Tarsiers, which can be found at The Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary on Bohol, are endangered. // © 2017 Will McGough
Feature image (above): Bohol's Chocolate Hills are made up of more than 1,200 cone-shaped hills. // © 2017 Will McGough
The island of Bohol, located south of Cebu in the Philippines island chain, boasts beach communities, healthy coral reefs and lush rainforest.
And, due to its limited accessibility, the island has remained pristine, as getting to the island currently requires a series of flights and/or ferries from Manila and Cebu.
But that will change soon, as the island is set to open a brand-new international airport sometime in 2018 or 2019, which will offer more nonstop international flights.
For clients, this offers both benefits (easier accessibility, more infrastructure) and disadvantages (more tourists, more development). Those who enjoy destinations with well-developed tourism sectors will want to have it on their radar for 2019 or 2020, while others might want to get there before the changes occur.
Either way, Bohol has much to offer those who make the journey.
Alona Beach is the most well-rounded community on Panglao Island in Bohol, offering a wide range of hotels, bars, restaurants, massage parlors, tour operators and dive shops that merge local and Western tastes. From the luxurious Henann Resort to an endless selection of hostels and small inns, travelers will have no problem finding something to balance their accommodation preferences and budgets.
Alona Beach is also a hub for tour operators that can arrange trips to neighboring islands and other adventures, such as a trip to the Chocolate Hills. In that sense, it is the most efficient and convenient hub for a traveler on Bohol. (It’s also the place to be if you want to do nothing at all, as it offers white-sand beach, blue waters, beautiful sunsets and a busy nightlife.)
Those craving a simple taste of Bohol’s jungles should pay a visit to the Bohol Forest, a man-made mahogany forest known for its uniformity and massive root structures.
Although only a little more than one mile in length, the forest is surrounded by natural forests of Loboc and Bilar, and offers trails for walking and biking and a good look at the flora and fauna that inhabit the island. Perhaps more importantly, its creation signals a local movement to improve the health of the environment. A visit helps highlight the great diversity found on Bohol — specifically how the rainforest interior and its villages nicely complement the coastal towns and their beaches.
Bohol is perhaps best known for its Chocolate Hills, a unique geological landscape of more than 1,200 hills that turn a chocolate-brown color during the dry season.
The Chocolate Hills are truly one of the more bizarre landscapes the world has to offer, as the rolling hills are both conical and symmetrical. The most popular viewing platform is at the Chocolate Hills Complex, from which clients will get a broad look at the photogenic landscape.
However, this area is often crowded and frequented by tour buses. If clients want to avoid the masses, they should drive a bit farther to another viewing station: Sagbayan Peak. Active travelers wanting to take it one step further can hire a guide and hike through the small trails that weave in between the hills and the rice-growing villages.
The islands surrounding Bohol offers a wide range of opportunities and experiences for scuba divers. Many sites are just offshore and make for easy half-day trips, such as those found off the shores of Panglao Island, which is connected to mainland Bohol by a bridge. Other dive sites are located farther offshore, surrounding Bohol’s neighboring islands of Pamilacan, Balicasag and Cabilao. These are suited for a full-day trip. Pamilacan is a good place to spot dolphins and whales; Balicasag is teeming with shallow reefs; and Cabilao is the best for diving along sea walls.
Clients should can link up with dive shops and tour operators at Alona Beach to plan an outing.
Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary
The tarsier is considered the smallest primate in the world and is normally about the size of a grown man’s fist. Its cuteness is overwhelming but, unfortunately, its good looks haven’t prevented it from becoming a threatened species due to shrinking habitats.
The Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary on Bohol is dedicated to protecting this endangered species and offers visitors conservation and awareness programs through its ecotourism efforts. A visit to the sanctuary all but guarantees a look at the tiny tarsier. As clients stroll through the protected forest on a guided walk, they can learn more about the animal’s life, personality and future.