Tuesday 22 January 2019

Philippines - Panglao and Bohol Islands Day tour

Monday, 17th December -  The small island of Panglao where our resort was located is linked to the island of Bohol by two bridges and most of our day tour was conducted in Bohol. 

Bohol is the tenth largest island in the Philippines, in the Central Visayas, with 3,300 square kms, 100.000 residents, with 30 smaller islands around it, with Panglao being one of them.

Instead of joining an organized tour, Sunshine (my daughter's wedding planner) had recommended a friend who had a van and could take us around at our own pace.
Before being picked up at the resort, we had time for an early breakfast at the resort which was included in our daily rate. 
The buffet at the Aplaya cabana catered mainly for Asian taste buds. As for the few Westerners at the resort we had 
bacon and eggs, sausages, bread and fruit, and of course coffee and juices. Not bad, but there could be more variety...

Aplaya Restaurant (cabana) by the beach

In the parking lot by the Reception these two very colourful jeepneys awaited to take hotel residents on tours. Everyone decorates their jeepney or tricycles as they wish, using colour, tassells, curtains, quotes, names... 

Colourful Jeepneys

Reynaldo, our tour guide picked us up at 9am, and after introductions we were on our way to our first destination - the Tarsier Sanctuary in the forest foothills of Corella town in the island of Bohol.

The Philippine Tarsier Foundation administers the sanctuary which is dedicated to the preservation and research of this tiny endangered species. They are the world's smallest primates and are found mostly in the Philippines.

We paid the entrance fee of PHP50 (Aud1,30) and were told to keep our voices down, no sudden moves and not to use flash photography while going around the sanctuary.

Tarsiers, one of the world's smallest mammals range from 8.5 to 16cm and weigh about 80 to 160gr. Their eyes which are disproportionately large provide the tarsier with excellent night vision. The eyes are fixed and don't move in their sockets but the neck rotates 180°.
They can live up to 24 years in the wild, but only 2 to 12 years if in captivity mainly due to stress. Being very sensitive they are known to commit suicide if disturbed by light and noise.

We were told that every morning a couple of trackers would go around the sanctuary searching for tarsiers. When they have located a few, a guide will be positioned near the various trees so he can show the visitors where they are.  We saw 8 tarsiers that day.

The whole family at the Tarsier Sanctuary and a tarsier skeleton

One of the little tarsiers we encountered at the Sanctuary

Next we drove through the Man Made Forest in the town of Billar
It's a 2km long stretch of road, where according to our driver, school kids planted mahogany trees on their way to school.  Nothing special, but it's of course good for the environment and makes for a cool stretch of road.

A stretch of the Man Made Forest

We stopped for coffee at Mayang Maye Carenderia (Carenderia = a food stall with a small seating area, typically in a market or at a roadside in the Philippines). 
Just as in most businesses we came across there were lots of staff, some in training apparently, and we were the only customers. Coffee was ordered, and I had coconut water from a real coconut that I bought from a stall across the road.

The restaurant which was quite big, was surrounded at the back by a lush garden, and at the entrance a lot of plants in pots inside stiffened jeans.
When we left we had to laugh as the young waitresses were rehearsing some dance moves to the sound of music.  Even though we came across lots of very simple people, everyone seems to be have a smile on their faces all the time!

The garden behind the restaurant (left and bottom right) and pot plants in jeans at the front of restaurant

The driver had asked if we wanted to ride Quad bikes at the foot of Chocolate Hills. The men were all for it of course!  I presume the driver/guides must also get a commission from bringing in clients.

We stopped at Chocolate Hills ATV rental on the main road to the town of Carmen.
At the back of the property a big cage with parakeets amused us while the staff prepared the bikes. Some of them would go into the coconut shells and poke their heads out.

Parakeets in the cage. Loving gestures and hiding in the coconut shell

After paying for a 30min ride, Isabelle and Max (Thomas's parents) climbed in the only shared bike and the rest of us had single bikes.
After kitting ourselves with plastic overalls (uff, they made us sweat, they were so hot!) we did a trial ride in the property. 

The team kitted out for the ride (I'm the photographer

It was my first ever ride on a quad bike and I promptly accelerated and went into a small ditch. One of the young helpers said he could ride with me for a while to make sure I was ok which I gladly accepted.

Behind a staff member riding ahead of us we left the property onto the main road and onto a dirt road to the left.
Once in a while we would stop and have photos taken by the staff member. After a while the guy riding with me said I could take over as I would be ok and I managed to do well.

The team on the road, me on the quad bike

I had chosen not to wear the plastic trousers as they were really hot, Jose chose not to wear any protection, but in certain spots we rode through mud puddles and our legs got splashed.

We stopped at the feet of the Chocolate Hills, Bohol's number 1 attraction to take photos, before returning to the rental place and get our legs spray washed. What fun!!

The team at the foot of Chocolate Hills and Jose and I 

After our adventure we got back to our waiting van, and debated whether we should go to Chocolate Hills or have lunch first, but decided on lunch. 
At the first tiny restaurant we stopped at, the Chef was a bit confused with the "no gluten" request for Isabelle and then didn't have enough chicken for all of us and nothing else appealed to our taste.

We left and decided to go back to the friendly restaurant where we had coffee earlier in the morning.

The young waitresses welcomed us again and we ordered our dishes and the Chef made a plate of vegetables and eggs for Isabelle as nothing else was suitable (she's Celiac).

Mayang Maye Carenderia

 Menu - "Native chicken" is local bred chickens (not commercially raised)

Reynaldo, the driver joined us for lunch of course and it was funny that even though he had been asked to order whatever he wanted for himself as we would pay, he ordered chicken but then would help himself to whatever else each of us had ordered. 
Jose wasn't too happy when he started picking on his plate of prawns 😋.
I suppose that is the family/community way the Filipinos share their meals.

Once in a while one of the young Chinese girls sitting next to our table would come and peer at our table to see what we were eating as they still hadn't ordered.
Jose being cheeky asked one of them if she wanted to eat with us and she said they were just seeing what looked good to order. 
Then she wanted to know what nationality we were and then pointing to Benoir, Thomas's brother, she said "uhh, he's good looking".
Jose told her he was single, and she said she was also single and wouldn't mind a French boyfriend. The poor guy didn't know where to hide  😂 😂.

Happy and with our tummies full we returned to Chocolate Hills
These consist of about 1776 hills spread over an area of 50 square kms (20 sq mi) and range from 30 (98ft) to 120mt (390ft) in height. 
During dry season (Summer) the grass covered hills dry up and turn chocolate brown like "chocolate kisses" which give the area its name.  
The hills were green when we were there, as it was considered Winter... with temperatures of 28C (82F) !!  I'm sure everybody wants winter temperature like that.

Chocolate Hills - 214 steps to the top, the steps with inscriptions, and the Tourist office below

There are 214 steps to the observation deck at the top, but worth the climb for the views.
A line of people waited to take their selfies and then we still had to contend with a "model" going to and fro to one of the corners while the photographer filmed and photographed her in various positions. Oh patience....

Observation Hill from afar

View of thousands of hills below

Chocolate Hills sign with the family

Panoramic photo of Chocolate Hills

On the way home we went past rice paddies and asked the driver to stop so we could take photos of the water buffaloes that people use to plough their fields.

Rice fields and water buffaloes

We had earlier talked with the driver about local fruits and he said that on the way home we could stop at the Central Public Market to buy fruit.
While Jose and Karina went through the market searching for fruits they wanted to try out, the rest of us went across the road to Island City Mall.
When we returned from the Mall we "ran" through the market searching for them and were surprised at the huge variety of fish, seafood, vegetables and fruit on offer, most of which I had never seen before.

At Bohol Central Public Market
Island City Mall, a tempting array of cakes, Christmas decor - I loved the "Gone to the beach" sign on Father Christmas chair

About 40 min later we were deposited at our Resort, tired but happy with a day full of great experiences.

After a shower and change of clothes we met half an hour later at the Resort's Baroto Bar for our usual "Happy Hour" drink.
I ordered a mango daiquiri, with real mango juice from the resort's mango trees. So delicious...

The Baroto Bar at the Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort

We were told the Aplaya (meals Cabana) was closed for dinner due to a wedding celebration, so we had to order simple meals that would be delivered to the Bar.

Unfortunately the wait was close to 40min, and everybody was getting inpatient and hungry, and the bar waitress kept on calling the kitchen to see what was happening.
I presume they were just far too busy with the wedding, but they probably should have not suggested people eat at the bar...  We could have gone to the village to eat and would be cheaper too.

Eventually our food came, most people had ordered Tuna Melt sandwiches, Isabelle and I had Chicken Salad.
The desserts we had ordered were spectacularly presented  - a platter of fruit, Ube Pannacota (ube=purple yam), Trio of Creme Brule (Pandan, Mango & Ube) and Tiramisu.

Mango Daiquiri - Tuna Melt sandwich w/chips
Fruit platter, Ube Pannacota, Trio of Creme Brule and Tiramisu.

Night photos of the pool and accommodation, with the Baroto bar at the end.

And it was an early night for us as the next day we would have to be at the Reception by 5,45am for our next adventure...swimming with whale sharks.

Unfortunately there were Chinese guests below our room, who sat outside their room for hours laughing and talking loudly to each other...
Jose was already fast asleep but he can sleep through an earthquake, unfortunately I can't, so eventually I called Reception and asked if they could get those people to go into their room and talk inside...softly preferably.
The receptionist apologized and said she would deal with it immediately, and 5 minutes later there was silence. 
Again great service from the Bluewater Panglao resort.


  1. Seems to me there was probably lots of variety for breakfast at Aplaya, but you chose not to try the Asian food. I am always thrilled with more than the bowl of cereal I have at home!

    1. Plenty for sure, but Asian food for breakfast was a bit too weird for me, don't mind it for lunch or dinner of course :) I don't eat bacon and eggs daily at home either, but I certainly enjoyed it there during 5 days.
      Thanks David.

  2. Wow Sami! You must be exhausted when you get back from your trips, you guys fit in so much! The quad bikes looked lots of messy fun 😊 Looking forward to seeing your swim with the whale sharks. My friend did that up at Exmouth, she was terrified 😀

  3. I would love the Asian food the best. Just saying. Hubby and my favorite.

    What a lovely place and what fun.

    Have a fabulous day. ♥

    1. Thanks Sandee, I don't mind, but not for breakfast.

  4. That's all right. I wound up in a ditch, too, in one of my first motorcycle adventures.

    1. Oh well not so bad then. Thanks Revrunner :)

  5. I would never had thought to do quad bike riding, but it does seem you enjoyed it, after a shaky start. Jose was very cruel to poor Benoir. I've seen a photo of a Tarsier, but I had no idea they are primates. Kind of cute, in an ET sort of way.

    1. Thanks Andrew. I certainly enjoyed the Quad bike after a bit of practice :)
      Jose loves his pranks. The tarsier does look like an ET, Yoda on Star Wars looks like a tarsier or vice-versa.

  6. Os famosos jipney que tanta controvérsia geram mas que tanto atraem os turistas.

    1. Daqui a uns anos os jeepneys terao que ser ecologicos Pedro. Logo se vera, nao estou a ver como essa gente toda vai ter que comprar novos jeepneys?

  7. Dearest Sami,
    That was a very different day for all of you and quite adventurous.
    You do disappoint me for not indulging yourself in the delicious Asian breakfast! I would love to have it any day, far healthier and better tasting than eggs, bacon and sausage. Oh, those fond memories of the all Asian food, all the time!
    Haha, those plastic cover ups were indeed a very bad idea, it must feel sticky to your skin. José was smart for taking a few mud splashes instead.
    Cute tiny primates, what an adventure.
    Those fresh markets make me mouth water, especially for the tropical fruit variety!
    In so many ways it looks identic to Indonesia and also the seasons. Officially it is a tropical climate with only dry and wet season and they certainly don't have winter; that is an 'invention' from tourists I bet, who stay their during 'their' winter season.
    It makes me long for the tropics even more now we have still winter here. Even if our winter is one without snow and real cold.
    Like Indonesians, the Philippine people are also masters at creating exotic desserts!
    Sending you hugs,

    1. Actually when we were looking for Karina's wedding dress one of the shops said they didn't have white dresses because it was "winter". We both laughed and told her, there's no winter with 27C! And I saw a few Filipinos wearing long sleeve cardigans with that heat!
      Thanks Mariette.

    2. Since when does a bridal shop have any authority for 'climate change'? Those are tropical islands and they sure have the changes between wet and dry season with 'some' fluctuation in temperature...🌞

  8. This looks like a perfect day and one I would love. How wise to go with a van so you could move at your own pace. And I love every single photo -- all so beautiful. And your dinner! That fruit is so colorful, beautifully served. It all looks great, Sami!

    1. Thanks Jeanie, yes the van was a good idea, we could go where we wanted, when we wanted. I must say the Resort always displayed the food beautifully.

  9. Wonderful photos! I especially like the one of the little tarsier. So cute!

  10. Amazing views from the high ground!

    1. Thanks William, not too high but the surroundings were beautiful.

  11. Sounds like great fun (apart from the at times very unhappy tarsiers!)
    (Struggling with my laptop... just one monitor....)

  12. What wonderful photographs you've shared.
    Love the colourful Jeepneys, and thought you very brave going on the quad bikes.

    All the best Jan

    1. I loved the jeepneys too, the drivers/owners took great pride in their appearance. Thanks Jan.

  13. I learned a new word: Jeepneys. I would call them stretch jeeps.

    How sad about the tarsiers. I had NO idea animals committed suicide. I thought we were the only mammals to do that, but I guess dolphins and whales do, too.

    When I read that you had to wear those plastic protectors, I asked myself why. The certainly wouldn't protect you from harm. Then I read about the mud. Maybe you should have opened with that (grin)!

    What a glorious day you had. I can't believe how much you eat and still don't gain weight. I was full reading about your breakfast buffet!!

    1. The jeepneys came about from the American Jeeps left after the war, and the Filipinos added on to use them as mini-buses. Now they are manufactured in the Philippines.
      It is sad about the tarsiers, hopefully people don't keep them as pets.
      It just appears I eat a lot :) :)

  14. This looks like a beautiful place to visit. And a fascinating post Sami. I never really thought of visiting the Philippines but it looks like I need to rethink that idea. And the tarsiers story is interesting. I am glad there are people willing to help. Hugs-Erika

    1. Thanks Erika. I was quite surprised with the Philippines as a tourist destination. There are hundreds of beautiful islands and lots to see. We went there as my daughter and her partner were working there at the time and they chose to get married there so the family could pair it with a visit too.

  15. Oh dearest Sami! We were also there at the Chocolate Hills Terrace! Super lovely that you guys enjoyed my country, it's truly an honor, thank you so much! The tarsiers are super cute!!!


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