Asia Bohol The Philippines

Bohol – Exploring the Chocolate Hills and Beyond

Known for its coral reefs and unique geological formations, Bohol’s closeness to nature truly is it’s charm.

Though Bohol’s humidity is significantly higher than the city of Cebu (about 70-80%), there is a lot more greenery and plenty of experiences both on and off the ‘beaten track’. Amidst the colourful rice fields and fishing villages you can find all sorts of experiences ranging from panoramic views of the Chocolate Hills, to cruising alongside Loboc’s famous children’s choir.

What to do and where to go;

? Take in the panoramic views at the Chocolate Hills

The Chocolate Hills are a world-renowned geological formation spread across 6 towns on the island of Bohol. It’s unclear how the hills were formed, yet many scientists put this down to the weathering of limestone.

The hills are covered in green grass with tall trees surrounding as a ring around the base. During the dry season the grass turns brown in colour – so this is where the name comes from. Since 1988 the hills have been The Philippines 3rd National Geological Monumentand it is still awaiting approval to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With over 1770 hills clustered together it’s not hard to see why people have travelled from all over the world to see them.

There are numerous legends surrounding the Chocolate Hills and how they came to be, but the most popular tells tales of giants once roaming Bohol. The story tells of a giant Arogo who fell in love with a mortal woman. Being mortal, she eventually passed away, and Arogo’s tears fell to create the Chocolate Hills.

The Chocolate Hills lookout offers the best viewing spot of the bizarre landscape – it has souvenir shops, a restaurant and a government owned and operated resort. The first viewing spot is from the carpark, but the best lookout can be reached up a staircase of 220steps with sheltered rest-stops along the way. This lookout is located on-top of one of the chocolate hills at 100metres high – but the hills can vary from 40metres to 120metres high.

? Meet the endangered and ADORABLE primates at the Tarsier Sanctuary

Located near the town of Corella sits a large forest dedicated to the protection of Tarsiers, small nocturnal and endangered primates. It is a place for people to learn about Tarsiers as well as providing an opportunity for people to join in on protecting and saving the species in whatever way they can.

The sanctuary spans a total of 10 hectares, but visitors are only guided through one hectare. The Tarsiers are free to leave the territory of the sanctuary – the staff simply act to control and monitor the population as well as treat and feed them.

Open between 9am-4pm, guests are first taken through a small exhibition area filled with information about the Tarsiers and the role and impact of the sanctuary – this is also the exit so you can take a look afterwards if you prefer. The staff then take you through a short guided and marked jungle trail where you can see the Tarsiers up close and personal.

Bohol’s Tarsier Sanctuary – Visiting the world’s smallest primate’

? Go night kayaking for a Firefly watching tour

For this experience you get to visit on of Bohol’s last pristine mangrove rivers in Maribojoc, just a 30minute drive from Tagbilaran. With an hour long cruise on the calm Abatan River waters, you can start your journey by sunset before watching the magical clusters of fireflies light up the river by nightfall.

? Take a Loboc River Cruise with an onboard floating buffet restaurant

Bohol has 11 major rivers, but the Loboc River shows you the Philippines that you have been picturing. Starting at Loay Bridge, you are able to choose from a variety of cruising vessels that all offer traditional Philippino food and buffet style lunches.

The vessel floats down the jade-green water for an hour (return and back) cruising past locals and exploring the jungle-fringed river. Along the journey there are two stops, the first beside the famous Loboc Children’s choir accompanied by ukuleles, and the second beside some dancers that encourage participation.

The regular rate for the floating lunch is 650-700PHP walk-in. This includes the buffet lunch, but drinks are additional. Vegetarian options are plentiful and for dessert you are welcome to both sticky rice and a make-your-own halo halo station.

? Drive through the Bilar Man-Made Forest

The Bilar Forest was created as part of a bigger reforestation project launched in 1953 in response to Loboc’s alarming deforestation. Covering a two kilometre stretch along the border of Loboc and Bilar, it’s hard to miss, but it’s a sight to see nonetheless.

The protected forest displays a noticeable difference to the rest of Bohol, with towering red and white mahogany trees overhanging the road with bright green canopies. Not only does the forest offer a much cooler temperature, mahogany was chosen to help with flood control as the species is very thirsty.

? Get a picture at Cambuyo Rice Terraces

A signature sight in Asia, the Cambuyo Rice Terraces are the perfect photo-stop for any trip to Bohol. As rice is the largest produce out of Bohol there’s no shortage of flat green plains along any road journey.

? You can also;

  • Go for a swim under the Dimiao Twin Waterfalls
  • Go Bike-ziplining at Chocolate Hills Complex
  • Take a walk of faith at Bamboo Hanging Bridge
  • Venture to Panglao Island (Hinadganan Cave and Alona Beach)

⛴ Getting there;

Bohol is located about a 2 hours ferry journey away from Cebu. The most popular route is from Cebu piers to Tubigon Port on Bohol’s West.

There are many ferry companies available from 5am-7pm daily, all offering similar prices;

  • Standard price ranges from 800PHP to 1000PHP
  • Business class prices are closer to 2000PHP

Standard (tourist) class seats vary from outdoor seating to very basic indoor seating. The outdoor seats are covered but open-air so on a rainy day this wouldn’t be very popular. The business class seats are air-conditioned with ensuite facilities and TV entertainment.

THATraveller visited Bohol thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Baron Travel, Travel Village and Philippine Airlines. My opinion is my own.

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