Blazing around Bohol – the land of Chocolate Hills and Tarsiers

I took a motorbike taxi from Cebu North Bus Terminal to the port for 100 pesos, which gave me a great ab workout. At the port, a man waving some OceanJet paperwork came over to me and asked if I wanted to buy a ticket. He told me the ticket was 750 Pesos (which I thought was more than it says online) and then I gave him a 1,000 Peso note which he took to the same ticket office that I could have walked myself to. He came back shortly afterwards saying that the 5pm ferry only had business class tickets left so it would cost 1,000 Pesos. When he came back the printed e-ticket was for 5:40pm, tourist class and said it cost 500 Pesos. I asked where the rest of my money went and apparently it was a “service fee” that the ticket office charged. Well nevermind. I don’t actually know how much the ticket should have cost or whether there were other options but it possibly cost me an extra few pounds as I was expecting to pay 690 Pesos for the ticket. I will go to the counter myself no matter what next time. I thought he had a ticket with him when he approached me. So far on this trip, Cebu is the only place I haven’t liked and this has been sadly reinforced.

I went upstairs and ate cheap siomai which were nice and only cost 7 Pesos each. The boarding call was just after 5:40 so now I’m getting settled for my two hour journey to Tagbilaran.

The ferry arrived into Tagbilaran harbour at around 8pm and I had decided to have some dinner before worrying about accommodation. I’m not 100% sure how I ended up switching my plans around but I feel it was mainly due to being hassled by trike drivers. I walked most of the way to one place and then a trike dude said he gets a discount if you show up with him. That turns out not to be true. And the place didn’t have budget rooms available (850 Pesos) only double for 1,000 and I wasn’t in the mood for spending £15. So I booked in booking.com and started walking to AH Residence. It was a couple of kilometres further so I kept an eye out for a trike. I flagged one down and he said he knew where I was staying but he didn’t. We ended up lost in another village and I didn’t have enough signal to make a call to the B&B and he didn’t have any credit. Or a map. But nevermind. We found a store in roughly the right place and asked them. Funnily enough, a guy stood outside is actually staying at the same place so he gave directions and then called the reception to confirm for me. Which was sweet.

There was quite a welcome party and the place is enormous. I have absolutely no idea how many of the people there are guests but there are at least 4 or 5 staff out of the 8 people I have seen.

Someone carried my bag to a room and I was handed a key. Everyone seems friendly and my room has air-conditioning and a decent bed for £9 so I’m happy.

I asked about getting back to the port to get some food and they without hesitation jumped in the car and drove me there. Now I’ve got some BBQ food.

I got up this morning and rented a scooter from Boysam Motor Rentals. I paid 400 Pesos for the day but I think you can bargain a bit more if you want.

Riding here is pretty straightforward; nobody goes super fast so it’s not as chaotic as some places.

My first destination was the Tarsier Sanctuary just past Corella. It’s important to say here that this is a real not-for-profit sanctuary so the animals are not caged, they are not fed and they are free to be their nocturnal selves. There is another sanctuary and I have heard bad things.

Entry costs 60 Pesos and you get a guide showing you where the tarsiers are sleeping for the day.

These creatures are AWESOME! They are primates, but not monkeys; they broke off the family tree after the lemurs. Their eyes are so fascinating! Each eye is bigger than the tarsier’s brain, and it is fixed, so the creature has to turn it’s head to see. But no worries – it can turn it’s head 180 degrees each way so it can see all around itself without moving. The pupils during the day are tiny slits but at night they can take up almost the whole eye.

They are tiny as well and they develop slowly – a pregnancy takes a whole 6 months, which is really long for a creature that small.

The tour is really quick; there were two other people that I joined and I just wanted to go around at least half as fast as we were. But it was amazing to see these little cuties up close. Some were dozing but a few were quite awake (not ideal as they should sleep during the day). I saw six of them, much lower down in the trees than I expected after spotting so many primates in the Amazon as high up as they could get.

After this, I hopped back on the scooter and wound my way through the countryside. It was absolutely beautiful. And it was a really lovely experience to see everything up close – very different to being on a bus. I saw water buffaloes and goats mainly and lots of rice paddies with rice drying in the road.

I stopped in a little town called Loboc for lunch and then scooted a little further up the road to the Sarjmanok Inn and Bistro on the recommendation of a local. The food seems good here, with pizzas, pastas, soups, traditional dishes and shakes on the menu. Pizzas are up to around 200 Pesos. Traditional dishes are mostly less than 200 Pesos.

I rode to Carmen and it was a breathtaking ride. I can’t put it words how amazing it feels to ride past rice paddies and see the reflection of puffy clouds and hills in the water. It was bliss.

I passed the Chocolate Hills sign and then the complex and kept going until Carmen. The views aren’t any good from there so I went back to the Chocolate Hills Viewing Complex. I rode my bike up the roll road and paid 50 Pesos for my entry fee then I scooted up a steep and windy road with a phenomenal view of the hills.

There are about 200 steps up to a series of panoramic viewing platforms and each view was magical.

The souvenir shops weren’t extortionately priced either and I was captivated by the sweet little fluffy tarsier magnets so I bought some more (I’ll admit I already bought some last night…). I have a whole troop of tarsiers to go on my fridge one day. I think these critters might be my new favourite animals. I even bought a cute t-shirt for 200 Pesos (£3).

Neither the tarsiers nor the chocolate hills visit has a long duration but the drive between them and from either Tagbilaran or Panglao is quite far so it’s most of a day trip but entirely worth it.

The ride back was a lot of fun too. The light was beginning to soften and the sky was stunning so the palm trees and rice paddies looked even better.

I arrived back in Tagbilaran and was really pleased with how I dealt with the traffic on a bike. I dropped off the bike at 5:40pm and took a trike to Alona Beach for 300 Pesos.

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