Thursday, December 28, 2006



Summer usually means taking a trip to Boracay, the playground of beachbums from as close as Manila and as far away as Morocco. But if you would rather escape the madding crowds and find yourself communing with nothing but nature, your friends and the oddest looking creature since the platypus, then you should look into a trip to Bohol.

The 10th largest island in the Philippines, Bohol is a short flight from the capital of Manila and a two-hour boat ride across from Cebu. Teeming with culture and nature, Bohol boasts beautiful beaches as well as age-old churches; exotic dive sites and captivating views. Many weekend warriors take a two-day trip that allows them experience a majority of the top tourist desitnations. But to really be able to soak in all that Bohol has to offer, it is best to take things slow.
The beaches of Bohol are famous for pristine waters and quiet beaches. Not for them are the dusk-til-dawn raves and wall to wall crowds.

Panglao island, in particular, is a favorite for both divers and hammock fans alike. Connected by a brige to the mainland, Panglao is a gorgeous stretch of sand and surf. Dive sites are easily accessible by boat and kayaking is offered by the high-end resorts.
The richness of Bohol's rich marine flora and fauna are not exclusive to scuba divers.

Snorkeling, especially on the island of Balicasag, uncovers a variety of reef fish, soft corals and the occasional barracuda. A fish sanctuary has been established near the island of Balicasag to battle the devastation caused by less environmental times past. But if a day filled with activity is not on your agenda, take comfort in knowing that no one will judge you. Find a quiet spot under the shade (or in the sun) and let time slip away.

The Bee Farm is popular sanctuary offers private rooms and a relaxed atmosphere. But even those unable to book a room can partake of their delicious home-cooked meals. The organic honey and vegetables grown on the premises are incorporated into many dishes - including pesto spreads, cheese dips & fresh salads. Another interesting item on the menu is the home-baked kamote-bread.

Bohol wouldn’t be complete with a visit to the tarsiers. Tarsiers are tiny nocturnal primates with large round eyes, elongated fingers and a head that can rotate a full 180 degrees. The Philippine species is on the endangered list and conservation efforts have begun in areas of Bohol to protect the Yoda-like mammals. Nocturnal and high-strung by nature, tarsiers may look cuddly but are averse to human touch. At the conservation centers that educate tourists, it is highly encouraged that you look but do not touch them.

The famous Chocolate Hills of Bohol get their name from the brown color they take on during the dry months. In the wet season, the grass turns a lush shade of green and the hills resemble ancient turtles, slumbering amidst the rice paddies and houses. There are over 1,000 hills of about the same size, all cone-shaped, spread out over a 50 kilometer area. The best view is atop the long stairway - a steep climb that delivers a truly breathtaking spectacle. (The climb can also take your breath away if you aren't in good physical shape.)

Another perk of a Boholiday is being awake early enough to see the day come to life. How often do you see the sunrise? Savor the rare moment of stillness before the rest of the world stirs. Even better, make the effort to rise with the sun and hop on a tour boat to go look for the spinner dolphins, Bryde's whales, the occassional whale shark and even manta rays that have been spotted near Pamilacan Island. The spotters and guides on hand are former hunters, now committed to preserving the diversity of Bohol's aquatic life.

It took us well over an hour to spot our first pod. But it was well worth the early morning and the long wait. Dolphins swam in the wake of our boat, jumped and spun in the distance and generally evoked a feeling of being connected to the greater scheme of things. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t see any whales. Maybe next time?

Clear waters, fine sand and an itinerary that is brimming with nature's bounty. How could you not want to spend some time in Bohol?

Other items of interest in Bohol:

Bohol offers everything for the avid tourist. Ancient churces, cascading waterfalls, empty beaches and historical museums are all over the island. Here are some of the more popular choices:

The Loboc River Tour -- A half hour to an hour river cruise aboard a floating restuarant takes you down the scenic Loboc river. Around every bend is a photo-op. The longer tour takes you as far as Busay falls, worthy of a few megabytes of storage space on your digital camera.

The Blood Compact Site -- History has it that Datu Sikatuna, (a native chieftain) entered into a blood compact with the Spaniard Don Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, on March 16, 1565 in a show of friendship between the two races. The site of the compact is marked by a monument in Tagbilaran City.

Eva Cave -- Located in Odiong, just outside of Tagbilaran City) the area is the site of several wild orchids. tree ferns and tropical birds. Some of these birds build edible nests, which are gathered for consumer purposes.

How to Get There:
There are several flights from Manila to Tagbilaran City. The flight takes an hour and 15 minutes. From Cebu City, you can opt to take a ferry across to Tagbilaran. The slower boats can take up to four hours, while the fastcrafts make the journey in an hour and a half.

For photos go to: My gallery

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