Philippines & Japan 2023, Part Five: Bohol
Continuing my trip recap:
Wherein our steamer comes into port #
We arrived in Bohol in the early evening, the express ferry docking at the port of Tagbilaran. Or, as the sign said, the “Pot of Tagbilaran”:
We were picked up by a van and crossed over the bridge from Tagbilaran to Panglao right as the sun was setting:
We had a late dinner and turned in, knowing that tomorrow we would take the day to recover. In the morning we took some time to check out the town around the hotel, stopping for lunch and ducking in and out of shops before cooling off in the hotel pool.
We decided on two planned excursions over the next couple of days, one to check out the famous Chocolate Hills and other sights further inland, and another to take a boat to Balicasag Island for snorkeling.
The next morning we piled into a van and drove along the Loay Interior Road. We elected to drive straight to the Chocolate Hills in Batuan and then stop at a few places on the way back.
Chocolate Hills #
The Chocolate Hills are one of the most famous landmarks in the Philippines, so it was a treat to finally get to see them—even if they were a bit more green than usual due to the rains. We had to climb a number of stairs to get to the viewing deck.
It was a hot day, and we didn’t last too long up at the observation deck. We did squeeze in a family photo at the base of the hill, though:
Bohol Tarsier Conservation Area #
The next stop was the Tarsier Conservation Area, where we got a glimpse of the tiny, endanged creatures. Most were asleep but occasionally you would see one with their eyes open. There were staff members along a winding path who would take a photo of them with your camera, so this was one recorded for my niece:
There was a small hut attached to the main area that served fresh buko juice, so we ordered a few for refreshment.
Once the juice was gone you could go back to the bar and they would cut the buko in half and give you a piece of the top for scraping out the meat:
Xzootic Animal Park #
For our final stop along the Loay Interior road we went to the Xzootic Animal Park, where we got to see some reptiles and butterflies
Here’s me with the shed skin of a giant python:
On our way back to Panglao we stopped at the Baclayon Church. Our friend Jill spent a lot of time with family in Baclayon so it felt right to drop in and pay our respects. While we were there we happened upon a wedding, and got to see the bride before her big entrance.
Tagbilaran City traffic (no audio). Full version on Flickr.
Panglao at night #
Panglao’s restaurant scene was interesting—it turns out that Panglao is a popular destination for South Korean tourists, so occasionally you’d see Korean signage for restaurants and shops. We had a few good meals with local seafood and various different halo-halo (and halo-halo-adjacent) desserts.
We walked into a small town square and happened upon a performance by a troupe of fire twirlers.
Balicasag Island #
The next day we boarded a boat to Balicasag Island, a popular destination for snorkeling. The bangka was loud! I recommend bringing earplugs if you’re taking these smaller boats around islands—some of them have engine mufflers, and some will absolutely shatter your eardrums.
I kept marveling at how deep you could see into the water even as we got into deeper waters.
When we got to Balicasag Island it was a bit of a rush—we picked out a table for lunch after we got back from snorkeling and ordered some food, then were quickly led away to a set of three boats. We split our group up and our guides started taking us to different spots around the island.
My brother handed his camera to one of our guides and they were able to get some fun video, diving deeper than we could with our life vests on.
We saw sea turtles! I got a really murky video from above one, but this one is the keeper, shot by one of our guides:
I wish we had been able to spend more time in each spot. Due to the large number of people coming to the island the guides moved people through each place very quickly. It felt like in short order we were back to shore and having lunch.
On the way back from Balicasag our boat stopped at Virgin Island, which is a long white sand beach that gets covered during high tide. During low tide you can get onto the beach itself.
The island also possesses some weird temporal magic, apparently. This is one of my favorite photos, where my daughter appears to be slipping between realities:
Getting three full days in Bohol felt like a luxury after the series of quick stops through Iloilo and Cebu. I’d love to go back again, this time with our friend Jill so she can take us to all the local spots she remembers from her childhood.
More photos on Flickr.