It's Better In Bohol

10 February 2016
Read Time: 2.1 mins

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.

Travel Inspiration Sunrise as seen from Panglao Island (image: Rachel Surgeoner)

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.

Travel Inspiration Bohol's tiniest inhabitants, the tarsier monkey

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.

Travel Inspiration The Loboc River: green and serene (image: Anna Howard)

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!

Travel Inspiration Views over the Chocolate Hills (image: Rachel Surgeoner)

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.

Travel Inspiration Bike rides from lofty heights at Chocolate Hills Adventure Park (image: Anna Howard)

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'.

Travel Inspiration The deep blue off Balicasag Island

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.

Travel Inspiration Island hopping in Bohol (image: Rachel Surgeoner)

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.

The writer travelled as a guest of Philippine Airlines and TPBGOVPH.

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Anna Howard

Give me street food over Michelin stars, cellar doors over wine bars and small towns and wide open spaces over big cities any day. Travel for me means ticking off the 'to eat and drink' list one regional flavour and wine bottle at a time.