The tenth largest island of The Philippines, Bohol is packed with adventure. While you can spend numerous days exploring what the island and its neighbour – Panglao – have to offer, you can enjoy the highlights in a whirlwind day trip. Let me walk you through my adventure as I explored the island with my 1 Day Itinerary!
You can take a ferry from Cebu City to Tagbilaran throughout the day, however if you want to see all the sights it’s best to get an early start. Ferries leave as early as 5:50am, however we opted for the 8:00am departure. The ferries cost 800PHP (~$22CDN) for a return ticket and takes 2 hours each way.
The ferry itself is nothing special. Snacks are available for purchase and you can roam around outside if you desire. However, as soon as you step off the boat be prepared to be bombarded with tour companies trying to sell you day trips within Bohol.
BARTERING & DETERMINING YOUR ROUTE
Day trips are a great way to cover a lot of ground in Bohol, however don’t accept the first offer you get. Keep walking until you’re outside of the port – now is your time to barter. I wouldn’t have known to do this, but lucky having Robin’s local knowledge, we had an idea as to how much it should cost. The price will vary depending on how many people in your party since that will determine the size of the vehicle you need. We had 4 people in our party as 2 friends we met in Boracay were able to join us in Bohol! If there’s just two or even a solo traveller, chances are you can haggle it down even further since a car would be cheaper.
Our (eventual) driver said 3000PHP for his van, and we countered with 2000PHP to settle with 2500PHP (~$70CDN)… and our own route. The drivers have set routes for Bohol and Panglao in the south, however I vote for blending them like we did. The driver may push back a little, but if anything it’s one stop less than the normal tour so they have no reason to. Our route consists mainly of stops from the Bohol tour, and a stop at the Bee Farm which is on the Panglao tour.
STOP 1 :: PYTHON SANCTUARY
Our first stop was at the Python Sanctuary in Baclayon. For an entrance fee of 30 PHP (~$1 CDN), you can witness the largest Python in captivity… well, was the largest. After arriving, we discovered that the famous Prony actually died 2 years ago. Should I have said spoiler alert? She lived to be 17, which is good for a python in captivity as their lifespan is cut from 40 years in the wild to 15.
Prony, as any star, wasn’t without her scandals. Before March 2012, she used to call Alburquerque home. However, the Animal Kingdom Federation, Inc – a non-profit animal welfare organization – heard that Prony was being fed with stray dogs. This led to great media attention, and as a result she was relocated to a larger sanctuary which meant Prony was fed a proper diet and her enclosure was upgraded based on animal welfare standards. This new location is where the sanctuary stands today.
You can still see Prony, however she’s become immortal through the help of some taxidermy. It’s a little morbid if you ask me, but you can really get a sense of just how massive she was. You can also see Prony’s daughter, and while we were there she was keeping her eggs warm for the next generation of Pronys! For the daredevils out there, you can also take a photo with these massive pythons. Robin jumped at this opportunity, but as you’ll see – I was happy being close while having an exit strategy (sorry Robin!).
STOP 2 :: LUNCH AT THE RIO VERDE FLOATING RESTO
The tour may have just started, but trust me – you’ll be famished by this point! Fuel up as the floating restaurant takes you along the Loay River. For 392PHP (~$11CDN) you have an all you can eat buffet of delicious Filipino delicacies at your fingertips and one drink included. For an extra 100PHP or so, you can opt for the higher end option if the selection is more up your alley. Either way, you’ll dig into a delicious smorgasbord!
There’s also a live band singing classics like The Beatles and Bob Marley (very well I might add!) as you enjoy the scenery. Unfortunately for us, it was a rainy one in Bohol, but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits as we sang along. About half way there’s a pit stop to visit the Ati Tribe who reside along the Loay riverbank. Here you can enjoy the beautiful riverside and some of the fun attractions that are perfect for photo-ops or mingle with the locals. You can even hold a lizard or two! I’m not sure of the impact this has on the tribe, but the tipping involved in these visits is definitely a high source of income for the Ati people.
STOP 3 :: THE FAMOUS CHOCOLATE HILLS
If you visit during the rainy season, the hills might be a little more on the mint chocolate side of things. June marks the beginning of the rainy season so the vegetation had started to grow from the high amount of rain. You could see the clouds lurking between the hills which made them look spooky on our trip! It costs 100PHP (~$3CDN) per person, and the hike up to the view point takes you 10 minutes or less. Be sure to take your time and enjoy the view.
STOP 4 :: CORELLA TARSIER SANCTUARY
Bohol’s famous Tarsiers are a must see when visiting the island. They are housed in an open reserve where they can come and go as they please in a large fenced off area to protect them from predators. Created by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, this sanctuary allows them to roam naturally for food while being monitored to ensure they are healthy and happy. For an entrance fee of 50PHP with a student card, you can admire them! Remember, no flash photography or loud noises as it stresses out the Tarsiers. Also, look for red flags throughout the reserve as that means one is close by!
Unfortunately for us (and the Tarsiers), it was raining hard that day, meaning it was tricky to walk around as some of the paths were flooded. It was no picnic for the Tarsiers either as they were forced to take shelter under whatever leaves they could find. It took a little while to spot them in the trees, but we spotted a few after some wading!
NOTE: Be sure to request the CORELLA Tarsier Sanctuary as there is another unofficial sanctuary in Loboc. Corella is the true sanctuary which does good work to preserve so steer clear of Loboc as they mistreat these adorable little creatures!
STOP 5 :: THE BEE FARM
This alternative lifestyle resort offers a little oasis from the everyday world as you enjoy homegrown, organic goods within a peaceful atmosphere. They offer overnight accommodation, delicious meals in their restaurant, a spa for those who wish to be pampered, and a shop where you can buy a number of organic products. Unfortunately, our stop was only a quick one as we stopped for what Robin claimed is the best ice cream he’s ever had… and I was sure glad we did! With a variety of exotic flavours, at least one is bound to tickle your taste buds! I opted for a scoop of ube and jackfruit, both of which were absolutely stellar. The ube was extremely creamy while the jackfruit added a slightly citrus punch – tasted just like the real thing! Offered in their homemade cones, the ice cream is seriously to die for. Be sure to grab a lip balm or two as souvenirs before you leave – your lips will thank you!
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU VISIT BOHOL
- The best way to see Bohol is through a private car hire. With this, you’ll have to pay entrance fees to the attractions on top of this as they are not included in the fee.
- Bring water with you. That’s a given in The Philippines (at least for a cold-hearted Canadian like myself) but you don’t want to be dehydrated on your adventure!
- Don’t be fooled by vendors at attraction entrances as they’ll try to sell you products and merchandise for an inflated rate.
- Do your research and stick to it. For example, our driver tried to tell us that we didn’t have enough time to go to the Bee Farm from the Tarsier sanctuary before making our ferry back to Cebu. We consulted Waze and in calculating the distance, we had over an hour to spend at the Bee Farm – of which we only spent 30 minutes actually there. If we hadn’t done this, we could have missed out on this great stop and spent the remainder of our time bored at the dock!
Bohol is an amazing little island that’s worth a visit when you’re in The Philippines. As I mentioned before, the regular routes have some stops we did not include in our itinerary. Be sure to do your research in advance, know what you want to see, and make it happen!
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