Ok so it wasn’t strictly our first taste, after 2 days riding out Holy week in Cebu City, but Bohol was our first real island experience.
A fairly large island, Bohol is home to a lot of sights, the most popular being the amazing Chocolate Hills and the critically endangered Tarsiers. We stayed on Panglao Island, which is much smaller and connected to Bohol proper via several bridges.
After debating whether to hire a driver or not we decided to just hire a motorbike as the distances weren’t too large. It turns out they are a lot larger than they look on a map, especially on slow roads on a slow bike!
We reached the chocolate hills after a good 2 hours riding. After paying the modest entry fee of 50 pesos we started climbing the viewing platform, the top of which had unfortunately been damaged during the 2013 earthquake so was partly fenced off thus we couldn’t get as good a view as we would have liked.
The chocolate hills are so called because of the brown colour they turn during the dry season, however they were mostly green when we visited. This didn’t stop them from being a spectacular site though, we have never seen anything else like it. No-one is entirely sure how they were formed but they are made from sandstone and contain marine deposits so have been uplifted from the sea over time.
Personally I prefer the local legend that 2 giants had a huge fight, throwing boulders around and forgot to clean up their mess!
From the chocolate hills it should have been a fairly short ride to the tarsier sanctuary but again due to earthquake damage we were thwarted slightly – the only bridge crossing a large river was still closed, forcing us to ride all the way back to the main town (Tagbilaran) and back up another road, taking another hour or so.
Eventually, at 3.30pm we reached the tarsier sanctuary, only to be confronted by a sign which stated they closed at 4pm. This would normally be annoying but this sort of thing happens on a daily basis to us so we just sighed. Luckily they did let us in and we had time to look around. We wanted to visit the sanctuary because although there are many places on the island to see the tarsiers, a lot take them out of their natural habitat for tourists. This is especially bad with tarsiers as they have been known to commit suicide when scared and they are incredibly fragile so cannot be handled.
So what exactly is a tarsier? It is one of the world’s smallest primates, though despite misconceptions is not actually a monkey. They eat insects, have huge eyes that cannot move but they make up for this by having the ability to turn their heads 180 degrees, exorcist style!
In the sanctuary we were led into the large enclosure, which the tarsiers can theoretically escape from as it has no roof. However they tend to stay within the confines of it. It is home to around a dozen tarsiers but on any particular day they can only locate a few – luckily for us they could find 3 that day. The first was the most amazing, we could get very close to it and saw the famous head turn! We knew they were small but it still surprised us just how tiny they were. It only took around 20 minutes to walk around the enclosure but it was an unforgettable wildlife experience that is almost unique to this small Filipino island.
The next day, back on the smaller island of Panglao, we paid a bit of money to spend a day at a resort we could never afford to stay in. They had an infinity pool!!
We also checked out a local cave, and visited Alona Beach, near to where our accommodation was. The beach was ok but very overdeveloped. It is apparently a world class diving spot though which is the main draw for visitors there.
All in all it was a fascinating few days, and the area is well worth visiting!
Where We Stayed
We booked online at Roberto Resort before we arrived. It is located around 1.5km from Alona Beach, and run by a lovely French/Haitian guy. The room was spotless and comfy but the resort itself quite quiet – we’d sometimes get back at 9pm and all the lights would be out and it was impossible to even get a drink. The location was also an issue, as almost all the restaurants are much closer to the beach so it meant a 5 minute ride or a sweaty 20 minute walk. All in all the resort was nice though and is a decent choice.