With over 7,000 islands to choose from, Bohol manages to stand out in the crowd
The Philippines is certainly a land of contradictions. Thousands of unspoilt, coral-fringed islands but relatively few tourists. The victim of numerous colonisations, but possessed of a unique flavour all its own. Even cash-loving dictator’s wife and politician Imelda Marcos – who abruptly quashed scurrilous rumours that she owned 3,000 pairs of shoes, claiming to have ‘only’ 1,060 pairs – has seemed confused about her country’s place in the world.
At one point she claimed it was “bad enough that the Philippines is really hamburgered geographically”. On another occasion she gushed: “The Philippines was right at the centre of the globe… As Chairman Mao said, ‘You can change ideologies any time, but you can never change geography.’ Geopolitics – this is what will make the Philippines great and beautiful again.”
Yet one feature of Southeast Asia’s easternmost nation that has never been in doubt is the incredible charm of Bohol Island. Located just a short ferry hop from Cebu, one of the Philippines’ main transport hubs, Bohol can be taken in briefly but rewards those who stick around with bounteous offerings from the bosom of nature.
In the last few years, increasingly glamorous resorts have begun to nibble on Bohol’s teat, but ecotourism remains the default setting of this 60-mile-wide island and its surrounds. The jungle-clad interior is home to an array of flora and fauna, with none more interesting than a lovable little primate known as the Philippine tarsier.
Weighing between 100 and 150 grams, the tiny fellows with huge, soulful eyes fit comfortably in the palm of a human hand, but are capable of leaping more than three metres between trees. The best spot for a close encounter is at the Philippine Tarsier Research and Development Centre, where they roam free in their natural habitat, about ten kilometres north of Tagbilaran, Bohol’s busy port town.
The quirks of nature continue to come thick and fast on Bohol, but the undisputed king of the island’s tourism destinations are the Chocolate Hills. An incredible terrain of conical limestone mounds covered with grass, the hills at first glance seem ethereal due to their amazingly uniform height and formation.
During the dry season, the grass on the hills turns a delicious shade of brown, thus providing the confectioner’s finishing touch. A multitude of geological explanations have been applied to their formation, some more credible than others, but the mythical tale of two giants who forgot to tidy their mess after an extended rock fight will suffice for the romantic at heart.
When the time comes to unwind and empty thoughts of feuding giants and petite primates from the mind, Panglao Island, connected to Bohol by a bridge, is usually the destination of choice. A sparkling dribble of sand, Alona Beach, winds along the southwest coast and the choice between a San Miguel and a Red Horse Beer may be the most taxing question visitors face during their stay.
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