During my time in the Philippines I was determined to venture beyond Manila and see at least one island. As the Phantom cast only got one day off a week this was quite difficult but I managed to squeeze in a 1-night stay with my hubby on the island of Bohol which is about an hour and fifteen minute flight away.
I debated long and hard between Palawan and Bohol but eventually settled on Bohol because it has a beautiful beach, like Palawan, as well as ecological treasures such as caves, forrests and exotic wildlife. We managed to see all of these in one day but I would not recommend this type of sight-seeing, better to spread it out and enjoy each place.
Our flight landed on Monday morning and from the airport our guide took us straight to the Tarsier Conservation Sanctuary. Tarsiers are part of the monkey family and are the smallest mammals in the world. They grow to about 8cm which is the average length of an adult index finger.
These little guys are so sweet…
Their eyes are fixed in their sockets and are not mobile like ours. As a result they have really flexible necks; a tarsier can turn its head 180 degrees to face the back.
From the tarsiers we went to the famous Chocolate Hills.
The Chocolate Hills are a series of over 1200 grass-covered mounds that cover an area of 50 km and turn brown during the dry months resembling Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses, hence the name. We were there in the rainy season so the Chocolate brown was more Pistachio green but the view was still impressive.
Legend has it the hills are the aftermath of a fight between the gods – no wonder they have been afforded UNESCO World Heritage Site status!
Our last stop before lunch was the Butterfly Sanctuary. We had the funniest guide and even though the trip was short, it was a highlight. We were told that most butterflies die within 21 days but the “Lady Gaga” butterfly, which is half-male, half-female, dies within 4 days. It is born with one male wing, usually big and beautiful and one female wing which is smaller and less colourful. Our guide assured us it is “born this way” due to a “bad romance” 🙂 🙂 .
Next we were shown the butterfly cocoons which are like drops of pure gold…
The in-between phase where the caterpillar emerges from the cocoon as a half-butterfly is straight out of science fiction…
We moved on to the actual butterfly garden, filled with hundreds of the tamest butterflies. Our guide was able to pick up any butterfly (by the body, never by the wings) and place it into the palms of our hands where it obediently stayed still and posed for the camera.
For those brave enough you can experience the ultimate in hair accessories by having the butterflies placed in your hair. This is fine so long as you don’t think about the fact that you have insects crawling on your scalp!
The tour came to an end but not before showing us how to grow our very own butterfly wings. I swear! Check me out…
Lunch was a cruise down the Luboc river on board a floating restaurant. The food was traditional Philippino-style rice, prawns, meat and fruit. The cruise was lovely except for the blaring noise which was a guy singing golden oldies, plugged into an acoustic system on full volume – I would have preferred to hear the sounds of the river running beneath us.
The cruise by-passed a bamboo pit-stop of sorts where we were treated to a Philippino song and dance performance.
In one of my earlier posts about my honeymoon in Thailand I spoke about the traditional Thai Bamboo dance. Well it seems the dance is also a Philippino tradition (don’t know who stole it from whom). Here is a video of my attempt at the crazy dance.
The cruise continued down the river until what appeared to be a dead-end and the climax of the scenic tour – a series of mini waterfalls!
After lunch we headed to the Bohol bee farm which is actually a really quaint resort.
The gift shop had beautiful hand-crafted bags, freshly baked bread, organic honey, pesto and other condiments. There were also a variety of “health” ice creams on sale. No chocolate and vanilla, think herb and vegetable flavours that don’t taste too great (I had the Durian) but at least you can enjoy your cone guilt free!
The bee farm is less of a farm and more of a herb garden with a few “bee boxes”. I’m sure there is an official term for the slates of bees that hold the honey comb in these boxes but I don’t know what it is. My husband and I bravely took hold of a slate and posed for a picture as if it is something we do everyday.
The final stop on our whirl-wind tour of Bohol was the Hinagdanan Cave.
We got there near closing time which was a good thing as it was a bit quieter. The guide leads you down a narrow underground stairwell into a dark and humid cave about the size of a 2 bedroom apartment. You feel like you are in for a real adventure the minute that cave smell hits your nostrils. Something flew next to my ear and I shrieked thinking it was a bat (I have long hair ok!). It was actually a really strange-looking bird with a short body and wide wings so it actually does look like a bat.
The guide, in friendly Philippino style, offered to adjust the light settings of our camera and take all our pictures for us. He had a whole photo shoot planned. The first shot was of the paintings visible on the cave walls.
Then he made us pose by the water which is very clear and warm. Apparently people can swim in the water and it’s so hot and sticky inside that I regretted not having my bathing suit with me.
Finally our guide took a shot of us and the whole cave.
By the end of the day we were absolutely exhausted so we had a little siesta back at our hotel before dinner. When we awoke the wind was howling but it was still hot so we headed out for some dinner on the beachfront. The vibe was incredible – tons of beach cafes, music playing, little shops and trees dressed in fairy lights.
The great thing about eating on the beach is you get to see your food before it gets cooked. I had a tuna steak and some red snapper.
And of course, the mandatory beach cocktail…
The next morning we had an early flight back to Manila which was slightly depressing because Bohol was in for a beautiful day. At leat we got to have breakfast on the beach which is a real treat for city dwellers.
Despite a crazy day of sight-seeing I am so glad I got to see this beautiful island. So many treasures and pleasures. I can’t say whether we would have preferred Palawan but what I can say is if I ever come back to the Philippines I will be visiting Bohol again.