Bohol

I seldom take guided tours whilst travelling, preferring to find my own way around. But on Bohol, the points of interest are spread across the island and require transportation to reach them. With limited time available, I secured the services of a guide for a full-day tour (7 hours). The cost of the car and private guide was 2,500 pesos (about $50), but that doesn’t include any of the entrance fees for the points of interest.

With a land area of 4,821 km2 (1,861 sq mi) and a coastline 261 km (162 mi) long, Bohol is the tenth largest island of the Philippines. It is easily accessed via a 2-hour ferry boat ride from Cebu City to Tagbilaran (Bohol’s capital).

bohol-map

The first stop on the tour was at the Xzootic Animal Park, which turned out to be a small collection of cages with a variety of animals on display. The main attraction seemed to be the large boa constrictor snake and a few smaller snakes. There was also a Civet and a species of small wild cat (kept in bare cages with no effort to provide enrichment or a habitat representation). There were also a couple of monkeys, an eagle, two turkeys and an iguana. Not a very inspiring visit but it only took a few minutes for a nominal entrance fee.

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One of the smaller snakes around my neck

I opted to skip three places on the standard tour list: a monument; a church and a butterfly garden. As result, we got to the Loboc River before noon for an early lunch cruise along the river. An additional 450 pesos (slightly less than $10) got me a ticket for a one-hour boat cruise with an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch included.

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Cruise boats preparing to depart
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The buffet opens as soon as passengers are onboard

Passengers can begin selecting food from the buffet as soon as they are onboard. Once all of the tables are full, the boat sets off up river and a local musician plays a few oldie-goldies. Part way along the river, the boat ties up to a floating platform where local schoolkids sing and dance as entertainment (for tips).

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Lunch cruise on the Loboc River

Above video clip: Scenes from the river cruise

Above video clip: Children dance over bamboo poles

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Dancing children wave goodbye
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The pontoon restaurant boats are pushed along by small powered boats
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Small waterfalls where the boats turn and return down river

After leaving the Loboc River cruise location, my driver made a brief stop on the side of the road in the ‘man-made forest’. This a a 2km stretch of mahogany trees that were planted by the government back in the 1970’s. The roadside was lined with cars – quite a popular photo spot.

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Man made mahogany forest

The next stop on the tour was a visit to the Tarsier Sanctuary, an institution that is dedicated to research and preservation of the endemic tarsier, reportedly one of the smallest primates in the world. I was able to see several of these shy retiring creatures, hiding under leaves along the tourist path. Flash photography isn’t permitted due to the sensitivity of the animal’s eyes.

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Tarsier rests beneath leaves
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Amazing little creatures

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The next stop, and the main destination for the tour, was the Chocolate Hills of Bohol. There are over 1,200 of these hills, covering an area of 50 square kilometres. My first view of some of the hills was from ground level, whilst driving a buggy. The buggy cost 1,700 pesos (about $34) for the hour and included a guide who rode ahead on a motorcycle, to indicate where to stop for the best vantage points.

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Sightseeing by buggy
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‘Eight Sisters’
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Mini rice paddies

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Rice fields
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Farmer tills the ground using buffalo power

Following the buggy rental, the tour guide drove me up to the viewing deck where, for a small entrance fee, you can get an overview of some of the hills. In the dry season, the vegetation on the hills dies and they turn a chocolate brown. In the wet season, they remain green.

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Panorama from viewing deck

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The last stop of the tour was a brief visit to the hanging bamboo bridge that crosses a river.

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Hanging bamboo bridge

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Heading home with his catch

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That was my last day in Bohol. Today, I caught the SuperCat ferry back to Cebu city, where I’ll spend my last three nights in the Philippines, before heading to Taiwan.

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