Bohol is the largest island in Philipines and is located in Central Visayas region. It is indeed a beautiful Island everything from white sandy beaches to amazing scenery. The locals speak English and Bisaya and are very friendly. As we were about to land, my window allowed me to be enticed by the aerial view of Bohol and its environs, indeed it would be a great visit. This is what I experienced:
1.Experienced the effects of the Bohol Earthquake:
The area experienced a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 on October 15, 2013. As I planned to travel to Philippines in November 2013, I was filled with fear when I heard about the earthquake. I however decided to go ahead with my plans and I am happy I did.
This was my first experience with the aftermath of an earthquake and it is heartbreaking, the death toll disheartening and the damage witnessed seemed irreparable in most areas. The people however had a resilient spirit, a willingness to rebuild, to survive and to move on from this sad situation.
2)Visit Tarsier Conservation
Have you ever heard of the smallest primate in the world? This animal is called a Tarsier and it has large beady eyes, small body, long legs and sort of looks like a large rodent.
It is terrified of enclosures -claustrophobic, that it would rather commit suicide by banging its head than stay in a cage. It can rotate its head 180 degrees which means you could be looking at its beady eyes and seconds later at the back of its head without it moving its whole body.
The conservancy offers protection to these animals and thus has a forest dedicated to them. They like hiding in the trees so you will have to keep a sharp eye out to be able to see them.Kindly keep silent, as they do not like stress, getting shocked or anxiety, which could lead them to suicide. I am happy I actually got to see several and take a few pictures.
3) Explore the beaches
I explored Alona Beach and it was a sight to behold- white sandy beaches, clear skies, not crowded and full of activities.
The Alona Beach remains alive even at night, as the restaurants set their layout at the beach, there is entertainment, the food options are diverse and there are various people selling souvenirs. If that isn’t enough to entice you, masseuses offer massages at the beach, you can get temporary henna tattoos and its great watching the fishermen returning back with their catch.
4) Visit Chocolate Hills
Ladies, before you break a leg running to see and devour chocolate hills-Stop! Unlike what I wished it was, it turned out to be hills named thus because during the dry season, they dry up and look like mountains of brown chocolate.
5)Learn the Language:
When as a foreigner you great people in their local language, it automatically makes the people smile. I thus learnt and used the following phrases in Bisaya
Good Morning – Maayong buntag
Response to good morning- Maayong buntag pun
Thank you very much- Salamat Kaayo
6) Get a tourguide/driver
If you do not have your own private means, I highly advise hiring a motorbike and driver. I hired the above guy and he deserves an award. He patiently took me to the various places in and around Bohol, became my tour guide and photographer, and never once complained when I overstayed.The scenery enroute was great, we covered lots of ground and though parts of the journey were scary because of winding roads, this heightened the thrill.
You could also ride a jeepney for parts of the jeepney, although I wouldn’t advise riding atop it like below.
7) Make Friends:
Always make friends on the road. Yes, it isn’t easy at all but well worth it, just smile at the stranger, you will be surprised how many conversations it begins.
These people taught me the language, they taught me about fishing and they shared their life stories with me.
I stayed in Alona Beach area in Panglao Island, Bohol Province, which is about one hour from the Tagbilaran Airport. Its location is ideal as it is near the beach and it was easy to navigate to my places of interest.
Bohol shared with me what an amazing place it is, even though I travelled there immediately after it had been hit by a major earthquake. I managed to traverse Tagbilaran, Panglao Island and Loboc which were all truly beautiful. I need to return to experience the diverse activities from whale watching to deep sea diving that I was unable to engage in during this trip. For more on my Philippines experiences, check out:
Philippines 101: http://wangechigitahi.co.ke/philippines-101/