A quick flight from Manila to Cebu City takes you to the hub of the Visayas Islands, a relatively undiscovered selection of beautiful islands. Cebu City is located in the centre of the main island Cebu and is the second city of the Philippines. A lot of international flights arrive here bypassing Manila. If you have landed in Manila and fancy a trip to the islands there are flights operating daily by airlines such as Air Asia and Cebu Pacific. If you know your travel plans in advance you can score a flight for as little as €15. The closer you get to the departure date the more expensive it gets. As I am possibly the most unplanned go with the flow kind of traveller, I got stung €80 for mine!!
Before I had even arrived in the Philippines I had already decided that one of the islands I wanted to visit was Bohol which is located to the south of Cebu. With its lush green countryside and long white sanded beaches it offers something for everyone. The easiest way to access this island is from the port in Cebu City. Here you will find ferry companies that offer daily services to and from Tagbileran (the main port in Bohol). Depending on your time constraints you can chose to take either the fast ferry which will take you 2 hours or the slow ferry that will take 4. Both ferries cost around P400/500 each way. I recommend that you research the forecast in advance before you travel. The day we arrived to the port a typhoon caused all the fast ferries to be cancelled and the slow ferry sold out very quickly which meant we needed to stay a night in Cebu City. In both terminals in Bohol and in Cebu you will be required to pay a terminal fee which is around P15-P25. In addition to this you will also have to pay a bagage handling fee. Beware of this fee. You should be paying P50 maximum but they tried to charge us P100 on your way back to Cebu. Once you have paid all your fees and bought your tickets your ready to board. I suggest popping a few travel pills if you are a bad traveller, you could be in for a bumpy ride!
On arrival to Tagbileran you will quickly realise that there is a common theme running with Philippine cities. They are over crowded, polluted and the traffic is manic. When we arrived we found it so difficult to find a taxi. I suggest that when you get to Tagbileran you should rent a moped. At the port you can rent them for P350 a day which in the long run will save you money and give you the freedom to explore. I paid P600 to reach the Loboc River and then another P1000 from Loboc to the Alona beach area and that didn’t include my moped rental for 2 days or tricycles too and from the local towns. Huge dent to the budget. If you are really not comfortable renting a moped take a tricycle. I was very wary of them at first being a European female travelling on my own but they are an excellent way to get around the island and so much cheaper than a taxi. Most of the drivers are absolutely lovely and will chat away to you over the chaotic noise around you. Make sure you negotiate a good price and don’t take the first price they give you. They will try and charge you ridiculous prices just because you are a tourist and they think you have a lot of money. I wish that was true but unfortunately it’s not!!!
My first stop on the beautiful island of Bohol was a place in the interior of the island called Loboc. It is located right next to the Locob River and it is surrounded by lush green jungle and endless miles of rice fields. It really is a place of outstanding natural beauty. I chose to stay in a place called The Fox and Firefly cottages which is located right on the Loboc River in beautiful tropical gardens. If you are interested in SUP (stand-up paddle boarding) this place will be perfect for you. They offer a variety of different activity packages including an hour lesson, half day tour or a full day tour. In the evening they also offer a Firefly Tour where in the darkness you paddle along the river to a tree that is inhabited by fireflies. It is really magical. The cottage offer a variety of accomodation options. There are 2 seperate private cottages that sleep 2 in each or the third cottage is a bunk room that can sleep 6 individuals. Each bed is provided with a mosquito net (you will need it) and a light blanket. The bunk cottage is far from luxury but the location definitely makes up for it. The bathroom and toilet are both located outside and are very nicely finished. The common meeting area is a big house in the middle of the gardens. It boasts a beautiful terrace with tables, chairs, hammocks and sofas. It is an amazing place to eat breakfast and dinner or just a place to relax after a day of exploring. While I stayed there I ate all my breakfast and lunches on the terrace (while listening to the kareoke across the river). There is a great menu where everything is prepared freshly for you at really reasonable prices. I absolutely loved staying here and really really recommend it, just remember to back bug spray!! If you are happy to relax at night it’s perfect but if you are looking for a more lively party kind of place I recommend staying in Alona beach and just driving to this area for a day to explore.
One of the most iconic images of Bohol is of the Chocolate Hills. 1268 of these magestic grassy hillocks span a 50km squared area in the centre of the island. Many companies offer packages that allow you to tour around this area in an airconditioned van. The price usually includes your transport and entry to the attractions. These are extremely touristy and they take you to places such as a butterfly sanctuary, snake farm and adventure park. Personally I found these tours too touristy and it didn’t allow you to explore the real Bohol. I rented a moped one day which gave me the freedom to explore the surrounding villages, stumble upon beautiful waterfalls and interact with the locals. They are amazingly friendly in this area and the kids are adorable. People are so interested in where you come from and find it very strange that your not travelling with your family. They show a real interest in learning about the world outside their townships.
If you are planning a trip to the Cebu area I really really recommend you take time to visit Bohol. Everything from the people to the food and accomodation is great and it really is just a stress free island to find yourself on. If you are also a fan of peanuts you will be in heaven…it is the land of Peanut Kisses and I am in love. The most delicious cookies and even better when put in peanut ice cream!! Take me back….