Bohol was my absolute favourite island in the Philippines that I visited. It was the perfect mix of stunning beaches, cultural heritage and serene nature. It is an island which offers everything, and it truly is the epitome of paradise. I feel truly honoured to have experienced some of what this special place can offer.
Possibly the cutest (or ugliest) creature I have ever encountered. With it’s big beady eyes, bat like ears and rat like tail,it really is a bizarre evolutionary concoction. It is one of the worlds smallest primates. They are rather difficult to locate, as they are pros at hiding. Luckily,our guide at the Tarsier Sanctuary was well versed in spotting these tiny creatures, and we were lucky enough to spot 7 of them.
They are nocturnal creatures and cling to the branches/trunks of small trees, as if for dear life. I was lucky enough to catch a couple of them with their eyes open, and their slow motion blinks uncovering their beady eyes was just mesmerising. I was completely captivated and fascinated by the Tarsier.
Be warned though, the strangest and saddest thing about the Tarsier, is their suicidal tendencies. They are so overwhelmed by situations they find stressful, that they bang their heads against the tree, until they kill themselves. They get stressed very easily. Loud noises, camera flashes or sudden movements could all trigger their suicidal response. Therefore, if you are lucky enough to encounter one, check your flash is definitely off before taking any photos, move slowly and speak as quietly as possible (or not at all).
The Butterfly Farm
You really don’t need long here, maybe 30 minutes maximum. It is conveniently located between the Tarsier Sanctuary and the Chocolate Hills, so it is easy to add in as a quick stop. You are assigned a guide who takes you through all the different species of moths and butterflies of the Philippines. He then takes you through the actual enclosure, where you can encounter a variety of butterflies and moths, as they fly around you. You also have the opportunity to ‘try on’ a pair of wings and be a butterfly for a moment! Cue a not so flattering picture.
The Chocolate Hills (or Wasabi Hills in the rainy season)
Possibly the most famous site on Bohol. The Chocolate Hills draw many visitors to the island every year. They are also the source of much mystery, lending themselves to the creation of numerous myths and legends. They are quite the bizarre geological feature. Random mounds made of limestone dotted across the landscape. Due to the vegetation on the hills they appear a chocolate brown colour in the dry months (hence the name) and a green (wasabi) colour once the rains set in. I went just at the turn of the seasons, so there was a mixture of brown and green colouring to the hills.
There are well over 1000 hills, which is just a crazy number given the small size of Bohol itself. They truly are a geological wonder, which naturally appeals to my inner geologist. The hills are quite conical and symmetrical in shape, which just adds to their baffling nature and indicates why they have inspired many a myth. Apparently the Russians say they are the breasts of the Russian women sunbathing!! The locals though have a couple of legends themselves, one of which involves two giants fuding, throwing rocks and boulders at each other in their rage. The giants soon got tired though and ended up forging a friendship and left the site, forgetting to clean up their mess.
The saddest of myths though tells the tragic love story of a giant who fell in love with a human. When his human love died, the giant cried uncontrollably and as his tears solidified and dried on the ground, they formed the Chocolate Hills.
The array of myths and legends surrounding the chocolate hills makes the actual geological explanation a lot less glamorous. The hills are a stunning geomorphological example of what is known as a Cockpit Karst…see, I’ve lost your interest already! In summary, Bohol was once underwater, a long, long, long time ago. They are composed of limestone and the fossils of various sea creatures. They were subject to tectonic uplift as they were weakened through various erosion processes. They were then further eroded into the shapes we see today by rivers and streams. That is the very basic version anyway!
Now, moving on from that Geology lesson, the best way to explore these geological wonders is on an ATV (quadbike). This was so much fun. Turns out I am quite the speed demon and I was racing up and down the dusty roads, taking in the amazing scenery. Yes, I inhaled a lot of dust, sand and god knows what else (get a mask or a scarf if you do this) but it was so worth it. You get an amazing view of the chocolate hills from the bottom up and you really can get up close and personal to them. We also explored some local villages and took in the rice terraces at the base of some of the Chocolate Hills. I cannot recommend this enough! P.s. please excuse my pink hat. It wasn’t my choice of attire that day but safety first and all that.
After the ATV experience, the observation deck was a bit of a let down. I was very glad we had opted to do the ATV, as without, the chocolate hills would maybe not have had the same impact on me.
The observation deck was in a state of disrepair. There was scaffolding everywhere which distorted the view (luckily cropping software prevented it ruining my pictures!), it was insanely crowded and uncomfortably hot, with no shelter. After climbing the steep steps, by the time I made it to the top, I was completely drenched in sweat, really out of breath and pining for some shade, a fan and cold water. Instead I was met with crowds, blazing sunshine and warm water (my bottled water had possibly boiled – OK, a bit dramatic, but given how hot I was, it may as well have).
I probably conducted the quickest round of pictures before (pretty much) pushing my way back down the steps, desperate for some respite from the heat. By the time I made it back into the air-conditioning of our car, I could quite literally ring my top out, I had sweated that much, lovely, I know.
After a quick, and somewhat unnecessary stop at the Man Made Forest – I mean, it’s a forest, that was man made, and we were stood in the middle of a road taking pictures of it…we reached our next stop, the Loboc River.
By this point, I was feeling sick, still sweating and my temperature was not coming down, despite the air-conditioning blasting at me on its coldest setting. I really was not feeling this next leg of the trip and almost skipped it out all together. I am so so glad I didn’t skip this out though. I would have missed out on one of the highlights that Bohol has to offer.
It is an extremely popular attraction in Bohol, so expect there to be crowds and some waiting around. There are numerous restaurant boats that cruise up and down the river, serving a delicious buffet of local foods, unlimited iced tea and musical entertainment. After waiting around for about half an hour, and hogging the only fan, it was finally our turn to board the restaurant boat. We ended up being seated with a really lovely American couple and we spent the cruise chatting about the stunning scenery and our respective travel experiences.
Overall, the great company, yummy food and absolutely breathtaking scenery of the Loboc River was absolutely fantastic. Definitely make sure you add this to your Bohol itinerary!
The Blood Compact Site
This is worth a quick stop on the way to any of the above attractions. I would recommend having a few small peso notes as well, as there are some really pretty crafts and souvenirs being sold here, as well as some fantastically talented musicians busking on the streets.
Everywhere you go in the Philippines you encounter hints of their Spanish heritage. The monument pays homage to the friendship pact forged between the Spanish conquistadors and the local people of Bohol. Although technically where the monument stands today isn’t actually the site of where this exchange occurred. The Spanish General established an allegiance with the leader of the tribe Datu Sikatuna by entering into a blood compact, i.e. drinking a mixture of each others blood. Side note here, do not recreate this!!
As you can see, there is so much you can do on Bohol and there is so much more that I didn’t have time to cover. If am lucky enough to visit this island again, I would take part in the zip-lining activities that are available, explore the bars and restaurants of Alona Beach and visit the Bohol Bee Farm for some delicious food (or so I have heard).
Bohol is truly an enchanting island and it offers something for everyone.