It’s Better In Bohol
The skies have opened up, but the downfall doesn’t last long. That’s the beauty of a tropical shower. The aftermath of rain casts an ethereal sparkle over the surrounding bottle-green flora, and while it’s a damp welcome to Bohol, spirits are high.
Where Manila has shoulder-to-shoulder chaos in labyrinthine city streets, Bohol, an oval-shaped isle south of Cebu and the 10th largest island in the Philippine archipelago, is a languid escape from the chaos of the capital. Not to mention a relaxing alternative to hard-partying Boracay.
The atoll is a nature lover’s paradise, by virtue of swoon-worthy palm-fringed beaches, underwater treasures, forest-clad hilltops and a balmy climate, with an abundance of adventure pursuits and secluded oceanfront resorts.
But, I can’t raise my cocktail glass just yet as it’s time to meet the island’s tiniest locals at the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary.
No larger than an adult man’s fist, tarsiers are considered the world’s smallest primate. An endangered species, the sanctuary is dedicated to the conservation of the dwindling numbers of these intriguing creatures.
As we trail an expert spotter in the viewing area whose keen gaze points them out even in the densest undergrowth, the tarsiers induce hushed squeals with their adorable tiny stature and enormous bug-like eyes.
Frankly, if my Philippine journey ended there, the trip would’ve been complete, though the day is young.
We board a floating restaurant for a lunch cruise down the Loboc River. Snaking along the milky green waterway lined by coconut palms, locals wave on the shores as cheeky children flip into the river from makeshift rope swings.
These riverbank acrobatics are a fitting precursor for the next stop on the itinerary: Chocolate Hills Adventure Park. Its namesake is the very natural phenomenon that put Bohol on the traveller trail. Bulbous grass-clad mounds, the Chocolate Hills – some 1,260 of them – stretch as far as the eye can see.
It’s more fun in the Philippines – step it up!
It’s amid these mysterious hills we scale stone steps up to the ‘Bike Zip’, a teetering zip-line strung between two mounds in which riders peddle across on repurposed bicycles.
Though the ride is not quite the death defying act I was hoping for (my travelling partner would argue otherwise), the experience is nonetheless exhilarating. The 360-degree panorama of the Chocolate Hills guarantees it; even if you can’t bring yourself to turn your head and check out the views.
The park also offers up a bevy of adventurous activities, from high-ropes courses to zorbing slopes, but it’s the aquatic pursuits we crave.
The next few days mean a swimwear uniform and exploring the surrounding isles from a beachfront position at the South Palms Resort on Panglao Island while employing the mantra of ‘eat, sleep, swim, snorkel, repeat’.
Island hopping, we chug along to famous dive spot, Balicasag Island by ‘banka’, or pump boat. The marine sanctuary is a diver’s and snorkeler’s nirvana illuminated by technicolour fish. Above the surface is a different story and we spend part of the boat journey soaked from hat to flip flops in a torrential downpour.
As if right on cue, the clouds clear making glossy seas and the warm embrace of the sun all the more welcome. Despite the drizzly moments, I can’t help but wonder if life gets any better than this.
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I thrive on discovering hidden gems and local haunts wherever I travel, from hole-in-the-wall cafes and dive bars, to antique stores and eclectic markets. I feel just as content in a cosy cabin in the wilderness as I do lost in the crowd of a buzzing city.