2015 is â€˜Visit the Philippinesâ€™ year, and although there was no way I would be able to check out all of the countryâ€™s 7,000+ islands, I did get to see a couple during my recent trip, which included a two night stay on Panglao Island, Bohol.
Arriving in the evening we checked into the amazing Amorita Resort, a luxurious hotel I didnâ€™t want to leave due to the sunken outdoor bath and the rain shower to name but a few reasons (review to come)!
After dinner and a relaxing nightâ€™s sleep in my four-poster bed, I was refreshed and ready to explore the islands. For me Bohol was brought to life by our guide, Cecile, who spent the majority of the two days with us, teaching us about Boholâ€™s culture, history and myths, while taking us from sight to sight.
Stand up paddle-boarding
The day began with my first ever SUP (Stand up Paddle Boarding) experience, which was much more chilled than expected. To be fair though, I did get to relax by sitting on the front of our guideâ€™s board while my blogger buddies (with healthier legs than me!) rose to the challenge of really SUP-ing. It was a wonderful relaxing jaunt down the river, broken up by local children waving at us from the river bank and leaping from rope swings into the cooling water below them.
The Chocolate Hills
After a refreshing coconut drink we travelled on to see the Chocolate Hills â€“ Boholâ€™s most iconic landmark. A natural wonder, these 1,000+ cone shaped hills go on as far as the eye can see. A really unique sight, they get their name due to the brown colour the grass turns during dry season. I particularly loved the legends behind their â€˜creation.â€™ Stories tell of giants â€“ some lovers and some fighters â€“ as the creators of the hills. One tale says the hills are the tears of a heartbroken giant who fell in love with a local girl, another says the hills are the remnants of boulders thrown by enemy giants at war.
Dinner with a difference
From here we headed over to Loboc River where we had the most surreal lunch onboard a river cruise. Iâ€™ll report on that in more detail in a future post, but lets say that my usual lunch experiences donâ€™t include dancing to the YMCA, meeting a man dressed as a tarsier or joining a Filipino choir for some traditional dancing and a singalong. Crazy, but magical!
After stopping off to see the Blood Compact Commemorative Shrine â€“ an important part of Boholâ€™s history, we then travelled on to the place Iâ€™d been wanting to visit so badly â€“ the Tarsier Sanctuary. Here you can see these shy, at risk creatures in their natural habitat thanks to â€˜Tarsier Manâ€™ Carlitos Piarrashas, who from a young age made it his mission to protect these beautiful little creatures. I have to say that I loved them much more than the guy in the suit! (Sorry dude).
Guided around the semi-wild enclosure a few of these little cuties were pointed out to us, and we were allowed to see these wonderful creatures with our own eyes â€“ something few people get the opportunity to do.
Tired out from all the fresh air and exploration, our day ended with an amazing aromatherapy massage at Mit-Hi Spa, which was one of the best Iâ€™ve ever had. A great level of personalisation, an amazing view, a wonderful masseuse who managed to get rid of all the knots in my shoulders and some finishing touches including a warm towel bath to remove the excess oil left me feeling refreshed and fully unwound. Bliss!
To top this all off the evening ended with a wonderful meal at the Panglao Island Nature Resort. Here we met the family who owned the resort, as well as the chefs whoâ€™d created us a really vibrant, fun and delicious dinner. As someone who loves to have fun with food, I especially liked the â€˜DIYâ€™ soup where you added the stock to create a soup of the consistency you wanted. Also outstanding was the green moringa pasta, created using plants local to the island.
Our final night in Bohol was spent at Momo Beach House. A bit of a luxury hotel diva this wasnâ€™t the usual kind of place Iâ€™d choose but I absolutely adored its relaxed surfer feel, something I got to see in more detail the following morning. It had such a chilled out, homely setting right on the beach, with cute little signs, welcoming sofas, hammocks hanging from palm trees and a very inviting pool that I think I could have made myself very comfortable here.
Before heading back to the airport for our next destination on our Philippines adventure, we had time for one more stop, which was lunch at the Bohol Bee Farm, an organic farm that serves local food and beverages. Here we had a honey-based sweet, green drink as well as amazing pesto, fresh bread and a myriad other snacks. The highlight was getting to taste a rainbow of locally made coconut milk ice cream flavours ranging from the expected chocolate and mango through to â€˜intriguingâ€™ flavours such as spicy ginger, dragon fruit and for the daring â€“ durian.
We squeezed in a lot during our short stay on Bohol, but Iâ€™m eager to return as Iâ€™m aware thereâ€™s much more to see. After my inaugural attempt at snorkelling Iâ€™d love to go back and master my skills in the waters around Bohol, plus I know thereâ€™s still so much I havenâ€™t seen. I truly cannot wait to return and Iâ€™m now trying to persuade my other half that 2016 should also be â€˜Visit the Philippinesâ€™ year!
Have you visited Bohol or has this post made you want to book a flight? What were your favourite things about the island â€“ do share your thoughts in the comments below!
Flown over by Philippine Airlines, my trip was arranged by the Philippines Department of Tourism and the Tourism Promotions Board. As ever all views are my own.