Since today we were leaving Amorita we had packed up our stuff the night before so we could just add the drying items at the last minute. We had a confirmation from our diving travel agent – Dive Safari Asia confirming our pick-up for the tour would be arriving at 9a.m however, when we had asked at reception about this they claimed no knowledge of it, Due to the size of the resort we must have enquired about 5 different times and then that person went off their shift and our enquiry got lost in a lack of communication and so here we were at 8.00a.m on our day of departure still not sure if we had a transfer tour or not. There wasn’t much we could achieve by worrying about it and so we headed off to enjoy one last breakfast feast of hash browns, beef hash, the lovely glazed pork, a Spanish style beef with rice and 2 types of omelette with a siu mai. Thankfully as we arrived back to our room reception called to tell us our driver and guide had arrived afterall. We later found out that the transfer company had been trying to confirm this with us for days also and were having the same issue as us with staff not communicating the message.
We met our tour guide Valiant and driver and found out the countryside tour we had included as part of our transfer to the next resort involved a lot more than we first expected, in fact it had a whole 7 stops rather than the 3 we had expected. I would definitely recommend shopping around if you are buying one of these as what is included in each one differs dramatically. We started out at the Philippine Tarsier Foundation. Tarsiers are the world’s smallest monkey and are found throughout the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. They are famed for their huge eyes making them attractive as cute pets but keeping them in captivity is extremely stressful for the animals and many commit suicide due to the stress. There are a few places that you can visit in Bohol to see the tarsiers but a lot of them are caged and focus on pleasing tourists rather than the animal’s welfare. Here the foundation has a huge forest reserve for them but has cordoned off a small section for visitors to walk around to see the tarsiers in the wild. As they are nocturnal animals they are mostly sleeping during the day and so you follow your guide as they point out up to 7 tarsiers. We were very lucky to have seen them all but it all depends on where they have chosen to sleep on whether you will see all 7 or not. It was a short stop and after our short jungle walk with tarsier spotting we were back in the car to tick off our next stop.
Our second stop of the day was zip-lining over the Loboc river. This was something a friend had recommended to me so we were really looking forward to it when we found out it was included in the tour. Given that it is currently the low season when we arrived there was no-one else in sight and so we wandered over to get kitted up. The zip-line was a bit like a flying fox in that you lay horizontal and were wrapped in a cape to hold you in place. It was then that they sent you off on your journey across the Loboc river. The location and scenery was stunning, all you could see for miles was green with small waterfalls in the river below. It took about 45 seconds to zip across before you walked up to a higher platform to zip back again. It was a lovely way to see the scenery below and a nice addition that we hadn’t known about. I would definitely recommend.
Stop number 3 of the day turned out to be lunch on a floating restaurant along the Loboc river. Given it was just after 11 and we had only eaten breakfast at 8 lunch wasn’t the first things on our mind but it was done in this order as the other elements were closer to our final destination. This was probably the most touristy element of the trip – pretty much every single one of the countryside tours does a lunch stop here. We jumped aboard and were seated before joining the growing queue for the buffet. It was a local Filipino meal done buffet style and so had fried chicken, vegetable noodles, rice, ginger fish and sautéed vegetables. It was distinctly average in terms of food quality but the views along the river were nice enough and at one point you could see up to where we had zip-lined across which was pretty cool.
Feeling full from lunch it was on to Habitat – a butterfly centre and botanical garden. Again we were allocated a guide after we arrived to learn about the butterflies and he took us around the beautiful gardens. Many species of butterfly in the Philippines are endangered and so they breed them within the sanctuary before releasing them into the wild around 20% of the collection every day. We started out by seeing some caterpillars – how a butterfly starts its life. They were busy munching on some leaves gaining enough energy to transform into butterflies. The next stage of the process in where the caterpillars put themselves into cocoons ready to undergo transformation. They then emerge with beautiful wings and enjoy up to a maximum of 21 days of life – just enough time to reproduce and lay eggs before sadly dying. Interesting the jiggy jiggy boom boom as our guide called it lasts for one whole day – pretty excellent stamina for creatures with such a short life. It was lovely to see themall flying around and just before we left we stood in front of a sign and became butterflies ourselves which was a nice touch.
From here it was a short drive to Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape. Again this was an unknown stop for us and the drive up along the steep windy forest roads was at times perilous. We were here to see a troop of wild macaques which live in the reserve and of course came running at the sight of us with bananas. I have seen macaques all over the world and it still always surprises me how human-like they are. There was a mother with a 3 day old baby already able to raise its head to stare at us inquisitively as mum stalked up on bananas. After seeing the monkeys we learned the park take in injured animals and rehabilitate them back to the wild. They had 2 owls and a Filipino eagle while we were there that were receiving treatments to allow them to be re-released. Projects like this are so important in a country where poverty is so high and while again it was a quick visit I think a very worthwhile one.
Our second-last stop of the day was to the famous Chocolate Hills. Whenever you see Bohol mentioned on tv or in the news this is the typical image that goes along with it. We arrived to the drop-off point and saw the hundreds of steps we had to climb to reach the viewing platform in the heat and humidity. The Chocolate Hills were formed millions of years ago when the island of Bohol rose out of the sea and mounds of coral and deposits from the sea were caught in these huge sloping mounds. They are so named as they turn a brown chocolate colour during the dry season when the vegetation is not so lush. We decided to just go for it and quickly ascended without stopping. The views out over the rounded green hills were gorgeous. For miles all you could see was green jungle or green rice paddies, it was truly very beautiful. We got the standard tourist shots before taking the stairs back down and heading off to our final stop of the day.
Like the zip-lining we were very pleasantly surprised to find out that ATVs were also included in the tour. We each got a bike, jumped on and headed off to explore the thick jungle communities ensuring to go through as many muddy puddles as possible (sorry mum). I had never driven an ATV before and it took me a while to get used to the steering and power but after that I was off. The setting was like something out of a paradise film with green stretching for miles and it was really interesting to see how the local communities lived in the jungle with flooding and homes made out of local woods. We stopped for a few mini photo shoots on the way around before heading back for a shower from a hose to wash all of the mud off.
What a day! It took around an hour to finally arrive at Magic Islands Dive Resort our home for the next 2 nights. It was quite a shock to learn that we were guest no. 3 and 4 in the whole resort, especially having come from Alona Beach where it had been so busy. The rooms were nice albeit a lot more basic than Amorita and we settled in before heading to dinner with the only other guests, a Dutch couple. It turned out they were there as the lady works selling dive holidays and so she wanted to check it out to be able to sell it. We had some chat and shared a lovely 3 course meal of chicken soup, a mixture of local Filipino dishes and a chocolate mousse with coconut macaroon for dinner all washed down with ice-tea. After a very long day we retired to our rooms to enjoy the wifi with a long day of diving planned for the next day.