Philippines, March 2016
Pier 1 – Ocean Jet
When my friends and I visited Tagbilaran, we decided that a day trip would be sufficient, because we just wanted to check out some of the major tourist attractions. So, from Cebu we headed down to Pier 1 to catch our ferry from the company Ocean Jet. The ferry round trip fare was 900 Php, and the journey (one way) ended up being around two hours. Though we purchased a cheap ticket, we end up being “upgraded” to an air-conditioned room, which would have been great – except that it was absolutely freezing, with most passengers bundled up in jackets and towels; they had obviously known beforehand that it would be icy in there. Luckily for us it was a short trip, otherwise we would have literally turned into ice cubes. When we disembarked, our driver Dodong was waiting at the exit gate for us, because I already booked our taxi driver few days before the trip.
From the pier it was about an hour’s drive to Chocolate Hills, and on the way there Dodong mentioned that the hills cover four towns. While driving towards the viewing site I soon started to see the famous hills at the sides of the road.
They were obviously hills, but were covered with plants and trees. When we arrived at the destination, we found a small viewing site with a little restaurant on the ground floor. It ended up being quite a climb up to get a better view of the hills, with a rest stop around every 10-15 steps.
Once we reached the top, we discovered that only half of the viewing platform was accessible – the other half was being renovated, so we were all cramped up on one side of the platform. The view was spectacular though, and some of the hills had started to turn brown because summer was just starting. When the hills all turn completely brown they resemble lumps of “chocolate”, hence the name.
Going down was a lot easier, and we decided to have a small lunch at the restaurant before we made our way to another tourist attraction, the Tarsier Sanctuary, which was a short drive away.
Here is a video from YouTube to see the aerial view of the hills. Video Credit: Skye Cam
After you pay your entrance fee of 60 Php, you simply go up the hill and follow the signs. There were staff there to help with spotting the Tarsiers, believed to be the smallest primates in the world.
We saw total of three Tarsiers, two of whom were sleeping. All of them were hiding in the shade, and I was a little disappointed that we only saw three, but despite this low tally I was happy because at least they were not caged, and instead they were allowed to roam free in their natural habitat.
Video Credit: globalvideopro1 (YouTube)
Our driver also recommended the River Cruise lunch buffet, but our group opted not to do it due to our time constraints. Also, at the time we were not really that hungry, and we had big plans for dinner anyway, so we didn’t want to eat a lot. However, if you have time or if you are staying on Bohol, you should probably add this to your itinerary. Below is a video of the river cruise.
Video Credit: Christopher Wieser (YouTube)
Hinagdanan Cave was our last stop before we headed back to Cebu, and it was about a 30 minute drive from the sanctuary. According to Dodong, before it became a “tourist trap” it was a place where locals did their laundry. The entrance fee was 60 Php, which only covered the cost of going to see the cave, and you had to pay an additional fee if you wanted to swim.
Both of my friends ended up paying the extra fee for the swim. When we got there, we were greeted by our overly energetic guide at the entrance. It was a few steps down, tall people would need to be careful that they don’t hit their heads. Thankfully I am short, so I didn’t have to worry about that.
Inside the cave there was a “pool” shaped like a bowl, or which the center was the deepest. It was quite picturesque and we had a few nice shots taken by our guide. The water quality at that time wasn’t that great though. Our energizer bunny guide pretty much consumed our energy just by speaking and forcing us to listen to him, so in the end my friends decided not to swim and instead decided to go back to the ferry terminal and head back.
At that stage we were pretty much ready to go back anyways, and one of our friends, who had just arrived the previous day, was still feeling jet-lagged. We arrived at the terminal an hour earlier than our scheduled departure, so we asked if we could transfer to an earlier slot. Thankfully, there was a boat that was about to depart and we were able to get onto it. The journey going back was comfortable this time, so were able to nap for the duration of the short trip.
Video Credit: Great Destinations Radio Show
Even though it was just a day trip, I was able to see exactly what I wanted to see, so I was definitely left feeling satisfied with the experience. I am sure there are more things to do and see in Bohol so if you have the time for it, I encourage you to enjoy the island and all it has to offer.