Interested in joining the Evolution Photoganza 2014, but not sure what to do before and after in the Philippines? There are more than 7000 islands in this island nation, and while some are in reality too small for a visit, there are still so many options for the traveler. A place I have visited twice, and greatly enjoyed is the island of Bohol, just to the east of Cebu. You will likely fly into Cebu City, and from there you can catch a 2 hour ferry to Tagbilaran, the capital of Bohol. While this is a rather unremarkable city, the rest of Bohol is really the Philippines at their best: lush tropical vegetation, water buffaloes taking a leisurely bath in a village pond, and smiling country people next to the road selling paradisaical tropical fruit. You will see hand-sized butterflies flapping around the orchids, and seabirds sailing back to shore in the glowing late afternoon skies. Bohol is a tranquil, beautiful and happy place. It’s one of these places which makes your heart overflow with sheer happiness about being there.
Bohol was the site of the first contact of the Philippine people with Spanish explorers (Magellan who arrived in Mactan a few years earlier was Portuguese). Some of the oldest Christian churches and monasteries in Asia are in Bohol, well worth a visit. A classic Bohol trip also includes a river cruise on the Loboc river, complete with local folk dances during some stops on the river’s banks, and a table-bending buffet. Of course, as pretty much everywhere in the know word, you will run into some German backpackers, but Bohol is also very popular with Filipino tourists families coming from the country’s cities. So during such a river cruise you will probably be culturally immersed into the Pinoy tradition of traveling in larger groups of friends and relatives and eating and laughing together.
And there is more: the smallest monkey in the world, the tarsier, lives in the inland shrubbery of Bohol. It would be very hard to find one on your own (it’s really quite small), but you can see these highly unusual primates (they hunt insects at night, hence their huge eyes) in the Tarsier Sanctuary. Highly recommended! Another highlight certainly are the chocolate hills, a unique landscape of conical hills, the grass on which turns chocolate-brown during the dry season.
The main tourist accommodation area in Bohol is the small island of Panglao across the bridge from Tagbilaran, a pleasant little town with several hotels and restaurants as well as some good dive shops. I once stayed there in the Ananyana Beach Resort, a bit out of town, and liked it very much.
Another, more quiet place to visit is the small island of Cabilao, a brief boat-ride off the north-west coast of Bohol. You won’t find any nightlife there, and few dining options outside of the resorts, but it’s a lovely island to relax and, did I mention dive? Cabilao is another one of these Pinoy macro diving wonderlands. I saw an incredible collection of small-sized marine life there during my visit in 2009. I stayed at the Cabilao Beach Club, and thoroughly enjoyed the stay.
The better hotels both in Panglao as well as in Cabilao will be very happy to organize trips for you to all of the aforementioned sights of Bohol.