Philippines - Getting to know Bohol & Panglao Island
Bohol is an island province best known for its remarkable beaches, coral reefs and other geographical formations such as caves, waterfalls and the enticingly named Chocolate Hills (of which more later). The main island is roughly 90 kilometres across and eminently explorable, surrounded by more than 70 much smaller islands, chief of which is Panglao Island, a diving mecca and nature reserve to the southwest.
Some of the finest diving beaches in the world are to be found over the bridge from Bohol on Panglao Island. Alona Beach is beautiful (yet well developed), Doljo Beach is fantastic for snorkelling, whilst Dumaluan and Libaong together constitute a 3km stretch of tropical white-sand perfection, with plenty of opportunities for watersports, snorkelling, diving or just splashing around in the shallows.
The wonders of Bohol’s dense jungle interior are best explored on a cruise along the Loboc River. The wide, flat-bottomed boat ventures ever deeper into the otherwise impenetrable, towering mass of green, passing local villages that seem from another age. Fishing boats potter around, and the picturesque Busay Falls await, marking the end of the voyage into the jungle.
What to do in Bohol & Panglao Island
- So, let’s talk Chocolate Hills… sadly not made of chocolate, nor even an area of cacao plantations, the name of the hills derives from their appearance. A bizarre, entrancing area of Bohol covering 50 square kilometres is strewn with around 1,500 perfect conical hills. During winter the hills are brown (making them look like hills of chocolate), but covered in lush vegetation in summer. Either way, this is a beautiful geological curiosity that rates as a must-see on the grounds of colourful local mythology alone.
- The name 'tarsier' may not be immediately familiar, but you will no doubt have seen pictures of the world’s smallest primate with the biggest eyes of all, relatively speaking. These adorable looking creatures are endemic to the Philippines and can be viewed at the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella - an institution dedicated to the conservation of these threatened animals and the preservation of their habitat.
Getting off the trail in Bohol & Panglao Island
- Both the islands of Bohol and Panglao were formed from limestone, which makes for an exotic landscape pitted with sinkholes, caves and waterfalls. The Mag-Aso Falls in Antequara lie at the foot of a deep valley, and it’s possible to swim in the adjoining pool. The Camagao Falls and Kawasan Falls (which comprises of three impressive waterfalls) involve more of a hike, but are more secluded and well worth the effort of getting there.
- If you can tear yourself away from the fantastic beaches and diving opportunities just off the coast of Panglao, there’s a different kind of diving experience available at Hinagdanan Cave. The grotto is hung with wonderful stalactites, and shafts of natural light flood into the chamber from above. Don’t forget your swimsuit – the water is around 25 degrees, perfect for a subterranean dip.
- The tiny island of Lamanoc, off Bohol’s east coast, is a mystical place where centuries old customs and ancient spiritualism is still practised today. Inside many of the island’s caves you will discover boat coffins and ancient cave paintings, which alongside tales of spirits and folklore offer a fascinating insight into Bohol’s primal culture.
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Fun to know
The tiny Philippine tarsier is able to revolve its head through 180 degrees (thanks to its specially adapted vertebrae).
Where there's a whale, there's a way...
Whale and dolphin spotting trips in this area are slightly unique. The tours operate on former whale-hunting boats and are led by local fishermen who have abandoned their ancient hunting tradition in order to safeguard the future of Bryde’s whales, dolphins, manta rays and whale sharks.