day one hundred and ten: january 17, 2015: surigao city to bohol
Today we flew from Surigao to Cebu City and quickly found out it was the Sinulog Festival, one of the biggest festivals in the Philippines celebrating the Santo Niño, the infant child Jesus, who many Filipino Catholics believe to be miraculous. Unfortunately, we planned poorly and didn't have anywhere to store our luggage -- so we headed to our next destination, Bohol, via ferry.
day one hundred and eleven: january 18, 2015: bohol
We booked a tour through the hotel to explore Bohol for the day. In eight hours, we visited 6 different highlights. First was the Tarsier Conservation Center. These little guys are the world's smallest primate. Sadly, they're endangered now, due to their habitats being destroyed by humans. Upon our arrival we learned a few things about the tarsiers. For one, tarsiers have extremely large eyes. Each eye is heavier than the brain. They have the largest eyes relative to their body of all mammals. Another crazy thing they can do is rotate their head 180 degrees without moving the rest of their body. Unfortunately, they are also nocturnal and they sleep during the day. That means that humans visiting and watching them during the day is actually disrupting their sleep. Some of the ones we saw were sleeping, but when people were noisy they would slowly open their eyes. It reminded me of my college days trying to stay awake in a lecture. It was kind of disheartening to see actually. There are signs to keep quiet and not to use flash photography. Apparently when tarsiers are exposed to flashes of light while trying to sleep they sometimes commit suicide by banging their head against a tree. They're also known to attempt suicide when put in captivity. Although seeing them "in the wild" was cool, I don't think I would encourage other people to visit as it doesn't seem to be healthy of the tarsiers ("in the wild" is in quotations because this conservation center/area seemed more concerned with keeping tourism alive than actually saving the tarsiers).
Our next stop was the Bohol Butterfly Conservation Center. Included in the admission price is a tour guide. Ours was actually pretty entertaining and funny and we learned a lot thru the displays (some of which had live caterpillars and to-be butterflies and moths in cocoons). Sadly, I don't think we were there in the right season, so there weren't many butterflies in the gardens.
On display were quite a few preserved specimens of butterflies and some that were actually both male and female. Above you can see a male butterfly (not sure on the species) and below you can see one that is both male and female. No that doesn't mean they can reproduce with themselves. Its more like a genetic disorder that rarely occurs.
As I mentioned earlier, we did get to see some live cocoons and there was even one that had just recently broken free from its cocoon.
Next up, the Chocolate Hills. This is an area we were really looking forward to. Unfortunately, I would have to say we were a little bit disappointed. Most of the pictures that you see posted are like those we've posted below. What you don't see are the crowds of people and the fact that the hills aren't actually that interesting to look at.
Next stop, the bamboo hanging bridge. It's really just that...a bridge made of bamboo supported by metal cables.
The first time we passed the man-made forest, we actually didn't know we had passed it. So we ended up turning around and going back and then realizing that it was a series of planted trees along a section of the road.
The last stop of the tour was supposed to be a buffet lunch that costs 400 PHP per person on a boat that travels down the river while you eat. After seeing what it was, we decided to push on and head back toward the hotel and find somewhere better to enjoy lunch. Our guide brought us to the Bohol Bee Farm, which set the stage for many more meals during our time in Bohol. Our first night in Bohol, we stumbled upon the Bohol Bee Farm location on Alona Beach and had some amazing ice cream. We were pleasantly surprised that their actual location is much larger and also has a hotel/resort portion too. After arriving and walking the grounds, we actually wished we had stayed there for a few nights. It was a beautiful spot. And to top it off, the food was organic, fresh and really tasty too.
day one hundred and twelve: january 19, 2015: island hopping in bohol
Today we opted for an island hopping tour with the hopes of also seeing dolphins on the way. We headed out super early in the morning, which is supposedly the best time to see the dolphins. Sadly, we weren't lucky enough to see them. After our search for the dolphins ended, we arrived at Balicasag Island. Included in the price of the tour was a small paddle boat transfer to the snorkeling area just off the shore. If you decided to take this tour, make sure you get good snorkeling gear. The masks and snorkels that were provided to us were pretty gnarly and definitely not clean. We decided to only use the masks and ditch the snorkels since there appeared to be some sort of mold possibly growing inside. Eek!
We only got to choose one spot to go to and opted for the area where we could hope to see sea turles, which was much deeper than the area where most of the other groups were going to. We ended up spotting four sea turtles and swimming with them for a bit. That definitely made up for the lack of dolphins on our way out to the island. We also got to see quite a few jellyfish, almost all of who stung us while we were swimming with the turtles. We ended our snorkel in the shallows of the reef where most of the other visitors were standing on the reef as their guides picked up starfish and showed them around. Definitely not good coral reef etiquette. It's always disappointing to see this.
Next on the tour, Isola di Francesco also known as Virgin Island Sandbar. This quiet little stop is actually a privately owned island, known as a place for meditation and reflection. The owner is fairly religious and there are plenty of indicators on the island including signage that states "Enjoy HIS beach" and religious statues scattered on the island.
Over the next day or so we enjoyed several meals at the Bohol Bee Farm location on Alona Beach and took full advantage of their Scrabble board. Little did we know, my dad is a near expert Scrabble player, always taking advantage of adding S's and other single letters to the ends of existing words while also adding a new word. He sure can score in Scrabble!
day one hundred and thirteen: january 20, 2015: alona beach
Without any activities planned for our last day in Bohol, we encouraged Jamie to do a discovery dive to see if she would enjoy scuba diving. Verdict: she did! So hopefully that means she will be able to get certified back in the states and join us underwater somewhere around the world.
day one hundred and fourteen: january 21, 2015: cebu city
After a casual breakfast, we headed back to Cebu City on the ferry. After checking in at our hotel, we headed out for some lechon, which Cebu is known for, at Zubuchon, made famous by Anthony Bordain. It did not disappoint. Sorry, we didn't take any photos so I guess you'll just have to go try it for yourselves.