Amazing diving, coral reefs teeming with wildlife, dolphins and whales, mangroves, a strange, rare animal and some unusual, unexplained hill formations. These are the things that drew me to Bohol while on holiday in the Philippines. After a week of doing nothing but eating, drinking, swimming and sunbaking on Boracay, I was ready for some adventure and the island of Bohol seemed to offer what my travelling companions and I were looking for.
You can now fly directly to Bohol (they had an international airport open in 2018) however when I travelled there it was a taxi, ferry, flight and another ferry to get there from Boracay. Bohol, while much larger than Boracay, was a great deal quieter and much less touristy. I believe this has changed a little since the opening of the airport, but it is still a more relaxed island and way of life here. It was like a breath of fresh air. We had a room right on the beach in a lovely little resort right next door to a dive shop which made planning for a dive the next day too easy!
We headed out in the dive boat after breakfast. We only had to go about 15 minutes from shore before we could jump in. The water was beautiful, crystal clear with so much colourful coral and plenty of gorgeous fish, including more ‘Nemo’s’ than I’ve ever seen before! I’d heard they are quite an aggressive fish but never really believed it until I had one that just wouldn’t leave me alone, swimming into my goggles over and over. We sadly didn’t see any dolphins or whales, but it was fantastic all the same.
The next morning we each decided to hire motorbikes and set out to find the famous Chocolate Hills. No map; just asked some directions and we set off. Luckily, there were signs here and there to guide us and the locals all knew the words in English and managed to point us in the right direction. What we hadn’t counted on was quite how far it was! A few hours later we had made it and what a sight it was. There is no other way to describe them except they look like mounds and mounds of chocolate hills as far as the eye can see; there are thousands of them. It is quite astonishing, particularly as there is no real scientific explanation as to why the hills have formed that way.
Close by the Chocolate Hills viewing platform we noticed a sign for a lunch cruise through the mangroves on the Loboc River. As we were starving by now, we thought why not? This was such an unexpected highlight. The scenery was spectacular and completely different to the beach area and the Chocolate Hills, and on top of this there was music, dancing and fantastic food.
By now it was well into late afternoon, so we started to head back to our side of the island. We had heard of a little spot you could stop on the way to view the Bohol Tarsier, the world’s smallest primate only found in the Philippines. They are strange, little creatures that look a bit like a Gremlin mixed with a possum and bat, with an exceptionally long tail, and huge eyes! Tarsier sighted, we kept going, fighting a sudden change in weather, meaning we had to ride through torrential rain and hail for a couple of hours! It was a long trip both there and back, and exhausting, but well worth it. Just having the freedom of riding a motorbike around a foreign country, passing the kids at school and adults going about their daily business, always with a smile or a wave as we whizzed by, such a wonderful experience.
The rest of our time in Bohol was spent on more diving expeditions, each as good as the next. I would highly recommend this island if you are planning a visit to the Philippines. It has a lot to offer, plenty to do for the adventurous or culturally interested and gives you a much better insight into the life of the locals, compared to a larger resort style area such as Boracay.
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