Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches

Date: April 26th 2011

Woke up early today (expect the next few days to all begin with that line). I left Sugbutel at around 5am as I planned to catch the very first ferry going to Bohol. I took a taxi to Pier 1 where Oceanjet‘s terminal was. I bought a return ticket to Tagbilaran (Bohol’s capital city) which cost ₱825 ($19/€13).

Oceanjet ferry air condition seat inside Cebu Philippines

These were air-conditioned seating

Cebu pier early morning ferry to Bohol

The ferry left the pier just past 6am

Cebu morning ferry to Bohol Philippines

I stepped out to get a better view of the waters

Cebu ferry to Bohol Philippines Morning ferry Cebu to Bohol PhilippinesI went back to my seat and tried to catch up on lost sleep, all the while trying to ignore Step Up 3D that was playing as part of our ‘pirated in-ferry entertainment’.

The journey to Tagbilaran takes nearly 2 and 1/2 hours, which is exactly why I made it a point to catch the first ferry — I wanted an early start to my day.

Port of Tagbilaran Bohol Philippines

Arrived at 8:30am

Port of Tagbilaran Bohol Oceanjet ferry Philippines As soon as I disembarked, there were several agents offering tours of all the sights on Bohol island. They cost more or less the same as they did back in Cebu, so I walked on. Just outside the Dao ferry terminal, were tricycle taxis who approached me as well. They had laminated sheets showing me the same sights and told me they would take me to each attraction and then drop me back to the terminal by evening. They quoted ₱1200 at first but I bargained, and eventually agreed for ₱1000 ($23/€16) — which I felt was a bit more reasonable.

I was more keen to take a tricycle taxi than a minivan full of tourists for my own selfish reasons. One, open window means I can take photographs a lot clearer than behind the usual tinted windows of a tourist van. Two, being the only customer, I could ask the driver to stop wherever I wanted.

Bohol tricycle taxi tour Tagbilaran Philippines

We set off

Bohol tour Tagbilaran church

First the driver took me to a church

San Jose cathedral Tagbilaran Bohol Philippines

Took one photo and told the driver to move on. I've seen enough churches on this trip.

Bohol tour trike island highway

Tagbilaran bay Bohol island Philippines

I was happy to see the sea

Bohol island small house local Philippines

Bohol island is the 10th largest island in the Philippines

I tried my best to get the shots without too many obstructions or blurry plants that usually appear in photographs while travelling. Bohol highway to Chocolate hills PhilippinesBohol public park near sea PhilippinesBohol island village home fishermen PhilippinesBohol highway mangrove shallow waters PhilippinesBohol shallow sea mangrove Philippines

Bohol tour tricycle taxi driver Philippines

My Danny Trejo look-alike tricycle driver

Bohol highway sea view Philippines Bohol highway bridge Philippines

Loay interior road Bohol Philippines

You get off the main highway and take a left at this junction

Loboc tarsier sign Bohol Philippines

Besides the Chocolate Hills, high up on my list of things to see were the tarsiers

Highway to chocolate hills BoholBohol highway rice fields PhilippinesBohol island neighbourhood Philippines

Loboc town Bohol Philippines

Loboc town

Bohol tour to chocolate hills Philippines

We were about to enter the 'man-made forest'

Highway to man made forest trees Bohol Philippines

It suddenly got dark and chilly

The ‘man-made’ forest is called so because decades ago, Bohol residents meticulously planted mahogany trees along a two-kilometre stretch.

Man made forest Bohol Philippines

Which grew into this

Manmade forest trees Bohol Philippines

As the tour vans sped past, I asked my driver to stop on the side so I could take a proper photo

Road through manmade forest Bohol PhilippinesManmade forest mahogany trees Bohol Philippines

Turning carmen road to chocolate hills Bohol

We were 'out of the woods'

Carmen road to Chocolate hills grey skies Bohol

Bohol village Pulis station Philippines

Passed through many small villages

Carmen road to Chocolate hills Bohol

We had been driving for nearly an hour

Chocolate hills single rice field Bohol Philippines

But finally...

Chocolate hills view from road Bohol

... the hills were in sight!

Road to Carmen chocolate hills Bohol Philippines

I wondered how much further we had to go

Welcome to carmen bohol Philippines

Carmen is the town where the Chocolate Hills are located

House near chocolate hills Bohol Philippines

Chocolate hills observation viewpoint Bohol Philippines

The viewpoint is atop of the hill on the left

Going up chocolate hill viewpoint Bohol

Driving up to Chocolate hill viewpoint Bohol

Up the hill we went

I paid the entrance fee of ₱50 ($1.15/€0.83) to go up to the observation point on the top of the hill.

Chocolate hills steps viewpoint Bohol Philippines

My nightmares from last week return: stairs!

Chocolate hills view from steps Bohol

Even halfway up the stairs, I couldn't help but take a look at what I came all this way for

Chocolate hills view from observation deck Bohol

And there are over 1700 of these hills all around!

Chocolate hills observation hill Bohol Philippines

Once you get to the top...

Chocolate hills view from observation point Bohol

... voila!

Chocolate hills Bohol tourists panorama

How many of you even knew such a place existed? I didn't know about it until I began researching for this trip.

Chocolate hills view from top Bohol Philippines

Undoubtedly one of the most amusing natural wonders I have ever seen!

Chocolate Hills were just nicknamed such because of their resemblance to bon-bon chocolates. Other names include “God’s tears” or “God’s droppings”.

Chocolate hills Filipino tourists broomstick pose Bohol

Man, they really love doing corny poses out here! :)

Chocolate hills Bohol Philippines

Back to the hills

Chocolate hills land Bohol PhilippinesChocolate Hills Bohol closeup panoramaChocolate hills Bohol zoomed in panorama

Chocolate hills Bohol wide panorama Philippines

Panorama comprised of 12 shots

Chocolate Hills Bohol other side

I took shots of all the hills around me

Chocolate hills Bohol Philippines wide panorama

Panorama comprised of 10 shots

Chocolate hills lone house Bohol Philippines

Chocolate Hills Bohol field Philippines panorama

Panorama comprised of 8 shots

Chocolate hills mound karst Bohol Philippines

Chocolate Hills Bohol tower Philippines panorama

Panorama comprised of 11 shots

Chocolate Hills round Bohol Philippines

Chocolate hills coming down Bohol

Decided to swap lenses and take the final few shots

Chocolate Hills dry grass Bohol Philippines

Being summer in Philippines, the hills weren't as green

Chocolate Hills cross grave Bohol Philippines

Wow, someone is buried here

Chocolate Hills big Bohol Philippines

You could really see clouds move over these hills

Chocolate hills flowers Bohol PhilippinesChocolate Hills plant BoholChocolate Hills cloud shadows BoholChocolate Hills round Bohol closeup panoramaChocolate Hills Bohol round close-up panoramaChocolate Hills three mounds Bohol PhilippinesI felt I had taken enough photos, so I went back down.

Chocolate Hills trees Bohol Philippines panorama

Panorama comprised of 11 shots

Chocolate Hills viewpoint mound Philippines panorama

Chocolate Hills hotel restaurant Bohol Philippines

This is the only hotel and restaurant on this hill, in case you fancy staying right here

I had an overpriced boku juice (coconut water) and then went back to my tricycle driver.

Chocolate Hills car Bohol panorama

Chocolate Hills leaving Bohol

We left the Chocolate Hills

Welcome to Chocolate Hills Bohol Philippines

Goodbye

Waking up really early just to catch a ferry, coming all this way — it was well worth it. The Chocolate Hills are undoubtedly a ‘must-see’ in Philippines.

Chocolate Hills Bohol rice field

Though, it only occurred to me on the way back that I should have taken a video from the top. Sucks.

Carmen road red trike Bohol Philippines

Entering manmade forest Bohol Philippines

Entered the man-made forest again

Manmade forest sunlight Bohol Philippines

Stopped to get some clear shots again

Manmade forest trees blocking sunlight Bohol Philippines

Nature's way of keeping sunlight out, making it very cool inside

Manmade forest road Bohol PhilippinesThe next sight on the tour was a hanging bridge in a locality called Sevilla.

Going to Hanging Bridge Sevilla Bohol

Hanging bridge entry Loboc river Bohol

Entry was ₱10

Hanging bridge bamboo Sevilla Bohol Philippines

It's as the name suggests

Hanging bridge bamboo Bohol Philippines

But it's made of bamboo

Two hanging bridges Bohol Philippines

Hanging Bridge view of Loboc river Bohol

Loboc river

Hanging bridge Sevilla Loboc river Bohol Philippines

Hanging bridge stores Bohol Philippines

There are some souvenir stalls set up by locals at this end

Hanging bridge exit Bohol

I made a quick return

Hanging bridge over Loboc river BoholHanging bridge twin Loboc river Bohol

Hanging bridge tourist slowly crossing Bohol

If you don't like wobbly bridges, you might want to wait until an elderly person finishes crossing

Sevilla village children Bohol Philippines

I walked back to my tricycle driver and we left the hanging bridge

Hanging bridge thank you Bohol Philippines Sevilla village Bohol Philippines

Carmen junction Bohol highway Philippines

We got back to the main highway

U-turn bend highway Bohol Philippines

Way to Loboc river cruise Bohol Philippines

Next up, lunch cruise on the Loboc river

Loboc river bridge Bohol Philippines

Loboc river lunch cruise offices Bohol Philippines

There are many companies offering the lunch cruise, I just picked one after seeing their buffet menu for today. Cost ₱400 ($9/€6)

Long river cruise Loboc Bohol Philippines

Lunch time!

Loboc river lunch cruise tourists Bohol

The boat

Loboc river cruise bridge Bohol Philippines

Loboc river cruise lunch buffet Bohol Philippines

The food

Loboc river cruise boat Bohol

Loboc river cruise lunch plate Bohol Filipino food

Even though I wasn't fond of Filipino cuisine, I had to eat something

Loboc river lunch cruise Bohol Philippines

We set off

Loboc river cruise boat driver Bohol

The boats are actually maneuvered by this little guy who just pushes it along the river

Loboc river cruise village dance platform

The cruise includes stopping by these platforms

Loboc river cruise musical performance platform

These platforms hold young locals who entertain tourists with musical performances

After ‘docking’ the boat alongside the platform, the locals began.

Loboc river cruise tourist entertainment

Loboc river village children ukele Bohol Philippines

They were really good with their singing and playing!

Loboc river children dancing villagers Bohol

They danced for us too

Loboc river cruise children dancing Bohol Philippines

I really liked this performance and I felt like recording video, but decided against it

Loboc river children singing Bohol

Putting up a video of their performance here would kind of take away their livelihood

Loboc river cruise playing games Bohol

It may be as touristy as it gets, but I still liked it. I left a ₱100 note in the tip box on the platform.

Loboc river cruise entertainment Bohol

We applauded and left

Loboc river afternoon cruise Bohol PhilippinesLoboc river mini waterfall Bohol Philippines

Loboc river lifeguard Bohol Philippines

There's a lifeguard for Loboc river too... though I don't know how effective one man can be, seated here

Loboc river trees Bohol Philippines

I sat and enjoyed the rest of the river cruise

Loboc cruise lunch dessert Filipino food

While having dessert of course

Loboc river cruise afternoon Bohol Philippines

Reminded me of Kerala's backwaters

Bohol village home goat Loboc river Philippines Loboc river cruise entertainment platforms BoholLoboc river cruise singing locals platform Bohol

Loboc river cruise children playing water Bohol Philippines

Village boys playing in the river

Bohol village Loboc river PhilippinesBohol village hut Loboc river PhilippinesLoboc river bridges Bohol Philippines

Loboc river cruise station Bohol Philippines

After one and half hours of cruising, we were back

Old building facing Loboc river Bohol

Loboc river cruise station elderly singers Bohol

I headed back to my trike

Loboc river bridge flower pots Bohol

Bohol rice paddy fields clouds

We moved on to our final attraction of the tour and one I was very keen on seeing in person -- the tarsier

Tarsier house kanipaan kingdom Bohol Philippines

I was expecting to go Bohol's largest tarsier conservatory but instead, the driver took me here

When researching, I read that there were many unauthorized or illegal venues where one can see tarsiers, many who just capture tarsiers from the wild and profit from it. So I told the driver to take me to the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary in Corella, but he told me that I might not have the time for that as it is very far and beyond Tagbilaran City.

Oh well, one sign this place was legit was that there were no entrance fees.

Sloth hanging Bohol Philippines

These guys hanging around are sloths

Tarsier clenched on branch Bohol Philippines

These are the tarsiers

Tarsier sleeping Bohol Philippines

Since it was the afternoon, they were in the middle of taking a nap. But seeing them with the eyes fully open is what sets this primate apart from the rest.

Tarsier fingers feet claws Bohol Philippines

They're about the size of your hand

Tarsiers afternoon Bohol Philippines

This centre had around ten of these interesting animals

Tarsier big eyes open Bohol Philippines

Few of them finally woke up. Now I know where the idea for Dobby from the Harry Potter movies drew inspiration from.

Tarsier house Bohol Philippines Tarsier long tail Bohol Philippines

Tarsier feed worms grains

What tarsiers are fed

Tarsier in pot Bohol

Hello there...

Bohol highway tarsier center Philippines

15 minutes among tarsiers, and we were done

Tagbilaran city Jagna road sign Bohol

We rode back to Tagbilaran city

Couple by seaside Bohol Philippines

But I asked the driver to stop when we passed by the sea again

Bohol mangrove beach shore panorama

Panorama comprised of 10 shots

Bohol island highway PhilippinesBohol beach boats Philippines

Bohol stony beach boats Philippines

Not all of Bohol's shorelines look like this. The island does have stretches of white sandy beaches, but just not on this side.

Bohol fishing boats Philippines

Bohol house tricycle tour driver Philippines

My driver

Bohol floating restaurant Philippines

Baclayon roman catholic church school Bohol

Baclayon Roman Catholic church

Baclayon roman catholic church bell tower Bohol The driver dropped me back to Tagbilaran City, near the church, where I paid him the agreed upon ₱1000 for the tour (plus a ₱50 tip). I still had nearly 2 hours before I had to catch my ferry back to Cebu.

Church of Tagbilaran Bohol Philippines

I was near the Church of Tagbilaran, so...

Church of Tagbilaran history Bohol Philippines

I decided to check it out

Church of Tagbilaran prayer main hall Bohol PhilippinesChurch of Tagbilaran inside dark BoholChurch of Tagbilaran hall light BoholI left the church and walked towards a Wild West-themed cafe and bakery right beside the church. They had a banner outside advertising their ‘famous’ mango pies. Looked and sounded delicious, so being the foodie I am, I ventured in.

Garden Cafe Wild West themed Bohol Philippines

Garden Cafe

The cafe mostly serves locals its fix of Americana, with the menu mostly comprising burgers, steaks and other Tex-Mex fare. Prices are reasonable and they were still serving customers main course meals despite being 3:30pm. What I found most interesting was — some of the waitresses were deaf. There were books on display on how to communicate in sign language, but for me, my order was simple. I pointed to the mango pie sign on my table and simply indicated ‘one,’ with a smile.

Mango pie Garden Cafe Bohol Philippines

Costing just ₱35, it was alright. The mango filling wasn't as sweet as I thought it would be. I don't know if the type of mangoes commonly found in these parts are of a tangier variety, considering us Indians are used to much sweeter ones back home.

I sat for a while to cool off, drank ice cold water and then when I felt like walking, left the cafe.

Mopeds bikes parked wall painting Bohol

Tagbilaran city square Bohol Philippines

I decided to check out the mall scene

Bohol Quality Mall inside Philippines

This is Bohol Quality Mall

Hmm, that’s it really. Tagbilaran is no Cebu. The SMs and Ayalas are yet to set foot on Bohol.

Tagbilaran city traffic Bohol Philippines

Don't expect anything fancy in Bohol. It's the simple life here.

Bombay bazaar Tagbilaran city Bohol Philippines

Guess there are a few Indians in Philippines

Tagbilaran city road to ferry terminal

I decided to walk back to the ferry terminal

United Church Touch-a-child Bohol Philippines

The priest jokes practically write themselves

Tagbilaran tricycle taxis Bohol Philippines

Clean roads

Bohol Knights of Columbus statue Tagbilaran ferry terminal BoholBohol pier sailing boats PhilippinesI got my ticket checked and waited in the departures hall for my 6pm ferry. When you buy a return ticket from Cebu itself, it entitles you a spot in a ferry returning at any time. I was done with Bohol as far as I was concerned, so I decided to catch the early ferry.

Bohol sunset Philippines

The sunset at 6:15pm

Oceanjet ferry upper seating open air Bohol

Just noticed there was an open-air compartment above mine which cost much lesser. Should have just take this one as I really didn't need air-conditioning when there's sea breeze.

I went back to my seat and instantly dozed off, despite how freezing it was inside my cabin. I guess I was really tired and the early wake up was getting to me. Still, I felt satisfied knowing that I saw everything I wanted to see in Bohol. Even though my tricycle tour (eventually) was not that much cheaper than a van tour, I’m still happy I opted for it because I had the freedom to stop the driver whenever I felt like taking photographs.

I was back in Cebu past 8pm and I headed back to Sugbutel first, so I could dump my bag. Then I went to SM City for dinner.

SM City Cebu mall closing Philippines

By 9pm, everybody was shutting shop

Fortunately, a McDonalds was still open (though they were cleaning up) and I managed to get the last remaining burgers on order.

I headed back to my room, took a nice shower, backed-up my photos — nearly 600 of them (out of which I only used 188 in this post). Bohol was well worth the trouble and I can highly recommend a day spent on the island for anyone visiting Philippines.

Previous posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

Other posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus

Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country  (Last post)

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14 comments

  1. Bohol brings back memories of my simple days while I was still working in Cebú.

    [Reply]

  2. check out this aerial shot of the Chocolate Hills! ;-)

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=290946940934426&set=a.196040040425117.57032.162776113751510&type=1

    never tried the Loboc River Cruise at it was kinda expensive but you might want to check out Panglao Island if ever you visit the country again :)

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Wow, that’s an impressive shot. I simply took the ferry so thanks for showing me that view :)

    [Reply]

    Paul Incon Reply:

    The Loboc River Cruise might be in some aspect a bit expensive, but where else can you experience cruising along a beautiful river while having a lunch buffet? The food they are offering might need some more room for improvement but there are also other service provider that offers nice Boholano Cuisine.

    Sadly, The Loboc River is slowly loosing its beauty due to poor designs of boats operating along the river, generating waves that can cause great damage to the river banks.

    With Tourism Industry as a major source of income and these floating restaurants have become a major thriving business which contributed most of the towns income, it is also very difficult to cut its operation. Sadly, even me as a tour service provider in Bohol, our company is also contributing to the damages of the river banks but even how unfavorable am i to the operation of those floating restaurants, it cant be helped since mostly local people are greatly relying their daily lives from it.

    It is also very frustrating to know that the local leaders and officials doesnt seem to care about this challenge. Been reading reviews from reputable travel guides and learned that even travelers came to notice the bad effects of the operation and greatly cared on saving the environment by not promoting the said activity ( which is also not favorable to me, us, local government and to its people and everyone benefiting). Local newspapers and radio stations have even took up the said topic and its very impossible to think that local leaders and tourism officers didn’t notice that their attention have been called-up. So i guess they just don’t have any answer to the big challenge that they are facing. I did even tried to post on Loboc Tourism’s official FB account if they’ll give time on entertaining the said issue. As expected nothing happened.

    For Loboc River to continually give blessing to its people it must stay beautiful and unharmed. Using the river may not be bad because a lot of people are benefiting from it. But it needs a big heart and great minds to achieve harmony.

    Please share your idea on how to achieve harmony between the beautiful Loboc River and the needs of its people by not omitting the floating restaurants from the picture. :-)

    ….and oh, come and visit the beautiful province of Bohol. Discover natural wonders, experience the local culture and mingle with the friendly people of Bohol.

    [Reply]

  3. Thanks for sharing Philippnes at its best. Loving the series. And good decision in taking the trike – we got so many good photos to see, it always works better :) – keep it up

    [Reply]

  4. glad you made it to my home island. i feel sorry for these little tarsiers on display and unable to live their normal lives. if ever you return to Bohol in the future, there’s more like islands, beach and waterfalls. spread the good news in India. so rare to see Indians travel miles to far and isolated Philippines.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aq4TjEg9W8I

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks for your comment Jay. Philippines was worth coming all the way for! I’d love to visit again.

    [Reply]

  5. We, my husband arjun and me, ended up spending an hour’s tour to philippines through your photo series and your writeup. we never realised the time, looking at 188 pictures took us to a different world.
    We actually logged in to look for some mahogany trees, and your pictures are so impressive my dear, its difficult to stop looking at the next one.
    Your comments accompanying pictures are so nice, feels that you are taking us with you to show the places, feels that we are by your side listening to you. keep it up.

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thank you very much for your kind words! :)

    [Reply]

  6. Wow, great reportage! Informative writing & many great shots! Thanks for sharing.

    [Reply]

  7. nice blog and very informative :) im actually going to Bohol next month with my friends and seeing your pictures just made me more excited!

    nice to know you enjoyed visiting our country!

    more travel to come sir!

    – Ann :)

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Have fun in Bohol!

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks Ann, have fun in Bohol! :)

    [Reply]

  8. Remrick Patagan

    The “sloths” you mentioned are actually Philippine flying lemurs or “caguang” among local Visayans. It’s a close cousin to the Malayan flying lemur, but this species is endemic to the Philippines. :)

    [Reply]

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