After hearing amazing stories about Cebu and Bohol from several fellow-travellers, it didn’t take us long before shortening our extended Palawan plans to include these two destinations. Cebu is renowned for its close to guarantee sightings of whale-sharks and for its amazing cascading waterfalls. We continued our side-trip by crossing the narrow strait to explore the green chocolate hills of Bohol and to have a look at one of the cutest animals on the planet.We arrived in sunny Cebu, leaving rainy & thyphoony Palawan behind. As we were a bit short on time in comparison to the rest of our Philippines journey, we got off to a start well before dawn the next day. We took a bus from the south station to arrive in the whale-shark town Tan-awan around six in the morning.
Before I tell you about my experience, I would like to point out that it is far more responsible to look for whale-sharks in Donsol. There they aren’t fed and also not harassed by hordes of tourists. Of course it is also much harder to find them. I know this now better than ever and have mixed feelings about my experience. As we were on the island Cebu anyways to go to Bohol, I just couldn’t resist checking it out for myself. Especially because of my failed attempts to find them in Donsol.
When we arrived there were thousands of people standing in line awaiting their turn, the organization seemed unable to cope with the masses and it looked like American black friday. When it was finally my groups turn, two hours later, we were led like cattle into a small paddle-boat lining up with the other boats. Two smaller boats come by in circles tossing krill in the water to attract the whale-sharks.
Ninety five percent of the people were non-swimming Asians, who mainly stayed at the boat with shiny orange life jackets. As the only person aboard able to swim, I took off my life jacket and went for a memorable swim. These amazing animals are so gentle yet so huge, making any person feel small. I totally forgot about my surrounding and just enjoyed my time with this amazing animal before being called back to the boat.
Afterwards I was happy I finally saw these unique creatures, but also saddened about the practise as a whole and wished I would have seen them in Donsol.
After the early morning swim, we took a motorbike-taxi to the nearby Tumalog Falls. A stunning place, where falls give you a pleasant, although freezing, natural shower. We took a dip in the pools and enjoyed the mesmerizing views from below before heading back to town. We flagged down a Cebu-bound bus to take us back to the hotel.
We spend the next day preparing for our Bohol adventure and strolled by the San Pedro Fort and the Church of Santo Nino and it’s Magellan Cross in the afternoon. They were holding a mas at the church with lots of people and a lively atmosphere.
We took the early ferry from Cebu at six in the morning and arrived in Tagbilaran, Bohol, little before eight. We were awaited at the port by our friendly pre-arranged driver, Jun, from Angelbert Tours. He showed absolute flexibility when we changed the itinerary to match our wishes. We started off with a short visit to the blood compact shrine and one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. We then drove to the nearby Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, which was quite the highlight of the day (far better than the other overcrowded one). Hidden among the branches tiny Tarsiers hide during the day from the burning sunlight. Best described as part ape, part Gremlin, they are pretty adorable with their clumsy appearance and huge eyes! We spotted six on the way, each of them a cuteness overload for Anna-Lena. We hopped back in the car to get to the Chocolate Hill Viewpoint. We walked up the 120 steps to enjoy the iconic landscape under a clear blue sky.
Our itinerary took us to the Butterfly Conservatory to walk among colorful butterflies before lunchtime. Lunch became a bit of a downer, as the Loboc lunch cruise is a bit of a tourist trap. Dozens of boats with hundreds of tourists made it less than enjoyable. Also the fake performances were less than interesting. After this let-down experience our driver dropped us off at our unique eco-tree house accommodation for the night. Surrounded by jungle and the stunning Loboc river we were awoken early morning by all sorts of birds. We spend most of the day hanging around in our hammocks before having a lunch at the on-site restaurant. Bohol is well worth a visit, and I wish we would have had more time. But it’s time to leave the Philippines before our visa runs out.
The Philippines has been a fun country and is perfect for adventure seekers. We enjoyed every single Island which are all unique in their own way! I’m sure we will be back some day to explore this vast archipelago even further.