During my time in The Philippines, Robin and I did some island hopping as we visited Palawan to see the underground river and some stellar beaches, Boracay to make new friends and give our livers a beating, and Cebu to see some whale sharks and do some canyoneering. However, I never mentioned that we also took a day trip while to Cebu’s neighbouring island, Bohol! It’s a jam-packed post with lots of advice – and photos of course!
It was an early start as we caught the 8am ferry from Pier 1 in Cebu City to Tagbilaran. The trip is 800PHP (~$22CDN) for a return ticket and takes 2 hours each way. I’d suggest taking one of the earlier ferries and the last ferry back to Cebu City to give yourself ample time to explore the island. 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 to Bohol.
ADVICE: Day trips are a great way to do Bohol, however don’t go for the first offer you get. Keep walking until you’re outside of the port. Now is your time to barter. As Robin has the local’s knowledge, he had an idea as to how much it should cost. We haggled for a while as originally our (eventual) driver said 3000PHP for his van, and we countered with 2000PHP to settle with 2500PHP (~$70CDN)… and our own route. This was split between 4 people as two friends we met in Boracay happened to be in Cebu at the same time as us and tagged along. If it’s just two or even a solo traveller, chances are you can haggle it down even further since a car would be cheaper.
The drivers have set routes for Bohol and Panglao, but we had our itinerary in mind already which consisted of the main stops for the Bohol tour, and a stop at what’s called the Bee Farm which is on the Panglao tour. He was reluctant at first, however after pointing out we were uninterested in some of the route’s stops, meaning less stops in total, he was in agreement. And so we set off for our custom itinerary!
Our first stop was at the largest Python in captivity… well, was the largest. After arriving at the location and paying our 30PHP (less than $1CDN) entrance fee, 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. It’s sad to see how much captivity can affect animals. However, it was definitely not from malnutrition or anything of the sort as all of the animals in this area looked well fed and healthy.
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 of course jumped at this opportunity, but as you’ll see – I was happy being close while having an exit strategy (sorry Robin!).
After this we hopped back in the van and made our way to our lunch stop at the Rio Verde Floating Resto. Yes, you read that correctly – lunch is served on a boat as it takes you along the Loay River. For 392PHP (~$11CDN) you have an all you can eat buffet of delicious Filipino delicacies at your fingertips (don’t forget dessert!) and one drink included. Or if you like the higher end menu better as it offers a few different choices, it’s 500PHP (~$14CDN).
There’s also live music singing classics like the Beatles and Bob Marley (very well I might add!) as you enjoy the scenery. Unfortunately for us that day 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 like giant crabs and cages 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.
We finished up our delicious lunch break and made our way to the van for our next stop – the famous Chocolate Hills! June marks the beginning of the rainy season and so the hills looked a little more on the mint chocolate side as the vegetation had grown from the high amount of rain. As it was rainy that day, you could see the clouds lurking between the hills which made them look spooky! It costs 100PHP (~$3CDN) per person, and the hike up to the view point takes you 10 minutes or less.
ADVICE: Don’t be fooled by the vendors as you enter. As I said the hike up is short so you don’t need the 2L bottles of H2O they’re trying to sell you. Also, at the base of the hill there’s a pavilion where you’ll see three chairs and three men with sunglasses. It may sound (and possibly look) sketchy, but head over and you’ll find out that these blind men are giving massages for 50PHP (~$1.50CDN). This also is a source of income for these lovely older gentlemen who need a bit of extra help. I swear to you it may possibly be one of the best massages of your life. Especially if you’ve been doing a lot of trekking like us, your muscles will appreciate some love!
Then, it was time for the event I had been waiting for… time to visit the Corella Tarsier Sanctuary! For an entrance fee of 50PHP with a student card, you can visit these adorable little critters. 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. Remember, no flash photography or loud noises as it stresses out the Tarsiers and look for red flags throughout the reserve as that means one is close by!
Unfortunately for us (and the Tarsiers) it was raining quite hard that day, meaning it was tricky for us 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 after some wading we managed to spy a few! After saying goodbye to the Tarsiers, it was time to make our way towards our final stop – the Bee Farm.
ADVICE: I can never stress enough, make sure you do your research! Remember how I said our driver was reluctant to take us to the Bee Farm since it was in Panglao and not technically on the Bohol trip? As we got into the van from the Tarsier sanctuary, he told us that he didn’t think we’d have enough time to go to the Bee Farm. At this point it was a little after 4pm, and we had over 2 hours before our 6:30pm ferry. We consulted the Waze traffic app (forget Google Maps, this app is a lifesaver in The Philippines) and it told us we’d arrive from Corella at the Bee Farm by shortly after 5pm. In looking at the distance, the trip to the ferry was only about a third of the distance we needed to drive to get to the Bee Farm. This meant we had about 75 minutes of driving in total to do the trip, so we said nope, there’s time, off to the Bee Farm please!
Anyways, back to 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 (including some amazing lip balm). 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 tastebuds! 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.
With happy bellies we arrived at the Ferry Terminal with 30 minutes to spare (take that driver!) and said goodbye to Bohol. After a long day of exploration, we were happy to arrive to our Airbnb as we had yet another full day planned ahead of us.