Monday, December 23, 2013

Bohol Adventure Part 2

We narrated the sights and tourist spots in mainland Bohol during the first part of our Bohol Adventure. In this post, we move on to the attractions in the Southern part of the province where the smaller Panglao Island is located.

PANGLAO ADVENTURE

The island of Panglao houses two towns: Panglao and Dauis. This island is blessed with amazing beaches and is teeming with an active marine life. As a matter of fact, Diver's Heaven in Balicasag Island is considered to be one of the top rated dive spots in the country.




PANGLAO TROPICAL VILLAS

Wchecked in at Panglao Tropical Villas which offered us free airport pick up and drop off. The place stood true to its name, offering guests a tropical atmosphere with plants aesthetically designed to make you feel as if you're in a tropical paradise. We chose Panglao Tropical Villas because of the amenities and the ambiance that it provide. It made our stay more cost effective without compensating the things we seek for in a hotel or resort. It is not the most luxurious among the resorts in the area but it gave us more than we were expecting. You won't get to see the beauty of the place if you're just confined in the rooms of your hotel anyway.



The resort had several villas for accommodation. We were eyeing for one of it but ended up in a room when several people backed out of the trip. The room was spacious enough for the four of us. One strong point of the Tropical Villas is it's located near the tourist attractions and is more peaceful compared to the more crowded Alona Beach. It also has a pool which we really maximized and enjoyed. We hit the waters of the pool after our adventures during our four day stay in Bohol. Near the beach front is the restaurant where one can relax and enjoy the ambiance of the place. On our first night, I took advantage of the pool table and played several rounds of billiards. BP Weng enjoyed the rocking chair facing the beach. And while BP Heinz browsed through the travel magazines, BP Kenji spent his time playing around with Choonie and Chinoo, the dogs of the caretakers.

Kenji and Heinz maximizing the diving board


If you are planning a trip to Bohol and you want to move yourself away from the crowd and noise, you can opt for this resort. To check out the resort's rates and other amenities, click here.




ALONA BEACH


The more popular Alona Beach is located in the eastern part of Panglao. It is quickly gaining popularity for its stretch of white sand beach and clear blue waters. Funnily, the beach was named after the bold star Alona Alegre who graced the film industry during the '70s. As per our driver guide Kuya George, this is where Alona would shoot most of her rated R movies.


We visited Alona beach in the afternoon of our first day in Bohol. It has this Boracay-vibe where you can see a lot of foreigners around. The place is pretty much commercialized with a lot of resorts and establishments around. One tip would be straying away from buying pasalubong in Alona beach because it's much more pricey as compared to buying from Aproniana souvenir shop or at the python conservation center.


The place is perfect for visitors who would like to socialize and have fun. Depending on the crowd, it can match the night life of Boracay or even that of White Beach in Puerto Galera. The water is also enticing. From afar, we saw a lot of yachts and diver's boats docked around so the best swimming spot would be at the far end of the beach.




DOLPHIN WATCHING AT BOHOL SEA


We woke up in the morning of our third day in Bohol, excited and optimistic. We were told that there was a 99% chance that we'll be seeing wild dolphins in the sea! It was low tide so we had to walk that stretch of beach towards the open sea. The marine life was so much alive. We were walking on green moss and sea ferns where a lot of starfish took cover. It was shaping up to be a promising day in Panglao, Bohol!


We boarded the boat and ate our breakfast. Then it started to circle around Bohol sea where we saw the nearby provinces of Cebu and Siquijor. We were supposed to arrange a trip to Siquijor (only around 2 hours from Panglao) that day, but the master boatman did not allow us because the waves were angrier near the shores of Siquijor. So we stuck with the itinerary and we spent the first thirty minutes of that morning looking for dolphins in the open sea.


Several boats were in the area with the same mission: locate dolphins swimming in the vast sea. Our boatman headed south, moving away from the pack of boats. Thirty minutes of seeing nothing made me scared that I felt it was a de ja vu of my failed Butanding experience in Sorsogon. I was about to lose hope when one of us shouted "Ayun!", pointing to the dorsal fin of a huge dolphin in the water near our boat. Then, "Ayun!" and "Ayun pa!". We saw at least four to six dolphins around our boat! And they were huge! We got all excited that we almost threw our bodies outside the boat which was not ideal. These were after all wild dolphins.


Our boat chased some of the dolphins so that we can capture the picture perfect moment. It was astonishing to see the dolphins play freely in that open sea. They were not afraid of the boats as they swim and show their fins, bodies and flippers above the water. A-ma-zing.


In less than an hour we already saw dolphins in Bohol sea. Our boatman asked us if we were satisfied and if we should start the island hopping. We nodded as a sign of happiness and contentment from the successful morning expedition. We did not expect that something even better was in the offing! On our way to Balicasag Island, a pack of dolphins passed by swimming against the direction our boat! And there were fifties, if not hundreds, of them. There were big and small baby dolphins. Some were a hands away from our boat. Such an A-MA-ZING experience. Our boat was very much blessed that morning.




BALICASAG ISLAND

We arrived at Balicasag Island after the memorable dolphin encounter. We secured a spot at the table and prepared for the snorkeling. A smaller boat took us to the reef where several tourists were already enjoying themselves. The reef was both a heaven and a haven for schools of colorful fishes. It was beautiful! Unfortunately, we did not have a waterproof camera to capture this enchanting highlight of the island but we had a blast snorkeling around this area.


A big intimidating blue hole was seen in the farther part of the reef. It was scary to swim on it, it was like a portal to another world where strange sea creatures thrive. According to the locals, that blue hole that we encounter is actually the entrance to one of the dive spots in the island. And Balicasag Island is popular for having some of the most top rated dive sites in the whole country.


After an hour which seemed eternity of flailing around the water of the snorkeling area, we boarded our small boat and went back to the island. We asked a local to cook lunch for us, tip: rates of fresh seafood plus the service charges are kind of expensive so it would be more practical if you bring your food here instead. While we were waiting for the food to be cooked, we roamed around the small island and discovered its simple beauty.


We reached the other side of the island after half an hour of tramping. In this part, we saw the long stretch of Cebu island on the other end of Bohol sea. Luck was also on our side as we witnessed some locals who tried to catch a green sea turtle. Nope, they did not catch it to fry or kill it, but to remove the fisherman's trap on its mouth. The sea turtle was big! After the local detached the hook, it swam quickly into the open sea.
Locals and pawikan




PUNGTUD ISLAND

Virgin Island as referred to by the locals and travel sites; we went to Pungtud Island after our stint at Balicasag Island. As soon as the boat docked, several locals came towards our boat to sell us - sea urchin, sea shells, pearls etc. This was the most disturbing part of the whole adventure for me - we were surrounded by a horde of locals, Badjaos, who despite us telling them politely that we were not buying pearls or sea shells etc., they were still persistent in selling us something. The first twenty minutes of landing in Pungtud Island was spent telling the locals over and over again that we were no longer buying anything as our pasalubong were complete already. I bought a sea urchin for twenty pesos - first time I tasted a sea urchin meat.



Pungtud Island is a small island with a very long sand bar. As a matter of fact, when viewed from up above, it forms the shape of a sperm cell, the sand bar is its tail. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the sand near the docking site of our boat. BP Weng wanted to explore not just the tail but the whole island so she roamed around and we joined her. We noticed the big billboard saying that Pungtud Island is now a private land owned by some persons or family. So long for the virginity of the island then.





HINAGDANAN CAVE

Before heading to the airport on our last day in Bohol, we went to Hinagdanan Cave in the town of Dauis in Panglao Island. A local accompanied us who served as our tour guide. As we were going down the cave, countless balinsasayaw greeted us, flying in and out of the cave. Some even bumped into us as we entered the cave. These were the famous birds whose saliva is an ingredient of an expensive soup.


Hinagdanan Cave has this vibe, sort of a trance where we time warped into a different era. There were old markings on the wall which was painted by probably our ancestors. It is important to note as well that this is the warmest cave I've been to. Inside the cave, a basin is present which according to our guide, is where locals and visitors dive in to refresh and enjoy. They believe the water of this basin can cure some diseases.


Our funny guide also became our official photographer. According to him, they attended guideship seminars and were taught how to use mobile devices and cameras. Name the brand, he knows how to operate it! And he was excellent in pointing out the important notes inside the cave. He showed us a no-camera trick wherein the images captured have these stunning ray of light.


All in all, it was a very nice stay in the province of Bohol! Unfortunately we had to go after our Hinagdanan Cave visit, but I am definitely sure that we are coming back! Hey, we still have Danao Adventure Park on our bucket list (which was closed that time due to the earthquake). I'll see you soon again, Bohol!


To check the first part of our Bohol tour, click here



Photo credits to Heinz and Kenji
Special thanks to Aaron Quime for the SLR

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