One of the best places we have visited so far in the Philippines has to be Bohol, simply because of the diversity of activities it has to offer. We fell in love with the island so much that we have already booked to go again in March 2015. Since Bohol is quite a sizeable island we decided to split the week in two – initially staying in the hills of the interior and later by the beach. This way we were able to discover the interior’s natural wildlife as well as the water sports and beach activities on the coast. For more ideas on what to do in Bohol, take a look at my Top 10 Activities for Families.
My cherished memories will be seeking out the little Tarsiers hiding in the trees of their sanctuary. These tiny primates are small enough to fit in your hand and look a little like a cross between a monkey and a bat. They are a protected creature indigenous to this particular corner of Asia.
After spending a morning with the Tarsiers I convinced my husband to ride the bicycle zip line across the incredible geological formations of the Chocolate Hills at CHAP (Chocolate Hills Adventure Park). There may be as many as 1,776 hills spread over an area of more than 50 square kilometres. They are covered in green grass that turns a choclatey brown during the dry season. The bike ride was terrifying and as soon as I was at the top of the zip line I instantly regretted my initial bravado. However, teetering perilously over these magical hills was an amazing experience I am glad I didn’t miss out on.
CHAP also proved a big hit with my 3 year old daughter Maya. The kid’s adventure park, serpentarium and butterfly garden were both fun and really interesting.
We chose to stay at the Peacock Gardens which is a truly beautiful place within Bohol’s interior. Owned by a German, no expense has been spared on the meticulous construction and attention to detail. The food is amazing and reasonably priced. The grounds resemble a Tuscan chateau with stone statues dotted across the lawn and an infinity pool overlooking the ocean.
By contrast, the interior was like a museum dedicated to Bavarian sword fighting with peacock motifs decorating the furniture and decorative glass (a little out of place in the tropics but strangely intriguing). There was also a resident peacock in the grounds that Maya visited daily.
After 3 days in the interior we headed to the beach at Alona on Panglao Island. The beautiful white sand, beach massages, water sports centres and eateries made it the perfect place to be for the rest of the holiday. We explored little caves in the rocks, collected crabs with the local children and went snorkelling to spot starfish. The beach also offers paddle board safaris which I am desperate to try once the kids are a bit older!
My favourite eatery was Bohol Bee Farm’s Buzz Café which not only served delicacies such as wild hibiscus flower salad, home-made ice cream and fish tacos but also had a sofa which I took a nap on while Maya was entertained by the waitresses (since we were the only customers).
For our final 4 days we stayed at the Bellevue Resort which was a 15min ride from Alona Beach. The resort was great for children with a games room, interconnecting rooms, swimming pool, private beach and dedicated kids menu.
The Best Part
After our excursions in the interior we headed to the coast for some scuba diving. My favourite part of the trip was taking a boat out to Baclaran Island where turtles swam up to the boat and Maya and I were able to swim off the side.
Alona Beach on Panglao Island offers a host of reasonably priced dive centres. The island is connected to Bohol by a road. My husband and I took it in turns to dive and look after the children. Under the surface the marine life is incredible – we saw nudibranchs, turtles, lion fish as well as pristine coral and hundreds of shoals of fish. The only thing missing was a BBQ on the boat – diving always leaves me famished!
Three Things You Should Definitely Do
1. Dive or snorkel with turtles on Baclaran Island
2. Visit the Tarsier Sanctuary
3. Visit the Chocolate Hills