It isn’t the Philippines’ most popular island. Sunseekers often prefer the vibrant Boracay or the diverse Cebu and nature lovers conjugate in Palawan for its outdoor fun, but Bohol has the unique Chocolate Hills and the oh-so-very-cute primate, the tarsier.
The sweetly named Chocolate Hills
While all throughout the Philippines there are similarities in features and attractions, the Chocolate Hills is somewhat unique to the island of Bohol. The hills – shaped like ‘chocolate kisses’ – are spread across the island with a large concentration of them right in the middle, near the town Carmen, where a viewing platform gives visitors a panoramic view across the landscape.
As with most geographical phenomena, the Chocolate Hills are shrouded in mystery, with story of warring giants throwing boulders at each other, scattering the earth around them, which results in what we see as the Chocolate Hills today.
The best time to visit is during the dry season, when then grass on the hills turns from green to brown, hence earning its association with chocolate. The beauty of the wet season cannot be ignored, though. The hills are moist with lush vegetation and squares of rice fields are covered in a blanket of flowering crops, showcasing the best of the Bohol countryside.
Tiny primate: The tarsiers
On the Loay River, near the sleepy town of Loboc, you can find the Tarsier Conservation Area.
With a body the size of a human adult’s fist and eyes that take up half of its head, tarsiers are one of the smallest primates in the world. Their existence is being challenged by changes to their environment and surrounds, and conservation areas are working to save this species.
You can visit the conservation centres as part of a tour or by yourself, however ensure that you follow the rules. These cute-as-a-button primates are nocturnal animals and they appreciate their rest during the day, so be as quiet as possible when you’re walking around the centre and don’t use the flash on your camera. Also avoid making contact with the tarsiers, as their delicate little bodies cannot withstand the strength of human touch. Any man-handling by visitors can essentially break them.
Other things to do in Bohol
After visiting the Chocolate Hills and watching the tarsiers, take a serene river cruise up Loay River and experience the calm, and tranquil countryside. Dine at the floating restaurant on the way and try the fresh seafood and rustic local cuisine.
Those into architectural wonders can visit the Baclayon Church, as well as the little town of Loboc. These areas were badly damaged during an earthquake in 2013, but the beauty of churches and the friendly towns folk still exist.
The waters around Bohol are excellent for marine life and popular with snorkellers and scuba divers. Operators in the port town of Jagna, along the south coast of Bohol, are said to be excellent and operate throughout the year.
Thrill seekers will also find your piece of paradise at Chocolate Hills Adventure Park, where you can challenge different levels of rope courses and zip line, as long as you are not afraid of heights!
Staying on Bohol
There are plenty of accommodation options on Bohol to cater for all comforts and tastes. You can choose to stay in the lively city of Tagbilaran, closer to markets, museums and jeepney transport around the island, or for a piece of sandy beach paradise, Bohol’s Panglao area has excellent beachside resorts with modern facilities.
Nature lovers will enjoy staying inland, among the hills, where they can experience a side of Bohol that is laid back and filled with country charm.
Photo Credits: Thinkstock