Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sarah and Myk: The Island of Bohol

Dive, Write, Sleep
Sara Derengowski

        Bohol is the jewel of the Philippines. Honestly, Boracy and Puerta Gallera may be tourism central, but Bohol is the real little gem.  Bohol is actually quite big, being the tenth largest of the 7000 plus islands that make up Philippines, and is in the central Visayas. Its prime location in the middle of many other islands gives it very calm weather without the typhoons and heavy storms the neighbouring islands can suffer from. It can be reached by air from the Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, or by ferry. There are many crossings to and from Cebu daily from both Tagbilaran and Tubigon. Camigium can also be reached via Jagna and Leyte is accessible from Ubay. There is also a twice daily ferry from Dumaguette.

     Like the rest of the Philippines its prime tourist pull is its diving and snorkelling and for good reason. There are plenty of areas to choose from and diving is normally all year round. I’ve worked here now for eight months right through the typhoon season and we’ve only had a handful of days where diving has been out of the question.
   Party animals and those needing western civilisation should make their way Panglao and stay near Alona Beach. This is a short tricycle from Tagbilaran city (Bohol’s capital) and full of bars, restaurants and hotels. There is a white sandy beach and many dive schools, some independent and some connected to hotel resorts. The diving around Balicasag Island (book trips from Panglao) is highly recommended.

    Travellers preferring something quieter should head up to Anda on the south coast. Its around one and a half hours drive from Tagbilarian or forty-five minutes from Jagna if you’re coming from Camiguin. It is possible to take a public bus (change in Guindelman for a tricycle if no buses going all the way to Anda) or arrange transport in advance with a resort. Entertainment is usually within resorts, its not that it’s not safe but there’s little tourism. What it lacks in nightlife and fancy restaurants, it makes up for with quiet sandy beaches, laidback friendly people and some of the best diving in the Philippines.

    From just outside Guindelman to a few kilometres past Anda is a beautiful coral reef just one hundred to two hundred metres from shore. The coral reef is beautiful and intact, the fish are plentiful and there are sites suitable for all levels. There’s the odd whaleshark sighting and lots of turtles but the real pull for the area is the macro life. It’s a photographers dream.

Go to fullsize image    Don’t dive? Shame on you! Bohol’s one of the best places to learn! But don’t worry if the underwater life doesn’t interest you, there is still plenty to do. Snorkelling, boat trips and dolphin watching are all possible and if you want to move away from the water there are many other things. Bohol is famous for the Chocolate Hills, which are over 1000 identical mounds: a very impressive sight. Apparently they are coral deposits although I prefer the local’s story that it’s a giant’s teardrops. Bohol is also home to a sanctuary of Tarsier monkeys the world’s smallest primate and possibly the cutest thing you’ll ever see. It also has the world largest python and if you are lucky enough to be there on feeding day then you’ll get to see if stuff itself with a whole pig. Mmmm lovely!
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Tarsier monkeys

    And for those guests seeking adventure look no further than EAT Danao, a huge natural adventure park where visitors can zipline, abseil, tube, rock climb and many other activities.

    The famous Loboc river (parts of Apocolpyse Now were shot there) is also worth a trip. It is easy to book lunch on a floating restaurant as part of another trip or even stay there at the Nutz Huts, little wooden cabins on stilts in the middle of the jungle: a real interesting experience.

    Bohol really is the gem of the Philippines. Okay, so I’m biased. I live here but if it weren’t so fantastic, I’d have moved on months ago.

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