Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Tarsiers, chocolate hills and diving in Bohol

Our first stop upon arrival on the island of Bohol was Panglao, a short drive from the airport and home to some lovely coral reefs. We spent a lovely few days scuba diving during the day, and enjoying the beach side BBQ's in the evening.

The visibility underwater was pretty good, and along with a huge variety of fish, starfish and corals, we found some cute baby clownfish and an even-cuter baby lionfish.

After all that messing about in the water we went back inland, to hit two of the most touristy destinations in the Philippines - the Tarsier sanctuary and the chocolate hills. Some time in the past someone sitting on the tourist board must have decided that those two deserved a top spot, and one or the other (or often a photoshopped combination of the two!) are on most posters we had seen.

We hired a driver for the day to show us some of the highlights, and the tarsiers were our first stop. Tiny, docile little primates, they really are cuteness personified. Looking down at us though big, sleepy eyes, no bigger than the palm of my hand, I could have happily whisked a few away in my pocket. Gorgeous.

Next up were the chocolate hills, named so because of the brown appearance they take on during the dry season. They were still green when we visited, just turning, but it was difficult not to be impressed - hundreds of identically sized and shaped mounds rising all around us. We had a hot, sweaty climb up to the viewing platform under the blazing sun, but it was worth it to see the hills stretch out in front of us as far as we could see.

We finished off the day with a short stop at the nearby butterfly sanctuary, and a drive through the man-made mahogany forest. The driver was incredibly surprised that we didn't want to get out and take pictures of the forest 'but it's a forest, a man-made one. The trees are big!'. We tried to explain that large forests were normal to us, and the jungle environment all around Bohol far more unusual and appealing. We carried on, driving through bus loads of Filipino tourists posing up against the trees...

All too soon it was time to leave Bohol. We had originally planned to go to Cebu, an island a short distance away, then travel to more diving sites, but fate intervened and before we knew it, we were indeed on a ferry to Cebu city, but armed with a couple of cheap plane tickets to the island of Palawan instead for our final week.

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