed out of woven bamboo slats. In places some of these appear broken but its still sturdy enough to take the weight of tourists, locals and even small motorcycles.
The movement of the bridge might make you feel a little uneasy, as it will bend and sway more than normal, especially if there are many tourists crossing.
9. See the Monument of the Blood Compact
Sandugo or blood compact, was performed in the island of Bohol in the Philippines, between the Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna the chieftain of Bohol on March 16, 1565, to seal their friendship as part of the tribal tradition.
This is considered as the first treaty of friendship between the Spaniards and Filipinos. "Sandugo" is a Visayan word which means "one blood"
10. Butterfly Sanctuary
Established by butterfly enthusiasts, and now becoming more known and included in the tours both for kids and adults. There are lots of displays of different kinds of butterflies and other species found in the province. They also have a nice landscape flowering garden which adds to the beauty and soothes the visitor's senses.
11. Snake Farm
It was built first to accommodate Prony the Python, which was the largest snake captured. At 27 feet, and weighs more than 300kg, it definitely had a huge appetite and to make up for that, the snake farm was formed. Prony was captured '96 and died 2013. But now there is still a taxidermy of the largest python so tourists can still take a photo and be in awe.
12. Island Hopping for the beach starved
For the people who just can't get enough of seeing more beaches, then island hopping is not to be missed. A lot of uninhabited islands are there for you to explore with just a ten minute boat ride from Panglao Island. You can get out of the resort crowd and head for some quiet in the fine white sands of Virgian Island. Which is actually, technically just a sandbar. When the tide is low, a part of it's crescent moon shaped islet right in the middle is submerged under half a feet of water.
13. Firefly Kayaking
Located at Abatan River in Maribojoc, this is a different experience as you prepare to kayak around the river from 5:pm onwards as the sun sets and the light around the river dims, an enchanting sight is to be experienced. You will get to a quiet part of the river where suddenly trees come to life with brilliant light show coming from thousands of fireflies.
There are probably a lot more of activities, sights and attractions that we may have missed on our list. Just let us know through the comments which ones we missed, and we'd be happy to share it to others.
Accommodations - Hostel bed - 350-400PHP per person
Accommodations - Family Hotel Room - 3,000 - 6,000PHP
Accommodations - Hotel / Resort Rooms - 3,000 - 8,000PHP
Transportation - Tricycle - 100 PHP per way (especially if your accomm is far from town)
Transportation - Car / Van - 300-600 PHP depending on your arrangement
Transportation - Loboc River Cruise and Buffet - 450 PHP / head
Transportation - Island Hopping Boat Tour - 1,500 - 2,500 PHP depending on boat size etc.
Activities - Tickets / Entrances - 100 PHP or below
Activities - Car Rent Day Tour - 1,200 PHP (capacity 4-5pax)
Activities - Tricycle Rent Day Tour - 1,000 PHP or below
Activities - Van Rental Day Tour - 1,800 PHP++
Foods - Fish - 300 - 500 PHP / meal (fish is expensive and priced by weight)
Foods - Chicken Meal - 100 - 200 PHP per meal
(Quoted from "Your Guide to Bohol" by Sanchez-Bronce, Loop and Carpentier)
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