Bohol’s green heart
Bohol, Philippines, 2014-03-17 10:23 by Laerke and Martin
After three days of travelling from Derawan we made it to the Philippines! The trip from Kota Kinabalu went a little like this: harassed at the airport by unhelpful Airasia staff, then waiting around for ever for a because of delays, after which we finally got cramped into our seats on the plane and received absolutely zero service and could barely fit (can you tell I’m starting to get a bit sick and tired of Airasia?). From Cebu airport we took a taxi to the port; traffic in Cebu is comparable to Bangkokian traffic, meaning it was more or less one long traffic jam. The last ferry for Siquijor had left half an hour before, so we made a quick decision and bought tickets for Bohol instead. We got on a ferry that had seating reminiscent of an Airasia flight, though they showed English language movies…and for free (you could learn from that AirAsia)!

Upon arrival at Tagbilaran on Bohol a mob of eager taxi drivers awaited, the most persistent taxi driver won, and after picking up a new tire, drove us an hour inland towards Nut Huts that. This bungalow outfit came recommended by almost everyone, however much to our surprise we get dropped off on the side of the road and the taxi driver proceeded to inform us that we must now walk for 15 minutes in the dark to reach the place! After a scramble down a rocky path lit only by the full moon we finally reach Nut Huts merely to be informed that they are fully booked!!! Two lovely motorbike drivers are summoned to take us in search of another place to stay and we take off towards Loboc, a city we passed earlier on the way. The motorbike guys stop in front of a dark place that looks very closed, but one driver goes off in search of the owner and comes back with a small family that sets about making beds, finding toilet paper etc.; at 22.00 we are finally tucked up in bed – despite everything I’m already loving the Philippines.

Next morning we wake up to rain. As it lets up a little we arrange to rent a motorbike, and eat a breakfast of greasy empanadas and juicy mangoes. We quickly realize that the only ATMs on the island that takes international cards are located in Tagbilaran, the port city we arrived in yesterday. So we drive back to take out money! Once that is accomplished we set out to see one of Bohol’s star attractions – the Tarsier! The rain is on and off, and we get pretty soaked, luckily it is not cold. After asking for directions a couple of times, and being amazed at how good everyone’s English are, we find the sanctuary! A nice young guy takes us through a small part of the forest in search of tarsiers, he is great at locating them and before long he points one out to us.

Tarsiers are small animals with enormous eyes; each eyeball is approximately 16 mm in diameter and is as large as its entire brain. They are also the only extant entirely carnivorous primates: they are primarily insectivorous, and catch insects by jumping at them, setting off with their long somewhat creepy looking hind legs. All tarsier species are nocturnal in their habits, sleeping most of the day away. They are highly endangered, with loss of habitats being the biggest threat to these cute hairballs.

Apparently there are three genus of tarsiers, one in the Philippines, one on Sulawesi and one on Borneo and Sumatra. The Philippine ones are solitary, living by themselves and fighting bitterly for territory, while the tarsiers found on Sulawesi live in family groups (as we witnesses some years ago in Tangkoko National Park).


After saying goodbye to the cute tarsiers we head toward Loboc’s adventure park and zipline! Here I’m outfitted with a helmet and laid down in a harness before I zip across a beautiful canyon: Green, steep hills on each side and a brilliant green river flowing far below complete with a small waterfall surrounded by tall palm trees. Simply gorgeous!


Loboc is quite dead at night, but we gotta eat, so we head towards the town square, the only place that it seems anything is open. Passing up on a small, open sided restaurant called Village Pizza (how good can that be?) we instead opt for a local eatery with Pilipino dishes. Well, that was not our best decision…the food is edible, but that is it.

The next day, the sun is out when we wake up at around 8 AM, so we hurry, pack our day bag and head off for a long drive inland in search of the other renowned attraction on Bohol, the weirdly named Chocolate Hills. We pass several villages with old churches, which have taken heavy damage from the earthquake, as we drive the perhaps 1.5 hours towards the hills, but the scenery is nice and there is little traffic on the road.


Finally, we spot some funny looking, rounded hills jot up from the landscape and soon we are in the midst of the Chocolate Hills. We begin by visiting the official lookout atop a particularly tall Chocolate Hill; the views from there are pretty good and we snap a photo identical to the iconic photos you see in almost all guidebooks and brochures…very original! We feel a bit “now what?” after having admired the view for some time, so we ask around for details on other possible lookouts or ways to experience the interesting landscape. We are told that it is possible to go on a nice motorbike ride in the area; however one must hire a guide, because it is difficult to find the paths and it is “best for security”! Uhm…ok?!


We decide however that we’ll try to find our own way, so we head back to the main road and after 2 minutes turn left onto the first small dirt road we come across. Soon we are driving amongst beautiful back country scenery, with rounded hills on either side. We pass through some small villages, take photos and enjoy the sunshine. On the way back towards the main road, we spot a small path leading up one of the Chocolate Hills, so we stop and decide to try and follow it…which after 15 minutes takes us precisely where we imagined; a great lookout, with not another visitor in sight (actually not true, because one can, in the distance, spot the official lookout and the tourist flocking over there).

While the Chocolate Hills may not be the most exciting of sights, we have a great morning driving around in the mellow and lovely surroundings (and security did not pose a problem).


Again we are on the lookout for food, this time lunch… Towns here don’t have many restaurants or food stalls, but we end up buying a whole grilled chicken, rice in small woven bags, white bread and some fruit. We head back towards Loboc, but stop in a weirdly northern European looking forest (that it apparently “man-made”) and eat our lunch. The trees provide great shade and the temperature drops considerably when driving under the canopy; a juicy chicken, some rice, bread and yummy fruit later, we continue back towards Lopoc. Unfortunately, we decide to take another route back, following some small and muddy but attractive country roads, so when we reach Loboc we discover that we have arrived on the far side of Loboc river – not a problem, we’ll just cross the convenient and large bridge that span the river…except the earthquake has damaged it making only foot traffic possible…well, one hour and quite a few kilometers later on the bike, we get to the right side of the river and are back home.

Loboc River at dusk

At night we once again scour the neighborhood for food and find that not much more is happening compared to yesterday. As we don’t want to repeat the mistake from last night, we only have one option: Village Pizza. To our surprise an older American guy is manning the small kitchen, with firewood burning hot in a brick oven behind him. We have a chat and are soon served two crisp and pretty tasty pizzas. After consuming those, we eat a third. The prices were quite reasonable, the service good and atmosphere nice and chill – not what we had imagined when we first saw it from a distance!