March 16, 2015 After several days of diving off Bohol’s Pangalao Island, I was hit by a bug. Nothing too nasty but I didn’t feel up to another day of diving. I also didn’t want to “waste” a precious day of our short time in Bohol lying on a lawn chair. So, on a whim, we signed up for a Bohol countryside tour. When it comes to planning our travel excursions, I’m not usually an “on a whim” kind of gal, but I figured an easy day of being chauffeured in an air conditioned minivan might just be the ticket. Our weird and wacky day seemed to cure what ailed me.
What is that cute little creature…the inspiration for the Yoda character on Star Wars? Tarsiers are tiny (10-15 cm) nocturnal primates with the largest eye-to-body ratio of any mammal. Sadly, they are highly endangered.
Many visitors end up at the Loboc River Tarsier Sanctuary. I had read reviews about the poor treatment of these animals at the Loboc facility and told our driver we wanted to go to the official sanctuary. Unfortunately I couldn’t remember where it was and I couldn’t get internet connection. He insisted Loboc was the official one (I assume he gets a cut).
We never did get to the official Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella but ended up at a small third sanctuary at kitschy Sagbayan Peak. It was still a thrill to see these amazing creatures but I’m mad at myself for missing out on Corella where efforts and entrance fees are more likely to go towards conservation. I didn’t do my homework!
Seeing the world’s largest python wasn’t on top of my list, but it had big appeal for my son. Another popular stop on the countryside tour, the Bohol Python, Wildlife Park & Eco-Tourism (that’s what the sign says) is actually home to the world’s largest dead python. The faded sign does say preserved body, but the tour leaflets haven’t been updated.
Prony, the beloved Bohol python, deceased for two years, has been mounted in all his/her 24 feet of glory. Male, female who knows? Same question can be asked about Marimar, The Jungle Diva—our tour guide who sashayed through the facility sporting a slinky cocktail dress and a five o’clock shadow. The whole thing was absurdly entertaining and worth the price of admission.
Our guide tried his best to convince us to go on the Loboc River lunch cruise. I had done my homework on this one and knew we weren’t interested in an overpriced, mediocre-quality buffet with throngs of Asian tourists. We asked him to take us somewhere local, somewhere simple, a place he’d eat at. No can do. We might get sick, he argued, hygiene is not so good (I don’t get my commission he thought). We ended up at an overpriced, mediocre-quality buffet with a bunch of European tourists. The saving grace was the great sign.
Call me jaded, but I was a bit underwhelmed by the famous Chocolate Hills. They are worth a visit if in Bohol, but the photos look better than the real thing. Looking at the featured image on this post, with Alex doing the goofy pose, I must admit that the many rounded mounds, which resemble giant chocolate drops, look pretty cool (better than I remember). The dry season (December-May) is the best time to visit and apparently they are at their finest at dusk and dawn.
We saw the Chocolate Hills from two vantage points: At Carmen, where a long staircase leads to a viewing platform that is still in ruins from the 2013 earthquake, and at Sagbayan, which is quieter, and has an incredible display of corny stuff. Unfortunately neither place has any display information about the origins of the hills. I read later that geologists believe that the mounds were formed from deposits of limestone left over from coral reefs during the Ice Age. I prefer the folk tale of a giant water buffalo leaving deposits from his distressed bowels!
A few crumbling churches and independence monuments later, we were on our way back to our guest house. By this time I was feeling much better and chuckling about our bizarre day. Our guide had warmed up to us thanks mostly to Alex, an avid mixed martial arts fan, who engaged him in a discussion about much loved national sports hero Manny Pacquaio.
The day was definitely not what I expected, and the frustrations and comical moments made it one of our most memorable days in the Philippines. There are tons of guides happy to provide a tour, and it’s easy to do on your own with a rental car or moped.
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So much touristy kitsch. Shudder. The juxtaposition of Marilyn and Kidstown just so bizarre. A dead preserved python equally bizarre. I don’t know whether to be horrified or amused. Both I suppose. What a day! But at least you got to see tarsiers. That would be the highlight of the day for me.