Where I stayed: Alonaland Resort – highly recommended. Also has a dive shop called Go Deep attached which is also very highly recommended. I did 3 dives with them.
Reasons to go: Nice beach, good night life, Chocolate Hills, tarsiers, diving
How to get there: 2 hour ferry ride from Cebu City, and half hour taxi if you are staying in Panglao/Alona beach, which is the main tourist hub on the island.
Overall: I liked it here. Panglao is touristy but once you get into the interior of the island, the pace slows down and it has a chilled out/friendly vibe.
Panglao is a busy little town, a mix of tourists including the usual backpacker/glampacker crowd and Korean vacationers. I stayed in Alonaland which luckily had a dive shop attached called Go Deep, run by a lovely Polish couple. Alonaland has a decent pool and beautiful gardens, the staff are incredible and the rooms are massive, with kitchen and balcony and a huge fridge. It’s somewhere you can stay a while and feel at home.
Diving is not mind-blowing – the currents around the island are strong – but there are fish and a few turtles, but we didn’t see any sharks or rays. I did 3 dives in all – Balicasag Island and a local night dive where we saw beautiful batfish and a sea snake. Currents can be strong.
The other two attractions on Bohol are the Chocolate Hills and the Tarsier Sanctuary, which are a day trip from Panglao. Most people rent a scooter but as I’m not brave enough I opted for a private taxi driver. First stop was the Man-Made Forest – an area where schoolchildren in the ‘80’s planted hundreds of trees alongside the road. You then pass the Tarsier Conservation Centre – I heard the animals weren’t treated very well and didn’t stop here.
Climbing the stairs to the Chocolate Hills Viewpoint
The Chocolate hills are 1200+ conical karsts which turn brown in high summer, and in rainy season they are green but equally as beautiful. Walking up the stairs to the viewpoint gives breathtaking 360 degree views of the hills. They cover an area of approx. 50sq km. There’s 3 legends behind their formation (thanks Wikipedia): Three legends explain the formation of the The first tells the story of two feuding giants who hurled rocks, boulders, and sand at each other. The fighting left them exhausted and in the end they became friends, but left a big mess behind – hence the Chocolate Hills. A more romantic legend tells of a powerful young giant named Arogo who fell in love with a mortal called Aloya. When she died (as mortals do) Arogo couldn’t stop crying. After his tears dried the hills were formed. The third legend is kind of gross: it tells of a town being plagued by a giant carabao (water buffalo), who ate all of their crops. Finally having had enough, the townsfolk took all of their spoiled food and left it out for the buffalo to eat. His stomach couldn't handle the spoiled food, so he defecated, leaving behind him a mound of faeces, until he had emptied his stomach of the food. The faeces then dried, forming the Chocolate Hills. That is one big buffalo and a lot of poo!!!
The Tarsier Sanctuary is a must do if you like insanely-cute tiny, furry Mogwai-looking critters, with little gecko-type feet and enormous eyes. Whilst primates, signs everywhere tell you that they are NOT MONKEYS. Our guide will led us in small groups into the forest. Tarsiers are nocturnal meaning that during the day they are sleeping in the safety of the trees. The guide points them out, so have your camera ready for plenty of Awwww moments, and be careful not to use flash or stick your camera too close to the animal. I’m pretty sure the tarsiers are strategically placed near the walkway so it is easy to get a good photo of at least one. Once we’d seen 4 tarsiers they quietly hurried us out, so the whole experience took about 40 mins at the max.
It’s fun to drive around the interior of Bohol, there’s a number of small bustling towns and quiet sleepy villages, tons of greenery, not too much development and everyone is very chilled. There’s also a big river with places to stay and boat rides.
As with Malapascua, I met the most wonderful people in Bohol and by the end it was like having a little extended family, and I was gutted to leave. There’s plenty of good bars and restaurants – I really liked Isis which has a fantastic fish bbq and good Thai food, and drank most nights in Aluna Bar.