Nov 28-30, 2015
Location: Bohol (province), Philippines
Next to Batanes (because of expensive air fare), Bohol is probably the most elusive destination for me in the Philippines. In my first attempt, I arrived late at the airport and the plane left without me. I even inherited a small piece of land in Bohol's rural section - but didn't bother to check it out. In the 2 years I stayed in Dumaguete with Bohol just a short boat ride away, I didn't pay a visit. Same thing with my many stays in Cebu. Bohol was simply off-limits to me.
During this stay in Cebu, it finally happened. Metz, together with the Qualfon crew, tagged me along for a long weekend road trip around Bohol that took us to the zipline of Danao, Chocolate Hills, the Tarsier sanctuary and the famous Alona Beach in Panglao.
Fiesta Eats in Tubigon
Upon arrival in Tubigon, a van awaited us and were taken to a staff's residence in Macaas where food lay before us from the fiesta that just took place. Macaas gave me a glimpse of rural life in a small town - simple, unpretentious and warm.
Danao Adventure Park
I only availed of the zipline spanning a valley with a river down below. But the whole adventure package of Danao includes a cable car ride, caving, river rides/trekking, off-road buggy ride, root climbing, rapelling and ultra-glide rides. It could be a whole day affair on its own, but we were soon on the road.
It was dark when we arrived at Alona Beach in Panglao where we stayed at the quaint Citadel Alona Hotel. A walk around the area revealed how developed the place is. It looked like a mini-Boracay with all the array of shops, restos, hotels and bars. It is far more developed than Dumaguete.
We took a short pump boat trip to Balicasag Island. On a good day, dolphins could be seen swimming by - we didn't. Someone told me that in the 1970s, a marine biologist on snorkeling gear (I actually met him but didn't ask him to verify the story) was towed by a boat around the island. He said that he saw a Volkswagen (a name used for a Grouper as big as a Volkswagen) every 50 meters and that the entire time, it was raining fish! Well, our visit was not as mind-blowing as that. Instead, we were greeted with cras commercialization. I guy on a paddle boat offered to take us to the coral reef with snorkel gear for P400/head. When we asked him to take us to the island instead, he gave us a ridiculous figure and said it didn't include a return trip! Disgusted, we simply swam to the island with our vest.
Metz and I stopped by the most impressive hotel in the area - Henann, which looked like a 5-star hotel on a massive 6-hectare spread with the longest and widest beach front. Beer was P90 on the menu but with all its surcharge, you end up paying P110. We nursed our beer by the table on the white-sand beach. It is located at the end of the beach so it offered increased privacy with not too many people passing by.
I thought the Chocolate Hills were only a few mounds of earth. I was wrong. It dominated a substantial part of the landscape with its familiar and odd shape. Of course you could stop along the road to view it, but the main vantage point is a developed tourism spot where you get to climb a flight of steps leading to the top of a hill and get a 360° view of the surrounding area. It was interesting, but once you see it, it's a 'been-there-than-that' episode.
Tarsier Conservation Area
The tarsier is interesting for a few reasons. It is one of the smallest primates and only endemic in the Philippines with the greatest concentration in Bohol. Its exceptionally large eyes are fixated to its skull, so they have to turn their heads (up to 180°) and not with their eyes in order to see things around them. With an affordable P60/pax entrance, it's worth a visit - but you don't really see much. They are housed in their natural habitat where you find them curled-up in sleep for the most part - they are nocturnal. There are about 7 sections where you see individual tarsiers in their territorial space. In the merchandising section, you see everything from tarsier headbands to tarsier key chains.
Anda de Boracay
For our 2nd night, we stayed at Anda de Boracay, a beach resort famous with the locals. The hotel structure was a bit eccentric with multiple stairs resembling an M. C. Escher illustration. The pool was an added plus. The beach front itself was long and wide.
Bohol's tourist attractions were spread out and far apart. A lot of time was spent on the road. Chocolate Hills and the tarsier were both interesting, but seeing them once is enough. Alona Beach however, with its entire offering of diving, beach bumming, trendy hotels and bars, access to Balicasag Island, etc. is worth repeated visits. It is perhaps the one area that impressed me the most of Bohol.
Thank you Metz!!! This tour was just your office affair, but you tagged me along for a wonderful weekend getaway and made me feel at home with your crew.
Next stop: back to Cebu City
Bohol FYI / Tips
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located within the Alona Beach area
- the tourist attractions in Bohol are far apart and spread-out. It would be difficult to visit them all using public mass transit. Better hire a van (P3500/day) if in a big group, or rent a motorcycle (P400/day + gas)
- Bohol relies on its tourism for revenue. As expected, everything they can capitalize on from tourism is extensively used and developed
Tagbilaran Port to PanglaoYou can charter any tricycle from the port all the way to Panglao (~P300), but if you want to do it on the cheap,
- don't take the tricycles lined-up inside the port. Walk past the port gate and immediately outside, you'll see many tricycles. Take one to the bus terminal in Dao (~P15)
- in Dao, take the jeep that plies the Panglao route (~P20)
Tagbilaran (Bohol) to Cebu City by boat** schedules and rates keep changing, call for latest schedule
- Weesam Express - departs 6:15 AM, 11:30 AM, 4:00 PM
one way: Economy (aircon) P500.00, Economy (non-aircon) P400.00, First Class P600.00
round trip promo (at least 2 days advance booking): Economy (aircon) P600, Economy(non-aircon) P500, First Class P1200
round trip promo (1 day or on the day booking): Economy (aircon) P800, Economy (non-aircon) P700, First Class P1200
- Ocean Jet - departs 6-7:05-8:20-9:20-11:40AM, 1-2-3:30-4:20-5:30-6:30PM, 2 hours, arrives Pier 1 in Cebu
Open Air / Tourist Class P800, Business Class P1000
+63(32)255 7560 / +63 (32) 255 0115 / 0917 638 0000
- SuperCat (2GO) - departs 5:50-11AM, 3:45-5:25-8:15PM, arrives Pier 1 in Cebu
+63 32 233 7000
Things to do, Places to go in Bohol
- Chocolate Hills - this is a clustering of more than 1200 hills within a 50km2 area. They range in height from 30-50 meters. What's unusual is their near-perfect conical shape resembling an individual chocolate chip. No one knows how they were formed. Entrance is P50/pax.
- Tarsier Conservation Area - located Upper Bonbon, Loboc. The tarsiers are no longer being played at by tourists as circus props, but instead, visitors now view them in cordoned-off areas in their natural 6ha habitat. As they are territorial and nocturnal, they are predictable on where they can be viewed. P50/pax.
- Alona Beach (Panglao) - Alona Beach is the tourist hub of Bohol. It has 1.5 kms of white sand beach lined-up by bars, hotels and restos. Alona is also the jump-off point for Balicasag Island, a world class dive destination.
- Danao Adventure Park - located in Barangay Magtangtang, 72 kms (2 hours ride) from Tagbilaran. Adventure activities include river trekking, tyrolean traverse, rappelling, bouldering, rock climbing and ziplining.
Carlos P. Garcia Island
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